Column: Let’s talk about it!

The growing issue of gentrification in America

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The Little Village Plaza Mall in Chicago was just bought for 17.5 million dollars by Novak construction, and it is another example of the growing issue of gentrification in America.

Many members of the Hispanic and Latino community were angered when the news reached the media that the discount mall, with over 100 different vendors, would be bought out and the land would be used for different purposes in upcoming years. This mall was a piece of local culture that had been in the Chicago neighborhood for over twenty-nine years and, sadly, will become another victim to gentrification. 

Gentrification can be known as an investment in a lower class area or neighborhood so it becomes more favorable for people of the middle to higher classes. This causes property values to increase in  the area, which leads to the people living there previously, struggling financially because they cannot keep up with the rising values. If they are not able to deal with this, they leave their home in the area, in return creating more space for wealthier people to move in. This causes the impairment of local culture and the destruction of another low-income neighborhood to suit the needs of the higher classes. 

According to an article by Georgetown Law, “During gentrification, poorer communities are commonly converted to high-end neighborhoods with expensive housing options such as high-rises and condominiums. As property prices increase, the original residents of the neighborhood are forced out in a variety of ways.” Economic investment and drastic success as a result of gentrification is not common. The process just forces the people who were previously there to have a rise in their property and housing taxes, making it more appealing to upper-class buyers. Those in power of the land are using immoral justification to purposefully displace the members of that community, many times neighborhoods of color. Neighborhoods go through drastic changes as a result of this. 

In theithican,org, Malika Giddens talks about her experience dealing with gentrification with, what used to be, her neighborhood in Brooklyn. Gentrification is not wanting to visit the place you grew up because there’s nothing you can relate to anymore. Gentrification is seeing the store owners you loved lose their businesses. Gentrification is seeing efforts being made to satisfy the comforts of new neighbors and not the people who’ve settled there for years. Gentrification is annual block parties getting shut down because the music is too loud. Gentrification is not knowing whether to call someplace home because you’ll never know when someone else will try to claim it.” Her viewpoint clearly displays how this issue affects individuals and destroys the history or diversity of the area.

Some people argue that the issue of gentrification is rare and does not occur often in modern times; however, this statement could not be more wrong. A study, lasting from 2000 to 2013 by the National Community Reinvestment Coalition Organization, concluded that “Displacement of Black and Hispanic residents accompanied gentrification in many places and impacted at least 135,000 people in our study period. In Washington, D.C., 20,000 Black residents were displaced, and in Portland, Oregon, 13 percent of the Black community was displaced over the decade.” By arguing that this issue is not happening and simply ignoring the statistics from recent years, the 135,000 people who were forced out of their homes, their place of familiarity, are apparently invalid or justified because “it is exceedingly rare.” The issue has grown and developed since this time and the media needs more coverage on this topic in order to ensure that this cruel reality for many neighborhoods of color is stopped. 

To stop the damage being done by gentrification, people can do various things to help. People need to fight for the public domain and fight to oppose local resources like schools or libraries from getting privatized. Bringing up this issue in local government can play a big role in resisting this and getting the proper materials, or funding, to do so. Demanding affordable housing in the area can also decrease the number of those affected by gentrification. Having more affordable and equal housing for all will diminish the high numbers of people being forced out of their homes. Everyone must realize that gentrification is more than just individual affairs or experiences, it is also attributed with systemic economic violence against minority groups. By alerting local and federal elected officials, more attention can be drawn to this issue. Everyone must communicate with one another, make connections and ensure representation in their government to be able to properly deal with the problem of gentrification.