The city of San Antonio has a “Mayor’s Task Force on Preserving Dynamic & Diverse Neighborhoods.” According to Texas Public Radio, the task force recently completed a year-long study and recommended creating a housing commission, creating a displacement assistance fund, and further study on how city programs affect gentrification. But the question remains, “How does the city encourage mixed-income neighborhoods while continuing to encourage growth?”
My first recollection of the term “gentrification” was its use in Manhattan, where the white-collar jobs have been squeezing out the working class for decades. But according to Urban Dictionary, the term actually originated by sociologist Ruth Glass in 1964 in the land of the original gentry class:
- “One by one, many of the working class quarters of London have been invaded by the middle-classes—upper and lower. Shabby, modest mews and cottages—two rooms up and two down—have been taken over, when their leases have expired, and have become elegant, expensive residences …. Once this process of ‘gentrification’ starts in a district it goes on rapidly until all or most of the original working-class occupiers are displaced and the whole social character of the district is changed.”
Based on this insight, I sent the following comment to the TPR reporter:
- The term “gentrification,” which has a snobbish British origin, has become so demonized, just as “welfare” was, that it should be replaced by something that reflects its true meaning – i.e., the revitalization of deteriorated urban areas. I think we used to call it “urban renewal.”
Yes, urban renewal involves displacement. As Wikipedia noted, “Gentrification is any facet of urban renewal that inevitably leads to displacement of the occupying demographic.” But why does that require the involvement of government? In our dynamic economy, residences and businesses are all subject to movement, and each can individually deal with that concern. No one should expect to stay in the same place forever and we don’t need a government nanny to manage the move.