Friday, March 6, 2015

Segregation, Self Segregation and Gentrification

This CityLab article brought about this line of thought:

The question of perception and definition of "neighborhood" has everything to do with how things are going in Baltimore. And as much as development and investment is unequal and asset distribution is full of inequity, positive change can only be had by mixing-it-up and by accepting newcomers. 

But mixing-it-up leads to the most taboo topics of urban development here in the US and anywhere, really, the issue of race and the fear of the other. After the shameful history of enforced segregation and redlining followed a long period of self selected segregation, especially in the suburbs, essentially the mode under which all of postwar real estate functioned, everything neatly divided into income groups which to a large extent also meant race and ethnicity. 

Cities are supposed to be the melting pot but especially the poor and disinvested areas are anything but. Therefore, freezing current conditions cannot be acceptable to anybody, least those who live in the disinvested areas. To become a truly vital city anywhere, residents have to embrace change and diversity.

To call all mixing-it-up "gentrification" is problematic even if the newcomers are largely of a different race or income group. In many areas any influx that fills vacant houses and attracts services back to neighborhoods should be welcome even if it means that some old conventions and customs go by the wayside. 

That is not to say that we don't have a significant [affordable] housing crisis or that displacement wouldn't be a serious issue. 

Mural in Station North, Baltimore, an area in the middle of transformation

CityLab article

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