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Positive & Negative Sides Of Gentrification?

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Understanding Gentrification

Waking up to the reality of being homeless is not a situation that you want to deal with any day regardless of the reasons behind it. Gentrification invokes fear and anger in the minds of low-income earner; mostly because they feel cheated and unheard by the government. Gentrification doesn’t tell good tales around the globe as families and individually suffer losses that are never accounted for. Furthermore, the displaced victims are no more in the same class as their new neighbors and are looked down as the “low class” people. If you reside in Chicago, gentrification should not be a new word to you especially when you compare the south side to the more developed North side of the city. At close look, people will notice that the underdeveloped neighborhoods are mainly colored people living in dilapidated, old, and shaking building with no development to showcase what the town or city is all about.

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Gentrification and politics

Most displaced and eventually homeless people see gentrification as political, and it doesn’t tell well on governing party or body linked with the state. Mayor Rahm Emanuel has a plan to slow down the gentrification process to the south and west sides of Chicago, but others think he is gradually using it to push the African-American and other minorities that resides in the neighborhood by cutting off funds and not providing basic amenities that will empower them thereby making them leave the city. In the words of the Democratic candidate, Chris Kennedy; “a strategic gentrification plan” as the population of the black and minority decreases annually. The Mayor has defended himself with three ways to slow down the gentrification process in the Woodlawn Chicago area.

The three methods are:

  1. For Chicago officials and the legislation to stop the ban on local rent control. It will be a significant step toward controlling the continuous increment of the rent.
  2. He intends to strengthen the affordable requirement Ordinance. It ensures that developers build units that are affordable and meet the family’s needs.
  3. The law will also prevent families and individual occupants from random eviction from their home or property. This way, the mayor is assuring the resident of Southside Chicago that they won’t be displaced or forcefully evicted from their homes.

What is gentrification?

Regardless of how you understand the word gentrification, one thing is sure; as long as Chicago remains a city near the waters with a high tourist influx, the chances of the entire communities that make up Chicago undergoing this process is imminent. Politics, wealth, power, and culture are all secondary motivators to urban planning and upgrading of any community. Gentrification is the Woodlawn will simply follow the definition of the word; where the middle-class neighborhood is moved into a low-class neighborhood by displacing the former occupants and upgrading the housing system for the new resident owners while neglecting the existing tenants.

For the inhabitants of Woodlawn, Chicago; been close to development such as the University of Chicago and the Hyde Park where former president, Barrack Obama has a house; the looming fear of gentrification is real and worrisome. Furthermore, the Presidential library that will be built didn’t stop the gentrification process from happening. Although the gentrification process is cited as the reason for the displacement, the truth is as a community of low-income earners, and with rent constantly on the increase; residents are bound to leave even before the gentrification process is in full swing.

Reasons for gentrification

Although finger gets pointed at the wrong people in a gentrification process, we have to understand that, several reasons leads to it.

  • Foreclosures

When the number of foreclosure keeps rising in a low-income neighborhood, the chances of developer and wealthy real estate entrepreneurs are higher leading to the displacement of existing occupants with no hard feelings.

  • Increase in house rent

Accommodation problems are higher with low-income earners and for landlords and developers, developing a property that will bring money are better than battling with a tenant in an old and almost fallen building.

  • Crime rate

Most low cost and housing neighborhood are prone to crime, and the best way to eliminate and combat the crime rate is gentrification. It is the best thing to happen to a community.

The impact of gentrification on the community

For the residents of Woodlawn Chicago, the impact of gentrification can be either positive or negative depending on which side of the fence you are on. Despite the plenty of good factors associated with this process, it is a trying time for low-income earners that don’t have anywhere to go when and if they are displaced from their homes.

The positive effects of gentrification

Even though the term gentrification doesn’t bring good news to people of a community, but it is a welcome development for the neighborhood.

Some positives of gentrification are:

  • Economic Improvement

Gentrification brings development and job opportunity to the city as buildings, streets, and parks are beautified. Furthermore, job opportunities increase because of the construction activity in the community. The neighborhood stores also get a boost in sales and more customers to patronize their businesses.

  • Communities get more funds

Despite the negative effects of gentrification, it does increase the funding to local public schools due to an increase in property tax. It also attracts more people and increases the diversification of the community creating better neighborhoods.

  • A decrease in crime rate

The city of Chicago has been known as a crime center for years but with the proposed gentrification; new and improved amenities means that the law enforcement agencies are more equipped to fight crime and in turn, the neighborhood is safe for the residents with crime and criminals on the low.

  • An influx of people

Neighborhoods that undergo gentrification do so because of empty and abandon buildings everywhere. Gentrification brings more people into the neighborhood and after old and dilapidated buildings are fixed and occupied by new tenants or by existing families with better income.

  • Increase in property value

For people that have their own building, gentrification increases the property value, and you might just be a millionaire after the whole process.

The negatives effect of gentrification

Urban planning is a revelation of the lifestyle of residents living there. Even though the positive effects of gentrification is felt long after the bitter pills are swallowed, we can’t overlook the cons of this process.

Houses become expensive as more urban and modern structures are built due to gentrification, house prices increase making existing residents exit their homes for other low-income communities creating an increase in vacant home and foreclosure. It creates a racial and class divide: it is hard enough that we are battling with poverty and having to work two or three jobs to cater for their families or loved ones. With gentrification in the pipelines, a general overview is the community is put into consideration as per what races are predominant before and after the process. We all know the answers to this question.

So where do you stand when you are not important to the community that you have lived all your life. It increases the rate of homeless people in the community. gentrification destroys communal unity making them without homes or a place they can call their own. With developers owning 70% of the land in Woodlawn and only a small 30% belonging to the city, residents feel that after years of creating memories they will be involuntarily evicted and won’t enjoy the development of “their” city.

It threatens the diversification of the city. if you live in Southside Chicago, you will notice how bubbling, fun, and colorful the community is because of the different people and this multicultural community will be threatened and divided with gentrification looming over their heads. Nobody can predict when which city is next on the list, but developers and city council officials should look into affairs like this and be careful about how it affects the bonds that bind our community. It increases the rent as new buildings are constructed in these communities, the rent prices increase leaving existing occupants with no choice than to evacuate the premises.

Even with all this talk about gratification in the south and west side of Chicago especially the Woodlawn region would be incorrect. However, it will be wise to know that nothing happens by chance and proper planning and time goes into every gentrification. Although new buildings and apartment blocks are spring up all over the Chicago area, low-income earner residing in the neighborhoods can offer their services to the new occupant thereby enjoying the amenities that come with gentrification, but until then, we are taking it one step at a time.

In conclusion, the impact of gentrification affects us in different ways, but on the positive side, the city of Woodlawn will be better for it now and in the future.

11 February 2020

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