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Is gentrification really the problem?

James Frank Dy Zarsadiaz (a Ph.D. candidate at Northwestern) published an article in Atlantic Cities a few days ago called, “Why gentrification is so hard to stop.

In it, he essentially talks about how neo-liberalism has allowed private interest to trump public good and how it has dramatically changed cities and the expectations of its residents:

“…those who can afford to live in a city now expect a personalized, “just for you” urban lifestyle. For-profit companies chase these urbanites with upscale housing and creative marketing campaigns, transforming blighted and blue-collar neighborhoods into “livable” urban nooks.”

Now, as a developer I know I’m biased here, but is gentrification really as evil as he makes it out to be?

One of the most insightful comments on the article had the following to say:

“I’ve always maintained that gentrification is what occurs when demand exceeds supply and blight is what occurs when supply exceeds demand.”

I like it because it’s a simple way of saying that what we are seeing is a natural market outcome. What’s wrong with somebody wanting to buy a house in a marginal area and fix it up? Can we reasonably expect to stop people from doing this so that wealth never increases within a neighborhood?

The bigger issue, in my view, is rising income inequality. We know that this is becoming more and more of an issue. The benefits to being smart and educated today are huge. So how do we ensure that we’re not creating a society of haves and have-nots?

Let’s figure this out and let people buy whatever homes they want.

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