Gentrification is a double-edged sword The process of gentrification is a double-edged sword. While the upper and middle classes may benefit, the effects of gentrification are often detrimental to low-income residents. If you live in a low-income neighborhood and feel a dramatic increase in price on your favorite bodega lunch the possibility is often you are feeling the effects of gentrification.This paper will examine gentrification and how it impacts the lives of people living in urban communities. Both sides of the topic will be covered, and problem-solving approach will be applied to reach possible solutions. As a person born and raised in the urban community, I have firsthand experience of the positives and negative effects of gentrification. The buying of houses and buildings by the upper and middle classes often results in displacement for the working class, but why? Is gentrification a bad word or a good influence?Whilst, there is no consensus definition of gentrification. Oxford Dictionaries would define gentrifications as ”The process of renovating and improving a house or district so that it conforms to middle-class taste”. While scholars such Jessica Biro of Illinois Wesleyan University (2007) describes gentrification as the “process of physically renovating the housing and retail in a neighborhood in order to increase property values, establish high profile restaurants and shops, and attract an influx of wealthier residents” (p. 42)1. However, this particular definition is somewhat problematic due to its biased nature. Theoretically gentrification could help more than the middle class. There is no doubt that gentrification can do much good for a ”struggling” low-income community, if it were applied properly. In fact, there is a multitude of beneficial speculated outcomes of gentrification. According To Atkinson, R. and Bridge, G. (2005)2, the process may prevent a continuing spiral of decline in areas, consequently leading to stabilization.  The value of property can remarkably increase in the areas considered affected by poverty. Unoccupied houses become occupied, which in turn leads reducing the vacant housing rates in the areas. A drastic increase in local revenues occurs improving the neighborhood economy. Gentrification can Reduce crime and violence occurrences. Healthy social mixing increases in affected areas may create an inclusive urban renaissance bridging cultures together, and the spread of urbanized areas into the rural landscape.Although this may be true, Gentrification usually leads to negative impacts to floundering communities. New York City is no strangers to gentrification. Of NYC’s five boroughs, Brooklyn and Manhattan have a substantial share of gentrified neighborhoods, followed by the Bronx and Queens and lastly Staten island. Gentrified neighborhood can become a “victim of its own success.” Rising rents and property values, coupled with the “upward spiral of desirability,”  tends erode the qualities that attracted new residents in the first place. The value of property remarkably increases in the area affected. The report from the Regional Plan Association entitled “Pushed Out: Housing Displacement in an Unaffordable Region,”(2007)3 examines the impact of rising housing costs on the New York City metro area and found that households in 71 percent of census tracts in The Bronx are in danger of being pushed out. As social and cultural changes erupts, new arrivals welcome themselves, bringing their own tastes and expectations; new shops, restaurants and businesses popping up to suit them, the “undesirable” neighborhood elements are pushed out. Jeffrey Almonte, an internet personality describes his very own personal experience with gentrification. Almonte sparks conversation surrounding gentrification with his famous Chopped Cheese Video. The chopped cheese is a New York City staple monumental to the city’s urban culture. When food tourism company Insider Foods gave a review of the sandwich, they had not acknowledged the essence of its urban importance. In the video, Almonte vocalizes his displacement with Insider food in his article about the video in an article dubbed The Famous Chopped Cheese Video That Sparked Controversy4, he words it best when he says”this is how it starts. Hipsters and yuppies–middle class transplants from the Midwestern states– run to enjoy the hustle-hard urban aesthetic of the hood. Simple things like cheap food and rent entice them to flood to places they’re overqualified to live in.” Financially privileged and oblivious to the existence of the low-income families, they call the price of a chopped cheese a “steal.” Almonte continues by stating  ”The irony of calling it a ‘steal’ foreshadows the thieving nature of Columbus syndrome, a plague coined by Spike Lee to describe a plague of visitors claiming to discover a cultural element locals have indulged in for years”. The result becomes an overpriced tourist attraction that business owners can exploit at will.Displacement is a common issue with involving gentrification as well. According to the report Turning the Tide on Homelessness in New York City from Mayor Bill de Blasio debunks the notion that homelessness is reserved for the unemployed. According to the report, for at least one million of the low-income residents of New York City, only 500,000 apartments are affordable. This means that at least half of the families are rent-burdened, paying more than thirty percent of their income on rent. Combined with income volatility and little savings, rent-burdened families are particularly vulnerable to homelessness it takes but just one crisis e.g. loss of a job, sickness of a child or a significant raise in rent. Gentrification even has now moved into East New York, a so-called “non-gentrifying” neighborhood, according to a report released by NYU Furman Center5 only in 2016. The de Blasio Administration’s East New York Neighborhood Plan, a rezoning directive passed in April 2016 for the commercial revitalization of the area, outlines new laws that allow for the construction of 12- to 14-story apartment buildings over the next two years, including over 1,200 units of affordable housing. Residents of East New York claim that even the “affordable units” are affordable only to middle-income earners, becoming much Williamsburg, a “hipster” commercial hub where its “economic development” the serves only those newcomers who can actually afford the new rents. Displacement from gentrification also leads dyer health effects on those who are displaced. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)6 highlight the health effects of gentrification. Built environment and social conditions in places where people live and interact with others have significant impacts on health and well-being. When neighborhoods change rapidly, pushing existing residents to the margins, disparities in health often widen. This becomes evident in health outcomes including cancer rates, incidence of asthma, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, as these marginalized residents are often priced out of neighborhoods with healthy housing, healthy food and healthy urban environments. In their new neighborhoods on the margins they are more likely to experience food deserts, less walkable streets, further distances to drive, and industrial pollutants near housing.Gentrification possesses a threat to low-income residents because their standard of living does not develop as a result of it; their expenditures increase such as rent and commuting cost, in the worst-case scenario, low-income residents run the risk of becoming homeless if they fail to keep up with the increased expenses. Below are some alternatives that might help low income residents to go through the transitional period:The first straightforward alternative is to stop gentrification in areas where it has not begun yet this would solve the problem from its root. No gentrification would mean that all those cons would not arise any displacement of low-income residents, no rent increase, no loss of culture and heritage and so on… However, if this alternative is put into practice, the local economy doesn’t move forward because gentrification is primarily aimed to revive and revitalize societies. Gentrification’s pros can’t be overlooked also. Moreover, in this capitalist society, stopping gentrification is a tough ask.The second alternative is to develop the number of affordable housings in convenient locations (Smith, 2014)7 because currently, there is not much availability of affordable housing units. On top of this, the process of achieving an affordable housing unit has to be easier and faster. Moving into a unit is very time consuming and complicated because the authorities require a lot of paper works and documents within a short period of time, failing to comply with the documents means losing the unit. Increased availability and ease of qualifying for one would allow low-income residents a perfect alternative to choose from, thus it would minimize the consequences of displacement and increased rents.The third alternative is the introduction of incentive programs like “righteous landlord, good neighbor” (Kenneth,2014)8, this would be a cost-effective way to encourage affordable housing by rewarding owners of modest buildings who agree to rent units at below-market prices. Landlords who agree to do so would get tax cuts this would encourage a big chunk of landlords to take initiatives. Since landlords have to pay a substantial chunk in the form of different taxes, a reduction in tax would benefit them, which would be granted to them at the condition of renting housing units cheaply. Such incentives would satisfy the landlords because they would end up paying lower taxes, and the low-income tenant would also be relieved of the financial burden because of more reduced rents. This would also solve the scarcity of affordable housing units.The fourth alternative is to devote more time for low-income residents to decide on a new housing location and crack down on landlords who harass low-income tenants (Kenneth, 2014). Currently, low-income residents collect a very amount of time to decide on a new housing location. Combined with the fact that affordable housing is very limited in quantity, these units don’t stay in the market for long when they become accessible, thus, when low-income residents are badly in need of one, they can’t find any available in the market. This forces them to move to a least desired residence location temporarily and later on, look for a cheaper alternative as quickly as possible if they fail to find a cheaper option, later on, they run the risk of becoming homeless due to the inability of keeping up with the increased rent. Out of all these alternatives, the fourth one is an effective option in the brief run. The short time period is a complaint about most displaced low-income residents, therefore, allowing more time would permit them to find housing in their desired locality within a manageable budget. The prevention of landlord harassment towards low-income residents would make their shift to a new location emotionally sound. As a result of the long time range, their chances of finding an economically suitable housing will be higher, hence the risk of becoming homeless (due to being unable to keep up with increased expense) will also reduce significantly. An adequate long-term solution would be the third alternative. Incentives in the form of the tax cut would attract many property owners, even owners of massive buildings, to offer units at modest prices. Money captures everyone’s attention, so when property owners are offered an option to save money, their savings may be a blessing for the low-income tenants in the form of lower rent. However, the government needs to portray an active role to defend that these incentives suit their purpose as intended, by passing appropriations bills and laws, performing inspections and most importantly, promote these programs in the large-scale market.In conclusion, the concept of gentrification was not formulated to negatively affect anyone. It was rather applied to improve the condition of struggling societies and people of all class by injecting life into the local economy. Economic growth of dead societies is the biggest perspective of gentrification, however, the threats it possesses to people of modest income can’t also be eclipsed. “If there is a will, there’s a way”, so it is conceivable to make gentrification equally beneficial to people of all class, and the application of the discussed alternatives is a step towards it. If the plans are effectively implemented, gentrification will be welcomed in every community in the NYC, and the wellbeing of low-income tenants would help overcome most if not all cons of gentrification. Work CitedBiro ’08, Jessica (2007) “Gentrification: Deliberate Displacement, or Natural Social Movement?,” The Park Place Economist: Vol. 15 Atkinson, Rowland. “The Evidence on the Impact of Gentrification: New Lessons for the Urban Renaissance?.” European Journal of Housing Policy, vol. 4, no. 1, Apr. 2004, pp. 107-131. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1080/1461671042000215479(2018). Retrieved 29 January 2018, from Famous Chopped Cheese Video That Sparked Controversy. (2017). The Almonte Films. Retrieved 29 January 2018, from Furman Center. (2018). Retrieved 29 January 2018, from – Healthy Places – Health Effects of Gentrification. (2018). Retrieved 29 January 2018, from, Sandy. “3 Ways Communities Can Take Control of Gentrification.”, 4 Dec. 2014, (2014, May). Solutions to Gentrification. Retrieved January 28, 2018, from    

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