Originating in Britain, gentrification has become a popular concept in the United States. Gentrification is the restoration of deteriorated urban property or the transformation of a working class or vacant area of the central city into middle-class residential and/or commercial use. This phenomenon is without doubt one of the popular topics of urban inquiry. Gentrification has attracted widespread attention since its birth in London, England and in a number of east coast US cities in the 1950s and 1960s. It is a process that has attracted the attention of media, national and local governments, urban planners, architects and developers, conservation/preservation groups, business, city boosters and political activist. Gentrification is the leading edge of neoliberal urbanism and is no longer confined to the inner city or to First World metropolis. In the 1980s deindustrialization and depopulation of American cities tried to attract private development and investment into their downtown areas in the belief that demand for services would be boosted, spending would increase, jobs would be created, and a positive trickle down would help adjacent neighborhoods (Aka and College 2009). Commonly, convention centres, new stadiums and festival marketplaces were built and warehouses along rivers were redeveloped as shopping and leisure complex, for example, South Street Seaport in New York City and Faneuil Hall in Boston.
Gentrification of neighborhoods pushes out the low-income residents who cannot afford the new expensive houses (Aka and College 2009). The movement of the upper class residents into low class neighborhoods changes the living standards of these neighborhoods. Rent and house prices go up, pushing out the permanent residents who can no longer afford to live in this neighborhoods. Seattle experienced a 55% home price turn around between 2000 and 2007 as a result of gentrification (Rice 2013). The former Irish-Catholic neighborhood of South Boston is now being taken over by tech professionals. The neighborhood that was once dominated by Irish people has given way to the new residents. And the old neighborhoods cannot identify with their neighborhood anymore. Gentrification brings with t the tearing down of landmarks that were important to the residents.
Gentrification is a major cause of unequal racial distribution in cities (Vandergrift 2006). Most low income neighborhoods belong to minority groups such as African Americans and Hispanics. Ballard and Delridge neighborhoods have had majority of African Americans displaced from their neighborhoods (Rice 2013). Whites surpassed blacks in neighborhoods that were commonly African American dominated. Seattle is one of the cities that is losing its African American neighborhoods as the African Americans fail to keep up with the rising mortgage and rent rates.
Though Boston has the highest rate of gentrification in the US, New York is the most popular for the phenomenon. Gentrification has made New York the most expensive city in the United States. The sudden influx of resources in the Harlem and crown heights neighborhoods has increased the living standards in these neighborhoods. Harlem was once an African American neighborhood but now those who cannot afford housing in the neighborhoods have been rendered homeless (Rice 2013). The Mission Playground put San Francisco on the map for gentrification and showed just how gentrification is taking away recreational facilities that belong to communities (MissionCreekVideo 2014). Recently, tech industries have developed in San Francisco resulting in an increased number of IT workers. The IT workers have moved to Bay Area. Most of these IT workers commute to work via buses that are causing pollution and making the roads unsafe for cyclists. Gentrification also causes resentment as the old residents resent the new resident. San Francisco residents protested against the Google buses used to transport their IT staff (Rice 2013). Most importantly, house prices have gone up by 42% in the area (Rice 2013). Other metropolitan areas facing gentrification are Washington DC, Chicago and Atlanta.