Gentrification and the real and perceived impacts this form of neighborhood change has on longtime local residents (typically black folks) as well as new dwellers, is complicated to unpack and define. Many believe displacement is an inherent byproduct of gentrification, yet little research exists to quantify or even confirm if and how displacement occurs. Are residents being priced out of their rents; do own owners chose to cash out and sell their properties; do people of color chose not to leave the neighborhood because its ethnic and cultural character and amenities are eroding.
So what narrative about gentrification are we to rely on to improve our understanding of neighborhood change. The narrative that relies on the statistics-based definition of gentrification, commonly used by city planners and measured by inflation in housing prices, increases in median household income, and changes in educational attainment, might confirm neighborhood change through gentrification is real. Or what about the narrative of neighborhood change as presented in Joe Cortright and Dillon Mahmoudi’s 2014 “Lost in Place” report highlighting that only 100 out of 1,100 urban areas that saw reductions in poverty levels between 1970-2010, a change that may be a function of population increases in the neighborhood (backfilling four decades of neighborhood decline) rather than the upward mobility of long time low-income households. This report is telling us we are obsessed with the wrong neighborhood change phenomenon – that instead of tracking the smaller percentage of urban areas that are truly “gentrifying”, we should instead be more focused on why the other 1,000 out of 1,100 urban areas and its residents are no better off than they were 40 years ago.
This seminar will position the debate around causes and effects of neighborhood change via gentrification and attempt to document the real and perceived impacts of such change on the physical, economic, social and cultural dynamics of community. Students will be asked to prepare a position paper, offering a rigorous defense of both the positive and negative impacts of gentrification through the lens of multiple stakeholders. The course will use national articles on gentrification; neighborhood change measurement methodologies; examine a local Boston neighborhood using data research and field observation; guest lectures and panel discussions; and case studies on effective strategies for addressing the negative impacts of gentrification.
There Goes the Neighborhood: Perceptions and Realities of Neighborhoods and Neighborhood Change