If you live in America, especially in a major city, you’ve probably heard of the word “gentrification” multiple times. If you are a white professional living in Brewery Town or Fish town, you have likely been called a gentrifier. This does not mean that you are a bad person. It means that your presence in low-income areas has displaced another individual regardless of whether it’s intentional or not. In most cases, gentrification is the process of shifting the demographics of a neighborhood from low-income to upper or middle-class income. Increasing property values and making improvements in neighborhoods by building coffee shops, bike lanes, and vegan spots is a great thing, right? However, the answer depends on the person you ask.
Gentrification is usually fueled when private developers invest in cheap property and land and then flip and market them as an amazing place for professionals to move in. When enough professionals move in, the value of properties rises as well as the taxes. The low-income residents who were here for years fail to keep up with the rising cost of living and are forced to move to a different location.
Urban Gardening and Gentrification
Another common element that developers look at before starting the gentrification process is urban gardening. In every gentrification essay that you’ll read as a college student, this process is known as green gentrification or environmental gentrification where developers grab land that can boast of green spaces. In most cases, these gardens are created by community leaders who want to discuss social studies or environmental justice. Later, these gardens were used against the people and students who owned and lived in them.
A good example is Norris Square. A group of women from Puerto Rica called Grupo Motivos grabbed vacant plots that were used as drug markets back in the 80s when crime and poverty levels were high after the exit of industrial jobs and cultivated these spaces into urban gardens.
After the founding of the Norris Square Neighborhood Project, six gardens were transferred to the ownership and management of NSNP. This is different from most urban gardens which are usually planted in vacant or abandoned plots that can be grabbed easily by developers or city managers. The ownership of these urban gardens is a special gentrification case in our modern world.
At the moment, the Norris Square Neighborhood Project holds courses for the youth to educate them on key areas such as agriculture, nutrition, activism, and arts. The main garden hosts more than 25 plots that have 100 percent capacity. The plots are open to families and residents of Norris Square and community organizations.
Why Do Urban Gardens Increase Gentrification?
Apart from the greenspaces being an incentive for developers and investors, urban gardens provide a space for organizing the community. In areas where the capitalist economy is eroding public spaces, community gardens are used to cultivate resistance.
On one hand, urban gardens can be used by communities and organization leaders to hold informal meetings and sessions on a wide range of issues that are a threat to the neighborhood. And one of the leading issues affecting most neighborhoods is gentrification. On the other hand, the availability of greenspaces can propel investors to develop the area thus leading to gentrification.
Gentrification is a Controversial Issue
Gentrification has gradually evolved to become a controversial issue because it has become a major component of discrimination against women, racial minorities, older adults, children, and the poor. While it may help in reviving a town or city, displacements can force residents to move into unsafe or poorer areas with limited access to health, housing, and social networks. This, in turn, can lead to increased stress levels and a decline in mental health.
Research conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that individuals who are negatively affected by gentrification are at a higher risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer, and heart diseases. And all these lead to a shorter lifespan. Displacement usually leads to exclusion of residents and a lack of support from the government. And this weakens community ties.
Gentrification involves transforming a town or city to increase its value. While it’s one of the most important aspects of urban development, it usually leads to inflated housing prices, social issues and high costs of living. Since not all residents will live comfortably with such costs, they are forced to move out and search for neighborhoods that they can afford. Developers usually look at urban gardens and greenspaces before transforming a geographical area. While urban gardens can help in conserving the environment, they can lead to gentrification and displacement. The government needs to work together with developers and local communities for everyone to have their needs addressed properly.
Hayden Reyes is a leading academic writer and editor in the digital space. He is passionate about assisting communities and young adults achieve their biggest goals. He loves visiting new places and experiencing different cultures.