By: Thomas Bunn
We’ve all heard the whispers, and on occasions, the loud arguments. Spike Lee has gone on long rants, PBS has produced hour-long specials, Jimmy Fallon has made light hearted jokes about it, and recently, a Los Angeles Times writer attempted to dispel the racial theory associated with the big “G” word, by pointing out that Blacks and any middle class, college educated person for that matter, gentrify communities as well. Does that make gentrification a good thing?
Anytime you ask whether something is good or bad, one thing is for certain, it’s never going to end good. Benjamin Grant, an urban designer, city planner and writer in the San Francisco Bay Area, explains in his essay on gentrification, “change nearly always involves winners and losers.” So, to ask is gentrification a good or bad thing is to ask the wrong question.
The question that should be asked is, when a city begins to attract the attention of developers, improve its infrastructure, reduce crime, and increase the value of its properties, how does it create a win-win situation for itself and its existing residence and business owners?
We all know that with gentrification comes displacement. Property values increase, rents increase, cost of living increases and traditionally, the lowest on the economic rung are forced into more affordable areas to live in, and businesses are often forced to sever leases with landlords as they also are no longer able to pay rent hikes.
In a city like Inglewood, the very idea of gentrification is a reasonably alarming one, not because it is “white people stealing stuff” as LA Times writer Kay S. Hymowitz puts it, but because gentrification is a clash of ideals that incorporate race, class, and most importantly, economics. In a young city like Inglewood, the reality is that 63% of its residents rent according to the 2013-2021 Inglewood Housing Element, and with a median household income that’s $20,000 less than the area median income, over eighty percent (80%) of Inglewood households have income levels that would qualify for some level of affordable housing. So naturally, increases in the cost of living in the community will significantly impact the majority of its residents.
So, the question is not about whether is it a good or bad thing, whether it’s a Black, Latino, or White thing. The question is, how does Inglewood move into the future as a thriving community, improve the quality of life for its residents, and ensure that residents are not disproportionately displaced as a result?