Trickle-Down Gentrification Won't Solve Housing Crisis


| 10/28/2014 3:01:00 PM


Tags: housing, gentrification, poverty, urban development, Soli Salgado,

Shelter is a basic human need—nobody argues that. Developers in urban cities, however, increasingly treat housing like a commodity when employing gentrification, often justified by its intended “trickle-down” effects.

The argument is that once luxury condominiums are built, the truly wealthy will flock to these new buildings, leaving the open market-rate apartments to the middle class. Poor neighborhoods are given a face lift in the name of “revitalization,” rather than its impoverished and disempowered residents receiving acknowledgment and resources. New life is breathed into these districts while new residents replace and relocate the working class. Meanwhile the gentrification method is applauded for helping the area leap out of poverty when it's actually just moving it a couple zip codes away.

The reality is that affordable housing is on the decline while displacement in these neighborhoods is on the rise across the world. Jacobin magazine writes, “If affordable housing is sometimes affordable, and public housing construction has stalled, then how will luxury condominium developments keep cities affordable for poor and working class people? It won’t, of course. But the idea that the crisis can be solved by letting the free market build penthouses masks the need for government intervention through massive construction of new housing.” 

David Madden for The Guardian challenges a few myths often associated with gentrification:

The dichotomy: either a city gentrifies or suffers urban decay. “No serious critic of gentrification wants to maintain the status quo. Instead of either gentrification or decay, cities could push for more equal distribution of resources and more democratic decision-making.”