Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Leaving Christmas Behind to Gentrification in South Philly

Posted by Deirdre Oakley, SOUTH PHILADELPHIA – In its most fundamental form gentrification refers to the transition of an inner-city neighborhood, typically one with majority racial and ethnic minority residents, from low property values to higher ones. And in that process the socioeconomic characteristics of the neighborhood, as well as the ‘color’ change. New white higher income residents come in, followed by more services and amenities – some of which were sorely needed like supermarkets.  Displacement of the original (Blacker and browner) lower income residents also happens. Can gentrification happen without such targeted displacement? In other words, is one of the key components of gentrification forcing (through rent and property tax increases) the majority of the poor residents out? A tour of South Philly would lead most to answer yes. Touring this area is  like watching low turning to high property values happening in real time through massive redevelopment. So when I saw this apartment building I wondered if the residents were leaving Christmas behind because of gentrification. The old Christmas decorations seemed symbolic of something organic left behind as the neighborhood plunges into a new reality. It also begs the question: where do displaced residents go -- to the suburbs? Well, beginning 50 years ago poor inner-city minority residents were suburban-barred.

Deirdre Oakley is an Associate Professor in Sociology at Georgia State University, and the Editor of Social Shutter. She can be reached at doakley1@gsu.edu.

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