The Business of Gentrification

Baratunde Thurston, Lance Freeman, and John Tierney discuss the money behind gentrification—what happens when old neighborhoods are transformed, and whether you can afford to live in a city.

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Let’s look at the next slide
because it kind of illustrates

some of the arguments for the
positive benefits of gentrification.

So, 11 points.

That is the increase in credit score

for residents living
in gentrifying neighborhoods.

Can we explain exactly
how those credit scores go up?

It may be due to people
getting better jobs or perhaps,

if they’re homeowners,
the value of their homes increases.

If you’re fortunate enough
to own your own home

and you live
in a gentrifying neighborhood,

that’s going to improve
your economic status.

John, cities change, right? All
that stuff is just natural, isn’t it?

The neighborhoods
go through these cycles and,

you know, the housing deteriorates,
the artists move in,

and then the neighborhood
picks up again

and that’s what’s great about New York
is it always welcomes new groups

of immigrants and neighborhoods.
I want to challenge this notion that

this is something
that just naturally happens.

Black people were put
in specific housing situations,

to be specific about New York,

denied home loans,
denied opportunities,

so the idea that
this is some natural evolution,

no, these are policy decisions
that we’re seeing play out.

What kind of policies
made it happen?

G.I. bill policies,
federal loan policies.

The neighborhood didn’t change.

Someone changed it because
they had an economic incentive

to have some benefit out of that.

-John, do you agree with that analysis?
-No, I mean,

I agree that there were some government
policies that encouraged the suburb

but, in generally,
these things happen organically.

I find it weird that the big problem
in the ‘60s was white flight,

people complaining whites
were fleeing neighborhoods,

were leaving these neighborhoods
without the money for schools...

It does sound kind of funny,
like white flight, as if

-they’re running away from something.
-Exactly, they were.

They were running away from
black people but they actually were.

Part of it was the neighborhoods
started getting crime

but also just the suburbs
were built and suddenly, you know

people in Brooklyn
who were in these apartments

could suddenly
afford a home with a yard.

We’re filming this show
in Bushwick, Brooklyn,

a neighborhood
that is definitely gentrifying.

So our next step
really strikes close to home.

2,428 dollars a month.

That’s the average rent for a two
bedroom apartment here in Bushwick.

A one bedroom apartment here

will go for 2,189 dollars a month

and a studio
is 1,925 dollars a month.

Who here thinks they’re paying
too much for their rent?

John, why is rent so high?

Is it housing shortage,
is it too much demand?

It’s terrible housing policies
in New York City.

I mean, the key to providing
affordable housing is building housing

and when there’s a shortage,
poor people suffer the most.

It’s true that if we’re able
to build a lot more housing,

that probably would affect
housing market prices.

I agree with John on that point
but the downside is

that that affects neighborhoods,
that affects people’s communities.

People like to feel like
they’re living in community.

So we like to have
a control over that as well.

I think seeing this chart
of increasing cost of living

and knowing that it’s taking up
a bigger share of our income,

if we were all making more money,
these numbers wouldn’t feel so painful

-but we’re not.
-So you can afford these prices?

A lot of people who, maybe
they sold a house in the suburbs,

maybe they have parents
who can help chip in

because they have
some level of a family cushion

or wealth or maybe they’re tripling,
quadrupling up

to be able to live in the same spot.

Let’s look at the next slide
because it kind of illustrates

some of the arguments for the
positive benefits of gentrification.

So, 11 points.

That is the increase in credit score

for residents living
in gentrifying neighborhoods.

Can we explain exactly
how those credit scores go up?

It may be due to people
getting better jobs or perhaps,

if they’re homeowners,
the value of their homes increases.

If you’re fortunate enough
to own your own home

and you live
in a gentrifying neighborhood,

that’s going to improve
your economic status.

John, cities change, right? All
that stuff is just natural, isn’t it?

The neighborhoods
go through these cycles and,

you know, the housing deteriorates,
the artists move in,

and then the neighborhood
picks up again

and that’s what’s great about New York
is it always welcomes new groups

of immigrants and neighborhoods.
I want to challenge this notion that

this is something
that just naturally happens.

Black people were put
in specific housing situations,

to be specific about New York,

denied home loans,
denied opportunities,

so the idea that
this is some natural evolution,

no, these are policy decisions
that we’re seeing play out.

What kind of policies
made it happen?

G.I. bill policies,
federal loan policies.

The neighborhood didn’t change.

Someone changed it because
they had an economic incentive

to have some benefit out of that.

-John, do you agree with that analysis?
-No, I mean,

I agree that there were some government
policies that encouraged the suburb

but, in generally,
these things happen organically.

I find it weird that the big problem
in the ‘60s was white flight,

people complaining whites
were fleeing neighborhoods,

were leaving these neighborhoods
without the money for schools...

It does sound kind of funny,
like white flight, as if

-they’re running away from something.
-Exactly, they were.

They were running away from
black people but they actually were.

Part of it was the neighborhoods
started getting crime

but also just the suburbs
were built and suddenly, you know

people in Brooklyn
who were in these apartments

could suddenly
afford a home with a yard.