(WASHINGTON POST) Emily Badger —
Poor, minority neighborhoods are frequently places where banks have refused to lend money, where retailers have declined to open shop, where basic businesses have been absent. Even city governments have historically denied them resources — for proper trash collection, or repaved roads and public parks, or essential services like fire stations.
These neighborhoods, in short, are places where much has been withheld.
With this in mind, I often wince when the first signs of new investment — a national grocery store breaks ground, a sit-down restaurant replaces an empty storefront — are bluntly derided as harbingers of “gentrification,” a word that has largely negative connotations. If poor neighborhoods have historically suffered from dire disinvestment, how can the remedy to that evil — outside money finally flowing in — be the problem, too?
That question is an oversimplification. Every form of new investment won’t bring amenities that would help existing residents. New apartments renting for $2,500 a month won’t improve the housing options for a family living on $20,000 a year. A high-priced wine bar won’t be accessible either. But a new supermarket will be. And so will the jobs there.
The problem with how we often talk about “gentrification” is that we leave no space for these distinctions when we equate anything new with something inherently bad. And we don’t reckon with what it would mean in an alternative scenario for these places to continue having little investment at all.