Gentrification: a positive good for communities
The Third Ward is understandably a common subject of discussion on campus. Rumors and suspicion plague its name, leading to a frenzy of mockery and stereotypical jokes it has had to endure since its severe economic decline in the early 1990s.
To Houstonians, the Third Ward has become synonymous with crime, leading some to believe that the metaphorical Bogeyman of urban planning and development is to blame: gentrification.
Gentrification refers to the displacement of low income families after an increase in rent or property value caused by the arrival of wealthy people to an area which, in turn, changes the culture or character of that area. This process is often thought to cause an exodus of low income and minority families, replacing them with the more economically favorable.
In the cities of Chicago and New York, this process has taken a toll on impoverished citizens leading to a higher than average rate of homelessness and extreme poverty.
But what about The Third Ward?
Gentrification isn’t to blame for the current position of the area. According to The Economist, the problem for cities like The Third Ward isn’t gentrification, but the concentration of poverty.
Regarding the claims of displacement, economist Terra McKinnish along with colleagues at the University of Colorado found, “…gentrification created neighborhoods that were attractive to minority households, particularly households with children or elderly homeowners. They found no evidence of displacement or harm.”
In fact, gentrification can produce desirable effects upon a community such as a reduced crime rate, investment in the infrastructure of an area and increased economic activity in neighborhoods which gentrify.
“We want to find people who will make this community better by becoming part of its fabric, not by changing its fabric,” said State Representative Garnet F. Coleman, who represents the Third Ward area.
While retaining the culture of the Third Ward is important, perhaps the 15th most dangerous neighborhood in the country needs the change that gentrification provides. The retention of the culture doesn’t improve an area because poverty is not a culture. It’s time to stop protecting poverty and move toward the brighter future that The Third Ward could obtain.
It’s time to embrace the Bogeyman for what it is: a force for positive change.
Opinion columnist Austin Turman is a political science junior and may be reached at [email protected]