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Thursday, December 9, 2021

Opinion

Third Ward should be preserved, not gentrified


Third Ward should be preserved, not gentrified

Gerald Sastra/ The Cougar

Gentrification has been taking over the Third Ward, causing long-time residents to be pushed out and new wealthier residents and businesses to move in. Gentrification causes Third Ward residents to unwillingly pay the price of losing their history and livelihood. 

Known as the cradle of the civil rights movement in Texas, Third Ward was a place where Black Houstonians found their voices during a time of segregation and oppression. It is a neighborhood with a rich and empowering history. However, as new buildings and companies move into the area, Third Ward residents are being pushed out of their homes and local businesses.

Houston now has a tech hub for startups and corporations called the Ion, which is a project worth millions of dollars. It is said to be the start of an innovation district right next to Third Ward. However, residents fear that this tech hub will cause Third Ward residents to be priced out by all the new residents it will attract. 

It would be unfair to transform a place with such rich heritage into another upper-middle-class neighborhood in Houston.

It’s important to note the role UH plays in the gentrification of Third Ward. Colleges create a demand for housing, causing overpriced apartments to be built near the campus. Third Ward residents, the majority of whom make less than $25,000 a year are left with little options for affordable housing, resulting in their displacement.

A third of Third Ward residents fear that they will have to relocate, according to a 2020 survey, even though many of them have well-established lives in the area, living there for more than 15 years. These people are being pushed away from the only place they have called home and have no say in what the future of that place may be.

Third Ward is a place where people have fought and struggled to be seen. Gentrifying it with mostly white-owned businesses would taint its position as an emblem of endurance against hardship and racial inequality. 

Third Ward is also a cultural hub for many musical movements, such as blues music in the historic Eldorado Ballroom. It is the place of origin for many Houstonian artists, musicians and performers. Unsurprisingly, 65 percent of Third Ward residents felt worried that the area’s African American heritage will be lost to gentrification.

This is a reasonable fear considering that many incoming residents of the area move there without awareness of how the neighborhood came to be, slowly leading to a history forgotten by future generations. 

Although change is inevitable and Houston will continue to grow as a city, it is our responsibility as Houstonians to maintain the city’s history and preserve a place that has influenced our city’s character in so many ways.

Instead of completely erasing the past of Third Ward and forcing its residents out of it, prosperity needs to be centered around how to best help those already living there.

We should stimulate growth without throwing away the valuable lessons of the past. Gentrification is not innovation. Third Ward and its history must be preserved.

Sumera Siddiqi is a liberal studies freshman who can be reached at [email protected]

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