the perceived inevitability of gentrification

This hit home with me, the idea that gentrification and displacement are somehow inevitable, as relentless and predictable as the tides when we know they are manmade, completely artificial and preventable.

Shearer is increasingly involved with efforts to protect neighbors from displacement. He bought his first home in the North Oak Cliff neighborhood of Winnetka Heights for $145,000 in 2003. Today, homes sell for three times that. Originally, Shearer was attracted to the neighborhood’s sense of community, which he claims was driven by the neighbors, not by retail and restaurants in and around the Bishop Arts district. As someone who has witnessed how gentrification has changed the neighborhood that’s been his home for two decades, he feels a duty to protect it.

“I see my role now as one of speaking out against the perceived inevitability of gentrification and displacement. So many that are either actively participating in gentrification, or passively benefiting from it, believe it will happen regardless of our actions,” Shearer says. — emphasis added

The value in the land is created by those who live and work on it, not those who own the deed to a set of map coordinates. The map is not the territory and the documents are not the land. But the deed to the land is how you access that wealth. By owning the land you claim the productive output of whatever was created on it, whether it was a restaurant with a thriving community or a factory. Land is the means of production in a post-industrial economy, even more so than it was in the industrial era. A steel mill made more money than the same land did as a farm and who claimed that value? Those who punched a time card at the mill or whoever owned the deed to the land?

Working for a family business, Baez can see some advantages to gentrification, but recognizes that it displaces a lot of his friends and family in the area. “You get new clients, clients that have become regulars, and the business has been steadily improving. But that doesn’t matter if after it all, we aren’t in the plans of the landlord’s future.”

Recently, a family-owned paleta shop that Best often visited as a child was priced out and forced to relocate to Arlington, just to be replaced by a chain popsicle shop.

“I think that’s just one of the telltale signs, right? When you see the same product being rendered by a chain,” Best says. “It just takes away from the character of the community, and that’s the saddest part about it to me.”

We hear a lot about “neighborhood character” and how it matters but it’s often the argument of racists who want to keep their neighborhood white. A neighborhood as a collection of properties is different from a community, where people might come from outside the physical neighborhood to participate. These are in tension…as the physical neighborhood is bought and sold based on the value created by the community, the community has to relocate and rebuild that value elsewhere. Sadly, that value will be expropriated in much the same way, by the same speculators who know the price of land but never see the value of community.

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