Gentrification by the Numbers
What’s Happening and How to Help
by Tom King
What’s Happening and How to Help
by Tom King
How many hours would you have to work each week to afford to live in Massachusetts?
If you earn MA minimum wage (currently $11.00/hr):
And then there’s Boston. . .
“A household needs to earn an estimated $120,900 annually to comfortably afford a median-priced, 2- bedroom apartment in Boston.” ϕ
That’s the sixth highest housing wage in the country.⟊
Income inequality increases; affordable housing decreases
Housing crises become health crises
The very folks whom artists, creative thinkers, and change agents want to engage can be displaced by the success of creative investments in their communities, particularly as predominantly white artmakers and consumers open creative spaces in communities historically marginalized by race, ethnicity, or class. What, then, should be the role of the arts and creativity in supporting just communities?
All individuals and communities have a right to cultural heritage, artistic expression, and beauty. What Malo Andre Hutson has called “creative, place-based community development strategies” can help existing residents and communities build resilience, make and maintain a sense of place, and preserve local knowledge and cultural memory. ❥ This works best, as Dee Schneidman, Program Director, Research & Creative Economy at the New England Foundation for the Arts (NEFA), has documented, when creative workers and change agents share a sense of place and engage community stakeholders—civic leaders, schools and other anchor institutions, local businesses, and residents—from the ground up. ☩ Sharing and performing stories can create conversations between new and existing residents. Creators can work with community members on strategies of self-determination and self representation; create green spaces and spaces for reflection; and provide access to the arts and arts education. As Joe Kriesberg has observed, “[Community Development Corporations] and others are increasingly using the arts and creative place-making (and place-keeping) to claim (and retain) their communities’ historic and cultural narratives.” ❖ Artists and creators can thus facilitate the process of“work[ing] with local community groups to help ensure that low- and moderate income residents can benefit from the expanded economic, educational, and social opportunities present in gentrifying neighborhoods,” argues Ingrid Gould Ellen. ⚘ The arts, in short, are a key component of “sustainable healthy communities”— economically strong, environmentally clean, and socially just communities[.]” ❥
Insist that developers sign legally binding Community Benefits Agreements to ensure that existing residents have a voice in the process and benefit from development.
Support higher, fair, living wages so that folks can afford to live in or near the communities in which they work. Income disparity is a driver of displacement.
Join grassroots resistance movements:
Advocate for governmental and community interventions in the so-called free market and market orthodoxy, through:
Advocate for just cause eviction and right-to-purchase legislation, protecting tenants when speculators buy buildings and prohibiting owners from using no-fault eviction notices to move out existing renters.
Encourage your city to refuse tax breaks for wealthy companies moving into your area. Ask your city to require highly profitable tech companies (from biotech to Amazon) and anchor institutions (such as nonprofit hospitals and universities) to support and invest in the cities and communities in which they are located.
❥ Malo Andre Hutson, “A Shared Future: We Live Here Too: Incorporating Residents’ Voices in Mitigating the Negative Effects of Gentrication,” Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, 16 May 2018, online (http://www.jchs.harvard.edu/research-areas/working-papers/shared-future-we-livehere-too-incorporating-residents-voices)
❖ Joe Kriesberg, “Strategies for Responding to Gentrification,” Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, 4 June 2018, online (http://www.jchs.harvard.edu/blog/strategies-forresponding-to-gentrification/).
☩ Dee Schneidman, “Creative Communities Exchange (CCX): Learning from New England Creative Economy Initiatives,” New England Foundation for the Arts (NEFA), June 2016, online (http://www.nefa.org/sites/default/files/atoms/files/CCX%20report%20v0630.pdf).
⚘ Ingrid Gould Ellen, “A Shared Future: Can Gentrification Be Inclusive?,” Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, 16 May 2018, online (http://www.jchs.harvard.edu/research-areas/workingpapers/shared-future-can-gentrification-be-inclusive).