3. Gentrification Processes

            Gentrification commonly occurs in urban areas where prior disinvestment in the urban infrastructure creates opportunities for profitable redevelopment.  It also occurs in those societies where a loss of manufacturing employment and an increase in service employment has led to an expansion in the amount of middle class professionals with a deposition towards central city living and an associated rejection of suburbia (Slater, 2011).

The inhabitants of such urban areas most likely to be displaced by the gentrification process are those living in inexpensive yet architecturally desirable housing near central business districts.  They occupy housing which has the potential to be gentrified and, are themselves economically and politically powerless relative to the gentrifiers.  Such people live in the area for an array of reasons; cheap rent, nearby employment opportunities or the location may hold historical or emotional significance.  Their location may or may not be a matter of choice; however their existence there is a matter of the creation and location of the inner-city poor.  The majority affected are on the fringes of the labour market or outside it: the elderly, welfare mothers, the unemployed and many working class households and underemployed individuals near the poverty line (Beauregard, 1986).

            Pattison (1977: cited by Clay, 1979) identified four stages through which gentrification neighbourhoods commonly experience.

            The initial stage consists of a small group of risk-oblivious pioneer individuals who buy and renovate properties in previously described urban areas for their own personal use.  Very little displacement occurs at this stage since the pioneer gentrifiers obtain housing that is vacant or part of the normal market turnover.  This group of newcomers consists largely of design professionals and artists who have the skill and time to undertake such renovation projects.

            In the second stage of the gentrification process, a similar class of people to the first move in and renovate their new homes.  Some quiet and subtle promotional activities often begin at this stage and are driven by estate agents whilst small-scale speculators often renovate a few houses for resale or alternatively, rental.  The houses bought at this stage begin to disperse over a greater area and are often vacant and thus relatively easy to acquire.  Furthermore, if the neighbourhood was to have its name or boundaries altered, it would happen at this stage of the gentrification process.  This often brings forth attention from public agencies.

After the first two stages of gentrification, the media diverts attention onto the neighbourhood and it becomes a hub of interest.  Whilst the pioneer individuals continue to influence the area, they often become accompanied by developers and urban renewal begins.  As a result of the increasing volume of work undertaken by individual investors and new developers, the physical improvements become increasingly visible at stage three.  Consequently, house prices in the area begin to escalate.  The displacement process continues therefore, and it may increase to a greater extent if codes are enforced rigidly or if reassessments are made to reflect the increasing value of even the unimproved dwellings.  The better maintained properties become part of the middle class market as landlords seek to take advantage of the enhanced reputation of the area – leading to further displacement.  The new middle class residents in the third stage turn outward to promote the neighbourhood to other middle class individuals and to make requests for public resources; whilst turning inward to shape community life.  As this occurs, tension arises between the pioneer individuals and the new gentry. 

Finally, in stage four, a larger number of properties become gentrified and a simultaneous influx of middle class individuals occurs.  These middle class individuals are from the business and managerial middle class, rather than from the professional middle class.  To accommodate the growing demand for houses in the area, non-residential buildings may be turned into rental or condominium units and buildings that had previously been held for speculation emerge on to the market.  As well as this, small and specialised retail and professional services or commercial activities begin to emerge.  This all contributes to the ever increasing house and rent prices, adding to more displacement on both the renter and homeowner fronts.  Often at this stage, additional neighbourhoods in the city become identified to meet the increasing demand of the middle class.    

Source: YouTube
Video outlining the process of gentrification and some methods to control it, such as a 'rent cap'.

Source: CURBED
Campaigning against gentrification.

Source: YouTube
An exaggerated and biased video portraying the process of gentrification.  Lower class people are displaced in the UK, whereas racial minorities are displaced in the USA as a result of gentrification.

Source: Gentrification Web
Anti-gentrification campaign saying; "No More Yuppie, Please" in New York.  The term 'yuppie' refers to young urban professionals.

Source: YouTube
Residents of Bushwick, Brooklyn, USA, explaining the process of gentrification.