"It turns out that the old complaint against gentrification, that it
drives out minorities, is far too simplistic. Instead, we should be
worrying about a different concern: It hasn’t built the diversity that
Jacobsian urbanists envisioned, and that cities need."
While revising the final chapter of my dissertation I came across some interesting data on income segregation by the Pew Research Center. Although Pew's research covers the entire United States (see 2012 report, "The Rise of Residential Segregation by Income") for this post I will focus on Washington, DC (where I currently reside).
The above map represents the Pew's Residential Income Segregation
Index (RISI) for Washington, DC. RISI is calculated by adding the rate of
lower-income households living in a majority lower-income tract and the rate of
upper-income households living in a majority upper-income tract. Red represents lower income tracts and blue higher income tracts. Washington's
score is 47 (the maximum score is 200) in comparison to the highest scoring metro areas, Houston and Dallas that have a RISI score of 61 and 60, respectively. Between 1980 and 2010, the Washington DC metro area population increased 78%, but the RISI scored only increased by 4.
The reports states that "the typical upper-income household is more likely to live
alongside other upper-income households, more than two-thirds of the
neighbors of the typical upper-income household in 2010 were either
middle income or lower-income households." Although Pew did not report detailed data on the DC metro area, further research on gentrification in the District in comparison to the surrounding area may explain why the DC metro area has a relatively low RISI score.
It is worth noting that residential segregation by race is still more prevalent than income. The report states that "[i]n 2010, 42% of blacks lived in a census tract that was majority black,
compared with 28% of low-income households living in a majority
low-income tract and 18% of upper-income households living in a majority
upper-income tract." This is still the case in the DC metro area. Yale Professor Bill Rankin's map illustrates the point:
I finally watched "Queen of Versailles," a documentary film directed by Lauren Greenfield. The film follows David Siegel, the owner of Westgate Resorts, and wife Jackie (along with their children). (By the way, this is the same man that threatened massive layoffs if his employees didn't vote for Mitt Romney.) As I understand, the original intent of the film was to feature the Siegel's decision to build the largest and most expensive family home in the U.S. However, because of the financial crisis of 2008 the family is forced to put the unfinished home on the market (for $75M) because David, although originally paying cash, decided to mortgage the home to access cash to expand his business. The family has to sell other assets (e.g. airplane, cars) as well as layoff thousands of employees as their business empire was built on the real estate bubble and easily available mortgages from the banks.
This film embodies the causes of the economic crisis and our current economic condition. Once lower middle class themselves, the Siegels become billionaires from selling condo time shares to lower-middle class people. David Siegel is able to develop new properties through cheap and readily available credit and his customers are able to buy vacation shares by essentially the same process. This is depicted in one scene where a couple is convinced to buy a time share with a deposit of $2000 on their credit card without realizing the financial risks.
David Siegel's business offers his customers the opportunity to experience a life of privilege for one week a year in places like Las Vegas. The Siegels already live a life of privilege but are not satisfied and want to live like royalty, hence the building of Versailles 2.0.
We watch as the Siegels adjust to new realities and at one point, Jackie questions the fairness of the banks taking advantage of people, identifying with the 99% by asking why the bank didn't lend the money to "common people, like us" as expected after the bailout. Even David admits that the banking system is corrupt but will not go as far as to admit that the problem was deregulation and the lack of government oversight. The drive to acquire stuff, in this case real estate, blinds everyone to the fundamental problems with our economic system.
Great new documentary: "My Brooklyn" by Kelly Anderson with the support of historian Craig S. Wilder at MIT.
The first time I visited the Fulton Mall was as a teenager in the 1990s. I was so excited to hang out with my friends and go shopping without adults. Fast forward to 2008, I moved to Northern Park Slope as an adult joining the later gentrifiers. I always felt like I had one foot in the Fulton Mall and the other in Gorilla Coffee! I was surprised (I really shouldn't be) to recently learn about the plans to demolish/redevelop the Fulton Mall (see National Retailers Discover a Brooklyn Mall in the NYT).
The article Redefining Inequality So It Actually Means Something argues that the price of housing and housing policies contribute to inequality
by limiting the ability of low-wage earners to move to cities to have access to higher paying jobs. Living in NYC and Washington, DC as a graduate student and working part time I have experienced first hand the struggle to live in cities with high cost of living. However, I am fortunate to be part of a two income household and the possibility of a professional career. For the low-wage earners with limited resources and educational opportunities, that is not the case. Low-wage earners would benefit from reversing the income gap--income disparity cannot be ignored.