Gentrification: Urban Displacement and Unaffordable Cost of Living – Term Paper

Will we live at the mercy of gentrification? Moreover, are the displaced people due to the trend lesser human beings to the participants and activists? Since the 19th century, gentrification has taken over globally. Gentrification is a general word that describes the arrival of the wealthier class of people to already existing towns or urban districts, leading to the displacement of the poor or low class who lived in there. On one hand, it corresponds to a method of displacement of the working class in cities by the affluent social groups, while on the contrary physical transformation of the urban areas in the name of industrialization. The supporters of the phenomenon are either oblivion or ignorant of the negative effects it causes many households. In fact, recent studies by the Harvard University showed that approximately 10,000 households are displaced each year in New York due to gentrification (Brown-Saracino). Further, the cost of livelihood escalates such that basic needs of the residents become unaffordable and families go hungry. Therefore, despite the economic value that gentrification brings, the negative impacts surpass the benefits, and so the phenomenon should be socially and legally forbidden. In this research paper, the discussion is going to focus on the relationship between the urban displacement and the affordable livelihoods and make a recommendation to solve the effects of gentrification. The research paper has been divided three major parts to extrapolate on the thesis. The earlier chapter will give a thesis statement on the history and the development of the subject, gentrification. In the second part, will focus on the effects of gentrification on the urban dwellers. The effects will emphasize on the urban displacement and escalation of livelihood. Further, the third part will cover the case studies of different towns globally, giving the statistical data of the effects discussed in the second part. In the final part, the paper will give conclusions and recommendations to the negative impacts of gentrification as discussed through other chapters in the paper.

Gentrification is something that is real in todays world. Though it is a practice that began in the last century, its culmination is clearly visible in this century where a great percentage of the poor people are being displaced at a higher rate compared to the previous century. Every year according to study, 20 percent of the American poor population fall victims of this act with the number growing significantly every year.

There is no documented origin of the Gentrification. However, most historians tend to believe that the actual phenomenon of gentrification took place in ancient Roman Empire, which included the Roman Britain. The form of evidence of gentrification that has been quoted in this case was characterized by an action began in the 3rd Century when in ancient Rome the large villas began to replace the small shops. The question many scholars have asked is whether this phenomenon is best truly classified as gentrification. To understand that we need to understand and know the origin of the word Gentrification. The word gentrification is derived the isolated French word that stood for the gentries hence it was the based world that could stand for this heinous acts of the isolation of the working class from their rightful dwelling places.

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The modern form of gentrification is documented to have started towards the end of World War II (1935-1945), during this period as it is documented there was a prominently concerned in the urban decline. Hence, there was a faster need to tackle the problem that was associated with the crippling of economies of many. To save the economy, the urban renewal projects were developed to attract the working class back into the towns. With the working class back in town, there was still tiny economic revitalization (Ludin, 67).This was the factor that initiated the local government and the federal government to work out on how to bring the inner cities back to life. It is believed that the attraction of the inner city where some of the main causes of gentrification, however, this argument is reserved since the above phenomenon did not generate much attention.

The world gentrification was first formed by the British sociologist when trying to explain the phenomenon that he had observed The displacement of the working class from their residents by the arrival of this middle class He branded this phenomenon as wrong and just. However, another school of thought does not think of gentrification as outright evil as seen by British sociologist they believe the working class just could not cope. The representative of the latter opinion is such as Sharon Zukin, who is the professor of sociology departments at Brooklyn College and the author of the naked city represented his robust opinion on this topic. In his article the naked city, he strongly asserts that the middle class was people with cultural capital(22). He continues and argues that they included artist, writers, teachers and professors among many others. The professor claims that this enlightened group of individuals had begun to appreciate the urban environment long before their counterparts. The mainstream middle class were driven out of the streets by the old houses the crowded street, the chance to be bohemian and social diversity and the last factor was a chance to be among the lower class people of different diversities. He strongly dispels the notion that the very factors that drove the middle class into the streets were the same that drove the lower or working class out of the streets

Support for notion developed by Dr. Zukin Lees et al. in his book echoed that gentrification was not a process that happened once. He had written that gentrification had classes of development (46). The scholar asserted that gentrification was a process that gathered momentum once it started. The first step of gentrification was found to be ruled by the individuals known as the urban pioneers. These individual, according to the article by Lee et al. are people moving in the run down area with the aim of developing the areas (44).The article as tried to isolate artist and other groups that the research conducted by Lee et al. found to be conversant with the problems associated with the inner city. The redevelopment and the fix up of the run down areas were carried out in most cases by the urban pioneers. The art of urban pioneers will automatically affect the prices, and the lower income individuals who are not capable of paying such rates are then automatically faced out of the area. The middle lower income individuals will replace the middle-income individuals and after some time these individuals will demand higher quality social amenities. The later factor of higher quality social. Amenities will automatically change the face of the business premise that will be available for them. The rising prices of commodity were cited as the factor that will face out the lower income individuals hence creating more space for the middle and higher income individuals to move in hence leading to the cycle of gentrification. Gentrification, though something that is viewed as a social evil, cannot be purely blamed on the middle and social class. It is a thing that happens almost automatically with the growth in the society and difference in the social classes.

Another factor that was echoed in the development of gentrification was the renewed interests of the Americans to live in the city. Lehrer and Thorben claimed that the renewed interests of the Americans to live in urban centers has led to the rush into premium residents (Biro). The fact that this interest is inversely proportional to the number of urban cities built since independent put pressure the little cities available. The pressure is said to lead to the developments of areas that were once unconsidered desirable. Lehrer and Thorben supported the opinion that gentrification was wrong and unjust and tend to occur in the district that were mostly prone to have particular qualities. They further assert that since gentrification was leading to the displacement of poor people it still was regarded as an injustice. He argued that gentrification was targeting areas with premium qualities hence depriving the poor of quality for the rich. The scholars mentioned the major draws as the vitality, the convenience and diversity of urban neighborhoods as the major draws, as the availability of houses that are cheap. The old houses or industrial buildings were found to attract individuals looking for investment opportunities as fix uppers.

Since few individuals show interest in moving into unfamiliar neighborhoods especially across racial lines and space. The presence of more familiar faces will encourage very many people to try and make the move. Very many individuals who would love to move into that area will discuss the attractive neighborhood. Also, things accelerate speedily. Hence, gentrification was found to be gathering momentum like a snowball and working like accretion.

The opposers of this process have always quoted its effects on the urban dwellers as the main reason for their strong opposition. They have in most cases quoted the most serious effect on the urban dwellers which involved displacement. The social evil that has been found in the process of gentrification is that it has displaced the lower incomes individuals from the very places they have legitimate claims on. Many scholars have claimed that the displacement of the lower class or the working class as one of the negative aspect of gentrification that most scholars have studied. Even though the latter opinion in this school of thought has claimed lack of accurate data kept to disregard that factor. That claim was found to be shallow because many records on the research done had it that gentrification had led to the displacement of the minority, transient groups and elderly. The movement of these groups was traced in many researches and asserted to be away from gentrification process. The research that have been carried out clearly showed that gentrification led to the displacement of the minorities from the right full places that belonged to them. The displacement cannot be blamed fully on the movement of the upper class to the neighborhood of the lower class. Population pressure on the other hand also plays a big role. With the growth in population, and the increase in the number of those people becoming rich, gentrification is next to impossible. People will always want to settle in a place that befits their social status. It can hence be argued based on the Darwins theory of evolution that this is simply the rule of natural selection. When the environment does not favor you then you are simply eliminated.

In support of the claimed effect as unethical effects of gentrification, Huse found out in a study that gentrification process was two waves of displacement of the indigenous residents(122).The native residents were fast found to be driven out by the changing incentives of the property owners. This proprietor according to Huse hard no current motive of retaining their current tenants. It is believed that the proprietors forecast on the benefit they would obtain through gentrification. Since gentrification comes with more affluent rent seekers in that concerned, they have everything to gain than to lose. The surge in the value of properties will hence affect the low-income earners or the working class this high rents may also lead to an increase tax assessment. The income of the working class will automatically become meager to cover their increasing living cost.

Huse claims that even among the lower class that may be gentrified they would still lack the economic resources to keep up with the changes brought out by gentrification. They may in other cases have the financial capability but still lack the political power (92). The lack of political power will, in the long run, make then to be very vulnerable and hence prone to exploitation by landlords and private developers and, in the long run, they are forced to live. The gentrification process as asserted by Huse was irresistible.


The extensive theory of socioeconomic status has been used to discuss the numerous social effects of gentrification. The extensive theory echoes how the socioeconomic status of and person neighborhood was responsible for the future and behavior of and individual. The studies have led to very diverse opinion among the scholars interested in this line of study. The government has therefore been charged with lessening the strain on public resources. Regarding gentrification and social mixing conducted research that proved that gentrification did not have to necessary correlate with social mixing and that that the effects of the new composition of a gentrified neighborhood can both weaken as well as strengthen community cohesion (Arthur et al. 76).

The opinion of the study found that in most cases the individuals housing conferred to social status while the changing social hierarchy was found to correlate to the changing norms that come with gentrification. The congregation of the variety of social and expectation norms was found to lead to the mixing of people of different socio-economic strata due to gentrification. The change in gentrification was reported to bring another factor known as the class distinction. Apart from class distinction there was an increase in relative residential polarization, education, household, income, and race. Other quarters scholars have also claimed that gentrification brought about new standards in consumption by employing a social rise; this was in most cases seen in the form of excess and the superfluity to the circles that was not a point of preexisting residents concerned. Hence, this different norms could lead to conflict that would be a recipe of dividing the changing communities. In most cases, this was found to be more perilous to the indigenous residents of the gentrified community who is in most cases their displacement is met with the very little sense of interest from the gentry from the government.

Arthur et al. also gave the opinion that gentrification can stabilize and strengthen in are where the individuals agreement about the real issues or the objectives of the community. A community with poor facilities can organize to demand facilities and resources. A model example is a community or resident effort to change the looks of their location. Many scholars have placed this phenomenon as gentrification activity. The phenomenon may involve taking action on crime.


The Portuguese started migrating into Toronto between the years of 1950 and 1960; the migration, however, was at its peak by 1970s. Recent statistics has estimated close to five hundred thousand Portuguese settlers living in Canada. It is notable that half of this population resides in Toronto according to an ethnic origin census done in Canada in the year 2006. Since their migration, many Portuguese have settled away from the central city virtually replacing the Italians that were original inhabitants of the area. The study estimated that people of Portugal origin accounted for over 28 percent of the total population of the central city area while almost half of the residents of west central Toronto were Portuguese at that time.

Because of this immigration, West Central Toronto is currently in transition both economically and socially. There are an increasing number of middle-class professionals emerging. These individuals see opportunity in purchasing low-cost houses and premises and either demolishing them and building larger apartments or renovating them in proximity to the citys downtown core. A minority rich group causing displacements and poor locals becoming landless and squatters within their local areas is now replacing the older European immigrants. From this, it can be construed without any shadow of a doubt that gentrification is not a negative act as some researchers may want to put in. at times it is only through it that development can be achieved. Toronto is now on its way to the top thanks to the very same act people may want to view as evil. There are evident changes in education status with more schools emerging but with higher school fees that locals can no longer afford higher cost and arguably better housing and market facilities have been erected in the downtown area of West Toronto. The High Park area is especially one of the evidence of negative effects of gentrification as currently the locals can no longer afford the high cost of living and are opting to live elsewhere where housing is affordable. Only the high-end rich Italian natives and the wealthy immigrants remain within the downtown areas of Toronto.

In this case study, there is evidence of a speculative increase of property, loss of affordable housing and displacements at the expense of increased property values. The locals in gentrifying arrears are no longer able to rent houses and are forced by circumstance to vacate. It is also a pity that the locals struggle through a possible emotional impact of being removed from their familiar socials networks. The second effect, in this case, is the rapid development of industries and commercial establishments against the stabilization of declining arrears and mutual encouragement of further development. The incoming group may come with companies and multinationals to offer employment within the community. However, their demands, high tastes, and expectations are far much beyond the lifestyles of the locals, they may build high-end luxury facilities, have very expensive retail outlets that cannot be used by locals. The initial pocket-friendly local markets in Toronto Township arrears have for instance replaced with large stores offering luxurious goods and services. The small industrial users have also closed shop or moved elsewhere due to higher land costs or costs of operations or limiting space of operations.

Thirdly, gentrification in Toronto has led to an argument about resentment and conflict against social mix (Nelson et al.). The early stages of gentrification, in this case, were coupled with enthusiasm about mixture and interaction of culture. Locals would appreciate and view highly the incoming visitors, everyone anticipates a social diversity, harmonious multi-ethnic living this feeling of appreciation and welcoming soon changes when the visitors have well settled and the result is higher retail, and living expenses that locals can no longer afford, conflicts have therefore emerged with both communities treating each other as suspects. The gentrification in Toronto is less effective towards the social mix of ethnic diversity. Instead, it leads to increasing conflicts between the inhabitants and the immigrants. The census data analyzed separately by Walks and Maaranen in 2008, for instance, showed that there were reduced levels of income and ethnic mix in and around the gentrified neighborhoods.

In general, though the predicaments of the original inhabitants cannot be overshadowed, it is also important to note that it is something that cannot be avoided fully. Actually, it is something that is beneficial to the economy viewed from a wider perspective. Toronto is growing economically and the displaced people will always find an alternative. Emotional wounds caused by the shift will always heal after some time. People will always adapt to their new environment. If time is given chance, then it simply means that the displaced people will always be comfortable in their new environment. Adapting is part of being human.


Scholars like Raphael Bostic and Richard Martin have argued that gentrification is never designed to displace people with low incomes in a locality. They argue that people of like minds and interests will tend to reside in the same locality and thus may decide to move in a given locality together not necessarily to displace but due to preference. Physical property and amenities in an area will likely create more jobs opportunities, improve infrastructures such as quality schools and market centers, and put to low levels the rates of crimes among others (Huse). The low-income earners have an increasing chance to prosper with gentrification and improve their standards both socially and economically. Moreover, the improvement of a locality standard means safer environmental conditions and general improvement of livelihoods. The emergence of industries guarantees absorption of local talent as employees and workmanship. More facilities and infrastructure including hospitals, stadiums, schools and colleges, public offices and better roads are likely to be availed in such arrears.

However, both economists and socialists such as Elvin Wyly and Daniel Hammel that the desirable influences of gentrification usually come at the expenses of the poor citizens who end up being displaced globally accept it. Such displacements will happen when households are involuntarily forced to move from an area they have inhabited their entire life and made social connections. Gentrifies create tension and anxiety by rapidly changing the a socioeconomic environment of a poor community, this they do as a way of satisfying their goal of getting the desired locality while on the other hand diminishing the realization of the less fortunate goals (Hackworth and Smith).

The result is that more high and mighty buyers will inflate the house and property pricing in an area forcing property owners also to follow the rhythm with their poor tenants. Harassment and evictions will then be used to displace lower income tenants who by this time have minimal options (Nelson et al). The landlords do so in anticipation for higher rents from wealthy tenants some of whom would pay all yearly installments at once (Biro). The low-income earners are therefore forced to find alternatives and move away from their jobs and comfort. The agony and lack of comfort of these tenants during such time are not a thing to assume. It is the sorrow of an earlier majority who has all of a sudden been converted to a minority group and beggars due to a radical economic change. It is a fact that this process overturns a comfortable hardworking community with goals and aspirations into beggars without housing and with low self-esteem (Huse).

Therefore, the rising of high-end costly dwellings and industrialization within a locality should be viewed as a double-edged sword. Though they come with massive benefits and incentives, the advantages are jeopardized when the result is displacements and lack of comfort within a now perceived minority group. It could be a gross violation of human rights at the preference of a few rich individuals wanting to achieve their visions while neglecting their poor counterparts. Policies should, therefore, be put in place to ensure that a compromised position is achieved. The rich should fulfill their visions, but the poor must also be taken care of. This could be done by proper planning of a town and its surrounding and earmarking separate industrial arrears, high dwelling, and low dwelling ends and restricting the adherence to such policies. Development is good, but it becomes bitter once the less fortunate are oppressed.

Works cited

Biro, Jessica. “Gentrification: deliberate displacement, or natural social movement?” The Park Place Economist 15.1 (2007): 42-46.

Brown-Saracino, Japonica. A Neighborhood That Never Changes: Gentrification, Social Preservation, and the Search for Authenticity, 2009. Internet resource.

Hackworth, J. and Smith, N. The changing state of gentrification. Journal of economic and social geography, 2001. Vol. 92(4), pp.464-477.

Huse, Ms Tone. Everyday Life in the Gentrifying City: On Displacement, Ethnic Privileging and the Right to Stay Put. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2014.

Lees, Loretta, Hyun Bang Shin, and Ernesto Lopez-Morales, eds. Global Gentrifications: Uneven Development and Displacement. Policy Press, 2015

Lehrer, Ute, and Thorben Wieditz. “Condominium development and gentrification: The relationship between policies, building activities and socio-economic development in Toronto.” Canadian Journal of Urban Research 18.1 (2009): 140-161.

Lundin, Rolf A., and Christophe Midler, eds. Projects as arenas for renewal and learning processes. Springer Science & Business Media, 2012.

Nelson, Arthur C, Thomas W. Sanchez, and Casey J. Dawkins. The Social Impacts of Urban Containment. Aldershot, England: Ashgate, 2007.

Slater, T. The Eviction of Critical Perspectives from Gentrification Research.International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 2006. Vol. 30 (4), pp.737757.

Zukin, Sharon. Naked city: The death and life of authentic urban places. Oxford University Press, USA, 2009.