GENTRIFICATION AND ITS EFFECTS.

Gentrification is a process of changing the character of a neighborhood through the influx of more affluent residents and businesses. The gentrification process is typically the result of increasing attraction to an area by people with higher incomes spilling over from neighboring towns to the hinterlands.

For example, the last few years, Kilifi town has seen an influx of Middle and upper middle class, looking for land for residential and investments. Vipingo area, Bofa and generally the town, land prices and housing has shot up, a ¼ acre in a prime area like Bofa goes for 3.5Million, up from 1million 3 years ago. Rental prices have continued to escalate; a typical 2 Bedroomed family house goes for 25,000 up from 15,000.

Changes to cities, neighborhoods, and communities is inevitable—however, with the latest tide of change, many communities are experiencing gentrification. Gentrification occurs when “communities experience an influx of capital and concomitant goods and services in locales where those resources were previously non-existent or denied. Usually, gentrification occurs when more affluent people move to or become interested in historically less affluent neighborhoods. Gentrification is a phenomenon subject to much debate—some believe that its effects are purely positive, while others argue that gentrification brings about harmful consequences. I argue the latter and examine the problems that gentrification causes.

While gentrification can benefit an area by decreasing crime, improving the economy, and increasing property values and taxes, it can have the negative consequences of pricing out former residents, changing the culture of the community, and causing resentment. “Gentrification can be said, it’s a form of oppression,” it can also lead to displacement, eviction, forced homelessness, police violence, and destroyed communities. Gentrification can be devastating to the residents who are pushed out of the path of development. It can also cause clashes between classes instead of bringing people together as a community.

Displacement is becoming a larger issue in outskirts towns, around major cities, where the pressure for urban living is accelerating, places like Thika and Ruiru in Nairobi and Kiambu, Kilifi especially Vipingo area. These particular cities attract new businesses, highly skilled workers, major developers, and large corporations, all of which drive up both the demand for and cost of housing. As a result, local residents—and neighborhood renters in particular—may feel pressured to move to more affordable locations.

 The benefit of gentrification is that these more mixed income neighborhoods lower the exposure to poverty for all residents.

Examining the Negative Impacts of Gentrification.

Gentrification usually leads to negative impacts such as forced displacement, a fostering of discriminatory behavior by people in power, and a focus on spaces that exclude low-income individuals.

Some argue that gentrification is beneficial since the gentrification process creates more development, rapid economic investment, and support of projects related to consumption and entertainment. The incoming population of more affluent residents and people of privilege is directly connected to an increase in resource allocation to schools, stores, and other development. While these effects can be beneficial, the gentrification process becomes detrimental when it forces original residents to leave the neighborhood through exponentially increasing property prices, coercion, or buyouts. If there is no widespread displacement, and the shifts in the neighborhood are carefully planned through with community input and involvement, gentrification can be a good thing for the community, increasing “socioeconomic, tribal, and ethnic integration”. However, this is rarely ever the case.

During gentrification, poorer communities are commonly converted to high-end neighborhoods with expensive housing options such as high-rises and apartments. As property prices increase, the original residents of the neighborhood are forced out in a variety of ways. First, with an increase in the prices of buildings, the gap between the price of the building and the income that the landlord gets from renting the building grows bigger; landlords thus increase rent prices, which forces out the low-income residents. As building prices continue to increase, the problem exacerbates because it becomes even more profitable to convert these apartment buildings into non-residential areas. Additionally, since investors can earn more money from selling buildings, real-estate dealers have less incentive to improve the buildings. The real estate dealers instead sell the buildings at higher prices. This cycle of rising building prices continues until only large and well-financed investors are able to continue.

Because of the potential for large profits from the conversion of ordinary living spaces to high-rise or office buildings, unscrupulous landlords have used immoral means to intentionally displace low-income residents from rent-controlled areas.

 Even when the living spaces in a gentrifying area remain residential, the developers attract new residents with higher incomes because of the services and amenities that improve in conjunction with the increase cost of living and property values. The influx of these new and more affluent residents puts pressure on the housing market that produce inflated rents and prices that effectively displace low-income residents. Furthermore, during re-zoning, the new residents, who are in the groups with the “most spatialized privilege” and “high economic [standing, have] the power to shape city policy to protect themselves from further gentrification that might have priced them out of the area.

 In addition to displacement due to rising property values and coercive techniques, low-income and poor individuals also can face exclusion from the newly planned spaces in the gentrifying location. Common in gentrification efforts is the urban planning shift from “fostering community formation” to “investing the city with money and consumption-oriented spaces that resemble suburban shopping malls that exclude low-income and the poor. Instead of community integration, there is selective development and enforcement of distinction between different areas. Moreover, when developers do build houses, they are not building these houses for low income families. New buildings are usually intended for upper-income families. These spaces are societally because they disproportionately exclude poor and low-income individuals.

Most problematic gentrification occurs because of a lack of policies that value community input, offer equitable rezoning policies, and provide intentional housing options. Without policies that attempt to remedy the trends that cause forced displacement, gentrification will continue to dismantle and displace lowerincome communities. To develop such policies, we must recognize the disproportionate and destructive effects of gentrification.

Written by, Octavian Jumbe

Director – Homechoice Properties