Gentrification Turns 50! Aristocratization Turns 6

SesamestreetA few really interesting gentrification-related stories came out over the holiday break, as well as an eye-opening history of the term. Did you know that gentrification, as a term, was coined fifty years ago, in 1964? 1978 was a key turning point:

The Federal Historic Preservation Tax Credit is passed into law allowing developers to apply for a tax credit equal to 10 percent of the cost of a building’s rehab. (Just three years later, Congress increased the max to 25 percent.) The program makes renovating old industrial buildings attractive to developers. States follow suit with similar programs. Factory conversions take off like never before.

Then, in 2003:

In a study of Brooklyn Heights, Loretta Lees coins the term “super-gentrification,” which she defines as “intensified regentrification in a few select areas of global cities like London and New York that have become the focus of intense investment and conspicuous consumption by a new generation of super-rich ‘financiers.’”

Or, as the Onion put it in 2008, “aristocratization.” 

the recent influx of exceedingly affluent powder-wigged aristocrats into the nation’s gentrified urban areas is pushing out young white professionals, some of whom have lived in these neighborhoods for as many as seven years. … “If this trend continues, these exclusive, vibrant communities with their sidewalk cafés and faux dive bars will soon be a thing of the past.”

Hotbeds like Paris and New York have handled the situation differently. The city that once turned on its aristocrats and fed them to guillotines has decided, again, to take a stand against rapacious, unchecked capitalism.

As part of a massive home-building drive, the government of France’s capital has just announced a plan to stop housing displacement in central neighborhoods. It might just be the most radical Europe has yet seen. Earlier this week, the Conseil de Paris published a list of 257 addresses (containing over 8,000 apartments) that the city would have a “right of first-refusal” to buy, in order to convert to subsidized housing. Located in areas that are being gentrified, the city’s plans would both increase subsidized rental options and ensure that at least some housing in these areas remains affordable to lower- and middle-income residents. …

The right of refusal plan is just one part of a massive housing push planned for the next six years, one which will see 10,000 new apartments built every year, with 70 percent of this total made up of subsidized housing.

Though New York has a lefty mayor, it isn’t trying this kind of active social engineering, at least not yet. Occasionally, though, the courts step in and attempt to keep matters from spiraling entirely out of control.

Ms. Alvillar, who speaks only a few words of English, had lived in the rent-stabilized one-bedroom on the second floor at 193 Bedford, between North Sixth and North Seventh Streets, for a quarter-century, since coming to this country from Mexico.

Then, in 2011, the landlord began renovating the building, removing walls and tearing up floors. There were also problems with the heat. Ms. Alvillar stuck it out, continuing to pay her $700 monthly rent, until August, when a city building inspector ordered her to leave, declaring the home uninhabitable and an “imminent danger to life.”

Once the apartment was brought up to code, Reno Capital rented it out to someone else for more than three times as much. Uh-uh, said housing court, calling the landlord “unscrupulous.” New tenant out; old tenant back in. The apartment may be unrecognizable, but it’s home. Suck it, Reno.

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