Multi-Income Neighborhoods Instead of Gentrification

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about happens when middle-class and wealthy people move into lower income neighborhoods en masse, which is often known as “gentrification.” I’m thinking about this because my wife and I, who are middle- class, plan to move into a neighborhood in Cincinnati in which the average person makes about half of the average Ohioan.

My knee-jerk reaction to gentrification is to say that it’s nothing short of modern-day colonialism rooted in trendiness. However, this position begs the question, “Should people then be segregated according to class?” I strongly believe segregation causes and perpetuates injustice. I’ve spend most of my life living in Metro-Detroit, the most segregated metropolitan area in the country, and I’ve seen first hand the devastation that segregation causes to all parties. One might then conclude that gentrification is a good thing. “People are going out of their way to live with those who are not like them socio-economically, culturally and often racially. Middle-class and wealthy people moving into lower-income neighborhoods is how to fix many of the injustices caused from segregation, right?” The answer is “yes and no.” “Yes” in the sense that people of different backgrounds living in the same neighborhood is the first step to righting many wrongs, but “no” in the sense that what usually happens is that middle-class and wealthy people inadvertently drive poorer folks out of their own neighborhoods. The influx of wealthier people usually causes a run on the real estate market, rents go up, and poorer folks are forced out by the market.

Clearly segregation is not the answer, nor is gentrification. So what is the answer? Dr. John M. Perkins, one of the fathers of the “racial reconciliation”movement and founder of the Christian Community Development Association says that the answer is, “the three R’s’. Relocation, Reconciliation and Redistribution.” Perkins argues that Christians, who have all too often perpetuated segregation and injustice, are actually the ones with the answer. Through moving in to lower income neighborhoods, genuinely befriending their neighbors, and spreading the Good News of Jesus not only by our words, but in sharing of resources in order to develop our neighbors, Christians can empower those with little power and present the answer to the injustice of our economic and social systems. By becoming part of the community and loving our neighbors, the answer to segregation and gentrification is offered.

Of course, well-intended Christians can still cause gentrification. However, written in to the subtext of redistribution is the concept that would keep well-intended Christians from furthering the practice. Practically speaking this is how it could look: Middle-class Christians can move in to a neighborhood that is in the process of gentrification. In order to empower their neighbors, the church can create or become involved in non-profits that secure, build and maintain affordable housing. This in turn keeps homes available for residents with less money, while at the same time allows a positive degree of change in the neighborhood to occur. Through securing affordable housing for the poor, Christians can facilitate an environment where those with less means are built up rather than cast aside, and well intentioned wealthier people can aide the community through their resources, rather than inadvertently run people out.
2 replies
  1. dmichaelclary
    dmichaelclary says:

    I have been surprised by the fact that building relationships is not as easy as I would have expected. I have attempted to befriend many people who simply don't seem to want anything to do with it. So even with the motive of befriending people the trust barriers are still in place that take a long time to break down.

    Reply
  2. Ryan Kupiec
    Ryan Kupiec says:

    It's a huge challenge. In our context we have ethnic, socio-economic and cultural barriers to overcome. Many people will see us and think "Who are these people and what do they want from us?" But as we continue to show ourselves friendly and care for those around us we will gain some allies, friends and coworkers. You are helping to set the pace and inspire people, including me. Keep it up, man!

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