Me, I’d delight in a little gentrification in Weston.
Riley says that gentrification is “the displacement of longtime residents of a neighbourhood”.
I disagree. Gentrification doesn’t have to result in the displacement of long-time residents, if ‘gentrification’ means an increase in average incomes within a neighbourhood through migration. Gentrification can open more services and shops, and bring employment opportunities, while doing absolutely no harm.
For a thorough explanation, have a look at The Economist article that changed my mind. In short, though: things can get better for everyone without getting worse for anyone—as long as the development is taking up slack.
Here’s how it works: new buildings go up in vacant spaces, and new shops open in empty storefronts. Nobody loses and everybody wins. Average rents might go up, certainly—but that is because there are more high-rent units, not because the low-rent units got more expensive. Average income will go up—because more high-income people are moving in, not because low-income people are moving out.
This is exactly what I think is happening now in Weston.
Does Weston have vacant spaces? It does, and all the recent developments I can think of are on formerly vacant land. Do we have empty storefronts? We certainly do. A few bank storefronts come to mind. I’d love to see an art gallery, a childcare, or brew pub go in one. If it means I can stumble home after a three pints of IPA and a pork-belly sandwich, gentrify on, my good man!
Everybody wins with this kind of gentrification. New residents live close to where they work, new businesses provide services where people live. Neighbourhoods become vibrant, more pedestrian friendly, more integrated and more self-sufficient. This sounds just great to me.
But it gets better: Even those who live in affordable homes benefit. Crime falls in gentrifying neighbourhoods. Tax collection rises, so public services can improve. The concentration of poverty “which a mountain of economic and sociological literature has linked to all manner of poor outcomes, including teenage pregnancy, incarceration and early death” declines.
Could rising rents result in people leaving Weston? Certainly it could, if the increase comes not from rising average rents but from rising rents at the lower end. I think, though, that we remain some way from that.
In the meantime, I’m entirely in favour.