Portland

Firstly a definition: “gentrification” is the trend in urban neighbourhoods which sees increased property values and the replacing of lower-income families and small businesses with wealthy ones.

It can be the reversal of a trend in the past when inner city neighbourhoods became, if not slums, then at least down-market as the affluent sought neighborhoods further away from the inner-city. This became a trend not only in America, but also in NZ as cities were expanded outwards, encouraged by broadened thoroughfares if not motorways.

An example in Wellington is Thorndon: at the time the foothills motorway was put through in the 1960s it was where poor people lived; now it is inhabited by yuppies, despite the small house sizes.

Transport is a big factor: today people don’t like spending their lives stuck in traffic. Early “gentrifiers” may belong to low income artists or “boheme” communities, which increase the attractiveness and flair of a certain quarter. Local government will spend more in a community’s infrastructure and then the developers move in with upscale apartments and condo blocks so there is population migration.

In a community undergoing gentrification, the average income increases. Poorer pre-gentrification residents who are unable to pay increased rents or property taxes may find it necessary to relocate.

The controversy arises when whole ethnic minorities are displaced this way.  According to this website, “Portland, Oregon, has become one of [America’s] worst examples of Black displacement and gentrification.”

And it’s true: you see very few Blacks there, Hispanics too — and we’re talking about the larger part of a big city (a place Donald Trump would love?)

Portland is a very nice city; as we noted before it is full of tree-lined streets, crime is low, inner-city areas have nice gardens, and it has a great public transport system, including street trams. But some ethnic groups which should contribute to the total picture aren’t there.

The simultaneous converse of gentrification is development of run-down bad neighbourhoods, where if you don’t fit in because of the way you look, you won’t feel comfortable; it doesn’t matter whether these are comprised of indigenous migrants or foreign immigrants, the result is the same.

The point as far as Waikanae is concerned is that property developers and businessmen have a huge impact on a whole town by what they decide to do as a result of the opportunities they perceive — and we the people thus need to impose strict controls on them.

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