The other night at ECC, the candidates were asked about gentrification, Ward 3 candidate Gwen Wilkins went to the heart of the matter. “You have to ask yourselves, ‘How are we going to fix the abandoned, boarded-up housing if we don’t rebuild if we don’t remodel? People don’t want to leave their neighborhoods and I will fight to keep them there — but those abandoned, boarded-up houses need to be remodeled, they need to be redone or they need to be torn down.”
Wikipedia basically says: Gentrification is a process of changing the character of a neighborhood through the influx of more affluent residents and businesses, which can force out low-income residents due to the increased cost of rent and higher cost of goods. Gentrification can shift a neighborhood’s racial/ethnic composition.
This description of gentrification is more appropriate for a phenomena that takes place in a large city like Chicago, filled with different ethnic neighborhoods. Contrast Chicago’s 2.7 million residents to Rocky Mount, NC population of 54,242, the 17th largest city in NC. Ours is a small area of manageable consequences. It is an unworkable tenant to contrast a large urban city like Washington, DC, as mentioned the other night at the Forum, and infer that what happens there will happen here.
The word gentrification has become stigmatized. The negative connotation of this word is a convenient excuse for inaction and further skullduggery behind the scenes by those with their thumbs in the pie. When pressed, there is a button on a blinking sign that says, Displacement! If you think that’s wrong, so is the state of neglect our earliest housing stock is in.
Gentrification will not have a strong negative impact on Rocky Mount. There is sufficient evidence now to prove that gentrification does not equate with automatic displacement. Restoring our neighborhood housing in Rocky Mount will significantly improve the economy and quality of life for many people in low-income areas. It encourages home ownership, and lowers crime. John Kennedy is credited with saying, “A rising tide lifts all boats.” If that is true so is the fact that we already have a substantial amount of the housing that is needed. If saving our neighborhoods becomes a priority, the lives of those the politicians say they care about, will change. You’ll love this…..I found in my research that there is now a more accurate term being used in communities like ours. Rather than gentrification, they are calling it revitalization.
Take A Minute to Read Two Earlier Posts: Gentrification and Displacement in Rocky Mount -#1