Since the term was first coined in 1960s London, gentrification has come to be regarded like a law of nature or scientific fact – but now some communities are finding ways to challenge the familiar stereotypes
In the 1980s, long before his thoughts turned to the US presidency, Bernie Sanders – then mayor of Burlington, Vermont – took it upon himself to try to decelerate the development of the Lake Champlain waterfront. Rejecting a plan to turn it into a series of luxury condominiums, Sanders also worked to preserve public housing by passing ordinances that made it harder for developers to evict tenants, and created a community land trust to allow residents to purchase their units. In addition, he supported the local Onion River Collaborative market (now City Market), instead of accepting a proposal for a large, unpopular supermarket in the centre of town.
Whatever one thinks of his subsequent political career, Sanders’ efforts in Burlington remind us that the impact of – and concerns over – urban gentrification are nothing new. These days, however, gentrification is perhaps the most widely used term in any discussion about contemporary cities, and invariably carries with it sinister implications of deep social division and exclusion.
Rather like a law of nature or scientific fact, the gentrification process is now considered inevitable, and inevitably bad. How did we come to think about it in this way – and what are the consequences of this perception for our cities? […]