Gentrification's Roots In Segregation And How Communities Respond

March 25, 2019
By Beatrice Alvarez

Gentrification has impacted almost all of us. Whether it has directly impacted your neighborhood or closed a favorite local business or you just read about it happening somewhere else, it’s a complex issue that often leads to passionate responses.

Last week, a new report from the National Community Reinvestment Coalition reviewed census and economic data, and found gentrification and cultural displacement is most intense in large cities. To gain a deeper understanding, let’s learn about gentrification’s history, its roots in segregation, and how communities across the country have responded.

One Word, Many Meanings

What I Hear When You Say offers a primer on the word itself and how different experiences elicit diverse responses to the same phrase. What do you hear when you hear “gentrification?” Do you think about mom-and-pop businesses closing due to corporate developers? Do you think about increased safety and better amenities?

Gentrification’s Roots in Housing Segregation

This exploration of the affordable housing crisis in California from KCET connects the 2008 bank bailouts to historical housing segregation. The negative impacts of gentrification can be traced back to racial covenants that arose as real estate development boomed across the country. Minnesota Experience’s Jim Crow of The North looks at how racist real estate covenants contributed the Minnesota’s present-day racial disparities.

Rural And Urban Communities Alike See Gentrification

We often think of urban revitalization, but gentrification happens in rural communities just the same. Marfa, Texas has been transformed by art and gone from being a ranching community to being an artists’ mecca. NewsHour takes us to Marfa to hear from its old and new residents.

Washington, D.C. Named #1 In Gentrifying Neighborhoods

The aforementioned study found that Washington, D.C. had the highest percentage of gentrifying neighborhoods. In this short film from the PBS Online Film Festival, we watch as one resident draws strength from the city’s history as he helps his community make the best of all the changes going on.

History Erased

In Berkeley, CA, we see a story about how gentrification erased a community’s history. Mable Howard was a pillar of the Berkeley community. Her leadership in the battle to keep Berkeley’s public transportation underground helped neighbors see that not dividing the neighborhood with train tracks was less about aesthetics and all about equality. This episode of Truly CA from KQED keeps the memories that would otherwise be forgotten.

Marginalized Communities Lose Their Spaces

KCTS award-winning public affairs program In Close delves into another aspect of gentrification. Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood became a predominantly gay community in the 1970s and 80s. It was a safe and tight-knit community for a population that was becoming more publicly visible, and publicly discriminated against. That sense of safety and community cannot be taken for granted as residents moved away due to gentrification.

More Local Stories of Gentrifying Neighborhoods

Communities across America are experiencing gentrification in different ways:


How have you been affected by gentrification? Have you seen more benefits than damages? Do you see yourself reflected in any of these stories?

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