Gentrification is a great tragedy in our cities today.
It is when new developments come in – new business, new housing, new creative organizations – which is good. But then as the cost of living increases in the area, the long-time residents can no longer afford to live there – which is bad.
The worst part is that those who are displaced from their homes are often minority groups. This means that segregation increases, and those who have little are even losing their homes which they’ve had for generations. It’s a cultural, social, and diversity loss on all fronts.
The process is complex, and the causes are even more complex. The downtown areas are becoming cool again, and it has resulted in what is sometimes called the “inner-suburbs”. While the non-minority (Caucasions) used to move out of the city to live in the suburbs, they are now choosing to live in the downtown areas. When they come in, the wealthier peoples view the minorities, gangs, and low-income population as threats to their community.
And then they do what it takes to remove the threats.
(Quick note: I am bi-racial, myself, so you should know I am not against minorities or non-minorities as I write this.)
All this becomes even more complex because there is almost no solution to the problem. Development will come in whether anybody likes it or not. And people will be displaced.
This article aims to discuss ways to manage the problem, even if it cannot be fixed.
Be the Church
One of the most important things to do is to take care of the groups which have already been displaced.
For us as Christians, we’ve got to rally with our churches to take care of them.
First, we have to become comfortable around different ethnic groups.
White brothers and sisters, you need to understand the privilege you have been given all their lives. You don’t need to feel ashamed by the blessings God has given you, but you must never be patronizing to the minority experience.
Minorities, you need to understand that it is actually possible for white people to love you and care for you, even if they don’t comprehend all you’ve been through.
Second, we need to build authentic relationships. Actually spend time together. Another article is about why multi-ethnic churches are so important. Share your cultural events with each other. Break the racial barriers and get to know one another. Love as Christ loved us.
Majorities – Be willing to love gang members, prostitutes, and outcasts. But recognize that not all minorities fit into those categories.
Minorities – Be willing to love those groups who have oppressed your people in the past. But recognize that not all majorities want to oppress you now.
Third, emphasize the reconciliation between the races as part of the gospel. Ephesians 2 explains how the Jews and the Gentiles were to be part of one body, the church. And there are multiple passages which deal with believers being “neither jew nor greek”, “neither male nor female”, “neither Scythian nor Barbarian”, “neither slave nor free”. We have all been made equal in the church, through Jesus. It is part of the gospel, and we must teach these things.Be willing to #love gang members, prostitutes, and outcasts. #jesus Click To Tweet
Cities are attempting to curb gentrification. They are giving subsidies to developers who aggressively build middle-income housing, and they are freezing or reducing housing taxes for long-time residents.
These are all good.
But in real life, developers are often able to skirt the laws about affordable housing by finding loopholes and using influential connections.
Legislators must be very careful, and very honest, in order to make housing legislation actually work to help people in gentrifying areas.
Involve Long-Time Residents in New Developments
New businesses which come in must be willing to give jobs and training to long-time residents. Work with the existing people groups and minorities, not against them. If nothing else, look at it as a cultural investment to keep historic groups where they are. Building them up is much better than kicking them out. It will be a richer society.
All stakeholders must be allowed to be involved in city development planning. Minority political groups and NGOs have to have a voice in the matter. That way, they can advocate against their displacement.
Progress is not bad, but we just have to involve everyone, so that all peoples can be the beneficiaries of that progress – not just rich non-minorities.
Invest in the School System
My family homeschools. I am all about parents taking the drivers’ seats in the development of their children. It is our spiritual responsibility whether we homeschool our kids or not.
But that’s not really what I’m talking about in this section. I’m talking about providing opportunities to those who are seldom offered any.
Advocate for more technological education programs in schools. A woman in Denver who works with gentrified peoples told me that schools with tech ed programs generally obtain a 30% higher graduation rate. With marketplace skills, the graduates are more likely to obtain jobs in the area.
Get to know the children and families at the public schools. Learn what the needs are and advocate for them. And I get it – public school systems in the urban environment often have a very low budget. So work with them. Don’t expect all your idealistic programs to be implemented immediately, but continue to fight for more funding and better marketplace training.Learn what the needs are and advocate for them. #compassion Click To Tweet
Love of All Peoples
As the church, as individual Christians, as civic leaders, we have to work hard to ease the suffering of gentrification.
We’ve got to be willing to work within existing secular structures for effective advocacy.
And it all must be done out of love.
Every person is made in the image of God, and they deserve respect. No one wants to be kicked out of their homes.
Honor God in this good work.