Gentrification is the process of restoring run-down urban areas usually accompanied by the influx of middle-class or affluent people that results in the displacement of low-income residents. This is an issue plaguing New York City and San Francisco in different, varying degrees.
In San Francisco, gentrification has put city residents against one of the world’s largest tech companies, Google. There, Google shuttles their employees to work outside the city, using city bus stops without paying for the privilege. Many residents in the city are angry by the influx of technology workers, as they bid up housing prices in the area and virtually eliminate any affordable housing for low-income residents.
With Google shuttling their workers on private buses, the workers don’t have to interact with non-Google people, isolating them from people outside of the industry. To further the problem, Google has also begun using a privately chartered catamaran to shuttle employees from San Francisco to Redwood City, Calif. where they would then take a bus the remaining distance to work.
Many of the Google buses have been met with protesters that have, at times, turned violent, blocking busses and breaking windows. For Google, a recently leaked memo providing talking points to its employees has become the latest public relations headache for the company. It directs its employees to say things like, “I am so proud to live in San Francisco and be a part of this community,” and “I support local and small businesses in my neighborhood on a regular basis.”
But it’s hard to believe these talking points when Google employees are so regularly separated from the majority of San Francisco residents.
In New York City, the loss of affordable housing has been astounding. From 2002 through 2011, New York has lost 40 percent of low-income apartments, according to a study by the Community Service Society, a nonprofit advocacy organization for low-income New Yorkers cited in the Wall Street Journal.
The gentrification of low-income areas is displacing residence, which then struggle to find new, affordable housing. Newly elected Mayor Bill de Blasio has promised to create 50,000 units of affordable housing, yet that won’t make a dent in what has already been lost.
Gentrification places the burden of economic displacement on those who are least able to afford it. Low-income residents have difficult time packing up and moving away from neighborhoods that have services designed for their needs, yet are pushed out when affordable housing is no longer affordable.
Look at the socioeconomic differences between Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti. While Ypsilanti does provide affordable housing for many who would not be able to find any within Ann Arbor, the divide is clear.
Ypsilanti’s Master Plan, which lays out the cities long-term goals, is to turn the city from a manufacturing town into a college town. Colleges naturally attract affluent residents, who can pay higher prices for housing and other services. While the Master Plan may try to transform Ypsilanti into a tiny Ann Arbor, it can only be hoped that the gentrification of the city is limited.
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