Gentrification can be summarized to be the arrival of wealthier people in an existing urban community, that leads to the increase of cost of living, which then leads to the displacement of those existing members of the urban community.  

Gentrification is often presented in other ways such as having a more positive environment created, more economic flow throughout the neighborhood, less criminal activity, and new buildings. The pros may be good for the new members of the community, but those who already resided are now struggling to support themselves and soon have to start to find a more affordable place to live.

My encounter with gentrification is an interesting one. I’m from a city in Northern Virginia, where it’s urban, but not too city-like. In my community, some of our favorite things to do were to adventure downtown (which was a few minutes, walking distance) and visit the river which was just a few streets over.

“I had always heard of gentrification, but where I was from, I never thought it would happen to me.”

It was an average summer day, I was 15 at the time, so I was just home relaxing. Then my mother came home and told me about how our neighbor was thinking about moving. This was extremely alarming, as her family had lived in that home for multiple generations, and even owned the land of which the home was built on. My mother explained to me that some buyers came by and offered to buy the land that she lived on, for an amount of money that would seem like a deal to many of us. But the thing was, the land that she lived on was very historic as we lived in an area where the Battle of Fredericksburg took place, so the land was actually worth a lot more than what was offered

My neighbor took the deal, and soon moved out. There was an empty field down the street from me as well, and construction soon took place. Our cost of living had already increased, so we were forced to find somewhere more affordable for us to live.  I lived in a community where the townhouses were either two or three bedrooms and were two levels. Fast forward a couple years and now in that same community, are massive 4-6 bedrooms houses. When I drove through the neighborhood, it was unrecognizable. No one who looked like me lived there, it was just a completely different place.

September 2012

 

September 2016

Source: Google Maps

My family was fortunate enough to find another place to live quickly, but for many other people in the United States who live in these areas that may not be the case. Gentrification leads to the displacement of people who already live in urban communities, but could also lead to homelessness for many people. It’s not that I thought gentrification was a myth, I just never thought I would see what it was like.

 

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