Gentrification produces racism…
Photograph by Ted Eytan
A powerful capitalist class of bankers, real-estate developers, and investors is driving gentrification, using a mixture of huge loans (to which only they have access) and government funding to push land values higher.
This leaves DC’s professional class with a choice. If their household income is in the six-figure-range, they can generally secure mortgages in gentrifying neighborhoods, buy property, have low-wage workers fix it up for cheap, and ride those property values into a secure position in the middle class. Or they can pay exorbitant rent until they move back to Peoria. Not much of a choice. If they buy, they’re putting everything on the line, albeit a line that, in this city, has only gone one way in the past decade.
The median price of a home in 2000 was around $150,000. In 2009, it was over $400,000. Home values went up over 10 percent in the last year. If you’ve got a $400,000 house, you just made more than the median income of a black family, just for belonging to the propertied class.
Tying up your assets, your middle-class future, in home values does something to people. It alters their interests. It sutures a professional class, of liberal and even progressive beliefs, to the rapacious capitalist expansion into the city. The people who move to gentrifying areas tend to have liberal, tolerant, cosmopolitan sympathies. But they are aligned materially with reactionary and oppressive city restructuring, pushing them into antagonism with established residents, who do nothing for property values. Behind every Jane Jacobs comes Rudy Giuliani with his nightstick.
This produces racism.