The uneasy way we discuss ghettos and gentrification says something about our discomfort with the real-estate market, which translates every living space into a commodity whose value lies mainly outside our control. Things that happen across the street, down the block, or on the other side of town affect the worth of our homes, and this lack of control is predestined to frustrate capitalists and community organizers alike. “Bushwick is not for sale!” Letitia James, New York City’s Public Advocate, announced at a recent anti-gentrification protest in Brooklyn. She was hoping to get the city to force developers to set aside more units for low-income families, but she was also voicing a familiar and widely shared distaste for the way the character of a neighborhood is hostage to its market price. The opposite of gentrification is not a quirky and charming enclave that stays affordable forever; the opposite of gentrification is a decline in prices that reflects the transformation of a once desirable neighborhood into one that is looking more like a ghetto every day.
Kelefa Sanneh, “There Goes the Neighborhood”, The New Yorker (11 & 18 July 2016), 84-85.