Two Cheers for Gentrification

Contrary to what Councilman Goode and many others believe, it’s not a scourge.

Gentrification has been getting a bum rap in Philadelphia.

You read that right.

The assumption among elected officials — well, certain ones, at least — and many activists is that when more affluent people move into a neighborhood, the poorer residents get hurt or pushed out.

It’s that assumption that underlay Councilman W. Wilson Goode Jr.’s shelved-for-now effort to limit the value of improvements eligible for the city’s 10-year property tax abatement. (No final vote was taken on the bill last week before Council adjourned for the year; instead, it was amended and held for later.)

I have a friend I’d like him to meet.

He lives in a duplex he owns in West Philadelphia, west of 52nd Street, along with a neighboring property. Not that long ago, as the tide of Penn affiliates began lapping against the borders of Malcolm X Park, he told me that he had advised every one of his homeowning neighbors to hang on to their properties as long as they could, because “they’ll be worth more soon.”

And they will. One of the things we tend to forget as we assess the effects of gentrification is that some residents of gentrifying neighborhoods own their homes. If property values around them rise, they finally have a chance to cash in if they choose. Since most of the homes we’re talking about here have passed through the Actual Value Initiative relatively unscathed, rising property taxes are likely not to become an issue for these homeowners — and if they do, we can enact measures to address that problem without breaking the virtuous cycle.

And there is a virtuous cycle — and its beneficiaries might surprise you. In 2008, a team of professors at the University of Colorado, the University of Pittsburgh and the U.S. Department of Agriculture studied Census data on neighborhoods that gentrified and found that, contrary to what everyone assumes, minorities and poorer residents did not suffer as a result. Better-off African-Americans and Hispanics found gentrifying neighborhoods as appealing as their white counterparts did and moved into them at similar rates. And those less-well-off minorities who remained also did better — high-school graduates in particular tended to stay and post notable gains in income.

What actually happens in neighborhoods that gentrify, it seems, is simply normal population turnover at work, only with more educated and affluent residents replacing those who would likely have left anyway. And those who stay also benefit from the improved amenities and new businesses that follow in the wake of the urban gentry, as John Longacre pointed out concerning new development in Point Breeze.

So what’s not to like? Having to move when your landlord jacks up your rent, that’s what. That side effect of gentrification we haven’t figured out a fix for.

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  • Danielle Thomas

    Its sickening that this article is so Extremely Full of Lies,; as fraudulent as how AVI has been implemented!

    AVI specifically Over-ASSESSESSES the long term residents and documentation of the Assessments show that the Black homeowners are hit the hardest in the Over-Assessed group.

    In the neighborhoods on the outskirts of Center City, surrounding it; this is where working class of low to moderate income long term homeowners live, many for more than 20Years. AVI Assesses their ordinary common homes at the value of the new expensive homes of the newcomers. But, at least 95% of the newcomers do not pay taxes on their enormously expensive homes that they bought at an average price of $700,000, because Mayor Nutter gave them Tax Exemption under his 10-Year Tax Abatement program.

    But, the long time homeowner’s inexpensive and small home is Over-Assessed at the newcomers value, so in effect Philly government is seeking to get from the longtime homeowner the Millions of Dollars that Nutter voluntarily forfeits in his love to get the elite newcomer to reside in the neighborhood… Neighborhoods that were not slum but, just ordinary good neighborhoods of working class people in their good but common ordinary homes.

    These Over-Assessments in many cases average more than 15/times the house present historical and present true Market Value.


    It is INSULTINGLY LUDICROUS for this article to say that all these longtime homeowners of Over-Assessed homes could just sell at the SKYROCKET OVER-ASSESSED VALUE. Their homes are not worth even half the Over-Assessed Value therefore all of them would have to find Realty SPECULATORS who are all willing to pay the exorbitant Unrealistic price. Also, many of these homeowners are in no position to uproot their lives and go looking for somewhere else to live. Also, many are elderly.

    Gentrification via Mayor Nutter’s AVI is abusing the long time homeowner who built and sustained the neighborhoods. Philly Government is SPITTING on its native populace, both Black and White,

    Indeed, this article as written is INSULTING!

    And let me add that in the greatly Gentrified Neighborhoods of: Graduate Hospital, Northerner Liberties,, Manyunk and others, especially in South Philly and Southwest Philly – there are a great many streets that were formerly filled with moderate income working class homeowners who paid taxes but, are now filled with the newcomer/elite who pay no taxes on their house and the City forfeits Millions in tax exemptions that continues to graduate to Billions of Lost tax revenue.

    And this is documented on the Website of OPA.

    SO, HOW HAS GENTRIFICATION BENEFITED PHILLY; However, it is to a great degree changing the Demographics of the populace of Philly, particularly forcing out Black and other ethnics from Gentrifying neighborhoods as they are replaced by a White populace. Even though in this endeavor the City becomes Revenue Poor.

    So in Philadelphia Gentrification it is a Robbery of the low to middle income longtime homeowner to pay the taxes NUTTER voluntarily forfeits of the wealthy elite newcomer.

    AND BY THE [POWER OF THIS CRIMINAL TAXATION IS ALSO FORCING THE LONGTIME HOMEOWNER TO LEAVE HIS/HER HOME. TRULY, this Gentrification is Barbarous! It’s procedure could be likened to what is called Ethnic cleansing done in Fascist and Racist countries!

  • Myles Boyd

    I hate that these people are moving into our city areas that were once all Italian, Black or Irish now have people in it who dont belong there. Go back to where you came from.

    • Joseph Minardi

      Don’t belong there? Seriously? That’s pretty fascist, man.

      • Myles Boyd

        You don’t know what you are talking about if we were do that to their parents (move in large numbers into the suburbs ) it would be riots. It’s not fair the I’m beginning not recognize my own city!! And I’m not the only one who feels this way. We are gonna take our city back by any means necessary!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • realgone222

      Now black people know what it feels like when they move into white neighborhoods and the whites don’t want them there.

      • sane one


      • Danielle Thomas

        No! You omit that Black people have not been “allowed” to move into White neighborhoods because historically they have been violently attacked and their homes have been vandalized. So don’t compare those Blacks to these new incoming Whites who move into the Black neighborhoods and are Welcomed, their White asses kissed by the government and they come with Tax Abatements while the taxes on the small very common homes of the Blacks in the neighborhood are raised extremely high “to the moon” to force the Black homeowners to move or if they stay they are subsidizing the preferred White populace that the government prefers; their Tax Abatements exempt them from taxes on their houses for ten years.

        • realgone222

          This is how capitalism works. No one is entitled to live in their home forever just because they want to. If the economics of the neighborhood change and improved equity of the real estate takes place and taxes go up those owners may need to move if they can’t afford it. Your opinion on this is the kind of mentality that I view as anti-american, entitlement mentality. When I am older and no longer working I am not going to be able to stay in my home and will need to downsize. It doesn’t matter that I call it my home or if I’ve lived there for 40 years, it is a dwelling and I am no longer able to afford it.