The Economist, August 2, 2019: Can gentrification be a force for positive social change?
In April, a Metro PCS mobile phone shop at the corner of 7th Street and Florida Avenue in the Shaw district of Washington, DC, briefly silenced its speakers. For 24 years, the shop, which also sells music CDs, had played go-go music, a kind of funk indigenous to the city, to passers-by. Some would stop to bop. But, according to the store owner, a resident of a new nearby luxury apartment complained about the noise—and his corporate overseers turned the volume down.
The incident amplified a rumbling debate over the impact of gentrification in a city that has seen rapid economic and demographic change—according to the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, the most widespread gentrification of any major metro area in the country. A three-bedroom house around the corner from the Metro PCS sold for $345,000 in 2004 and resold for $835,116 in 2017. The property is advertised as perfect for a “group house of young professionals.”
Gentrification is usually thought of as a positive for cities as a whole, but a problem for longer-term residents of gentrifying areas: they are displaced by higher rents or increasingly alienated from their changing community. A new paper by David Reed and Quentin Brummet, economists, suggests that the benefits of gentrification may be more widespread, and the harms less common, than usually supposed.