What is Gentrification? Part I: the Rent Gap

Our Streets, Our Stories

This article is the first in a two-part series explaining what gentrification is and how it works. This first part explains what the late urban geographer Neil Smith called the “rent gap,” an essential condition for gentrification to occur. Part 2 will discuss the multiple phases of the gentrification process from disinvestment to displacement.

Imagine a large working-class family, who’ve been renting a home for decades. Its a few rooms too small for them to live comfortably but they try to respect each other’s privacy. The parents work 40 hours a week, sometimes putting in a few hours of overtime, and still they struggle to live a respectable existence, capable of only making ends meet, trying to provide a good life for their children.

Now imagine a developer who is looking to make profit from the same community, a community that has been disinvested from and ignored for decades by landlords…

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