Current gentrification in Atlanta contrasts to previous waves of restorationSeptember 04, 2003
Changing demographics and a greater appreciation for central-city living have sparked a new wave of gentrification in Atlanta.
Yet recent gentrification is a sharp contrast from restoration efforts in the '70s and '80s, said Larry Keating, professor of city and regional planning at Georgia Tech's College of Architecture.
Gentrification, the upgrading of deteriorated urban property by middle-class or affluent people, is a subject of great debate because it often results in lower-income residents being forced to move.
"In addition to displacement, resurgent gentrification also raises issues about changes in political power - at both the neighborhood level and throughout the city," said Keating, who presented a paper, "Resurgent Gentrification: Politics and Policy in Atlanta," at the American Sociological Association's annual meeting held Aug. 16-19 in Atlanta.
Keating uses the term "resurgent gentrification" to contrast current restoration with the slower-paced gentrification that occurred from 1965 to 1990. Resurgent gentrification in Atlanta has six key characteristics:
Three of the most serious repercussions of resurgent gentrification are: loss of affordable housing, displacement of poor residents and the destruction of indigenous sociological communities. "Although the resulting challenges of resurgent gentrification are similar to those of previous decades, what has changed is the magnitude of the problem," Keating said. "In the long run, more poor people lose."
What's more, resurgent gentrification is not isolated to Atlanta, Keating added, noting that cities such as Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, and Oakland, Calif., face similar phenomenon.
Keating's paper draws from his work on the Atlanta Gentrification Task Force, a city-appointed committee he chaired from 2000 to 2001. As a result of its research, this task force endorsed 40 recommendations. The Atlanta City Council passed five of these recommendations -- which focus subsidies on the lowest income households -- into legislation. "Some of the recommendations are controversial, so I don't know if they'll remain, but it is significant that the local government took some action against the negative effects of gentrification," Keating said.
In fact, the Urban Institute, a nonpartisan social policy and research organization in Washington, D.C., is including these recommendations in a new study on how local governments are responding to resurgent gentrification.
"There is considerably more work to be done in this policy area," Keating says. "There are many reasons why gentrification is positive - both for cities and society as a whole -- but we need to minimize the damage that gentrification does to low-income groups."
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