|The reinvestment of capital at the urban centre, which is designed to produce space for a more affluent class of people than currently occupies that space. The term, coined by Ruth Glass in 1964, has mostly been used to describe the residential aspects of this process but this is changing, as gentrification itself evolves.
Gentrification is quintessentially about urban reinvestment. In addition to residential rehabilitation and redevelopment, it now embraces commercial redevelopment and loft conversions (for residence or office) as part of a wider restructuring of urban geographical space. Gentrification proper combines this economic reinvestment with social change insofar as more affluent people â€” the urban \'gentry\' â€” move in to previously devalued neighbourhoods. Gentrification often involves direct or indirect displacement of poor people.
Following the worldwide economic crisis of the 1930s and the subsequent World War, developed countries, especially the United States and Australia but those in western Europe also, experienced a state-sponsored suburbanization in which capital fled inner cities for more profitable locations usually within the same region (cf. suburb). For the next three to four decades this process continued, largely unabated. Deepening disinvestment from inner cities fuelled a crippling devalorization of those land markets by the late 1960s, while at the same time an expanding middle class provided fresh demand for housing. Gentrification of these previously devalorized inner-city spaces was the result.
Early gentrification occurred in large old cities throughout the advanced capitalist world: London (e.g. Islington), New York (e.g. Greenwich Village and Brooklyn Heights), Philadelphia (e.g. Society Hill), and Toronto (e.g. Riverdale). Erroneously boosted as a return of people from the suburbs, it actually involved the more affluent denizens of the city, much more than suburbanites (Smith, 1979). Gentrification-induced displacement became endemic during the 1980s as gentrification spread to cities and neighbourhoods throughout the urban hierarchy. Anti-gentrification protest movements were common in the late 1970s and 1980s, but dissolved after the late 1980s as national economies moved into recession, state welfare was retrenched (see welfare state), and support for activists eroded. During the early 1990s, gentrification slowed in many cities, prompting some to argue that the process had ended or had been reversed (Bourne, 1993), but by the middle of the decade the process had further expanded into previously unaffected areas and intensified in already pioneered locations. Although it is predominantly observed in the large and medium-sized cities of Europe and North America, similar processes are also beginning to occur elsewhere, in for example Tokyo, SaÃµ Paulo, Johannesburg, and several eastern European cities as well.
Geographers have played key roles in the burgeoning literature on gentrification. The key debates have focused on: the root cause of gentrification, the probable location of the process, and its future. Consumption-based explanations of gentrification, explicit or implicit, dominated the literature until the 1980s and can be traced to various appropriations of consumer preference theory which is rooted in neo-classical economics. According to this approach, gentrification is caused by shifts in demand for housing. It may involve new demand for the aesthetic charm and occupational proximity that only inner-city neighbourhoods can provide, or it may represent a response to the baby boom, or to the economic restructuring of the mid-1970s which produced an inflated number of high-paying service jobs while simultaneously undermining the already waning manufacturing base of many cities (Zukin, 1982). This created what some have deemed the \'new middle class\' who occupy the high-paying service jobs (Ley, 1996). culture, in this account, outweighed economics as an explanatory variable for inner-city gentrification even though cultural change was expressed through economic change.
But it is difficult for consumption-based explanations to explain why a quantitative shift in economic demand structure resulted in a qualitative spatial shift in the focus of some new development. Thus production-based explanations focused more on the role of capital in the production of gentrified neighbourhoods. Cycles of capital investment and disinvestment lead to the creation of a rent gap between capitalized ground rent under current use and potential ground rent under higher and better (gentrified) use. The rent gap becomes an opportunity for capital reinvestment, especially when it coincides with a wider economic shift toward investment in real estate (Smith, 1992). These were the conditions that prevailed in the first two rounds of significant gentrification, prior to 1973 and during the 1980s.
Many researchers have attempted to reconcile these two kinds of explanations (Zukin 1982; Hamnett, 1984; Bondi, 1991; Clark, 1992; Lees, 1994; Smith, 1996). Failed predictions of \'degentrification\' in the early 1990s recession, however, and the resurgence of an overtly economic rationale for the process (Badcock, 1993), suggest that gentrification is emerging as an increasingly widespread and trenchant set of processes in the urban landscape embracing culture and economics as well as socio-structural change.Â (NS)
References Badcock, B. 1993. Notwithstanding the exaggerated claims, residential revitalization really is changing the form of some Western cities: a response to Bourne. Urban Studies 30: 191-5.Â Bondi, L. 1991: Gender divisions and gentrification: a critique. Transactions, Institute of British Geographers NS 16: 190-8.Â Bourne, L. 1993: The demise of gentrification? A commentary and prospective view. Urban Geography 14: 95-107.Â Clark, E. 1992: On blindness, centrepieces, and complementarity in gentrification theory. Transactions, Institute of British Geographers NS 17: 358-62.Â Hamnett, C. 1984: Gentrification and residential location theory: a review and assessment. In D.T. Herbert, and R.J. Johnston, eds, Geography and the urban environment: progress in research and applications, volume 6. New York: John Wiley.Â Lees, L. 1994: Rethinking Gentrification: beyond the positions of economics or culture. Progress in Human Geography 18: 137-50.Â Ley, D. 1996: The new middle class and the remaking of the central city. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Â Smith, N. 1979: Toward a theory of gentrification: a back to the city movement by capital not people. Journal of the American Planners Association 45: 538-48.Â Smith, N. 1992: Gentrification and uneven development, Economic Geography 58: 139-55.Â Smith, N. 1996: The new urban frontier: gentrification and the revanchist city. New York: Routledge.Â Zukin, S. 1982: Loft living: culture and capital in urban change. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Suggested Reading Ley (1996).Â Smith (1996).