Students discuss how gentrification affects minorities

Adrianna Adame, Managing Editor

Gentrification is an ongoing issue that continues to affect minorities across the country. Staff from the CSUSM Black Student Center discussed how gentrification has personally affected them and educated students on how to prevent gentrification from happening in their local communities in a virtual event on April 27.

Gentrification is defined as when wealthier, usually white, people arrive in an existing urban neighborhood and cause changes in the community. The rising cost of living in a once affordable area in a mostly minority neighborhood forces minorities to leave because they can no longer afford to live there.

“Gentrification tends to occur in districts with particular qualities that make them desirable and ripe for change. The convenience, diversity and vitality of urban neighborhoods are cheap and appealing,” said Black Student Center staff member Dre Biddle.

During the meeting, Black Student Center staff member Mellie Nitunga presented a video introducing the issue of displacement made by the Urban Displacement Project. Displacement occurs when foreclosure, demolition, eviction and extreme rent increases force people to move. Displacement often forces people to move to cheaper, worse off neighborhoods, keeping them in a cycle of poverty.

Housing issues caused by gentrification and displacement can also affect people’s job performances and ability to hold down a job, which could lead to unemployment.

“I think if your housing is affected, it’s also going to affect your job too. If you can’t afford your housing anymore because the rent or the poverty rate is rising, it’s gonna be hard for you to live there, so then you may be forced to relocate, which could affect your job as well, because maybe your job isn’t willing to transfer you,” said Black Student Center staff member Rachel Kindred.

Another concern that students had about gentrification was the possible increase of policing in neighborhoods, making it unsafe for minorities who already reside there.

“When housing is affected, we have new people moving into neighborhoods, a different demographic of people. Sometimes those groups of people can start making more emergency phone calls to the police department, so certain neighborhoods start becoming more and more policed, making it not as safe for the minorities for that current demographic living in that neighborhood,” said Biddle.

People’s mental and physical health can also be negatively affected by gentrification. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Studies show that vulnerable populations such as these [affected by gentrification], typically have shorter life expectancy; higher cancer rates; more birth defects; greater infant mortality and higher incidence of asthma, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.”

Those who are personally being affected by gentrification and displacement also are at an increased risk of mental health issues such as anxiety, depression and increased stress. 

“When people move in, these unnecessary phone calls to the police could affect your mental health. Stress is a big thing, and how people deal with it is different. One negative aspect of that could be just people having an unsafe feeling in their neighborhoods now, because of these phone calls and things like that,” said Ryan Collins, a Black Student Center staff member.

Gentrification also affects both the local and national economy. Black Student Center staff Shamar Ruff explained how gentrification results in extreme and unnecessary cultural displacement, property value increases, fewer affordable houses and indirect displacement.

Direct and indirect displacement both negatively affect communities.

Ruff said that, “If direct, let’s say your rent is 1800 dollars a month, then gentrification applies to your area, and say your lease ends and for some reason your rent goes up to 3000 dollars. There is a 50 to 65 percent increase in rent. So, that kind of leaves two options for the person at hand: either they have to pay that rent in order to stay there or they’re being forced to move to low-income areas.”

Indirect displacement is when those from a higher socio-economic class tend to move into homes that people in that neighborhood could no longer afford.

“So, indirect displacement; this refers to changes for who is moving into the neighborhood, as the low-income families move out. So, in gentrified neighborhoods, when their homes get vacated, other low-income families can’t afford to pay rent due to the sale increase,” said Ruff.

Students and staff from the Black Student Center also discussed how gentrification has personally affected them.

“As far as where I live, in Riverside County, the city of Perris … I feel like is being revitalized, since there’s been more houses put up, a lot of businesses, a lot of stores are attracting a lot of business, they’re trying to keep the area looking safer and cleaner and this new ideal of new life, new vitality,” said Ruff.

“But as far as gentrification goes, back in the day, when I was very young, I remember that there’s this certain part in my city where they had trailer parks … and it got to a point where those people couldn’t stay there anymore, because they started building all these places; warehouses, stuff like that, and I heard that those people were forced to move out of that area, because of the fact that they were trying to put something else there,” said Ruff.

Despite the ongoing issue of gentrification affecting communities, there are ways to prevent it from occurring as often.

By shopping locally at minority-owned businesses, students are able to give back to their communities and prevent neighborhoods from facing gentrification.

“Black-owned businesses, bring your money into Black establishments, put our resources into ones that look like us or represent us. They can help to build up our communities to make them more beneficial for all of us, so we don’t have to go through these gentrification episodes as frequently as they happen,” said Collins.

Students also mentioned how important it is to do what they can to support their communities, by not just shopping locally, but doing whatever they can to make it better.

“Put your heart and soul into your own neighborhood,” concluded Biddle.

For more on the Black student Center, go to their website. For more information on gentrification, check out urbandisplacement.org/pushedout. 

 

The Cougar Chronicle: The independent student news site of California State University, San Marcos