Gentrification is a process of changing the character of a neighborhood through the influx of more affluent residents and businesses. It is a common and controversial topic in politics and in urban planning. Gentrification often increases the economic value of a neighborhood, but the resulting demographic change is frequently a cause of controversy. Gentrification often shifts a neighborhood’s racial/ethnic composition and average household income by developing new, more expensive housing and businesses in a gentrified architectural style and improving resources.
The gentrification process is typically the result of increasing attraction to an area by people with higher incomes spilling over from neighboring cities, towns, or neighborhoods. Further steps are increased investments in a community and the related infrastructure by real estate development businesses, local government, or community activists and resulting economic development, increased attraction of business, and lower crime rates. In addition to these potential benefits, gentrification can lead to population migrationand displacement. However, some view the fear of displacement, which is dominating the debate about gentrification, as hindering discussion about genuine progressive approaches to distribute the benefits of urban redevelopment strategies.
Historians say that gentrification took place in ancient Rome and in Roman Britain, where large villas were replacing small shops by the 3rd century, AD. The word gentrification derives from gentry—which comes from the Old French word genterise, "of gentle birth" (14th century) and "people of gentle birth" (16th century). In England, landed gentry denoted the social class, consisting of gentlemen (and gentlewomen, as they were at that time known). British sociologist Ruth Glass was first to use "gentrification" in its current sense. She used it in 1964 to describe the influx of middle-class people displacing lower-class worker residents in urban neighborhoods; her example was London, and its working-class districts such as Islington:
One by one, many of the working class neighbourhoods of London have been invaded by the middle-classes—upper and lower. Shabby, modest mews and cottages—two rooms up and two down—have been taken over, when their leases have expired, and have become elegant, expensive residences … Once this process of ‘gentrification’ starts in a district it goes on rapidly, until all or most of the original working-class occupiers are displaced and the whole social character of the district is changed.