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Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Conversation about gentrification and economic development

Here is a ongoing conversation I'm having with a friend about gentrification and economic development. Thoughts???

M WROTE:

Hi John. I don't have any good leads for you in NY. But I'm very interested if you learn anything. I think that a critical step next for (our organization) is both the challenge of Gentrification and Economic Development and I think they are both linked.Right now if a young leader comes to our association and says that their CDC is ready to start doing economic development in their community what do they do, I think that to a certain degree (our organization) is a bit clueless. I don't think we could tell them a clear message as to what they should be doing. What economic development activity should our CDC undertake to help our community? Is there one strategy that we should do first? (Jobs, small businesses, training, asset building, micro lending, credit unions, recruiting manufacturers, employment assistance, etc.) Or is there a process we should undertake?) Thank you for helping us think through this important issue.

JOHN WROTE:

So, how do we proceed? Do we need a focus group or committee to investigate the issue? If so - when and where?
Gentrification seems to be occurring across the country and I've seen two extreme measures to deal with it w/ in the (organization's) ranks. One is to complain and take an activist stance the other is to essentially foster it and try to make as much money off the process. I'm not sure either extremes are right. In my humble opinion, this is a current pressing issue (gentrification / Econ Devel) confronting the 'urban' Body of Christ. We may miss the boat and ignore a 'sea change' in our communities. I'd be happy to work with whomever to talk about these issues regarding the direction for (the organization) ...

M WROTE:

HI John, thanks for the feedback and the offer.

Help me a bit with the note below. I'm not sure what you meant by: In my humble opinion, this is a current pressing issue (gentrification / Econ Devel) confronting the 'urban' Body of Christ. We may miss the boat and ignore a 'sea change' in our communities.

JOHN WROTE:

Well - let me quote Bob Lupton to illustrate my point. When I heard Bob speak on gentrification, he said, "We must have a strategy for justice or a historic injustice will be meted out."

In my view - the (middle / upper class) demographic shift back into the inner city is something that is unique to us - similar to what happened in the 50's to 70's with the push to the suburbs. The church missed the boat in those days and abandoned the city. Now we have a situation where the folks we traditionally ministered to (urban poor) are moving out and being displaced. I'm not sure their life situation is any better - it's just being uprooted because of gentrification.

What I'm saying is - gentrification is happening - in Chicago, Atlanta, LA, NYC, the Bay Area... What will we do about it? What is our strategy to avoid another 'historic injustice'? If we don't have a plan and discussion on the issue - we may wake up 10 years from now and find that our 'market' has left us - and that they are in a worse place in some respects than when they were in the city. In the suburbs they might have a nicer environment in some respects - but without the support of the inner city neighborhoods.

As I thought about the housing crisis that is confronting us in the Bay, it's clear that many of the folks in our community can't buy a house here (gentrification). So - we have to focus on credit worthiness and other issues that will prepare them for home ownership - realizing that to buy a house they will leave our community. Years ago - the issues were different. That's one way we can circumvent a historic injustice...

M WROTE:

From what I've seen and heard from leaders like yourself, I would agree with your analysis. The addition I might add would be that in many communities beyond California there is still time/opportunity to help the poor into homeownership in their current neighborhoods.

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