The Causes Of Gentrification In Inner-Urban Areas

The Causes Of Gentrification In Inner-Urban Areas


The concept of gentrification always emerges in the discussion about urban inequality since it was coined in 1964 by a sociologist Ruth Glass. In the past five decades, the factors that might cause this process have changed. It has happened even as some former communist states such as Estonia are experiencing an influx of middle income earners to regions initially occupied by the average persons. The concept of gentrification refers to the displacement of original working class occupiers of the place by high income earners. Generally, the term is used to refer to a neighborhood change following the entry of wealthier residents into neighborhoods. This process has always been associated with poverty. As a result, there are better economic opportunities for investment. Wealthier people move in with resources. Some factors play a role in this trend as richer people move in neighborhoods traditionally related to the poor (Van Criekingen & Decroly 2003, p. 56). Among them there are housing opportunities, transportation, health facilities, educational facilities, and economic possibilities. The improving infrastructures as well as a rising cost of housing in premium estates are also contributing to the gentrification of inner-urban areas in many cities around the world. The aim of the current paper is to explore the causes of this issue in inner-urban regions with the reference to some selected cities around the world.

Causes of Gentrification in Inner-Urban Areas

Most cities provide a home to both wealthiest and excluded people. The clear disparity between these individuals living in the same city in terms of their income, level of provision, assets owned, political and social affiliations, among many others is what described as inequality. This issue is also expressed in terms of gender, race or education rate. In most cases, inequality in the society is a source of social injustices and hindrance to social integration (Badger 2013, p. 1). There is an intrinsic connection between urban poverty and inequality. Gentrification in an ideal environment that could lead to the reduced crime rate, new investment opportunities, new infrastructures, and greater economic possibilities for residences. However, in the area with poverty, this trend is a route to greater inequality. The poor ones are pushed further to a poverty line end where they cannot afford anything (Sampson 2013, p. 8). Gentrification in the poverty area is also a source of conflicts between the rich and the poor based on economic and racial fault lines (Butler 2003, p. 54). The changes that are brought by inequality will be interpreted as follows. Social injustice where improvements on social amenities such as houses and roads are seen aimed at pushing out the impoverished.

Gentrification in Kansas City

Gentrification is often associated with increasing inequality in cities. Therefore, the causes might be related to the improvement of living standards or an increase in the average wealth of people in the neighborhood. Some of the cities such as Kansas City that have experienced a high rate of gentrification are linked to a return from the urban decline. For a long period, such cities like Kansas have experienced suburbanization. It means that many poor people were pushed into the inner urban areas with no infrastructure and good social amenities (Florida 2014, p. 4). For a long time, low income neighborhoods have been shallowed up and engulfed by suburbs as the rich became richer. The phenomenon is characterized by many persons accessing the public transport such as trains and cars or more of them having their own cars. Suburbanization affects the inequality in metropolitan cities in various ways (Badger 2013, p. 6). The first one is the urban sprawl where the countryside is being built over threatening the natural environment. As such, it increases the risk of crowding with those people who do not own some stable and well-constructed houses. The concept of villages becomes diminished. Therefore, people are required to get used to new forms of urban life.

For Kansas City, several factors are causing the process of gentrification being witnessed in the city. The first one is a change in the demographics. Meanwhile the demographic profile of the city is changing. Apart from the fact that the urban area has become younger with a sprawling population, the racial and ethnic diversity makes some people move to new areas. Traditionally, the indviduals of the same ethnic groups are living comfortably in the same neighborhoods. However, as the diversity of the city becomes more entrenched, some communities are shifting neighborhoods to be closer to neighbors with the same characteristics (PolicyLink and PERE 2014, p. 20). The increasing average income for most people in the city means the following fact. The levels of poverty are decreasing. Those persons being poor are forced out of their neighborhood following an increase in housing and cost of education as well as health.

While the economy of the city has been raising for the last two decades, the level of inequality is still increasing. As a result, not all residents of the urban area are able to access well paid jobs; and the economic growth is not widely shared by the residents of the city. Due to the rising cost of living, some poor families are not able to sustain their living even as they are expected to pay the same bills and utilities as paid before. The impact is that inner-urban areas are becoming more attractive to those individuals being at a better state economically than the natives of the city. The inner-urban regions are, thus, favorable to rich individuals as musicians and artists. They are normally the first ones to move into the area (PolicyLink and PERE 2014, p. 21). These persons are followed by bankers, journalists, university lecturers, and organization executives. Meanwhile the class and race tension appears that leads to some people moving out. The reason is that they cannot fit the neighborhood anymore.

Gentrification in Chicago City

The gentrification of Chicago City follows the dynamics of race. Most of neighborhoods there are experiencing this trend. It implies an increase in size orrelating with the speed of gentrification. Such neighborhoods as Roseland, Austin, and Englewood are experiencing the phenomenon known as white avoidance. In this case, the members of gentrification avoid the regions dominated by black people. On the contrary, gentrifying areas are normally occupied by the poor black minority. In Chicago, gentrification is happening in the regions being traditionally occupied by the white working class and Latinos. Many factors are causing the white avoidance in the city of Chicago (Lowrey 2014, p. 2). The first one is the government-sanctioned housing discrimination and redlining. It means that the most affected people are the Afro-Americans. As a result, the members of gentrification gravitate towards poor white neighborhoods while displacing the original occupants of the area threatened by new entrants.

One of the main causes of gentrification in Chicago has been the rapid development of the city authority. As the new buildings and offices have appeared in downtown neighborhoods, the residents of such areas have been displaced. An example is the elevated trail and park system that cost $95 million to be built. The project introduced a new skyline and new facilities in the area. Because of anticipated investors, new roads were opened and special amenities put up by the authority. As a result, the concerns of gentrifying local residents of such regions as Humboldt Park and Logan Square were raised. The reason was related to the fact that those people were not included in the planning or told how they were going to fit into the new neighborhoods (Walks & Maaranen 2008, p. 297). The displacement of local residents in the process of gentrification raises some questions about the political design even as it is seen as a means of improving living conditions of those regions. Following the rising price of property and rent, many of those individuals are unable to afford the high cost of rental apartments. The owners of those residence places as well are attracted to a high value of land (Butler 1997, p. 12). As a result, some of them have put up on sale their properties to new rich entrants while forcing residents moving out of inner-urban areas.

For such city like Chicago, the forces that cause gentrification are speeding up the rate of displacement of low income earners from the inner-urban regions. The corporate development is a phenomenon spreading fast, not just in Chicago though also in other cities of America (Trotter & Byrne 2015, p. 2). It is a common gentrifying factor forcing these dwellers to move further away from the city center. The other important phenomenon is the state policy where states are implementing strategies to develop those areas considered to be underdeveloped. Following the rules, the anti-gentrification social movements are hindered within the urban political practice. The change in demographics, for instance, means that younger people will prefer to live in high end neighborhoods even if their income does not allow them to stay in such regions. In Chicago, for example, many youth are opting to live in cities (Colby 2012, p. 55). There is also a change in the land value following the entry of investors. It is accelerating the shift in inner-urban areas. Gentrification has also been affected by the regional development in these regions. The impact on different ethnic populations following the change in demographics is also a pertinent cause of this popular trend in the area (Butler 2007, p. 32). Re-development policies initiated by the state authority have had a far-reaching impact on the local economics. As a result, it has led to the improved quality of life.

Gentrification in Brussels

Brussels is one of the cities to have experienced gentrification since the 1950s. One of the causes of this trend is the limited control over the international capital. Brussels has only 4 transnational corporations, making their headquarters in the city. It is the number that may be compared with London and Paris. Despite the lack of load with multinational corporations, Brussels is a center for administrative and executive bodies of the European Union. As a result, there is a high concentration of official activities of the EU. It calls for residential and office buildings that meet the demands of diplomats and other officers coming to Brussels. It, thus, has an inner-city area known as the Leopold quarter being the home to governmental and non-governmental organizations, subsidiaries, lobbyists, law and consultancy firms, as well as foreign-based financial institutions (Buzar, Ogden & Hall 2005, p. 420). The development of the EU related economy in the city is a big contributor to the overall economy of the area. Therefore, it is being a big consideration for many investors arriving there. The result is not just a high-status pool of expatriates but also high-end investors looking for land and offices in many low income parts of the area. The impact is an increase in rent and taxation. Poor to middle income residents are gentrified out of their local places in the inner-urban areas of the city. The high living standards and the economic opportunities attract expatriates to live and work in Brussels. At the same time, the locals are displaced to outward suburbs as they cannot afford to pay rent. The influx of high income earners to the city sustains the dynamics of housing markets.

Internationalization of the City’s Population

For the last fifty years, the inner cities of Brussels have resisted the process of gentrification triggered by the internationalization of the city’s population. Its smaller section, however, has contributed to the long established bourgeois neighborhood. There residents have maintained their traditional lifestyle for a long period of time. These neighborhoods have maintained a close proximity to historical practices while the dwellers of these areas are being stigmatized and largely neglected (Donoghue 2014, p. 59). The small size of the city is a big factor in the gentrification process. Most people living in the city are displaced easily following an increased demand by expatriates coming to work there. Brussels has a high-income gentrification in inner-urban areas wwhere the working class moves once being displaced from their locations. The classical forms of high standard corporate gentrification members are not common there like in such cities as London, Paris or New York. There people are pushed out of their neighborhoods by large corporations (Huse 2014, p. 32). Despite the corporate gentrification, the marginal trend in the city is a process of the upward movement of neighboring areas to follow the trajectory different from the rest of trends in other towns of the country.

The result is not a rigid binary of core-periphery but a combination of high-income corporate gentrification and closer processes of marginal gentrification. When compared to other progressive cities in Europe, Brussels has a disproportionately high share of its rental sector for the housing stock. In fact, 47 percent of households are renting their apartments from private landowners (Lees, Shin & Morales 2015, p. 50). The percentages rise even further in the inner neighborhoods. Only 10 percent of houses in the town center are publicly owned in the social housing. Due to scarcity of apartments and their high prices, many young people in the area become the renters in the inner city before moving out to more affluent neighborhoods. The demand for residential independence is an appealing factor for many youngsters to move into inner-urban houses in Brussels and in the process driving out the local renters in those regions. The demand for lifestyle autonomy and an ample opportunity to adapt the future changes in professional and composition elements has also played its role in choosing where to stay in Brussels (Bridge 2003, p. 2547). The young professionals are also characterized by a high level of mobility. They will immediately move to conventional middle class neighborhoods once their economic conditions are improved. Gentrification in inner-urban areas of Brussels is associated with a high influx of the middle income young professionals and the continued circulation of private rental markets.

Local State Intervention in Brussels

There are the outside forces that cause this trend in the city of Brussels including government interventions and policies. For instance, the housing regulations are designed in such a manner to promote home ownership as a part of virtues of its residents (Lees, Shin & Morales 2015, p. 43). The massive access to home ownership is facilitating the capital accumulation and economic growth in most regions of the city. The sustained demand for the construction and housing means that the housing policies act as a counter-cyclical tool to ensure the following fact. Its residents have economic stability. Those ones who fail to keep up with the process of the economic and social development in the inner-urban areas are gentrified as the new comers occupy their space. Home owners are the agents of polarization of consumption and sustained stability. Therefore, it is defusing social discontent and promoting the belief in the market society (Criekingen & Decroly, 2003, p. 58). The government policies also guarantee the protection of private property making some neighborhoods the attractive places for land ownership. The pressure is released on rental housing as more housing units are constructed to attract high end tenants. The government also provides tax abatements, convenient loans, and subsidies for land owners willing to develop their land to reflect the new status in the neighborhood.

The improvement in the infrastructural development is also a determining factor. It informs the process of gentrification in Brussels and other cities in Europe. Atkinson (2000, p. 307) has observed that gentrification can be caused by the pressure from the rich. New investors and expatriates come to settle in the city working for nongovernmental organizations. Therefore, the neighborhoods where they start living are developed in terms of transport systems and educational facilities (Buzar, Ogden & Hall 2005, 427). The combination of these elements with good housing attracts more people to the inner-urban areas. Therefore, it gentrifies the regions. The persistent focus on young and middle income households is also an appealing feature. That is why these economies are looking for some social amenities like hospitals and schools. As a result, they will pay a higher rent if the facilities are provided. The factors combined attract more people into the area. The social balance achieved provides a good opportunity for renovating the built environment while as well ensuring the following fact. Local state authority policies are applied and enforced during the development process. The city of Brussels has some regulations for the affluent population whose tax revenues are commensurate with the income and size of residents (Colby 2012, p. 13). The fact is that the political choice is applied in inner-urban areas where the population is not an attracting feature for new individuals arriving into those areas. The result has been a rapid growth of dwellers in Brussels’ neighborhood increasing the cost of land and housing.


Gentrification in most world cities is a phenomenon appearing even though the middle class grows. The government policies and the general internationalization of the city population are the major contributing factors helping in the process of gentrification. In Kansas City, the demographic change has seen the people living there becoming younger and those ones moving to neighborhoods being traditionally associated with the particular race. This process is causing the rapid gentrification. It is what has come to be known as white avoidance. Compared to Chicago City, the corporate development is a main gentrification factor as locals are pushed to the periphery by large corporate developers coming to the town following land opportunities. It is different from Brussels where this trend is mainly caused by foreigners arriving there. In these three cities analyzed above, local government policies and the improvement in their infrastructure are the major gentrification factors. For Brussels, a small town located in Europe, several elements work together to cause this process happening within the city.