After enduring a half-century of population and job loss – along with the challenges that face a city in decline – Philadelphia has enjoyed a decade of growth. But, new vitality brought new challenges to city neighborhoods and the people who call them home. While the city benefits in many ways from the economic development and energy of construction and commerce, we must work to ensure that a growing Philadelphia expands with equity and preserves communities as it prospers.
Philadelphia needs a mayor who will listen to neighbors and fight for change if our city is to enjoy the benefits of growth without detriments of gentrification.
21st -century Philadelphia neighborhoods are changing in many ways. According to the 2016 “Philadelphia’s Changing Neighborhoods; Gentrification and other shifts since 2000” report produced by The Pew Charitable Trusts:
Gentrification is a function of real estate cycles, according to many urban economists. Often, a neighborhood’s housing stock deteriorates over time and is occupied by people of lesser and lesser means. Home values, rents, and land prices fall. Gentrification is said to begin in such neighborhoods when the difference between the current real estate prices, which are low, and the potential prices, which are higher, becomes large enough to attract a wave of new investment and higher-income residents. According to this theory, what happened in some of the Philadelphia tracts that gentrified from 2000 to 2014 was the result of the revitalization of Center City in the 1990s, when luxury apartment towers and new restaurants replaced ageing office space and surface parking lots. By the 2000s, these developments had increased the appeal of some nearby neighborhoods, which looked like bargains compared with
pricier Center City. As a result, higher-income people started moving in, housing prices rose, and gentrification occurred.
The revitalization of neighborhoods that had declined may be desirable in some ways, but, as the Pew Report notes, “Gentrification…involves new arrivals who differ from longtime residents in notable ways. Although definitions of the term have varied since it was coined in the 1960s, the underlying meaning is the shift in a neighborhood’s population from predominantly low income or working class to predominantly middle or upper class.”
Gentrification in select city neighborhoods affected Philadelphia’s social fabric and threatened its community infrastructure. Rising rents and home values have priced many long-term residents out of their neighborhoods and shifting demographics have created tensions between newcomers and families who lived on their blocks for generations.
I live in the same house where I was raised in Cobbs Creek. As a state senator, I represent many areas that have changed dramatically after years of enduring hard times. I understand how a welcome feeling makes neighborhoods into communities and houses into homes. But, I also know how easy it is to feel unwelcome in a place that has been home for years. To ensure that all Philadelphians enjoy benefits of economic growth and neighborhood development in a place that they can call home, I offer A Better Way To Combat Gentrification For A Better Philadelphia.