This Tuesday and Wednesday I went to a conference for Smart Growth in Pittsburgh. At the conference, a local documentary filmmaker – Chris Ivey – presented a few clips of his documentary series: East of Liberty.
East of Liberty covers some raw topics that developers interested in urban renewal don’t like to talk about much: gentrification and low-income residents. As plenty of post-industrial Great Lakes cities (not just Pittsburgh – where East of Liberty was shot) draw up plans for revitalizing their urban cores, we must take into account the current residents of those spaces.
Here’s a promo for the film:
Why does gentrification hurt communities?
While it may seem that bringing in new businesses and nicer apartment buildings is good for these cities, they often raise realty prices and property taxes, pushing low- and moderate-income residents out of the newly developed spaces. Often, no alternatives or quality low-income housing arrangments are made for these urban refugees.
What are solutions?
Urban renewal does not have to mean gentrification. Low- and moderate-income people deserve safe and family-friendly neighborhoods as much as anyone else. If we want to re-develop existing communities, then we should engage the people who live there in the planning process and offer low-income housing options in those developments.
In areas where developers work on integrating housing of different price ranges (think of the west side of Cleveland), there can be a rich diversity that renders vibrant neighborhoods.
And if you’re worried about safety, then invest in a quality police force that will protect all of the residents who live there.