What does gentrification mean

What does gentrification mean?

Gentrification has been one of the dominant issues in urban sociology for a number of years. The word comes from the English "gentry", which means "lower nobility". It represents the social restructuring process of a district through changing the population and through restoration and conversion activities. Mainly central, inner-city locations with old buildings or small-scale industrial use in buildings from the early 20th century are affected.

Phases of gentrification

  • The so-called “pioneers” of the first phase have little money, but usually “cultural capital” and their own life plans that they want to realize. They look for and find their niche in the diversity of the district. Without wanting to, they are preparing the infrastructure for the second phase, making the district interesting for outsiders with pubs, galleries, etc.
  • As a result, they attract more pioneers, but also the first generation of so-called gentrifiers, people with higher education and higher incomes who are already aware of and want to use the trend towards better residential areas. In this phase, real estate agents and banks are already beginning to show an interest in the area. Individual modernizations are being carried out, rents are rising, but they are still cheap.
  • In the third phase, the influx of “gentrifiers” increases and conflicts arise with the “pioneers” who oppose the transformation of “their” neighborhood. The infrastructure of restaurants and shops is changing, commercial rents are rising and with them the prices of the services offered. Modernizations are increasing. Residents from the first phase, including pioneers, are increasingly leaving the neighborhood, be it because they can no longer afford the rent or because they reject the changed character of the neighborhood. Others who have become homeowners themselves benefit from the increase in value.
  • Finally, in the fourth phase, the highest-income households follow suit. During this phase, depending on the location, the district can become too expensive even for members of the middle class, especially when moving house. One can then speak of “hypergentrification”, which even the “gentry” cannot cope with financially.

But there are always two sides to the coin. Gentrification spreads accessible recreational, gastronomic, medical and household services. In addition to the shorter distance to workplaces in central business and office districts, a centrally located apartment offers the advantage of high mobility thanks to public and multimodal transport. This fact can be used to abolish or reduce the cost of private transport. Centrally located apartments in districts with good infrastructure are often purchased for reasons of age-appropriate housing and location as well as with the idea of ​​securing retirement benefits.

You can see this process everywhere in Europe. In the last few decades the areas around the Place de la Bastille in Paris, the rue Oberkampf and the Canal Saint-Martin have been affected by gentrification. In Switzerland, the term Seefeldization has established itself as a synonym for gentrification. In Vienna, for example, gentrification processes of a milder nature are currently taking place in the Karmeliterviertel of Leopoldstadt and in the Ottakringer Brunnenmarktviertel.

Germany's largest housing group Vonovia, which is also expanding in France, was accused of promoting gentrification in Germany by concealing maintenance work, which was unjustifiably passed on to landlords as modernizations.

In Belgium, gentrification tendencies can be found in the Marolles district of Brussels; regionally one speaks of the so-called sablonization.In Oslo, today one of the most expensive cities in Europe, the former working-class neighborhoods Rodeløkka, Kampen and Grünerløkka are affected by the gentrification. Aker Brygge, a former industrial bank, has become the city's most expensive location. One speaks of the omen of "nouveau riche Norway".

In general, symbolic aspects of urban design and urban space are important for the gentrification process. The question is whether gentrification really follows the changing residential preferences of subcultural residents, who are attracted by cheap neighborhoods in need of renovation, or whether the investment in a not too expensive old building fabric with subsequent population exchange with lower status by higher status residents results in the highest returns.

It is incredibly sad that “the soul” of a neighborhood is dying out through gentrification and that is precisely why so many young people are taking a stand against this process. For this reason protests took place in many large cities in Germany. Many rap singers have written songs with statements like “Fuck off, tourists and newcomers, Kreuzberg belongs to us!”, “The housing company sold my house - I am affected by it myself.”, “Bushido, Kool Savas, your mother? All just drawn! And anyway, humanity comes from Africa. ”,“ Turn off the concrete mixer, dude, I want to chill! ”,“ Embarrassing the landlord, renovating it yourself, preventing demolition. ”From this fear and aversion to gentrification. But in the end, this process is unavoidable, because the world is constantly changing and one can often generate positive effects with targeted, organized and institutionalized efforts through social mix.