Overall, I’ve been impressed with this whole development. For far too long there has been very little or nil investment in this part of town. Indeed, as I sat in the dining room of a Lancia home and talked at length with Rachel, I heard from almost everybody who came through that this is long overdo and that “it’s about time!” The overwhelming majority seems in favor of this.
However, Ms. Dowdell just happened to come into the house where Rachel and I were talking, and she said, when I asked her what she thought of all this, that she doesn’t like it because it’s displacement. Hmmm… Displacement. What’s she talking about, I wondered? She didn’t stay long enough to explain, but I was intrigued, and so I came home and Googled the words “gentrification and displacement”. Wow! A lot there.
So though I’m generally impressed with what’s being done, I have to admit I wonder about this issue. The prices of these new houses, while being less expensive than those being built elsewhere, are fairly affordable. And tons of incentives exist. But still, they are significantly more than anything else in that neighborhood. Who’s going to buy them? What will it mean for the low income, long term residents?
In 2006 former Seattle mayor Norm Rice, the city’s only African American to hold that position, summarized his frustration over the paradox of gentrification at a community forum in Seattle’s Central District. “I’m concerned and I am frustrated because I don’t know what the alternatives [to gentrification] are. [This process] clearly isn’t racist, it’s economic. The real question you have to ask yourself is: Is this good or bad?”
The questions are good ones, even if I’m not quite sure of the answers.