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DWASARI: Recent housing boom is fueling gentrification

Column: Cut the Bull

Gentrification is ever-present in neighborhoods like Brooklyn, where low-income populations are pushed out in favor of wealthier ones. – Photo by Wikimedia

Think about your real estate agent neighbor. Odds are they recently had multiple houses stay up for only a few days and then got offers well above the listing prices. Why so? America is experiencing a housing boom where its supply is not able to meet the new homeowner demand surge. Without a doubt, many Americans are in a bidding war over their desired properties and looking to move to newly developed communities and properties. 

Little do people recognize, newly developed is just sugar-coated language to mask the gentrification of American cities. When we see a surge in homeownership in towns that were previously not on people's radars, it is almost certain that builders take away housing from lower-income individuals and design expensive property for the rich to write large checks. 

In the capitalistic market that we have in America, that is the sad reality of many businesses and opportunities — the rich see the rewards of multiple options, and the poor are lucky to have a single option. Such an occurrence makes sense for the new Apple Watch, sneakers or designer items, but America's system allows it to expand past these luxury goods and into necessities. 

Housing is one of those necessities, and there are many cities that we can see gentrification continuously occurring. For this article, I will hone into Brooklyn as it fits the central theme covered through these cities and stands out to me from a personal experience.

A couple months ago, I talked to my aunt from Queens who spoke in amazement about Brooklyn's turnaround. Her observation was not wrong, but she — like many others — overlooked gentrification as a driving factor as she only saw what was in front of her like many others.

A study done by Swansea University professor Themis Chronopoulos found a significant decline in low-income individuals (defined as those earning $25,000 or less) between 1980 and 2018. Specifically, Northwest Black Brooklyn experienced the greatest drop in low-income individuals from 46.4 percent to 22.8 percent, while all of Brooklyn experienced a near 10 percent decline. 

The possibility of the decrease in low-income individuals being due to upward mobility in Brooklyn's economic ladder is nothing but a dream. Starting around the 1980s, America has only experienced increasing economic inequality. Those who are occupying the new Brooklyn are most certainly forcing out those who used to live there. Not much of a surprise, the wealthy individuals moving in are predominately white Americans.

In five neighborhoods in Brooklyn analyzed by Kristen Lewis and Sarah Burd-Sharps, there was an increase of white residents between 6,700 and 15,600, while there was a decrease in Black and Latinx individuals. Like many other inequality issues, the brunt of the effects hits minorities, and the government is not doing enough to even the playing fields. 

A common and effective solution for gentrification involves passing zoning laws that encourage high-density housing or up-zoning. Doing so will build more affordable housing that allows people from all income groups to coexist. The problem with such a solution in Brooklyn is that high-density housing is a mainstay.

Consequently, the best remedy for the problem lies in educating residents to fight off gentrification. Real estate developers and elected officials experience little backlash for their inaction, but a movement against them will prevent them from pushing low-income individuals from Brooklyn and other cities in America. 

Both the ideas are very different in their approaches, yet they start from the same institution: the government. It is time we push our legislators to take importance to an issue that continues to hurt those without any political sway and strengthens those who have all of it.

Akhil Dwasari is a Rutgers Business School first-year majoring in finance and minoring in political science. His column, "Cut the Bull," runs on alternate Tuesdays. 

*Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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