By Emily Cortes
When I toured my brand new, three bedroom apartment, I thought the recessed lighting, large counter top, and open concept was perfect, the price was great, and it was located in the Ybor City district of Tampa Bay, close to nightlife and campus. Little did I know that by living there, paying my rent—which goes towards my landlord’s mortgage—and becoming a part of my neighborhood and community, I was contributing to gentrification.
The definition of gentrification according to the Urban Displacement Project is “a process of neighborhood change that includes economic change in a historically disinvested neighborhood—by means of real estate investment and new higher-income residents moving in—as well as demographic change—not only in terms of income level, but also in terms of changes in the education level or racial make-up of residents.”
This economic and demographic shift is prevalent throughout the greater Tampa Bay area, but specifically near the areas adjacent to campus, such as Downtown, Channelside district, Soho district, Seminole Heights, and Ybor City. Driving around, you can visibly see where the money flows. The University of Tampa is a beautiful campus that will cost students a pretty penny. Many of these students come from some kind of wealth, live in the nicest apartment complexes, and wear high end clothes. I’ve even seen a Lambo Truck on campus before. Not many college campuses sport money like UT.
It’s great to bring funds to an underfunded community. Tampa is a beautiful city and driving by empty lots and abandoned buildings doesn’t “feel” like “Tampa,” even though Tampa’s history is not shy to poverty. Historically, the roles of the gentrifiers in America were filled by “wealthy, college-educated individuals [that] move into poor or working-class communities, often originally occupied by communities of color. The people and businesses that move into gentrifying neighborhoods may have goals for their new homes that are at odds with the goals of people who have lived there for a long time.”
Gentrification has affected mostly minorities that have systematically been oppressed in the social community setting and within the job market, making home loans and business loans difficult to obtain, or fall victim to loan exploitation.
Gentrification looks like real estate speculation, with investors flipping properties for large profits, as well as high-end development, and landlords looking for higher-paying tenants. Increased investment in neighborhood amenities, like transit and parks. Changes in land use, for example from industrial land to restaurants and storefronts. Changes in the character of the neighborhood, as community run businesses are replaced by businesses catering to new residents’ needs.
Tampa has been praised as an up-and-coming city, and now with two sports titles under our belt, tourists are flocking here and bringing their money with them… and they’re not leaving. The construction in the Channelside district has included making more apartment complexes, adding local restaurants, and local pharmacies and grocers. On paper, this capitalistic driven growth is great, but who does gentrification really hurt, and why is it so bad? “While increased investment in an area can be positive, gentrification is often associated with displacement, which means that in some of these communities, long-term residents are not able to stay to benefit from new investments in housing, healthy food access, or transit infrastructure.”
Revitalizing a community while avoiding gentrification is not the sole responsibility of the renters. Large commercial real estate investors try to pass on that they’re doing a good thing by developing the community, which they are, however, instead of bettering the community, profit is their ultimate goal. When the window of profit opportunity increases, it becomes more likely that the corporate end is going to exploit the consumer.
Keeping rental costs and resold home costs low, allows for those in the community to be an integral part of its revitalization. Making affordable housing is absolutely possible, and Tampa is an excellent spot to make that happen, but it won’t be possible if owners hoard the wealth. Legislative means is one of the only ways to monitor and reduce homelessness and socioeconomic segregation.
It’s not a direct fault of the corporate world for the numbers of homeless across the country, and it’s not the fault of the first time home buying who remodeled a home on their own. However, it does become their responsibility when they sell or rent, and laws that protect the renters in regards to the price of rent is non-existent. Equal housing opportunity laws do exist, but that doesn’t guarantee the renters from being overcharged and exploited when they always lived in an area that was affordable for them.