Daniel Hertz at City Notes is quickly becoming my favorite writer on urban policy. That he writes in and about Chicago is just a bonus. He recently wrote an article for Atlantic Cities that everyone living in a city contributes to gentrification. The laws of supply and demand affect the entire market and no one can opt out. As long as urban policy (zoning laws, neighborhood input, aldermanic privilege, etc.) limits and constrains supply, the housing demand will drive up prices.
My old condo was a warehouse conversion. I always made myself feel good that I wasn’t gentrifying an existing neighborhood, since no one lived their before. I was wrong. Sure, my building and most of those other, early, developments in the area were not “actively” driving kindly old grandmothers and budding hipster artistès out on the street. But, it also was a key component in still on-going development of the Near West Side and Fulton River District. Then, the neighbors began fighting any new development in the area. “Preserve the character.” “Traffic.” “Green space.” Whatever handy excuse comes to mind. If that area — walking distance to the Loop — cannot host a very high density, then those excluded will move to wherever they can. And they get to kick the grannies and hipsters to the curb. But, at least my building didn’t get spray painted or protested.