Gentrification & neighborhood power

In the early 2000s I immersed myself in the world of neighborhood change in 4 neighborhoods in Atlanta, GA. I attended neighborhood association meetings, meetings of the Neighborhood Planning Units, and interviewed many residents in each community. I spoke with newcomers to these neighborhoods, as well as long-time residents.

In these conversations, I asked residents to explain their experiences of living in a gentrifying neighborhood, and to talk about the role of neighborhood associations in this process. These organizations seem so benign, so mundane, so unimportant. But in making small decisions for community residents, they impact everyday life. And as an arena for potential interaction between residents of varied racial and class backgrounds, neighborhood associations have the potential to enhance justice and equality, or to hasten the departure of those becoming priced out of a local real estate market.

Here are several articles and documents arising from this research.

1. This piece examines how residents – new and long-time – invoke concerns for the well-being of neighborhood children, as a way of expressing concern about the uncertainty of living in a changing neighborhood. Who can stay, who must leave? How will the community change? Where can children play, who will keep them safe, and prepare them for productive adult lives?

Boredom Drugs and Schools

2. In some neighborhoods, neighborhood associations can serve to knit together diverse residents, and encourage them to share respect for the history of the community. In other neighborhoods, these associations are the very mechanisms that enable long-time residents – predominantly working class, often people of color – to be cut out of neighborhood decision-making.

Fighting for Control

3. I wrote this piece to provide feedback to the many people who shared their time, thoughts and energy with me during the research. In other words, I sent this to all of my respondents. I heard back from a few, including one who said he was pleased to see that I “got it,” that I understood what he and his peers were trying to do to maintain equality in their neighborhood.

Responding to gentrification in Atlanta