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E3: Return to the Cities

Hallmarks of gentrification, like custom-built homes and luxury apartments, transform a neighborhood, but that’s not their major attraction for city officials. Cities have become more entrepreneurial in seeking private investment as federal funding has declined. Expensive housing and the retail amenities that follow pay the high taxes a city needs to serve all of its constituents. Massive development, like that in Long Beach, hearkens back to urban renewal of the 1950s in which existing neighborhoods were steamrolled, displacing longtime residents. Mass transit improvements in Los Angeles show the conflict inherent in large urban redevelopment projects. While the city reclaimed old train lines to connect people, jobs and amenities, for example, it also fueled a gentrification crisis in Boyle Heights, a cultural mecca for the city’s booming Latino population. A common assumption is that developers inevitably prevail in this free-market process. However, housing rights advocates are increasingly resisting unfair evictions as residents are beginning to ask, “For whom is the city being rebuilt?”

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