Across the country, people are moving back into the urban centers. Properties once abandoned or neglected are being bought up, and trendy lofts, shops, and restaurants are fast replacing areas that were eyesores for years. Even Waterloo, Iowa's downtown is making welcome and beautiful changes thanks to some committed developers and investors. As cities cheer on new economic development, and as wealth comes back into inner city areas (gentrification), what happens to those among lower income brackets who live there? How can we bring revitalization to our downtowns and neighborhoods without continuing the patterns of displacement and segregation? How can we gentrify with justice? Bob Lupton offers some practices for gentrification with justice below in this article written for the Verge Network:
Harnessing Gentrification for the Sake of the Kingdom
The definitive works have yet to be written on how to harness gentrification for the purposes of the Kingdom. However, a few guiding principles are rising to the surface from some of the best practices around the country. Here are just a few:
Gentrification is. Some rail against it; others laud its arrival. For good or ill, it is our new reality. And it will only increase in the years to come. It means welcome new economic and social life for our cities and, with the pro-active involvement of the saints, can introduce a whole new era of hopefulness for the poor. Our mantra must be: gentrification with justice.
Diversity is a gift. Communities that are economically and racially mixed can be the richest of environments for families as well as singles and older adults. Diverse community is God's plan, the final destination toward which all the righteous are heading to the City of our God where people of every tribe, every nation, every tongue will take up eternal residence.
Community doesn't just happen. Especially diverse community. It must be built. Focused and sustained effort must be invested in getting to know neighbors, organizing community activities, modeling neighborliness and communicating good news. Love of neighbor must be practical and visible over time.
Indigenous neighbors are a treasure. It is easy to ignore seniors, easy to push on past less communicative neighbors, easy to exclude those who don't show up at community functions. But the rich history of the neighborhood is imbedded in the lives and family albums of long term residents. The effort to extract and honor this history is well worth the time and effort. And everyone, no matter how unlikely, has some valuable talent to contribute to the life of the community.
Economic viability is essential. A community will not be healthy unless it has ample neighbors with discretionary income to attract and sustain businesses. The gentry are essential. However, justice demands that we ensure that the poor are embraced and included as beneficiaries in a healthy community.
God's shalom must be worked at. The roles of peacemakers, communicators, gatherers, organizers, connectors are some of the most vital talents needed for the establishment of peace and prosperity and a prevailing sense of well-being that God desires for His creation. Shalom is not merely the absence of crime on the street, it is the prevailing presence of peace and goodness in the relationships of God's diverse family. It is achieved only by intentional effort.