Gentrification and displacement are words that make residents anxious when their neighborhoods are being bought out by folks with more money. Last night, at the Kroc Center, the city of Grand Rapids invited experts to meet with S. Division neighbors and talk about t these terms and how area specific plans come into the process. Inner-City Christian Federation President Ryan Ver Wys.
“Area Specific Plans are a way that we as a community name what’s important or what we would like to see happen in our community in the years to come.”
For example, if neighborhoods write in their area specific plan that they don’t want three-story buildings, developers can’t build one for years.
“Generally Gentrification is really when somebody takes that choice away from you. And you feel like an outsider in your own neighborhood.”
That’s panelist Nancy Haynes, executive director of the Fair Housing Center of West Michigan. So, what makes neighbors feel choiceless and gentrified? Joel Ruiter, Director of Home Repair Services of Kent County says areas where banks stopped giving loans to residents and white flight took capital away, suddenly get popular again among affluent suburbonites. They buy properties, get remodeling loans that those long-term residents were denied, property values rise, people’s rent goes up, investors come in and long-term residents start to feel the pressure.
“Folks that are at the very lowest end of the spectrum in terms of economic power, and often renters, are the first to get pushed out.”
So, why can’t folks pack up and move? Well, Hynes says the stakes are higher than a long commute.
“Where you live is really at the core of who you are. It defines your longevity, your lifespan.”
Which leads us back to an Area Specific Plan and why its important neighbors make informed choices about changes that will affect them for years. Tomorrow night the Urban Core collective will present proposals at LINC up about this very process and next Tuesday, November 21, the city will host its third community engagement event at the Kroc Center.