Gentrification Can’t Happen Without a Gentry

One of the things that always seems to go missing in discussions of gentrification and its effect on housing prices is, well, the existence of a gentry class. It’s not just the top 0.01 percent or even one percent that are bidding up housing prices, but also the top few percent. Given either the economic status or aspirations of most commentators, it’s a complete mystery why the obvious isn’t stated (not really): if incomes were more equally distributed, housing prices in housing-limited areas wouldn’t be so ridiculous.

Which brings us to this article about housing in New York City. While a deputy mayor doesn’t seem to understand this (or is pretending not to), Matthew Lasner, Associate Professor in the Department of Urban Policy and Planning at Hunter College does (boldface mine):

The market-based solution has done a good job to a degree, but it’s never going to solve the problem. There’s only one way to solve the problem, just as there’s only one way to solve the problem of income inequality. It’s through redistribution of wealth at the federal level. And the mayor can’t redistribute wealth in that way. So, again, the mayor can sort of set the dialogue and serve as an advocate. To me, that’s perhaps the single most important thing that a New York City mayor can do.

Like I mentioned, there are obvious class biases in not raising the demand side of the equation: even if you increased supply dramatically, in many cities, it would be soaked up rapidly–and to the extent increased supply can solve the problem, it’s largely a suburban issue. The supply side answer is kicking the can down the road at best, so that we don’t have to consider income inequality.

But nothing is about economic class, because we have no such thing in the U.S.

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