Ooooh that word. Gentrification. Can you feel the tension in the air?
I am fully aware of my status as a "gentrifier". That is, I bought my house at a relatively low price from a seemingly low-income individual, fixed it up, and I will likely sell it at some point for a profit.*
So is Wedgewood Houston going under gentrification? I'd say yes and no. The neighborhood has certainly not reached the point that nearby 12South has been experiencing, which is documented in this incredibly relevant City Paper article that came out last night. However a quick search on Zillow shows me that there is currently not a single house on the market in this neighborhood available for under $120,000. Increasingly, new and renovated houses in WeHo are selling in the $250,000 range.
|Excuse the quality. Photo taken at drive-by range|
on my way to the office this morning.
Houses like the one on the right. It's pretty cute and also has new houses of a similar style on either side of it. I'm grateful that this developer did not opt for a McMansion style duplex with a shared driveway. These homes were also built on empty lots, so no one had to be displaced in order to put them there. But reflecting back to about five years ago, where as a young 20-something who wanted to buy a home in the city but couldn't afford anything over $100,000, those prices on Zillow have me cringing a little.
That said, we are still a majority rental home neighborhood (I've heard we are 30% homeowner, 70% rental, but I'm not sure how to confirm those stats) and I'm glad that we are such a diverse neighborhood. That is, a pretty decent mix of low-to-moderate income folks with a few higher income folks sprinkled in. But since developers have started realizing that this is a desirable location for people to live who can afford that kind of house on the right, it's the renters, like Russell O'Brien in the City Paper article, who usually are the most vulnerable to losing their homes.
Not that I'm scared that they are going to start tearing down every little brick duplex in the area to build $800,000 mammoths anytime soon. But in doing the research for my project, I learned that neighborhoods who start addressing the issue of gentrification early on are usually the most successful in navigating through it and lessening some of the unfortunate side effects. This typically involves a lot of communication, education and collaboration between residents, community organizations and local governments.
Don't get me wrong. I want the value of my home and my property to appreciate. I want a lot of the things that usually come with gentrification, like new sidewalks throughout the neighborhood, or coffee shops and restaurants and a new park within walking distance. But I think it can be done without burdening sweet old Ms. Bennett who lives across the street, or the family on Humphreys street who has rented their townhome for more than 20 years.
More on specifics later, but with the Master Plan for the redevelopment of the fairgrounds area coming out in just a few weeks (fingers crossed), I think this is a really good time to start the conversation. How do we achieve revitalization without displacing people from their homes? How do we keep affordable housing options available for the next 20-something looking to buy her first house in the city for a reasonable price?
*It should be noted that we would not have been able to do a lot of the improvements on our home without the help of family. For instance, rather than have a big, extravagant wedding, we opted to take my parents' offer on a smaller, more practical wedding with new windows and vinyl siding as our wedding gift.