While some neighborhoods need investments and revitalization, many see the improvements as a negative because it could force lower-income residents from their homes.
The topic of gentrification continues to galvanize debate within the African-American community.
While many African-Americans aimed to make enough money to leave the hood back in the day, many now believe that abandoning property and allowing developers to increase the property value has been detrimental to those left behind.
But according to The Grio, “Residents of Louisville, Kentucky are pressing for the passage of a city ordinance to stop gentrification and prevent the displacement of low income people.
“The Historically Black Neighborhood Ordinance would establish a process to evaluate whether developments envisioned for Smoketown and seven other neighborhoods would result in evictions. According to the Louisville Courier-Journal, if the assessments result determines it would, Metro would not provide the initiatives with any land, funds or other resources.”
Shameka Parrish-Wright, who heads the group VOCAL-KY, said, “We are all surviving failed policies here in Louisville, and Black communities are surviving them more than any other community. They’re asking for this ordinance. We deserve this ordinance.”
Parrish-Wright added that the ordinance would stop gentrification and help the local community go “from surviving to thriving.”
Smoketown neighborhood resident Jessica Bellamy said the ordinance, written by Metro councilperson Jecorey Arthur, would be a “pathway to restore land that was wrongfully taken from families by the government.”
The bill, which Arthur will file soon, has taken two years to craft.
Arthur spent much time with local Louisville, Ky. residents to create the details of the anti-displacement measure.
Bellamy added, “Rather than ripping a family out of its community, let’s make it where the family can stay.”
The bill would make historically African-American communities a priority so that they can benefit from city programs that include home repairs, and down payment and small business assistance.
The proposed city ordinance would also create a commission to research whether someone wrongfully took property from residents.
The commission would investigate who has legitimate claims to land and consists of 16 Louisville, Ky. residents and representatives from the Louisville Human Relations Committee and other local governmental agencies.
Activist John Washington from the People’s Action’s Homes Guarantee campaign called the proposed ordinance a “gamechanger.”
Washington said, “I think it establishes that race and explicit race policies are important. This is a solution that reacts to the reality of the experience of Black people in America.”
Online publication The Grio reported that “Bellamy said some of Smoketown’s transformations began when Sheppard Square, a public housing complex, was demolished and later rebuilt as mixed-income apartments between 2012 and 2016, bringing rising property taxes and rent costs.”
As a result, the demographics of the neighborhood predictably changed.
Robert Boone and his wife tried to purchase a home in the Smoketown neighborhood.
However, the couple quickly found out that they could not afford to move to the area.
Boone grew up in Smoketown and owns a barbershop in the area.
He said, “As property taxes rise and rents go up, we lose more and more of our people who are the real legacy of Smoketown…We don’t deserve to be priced out of our place we call home.”
Smoketown native Rhonda Mathies says longtime residents only have memories of what their old neighborhood was in the past.
Mathies said, “They have lost the culture, the heritage. That’s a byproduct for what’s going on now. We have so many developers, gentrification going on in these neighborhoods, and they push them out. Those who live there can longer afford to live there, because of price gouging.”
Ronald Washington, Mathies’ brother, said, “The grocery stores, they took all them out. The ball field, that’s gone. So, when they bring some new, they take something away.”
Reporter Bailey Loosemore of The Louisville Courier-Journal reported, “As of 2021, the median home value in Smoketown was $182,900—a 180% increase over the median value of $64,800 in 2010, according to Census estimates.
“The median household income grew 120% over the same period, from $17,875 to $39,760, as more people with higher salaries moved in.”
While many Louisville, Ky. residents praise the effort to enact renter’s protection and its plan to prevent gentrification, many have criticized the city for not having an anti-displacement ordinance.
“We are in a space right now where we are struggling to get basic needs met because of policies that are not in place to protect Black people. That’s a problem,” said Louisville Urban League CEO Kish Cumi Price.
Like many other cities, Houston has not escaped the effects of gentrification.
Historic African-American Houston neighborhoods like Acres Homes, Third Ward, Fifth Ward, Fourth Ward, which was Houston’s first African-American community (originally known as Freedmen’s Town), Sunnyside and Studewood (Independence Heights) has seen its demographics change drastically over the past few years.
While some believe that the investments into the aesthetics of lower-income communities outweigh the consequences, many believe that appearance should not come at the expense of displacing poorer people of color.
Bill Fulton, director of the Kinder Institute for Urban Research, said, “I take gentrification and separate it into two parts: investment and displacement. Many neighborhoods that are now being gentrified have not had investments for decades. The bad part is that it can lead to displacement of people who have lived in those neighborhoods for a long time.”
Fulton added, “The question is how to mitigate the risk of displacement. No neighborhood stays the same over time, but you can make sure that there is enough housing available for people with lesser means to live in these areas long-term.”