Cameron Hightower, James C. Fraser | City & Community
Proponents of gentrification often use some rendition of a “rising tide lifts all boats” justification when assessing the impact that gentrification has on original residents in a gentrifying area. One of the benefits that is widely accepted by proponents and opponents of gentrification is that homeowners experience an increase in property values that can easily be transferred to family wealth or cash. Yet, there is virtually no research that provides an evidence base to support this seemingly direct relationship. Through a case study of prominent historically black neighborhoods in North Nashville, we find that the process of potential home equity realization for original homeowners in a gentrifying area is complicated by a variety of factors. We theorize that, in addition to class and socioeconomic phenomena, home buying in the context of gentrification operates much like reverse or inverted “blockbusting” during the era of urban renewal. These processes involve the creation of value out of the racialization of space whereby black homeowners and residents are incentivized and often forced to leave as a precursor to predominantly white populations entering. We comment on how these findings fit into the history of discriminatory and exploitative housing practices in the United States.