Talks of gentrification and its effects on communities swept through the city of Denver last week. Mayor Michael B. Hancock had a panel discussion that was streamed on Facebook Thursday night, and then hundreds attended a gentrification summit at the AME Church in Denver. People understand that in a capitalistic society we need growth and development, but they wish to see respect for the existing culture and history of our communities from city builders.
It’s true that basic property laws in America inform us that we cannot dictate to a person what to do with their property. If a person purchased a home for $15,000 decades ago and now they have the ability to sell the house for $350,000 then we cannot stand in the way of such a transaction. However, we must concern ourselves with members of our community who are losing their homes because of gentrification. There is also resentment in Denver because of a spree of development, which seemingly lacks any regard for our present communities, and a vision for the future.
Many who are angry at gentrification in Denver place blame squarely on the Mayor’s desk at the City and County building, but the issue is much bigger than this. Stagnant wages, failing school systems, unaffordable healthcare, and housing are all adding to the problem of gentrification. The core of this problem is that the Denver metro area is experiencing an economic boom, but many people are being pushed aside and are not able to take part in this time of prosperity. Widening economic inequality is the issue.
We have fundamental problems within our government that are much larger than the city government in Denver. Deep ties to corporate interests at every level of government have created a broken system, which silences the citizenry. In Denver, you could argue that over the past several years development without regard is the overriding problem, but gentrification will continue if the economy only flourishes for the benefit of the few.