We hear this term ‘gentrification’ a lot these days when it comes to neighborhoods. Basically, by definition, it’s when a poor neighborhood is changed by wealthier buyers and renters moving in, which then generally pushes out the less financially abundant folk living there. I became aware of this in Salt Lake City many decades ago when John Williams, one of the owners of Gastronomy/Market Street Grill/The New Yorker purchased a home in the Capitol Hill area. At that point in time many people were astounded that he didn’t buy a home in the Harvard/Yale, Federal Heights, or Holladay neighborhoods where expensive homes are traditionally found. Williams had lived downtown and buying on the Hill was a natural for him because the new home was close to his office, but people still scratched their head as to why he’d live in an area that hadn’t been known as an ‘exclusive neighborhood’. Thanks to Williams homesteading in a less expensive neighborhood, buyer’s eyes turned to the wonderfully historic homes around the state capitol building and soon a younger and more affluent group of buyers called the Marmalade and Capitol Hill neighborhoods home. Over the years this has happened to such neighborhoods in the Salt Lake Valley as lower Sugar House, Taylorsville, areas around Cottonwood Heights (i.e., White City), and Rose Park. It’s now visible in the lower 9th and 9th neighborhood, Poplar Grove and Glendale as the ‘up and coming’ places to live.
A whole new type of gentrification is beginning to happen along the East Coast shoreline communities, now dubbed ‘climate gentrification’ CNN news stated last month that it’s a “process in which wealthier people fleeing from climate-risky areas spur higher housing prices and more aggressive gentrification in safer areas.” The black working-class neighborhoods on high ground in New Orleans have seen new neighbors coming in and grabbing up cheaper homes above the flood plain and pushing up housing prices. Did you happen to see the horrific news of the condo building collapsing in the Miami area last month that killed almost 100 people living in building the middle of the night? There’s a new mentality to flee from the danger of hurricane winds, storm surges and water damage and move inland to higher ground.
“Climate-risky cities around the country are also seeing signs of gentrification…where booming real estate prices in higher-ground, minority neighborhoods – like Little Haiti – have been tied to sea level rise,” reported CNN. It’s a fact that as the climate changes sea levels will rise. New York City is only 33’ above sea level, Miami is 6.5’ and San Francisco is 52’ near the bay. The areas of the U.S. that see the most coastal flooding include Tampa, Charleston, Long Island and New Jersey.
Given the massive monsoon rains in Southern Utah this year, homeowners may want to re-assess if they should live on higher ground in the future if these storms are going to become the norm. The theory of climate gentrification would then logically point to affordable housing appearing in flood-prone neighborhoods. And flood insurance is extremely expensive!