Gentrification produces zones of exclusion for low-income residents

Gentrification not only forces people out of the neighborhood through increasing land value and higher rents, it also produces a kind of internal displacement for low-income residents by creating zones of exclusion.

  • Zones of exclusion are spaces where people are unable to enter because they lack the necessary economic means for participation. As wealthier people move into the neighborhood, more spaces are devoted to offering amenities that cater to them. Grocery stores, banks, coffee shops, restaurants, salons, various retail stores, night clubs, stylish pubs, etc. begin to appear throughout the neighborhood, and are priced beyond what people on fixed low income can afford. These sites become zones of exclusion.

  • There is another sense in which such places are zones of exclusion. Whenever land is used to build condos or develop businesses for wealthier people, it is removed or excluded from use by the community; it not longer becomes a place where a local community-based vision can be implemented. In this sense, gentrification excludes possibilities.

  • Zones of exclusion also become sites marked by increased surveillance and policing. Strategies of control and punishment are implemented at these sites in order to protect them from the presence of unwanted people and from potential disruption. Only those with status, privilege and wealth can enter; all others are watched, carefully interrogated, and criminalized.

As gentrification produces more and more zones of exclusion, low-income residents become alienated from their own community. It is the experience of internal displacement – the feeling of being out of place in one’s own neighborhood.

Signs of the Times

across North America
hand held pieces of cardboard
crudely lettered
or painstakingly printed
the lived poetry of poverty
no home
no job
no money
no food
and name
preventable diseases
because of inability
to pay for relief or healing
reaching from the Atlantic
to the Pacific
please help
God bless you
have a good day
God bless
please help
call to us
for a meager
but heroic
give to all who ask
but they want my money for alcohol
they want my money for drugs
give to all who ask
but there’s too many
of these
signs that disclose
and subvert
by their very understatement
the social extermination
of human beings
their sheer physical presence
their faces
their eyes
their likeness
pierce our entertainments
pierce our wastefulness
our priorities
our conscience
a blind man
holds a sign
and sees through us
so deeply and clearly
we can’t stand it
and demand
public space be made private
and these living signs
driven elsewhere
by more bylaws
by more police
these living signs
they terrify
because they reflect
our own possibilities
in this anti-human economic system
no food
no job
no money
no home
so we need more
zones of exclusion
more censorship of human beings
who hold
these signs of the times
they hold them
for us

by Bud Osborn
from Signs of the Times,
Bud Osborn and Richard Tetrault
Anvil Press, 2005