Gentrification can be defined as the process in which the character of an urban area undergoes a transformation when it gets slowly occupied by the affluent people of the city, displacing the existing less affluent inhabitants of the neighbourhood. The topic of gentrification can be controversial as there are several positive as well as negative impacts associated with it. While the process is undoubtedly beneficial to the upper-middle-class population because of the rapid urban development and increasing economic investment, it proves to be otherwise for the low-income population of the cities. Such rapid urbanization results in forcing this section of the society out of the corresponding neighbourhood due to increasing property prices and buyouts. During the process, the properties become a part of the real-estate speculation, such that the inflation of the property values continues until only large investors can continue leaving no space for the low-income residents and creating strong urban segregation between the urban rich and the urban poor.
Gentrification in India
India being a developing country faces a rapid rate of urbanization. Large cities and urban centres are growing to accommodate the population influx and its demands such as the provision of water, electricity, housing, and infrastructure, much beyond their ecological capacity by incorporating several urban renewal and development strategies. Over 56% of the population in India resides in urban centres, according to an estimate by the World Bank in 2016. Yet, studies suggest that the process of gentrification in India, which is associated with the development of these urban centres is unsustainable on its social, economic as well as environmental parameters.
The increasing property prices give birth to the spatial and social division between the rich and the poor inhabitants causing economic differences, excluding the poorer sections of the society and being unsustainable in the long run.
As a result of people being displaced and forced out of their neighbourhoods, the loss of their employment and livelihoods is inevitable and reduces the social diversity of the locality.
In most cases, on being displaced, the only affordable option of living is to move into slums, regarded as an epitome of poverty with unhygienic living conditions and lack of access to clean water, electricity, and proper waste disposal systems. With much garbage and rubbish being dumped onto the streets and water bodies, the impact that it has on the health of individuals and the environment is hazardous. As a part of a vicious cycle, the government aims to clear the slums for environmental reasons as a part of “urban renewal” and “urban upgradation” programs, which results in gentrification, forcing people to move out to less expensive and affordable neighbourhoods.
Case Studies of Gentrification in Indian metropolitan cities
The area of Parel, Lower Parel, Dadar, Chinchpokli, Sewri and Prabhadevi together were known as Girangoan, meaning “the land of mills”. Soon after de-industrialization, the mills were closed down and this central land became an attractive focal point for the builders in the city. Initially, the area surrounding the mills housed thousands of families in slums; but now it is currently home to international luxury brands and four-wheeler showrooms. This increased the land values of the neighbourhood, making it suitable to be occupied by the wealthier sections of the society.
This is a case of suburban gentrification in the growing metropolitan city of Chennai. With lower land values, suburbs are an easy target for the real estate developers. Such is the case of Sholinganallur which has transformed lately into the IT hub of Chennai. The area has undergone significant changes in recent times with the development of residential and commercial activities. The services provided with increased development attracts the middle-class IT working population, who act as the main gentrifiers having a higher income than the previous inhabitants of the neighbourhood and have been successful in displacing them.
Hauz Khaz Village, New Delhi:
Being initially occupied by the rural class of the “Jat” society, Hauz Khaz village has turned into a downtown location in Delhi with popular boutiques, cafes, and restaurants. Over the time, it outplayed traditional markets such as Khan Market and the Defence Colony. The transformation started with the opening of a designer boutique which led to subsequent developments, making it a new centre for designers and artists. As a result of this gentrification process, the native rural class population is no longer a part of this village.
It can be understood from the above case studies that the process of urbanization follows a chain reaction leading to urban renewal and gentrification. It is true that many cities worldwide are on their journey towards creating more sustainable and inclusive cities, but the concept is often limited to only those sections of the society who can afford it. It is of utmost importance that the cities explore more approaches toward sustainable urbanization. This raises the need to develop efficient policies to tackle gentrification, without which it might continue to affect the low-income communities. There are many strategies for gentrification that are being developed, such as ‘Reverse Gentrification’ which aims at mixing the social strata. Gentrification can indeed prove to be beneficial to the city if there is no widespread displacement and if neighbourhood shifts are well-planned with community inputs and participation by encouraging social inclusion and integration.
- Chong, E., 2017. Examining the Negative Impacts of Gentrification. [online] Law.georgetown.edu. Available at: <https://www.law.georgetown.edu/poverty-journal/blog/examining-the-negative-impacts-of-gentrification/#:~:text=Gentrification%20usually%20leads%20to%20negative,individuals%20and%20people%20of%20color.>
- Vombetkere, S., 2018. The Unsustainability of Gentrification in India: The Need for Sustainable Urbanization for People, not for Profit. [online] Svym.org. Available at: <https://svym.org/viis_publications/uploads/papercut/pdf_29.pdf>
- Vidhate, S. and Sharma, A., n.d. Gentrification and its Impacts on Urbanization in India. [online] Attachments.waset.org. Available at: <https://attachments.waset.org/downloads/16/papers/17ae020109.pdf>
- Sharma, Y., 2014. Gentrification of Hauz Khaz village: New Delhi, India. [online] yogamsharma. Available at: <https://yogamsharma.wordpress.com/2014/11/25/gentrification-of-hauz-khaz-village-new-delhi-india/>