What is gentrification?
Gentrification seems to be a mysterious term that people don’t really understand. That’s why I set out to find someone who could shed some light on its meaning.
When I asked to interview architect and city planner Agnes Förster about gentrification in Munich, she declined.
in her reply, she wrote that in her view the term is
“politically charged and also not very meaningful”.
She thinks that gentrification does not really exist in Munich because “upgrading” processes are occurring all over the city all of the time. It’s a pity that she didn’t want to share more about her point of view with me.
However, urban sociologist Detlev Sträter, an expert who has been working on gentrification for decades, was happy to talk to me.
Today he chairs the programme committee of the Münchner Forum, an association in Munich that deals with questions of urban development. It sees itself as an intermediary between citizens and city politics.
So, what is gentrification, Detlev Sträter?
Once the rents in a hip new city district are high, real-estate companies start approaching building owners with the goal of buying their properties.
As Detlev Sträter explains:
“They are not interested in renting them out, and they prefer selling condominiums.”
And it is certainly not the lower middle class that has the money to buy them.
Hope for affected districts: The process may not peak
According to Sträter, it is too simplistic to shift the blame for gentrification to students and hipsters. He believes the process is caused by many different factors and takes years to complete.
But, he also points out that gentrification processes do not automatically follow all of the steps described above.
Astonishingly, gentrification sometimes simply stops before reaching its peak. He points out:
“It happens that a city district has already begun to change socially, but then this development does not continue.
The influx of high earners decreases and finally stops.”
Sträter states that one reason for this could be that wealthy people have already started being attracted to other city districts that offer even more suitable housing options and lifestyles.