Rent Is Too Damn High? Don’t Blame The Artists

Ben Davis argues that artists aren’t responsible for gentrification, warning that “until there’s some understanding that gentrification isn’t just about people’s individual lifestyle choices – of artists, or preppies – but a symptom of dysfunctional urban policy, everyone is going to continue to get herded in front of rising rents every few years”:

6641537693_3af515d488_zIn the often-bitter narrative of neighborhood “revitalization,” much more depends on huge forces like average area incomes, social stratification, real-estate speculation, and rent policy than on the magic of art. (Even in artist-led gentrification’s relatively raw form in SoHo there were bigger city planning forces in play, including the Rockefellers’ concurrent push to renew Lower Manhattan.) …  The flip side is that in places like New York, with its turbo-charged real-estate market, artists aren’t really in the driver’s seat. Even in my neighborhood, Brooklyn’s increasingly uncool and preppy Williamsburg, the spectacular transformation of the last decade has not been just some natural process of rising cachet thanks to the art scene. It’s a function of very conscious and hotly contested zoning decisions.

(Photo by NOIR Visionary Studio)