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The very word "gentrification" implies distaste. Advocates for the poor and ethnic minorities see affluent whites bidding up the prices for urban housing to levels that force poor families out, depriving them of affordable housing, perhaps rendering them homeless, and changing the character of a neighborhood from one that reflects distinct ethnic and class needs and cultural traditions into a bland emporium for expensive consumer goods. Sometimes historic preservation laws are indicted as particular culprits in setting this dynamic in motion. A result of these perceptions is that the legal literature on gentrification, in general, and historic preservation both reflect a distinctly negative strain.

The author takes issue with this negative judgment about gentrification and proceeds as follows in this essay. First, the author considers in more specificity the complaints lodged against gentrification, with particular attention to the role of historic preservation, and consider the extent to which these complaints hit the mark. Second, he tries to specify the advantages for poor and ethnic minorities from gentrification in this society given its political structures and history, and argues that these advantages substantially outweigh the losses they inflict on the poor. Finally, he suggests how the negative consequences of gentrification might be minimized, the most constructive path for which is the promotion of increased affordable housing throughout the metropolitan area. His hope is that the arguments presented will better focus discussions about the effects on the poor of policies that promote urban redevelopment.

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46 How. L.J. 405-432 (2003)