Gentrifier Stereotypes

The American discourse about gentrification is full of stereotypes that the participants don’t recognize as such. For example, a widely-shared Buzzfeed article created an entire theory out of a single busybody who was responsible for half of the police complaints on their West Harlem block. The main check on stereotypes – “that’s racist” – only works when the stereotypes resemble the forms of racism society is most familiar with. The history of white racism against black people in the US is so different that it colors what Americans perceive as racial stereotypes and what they don’t. So as public service, I’d like to give some examples to draw commonalities between stereotypes in other cities I’ve lived in (Tel Aviv, Vancouver, Paris) and familiar anti-gentrification rhetoric.

Tel Aviv

Last decade, there was an influx of black refugees into working-class areas of South Tel Aviv, centered on Levinsky Park. The area is underpriced relative to its job access, courtesy of Central Bus Station, a failed urban renewal project that attracted crime; already in the 1990s it was nicknamed Central Stench (tsaḥana merkazit; Central Station is taḥana merkazit) and lampooned in a popular comic as a literal gateway to hell. The neighborhood’s response was violent, and the discourse within Israel is divided into people who wish the refugees imprisoned and deported from the country and people who wish them forcibly dispersed around the country.

Other parts of South Tel Aviv have been gentrifying since the 1990s, centered on Florentin. South Tel Aviv’s right-wing Jewish working class began connecting the two trends. A few years ago I saw a widely-shared Facebook post claiming that the influx of black refugees is deliberately engineered by developers as a ploy to gentrify the neighborhood. The theory, as I recall, is that black people are so odious that developers are using them to engineer white flight, after which they’ll evict the refugees, demolish the neighborhood’s mid-rise housing stock, and erect luxury towers.


In the last decade or so Vancouver has seen rising rents and even faster-rising housing prices, and the region’s white population is blaming Chinese people. In 2016, British Columbia passed a 15% tax on residential buyers who are not Canadian citizens or permanent residents; the tax was phrased neutrally, but the target was predominantly Chinese, and 21% of correspondence from citizens to the government on the issue was explicitly Sinophobic. In a city with rapid immigration, it should not be a surprise that new buyers tend to be immigrants, often on work or investor visas, but the region has a moral panic about Chinese people buying condos and houses as investments and leaving them empty.

The specific stereotypes of Chinese people in Vancouver vary. When I lived in Vancouver I encountered some light generic stereotyping (“people in Richmond are aggressive drivers”), but nothing connoting poverty, even though Richmond is poorer than Surrey, which some people I met compared with Camden, New Jersey. The language I see in the media concerning housing goes the other way: Chinese immigrants are stereotyped as oligarchs laundering ill-begotten wealth.


Like people in every other highly-toured region, Parisians hate the tourists. Seeing small declines in city population over the 2009-14 period, city electeds decided to blame Airbnb, and not, say, low housing construction rates (raising rents), a falling birth rate, or commercialization in city center. The mayor of the 1st arrondissement, Jean-Francois Legaret, called Airbnb “a true catastrophe for Central Paris.” The 1st arrondissement has high residential incomes; the lower-income parts of the city are the 10th, 11th, 13th, 18th, 19th, and 20th.

Rich and poor stereotypes

An ethnic or national group can stereotype another group as rich, poor, or both. White stereotypes of black people in the US and Europe are, within each ethnic group, associated with poverty: crime, aggressive physicality, laziness, indifference to education, proclivity for certain kinds of music and sport. Anti-Semitism today invokes stereotypes of the rich: greed, political subversion, disloyalty to the nation, corruption, success with money. Islamophobic stereotypes tend toward stereotypes of poverty, but are sometimes also bundled with stereotypes of Gulf money. In the last few decades Sinophobic stereotypes transitioned from ones of poverty (treating the Chinese as a faceless horde) to ones of wealth, similar to anti-Semitic stereotypes, to the point that people in Vancouver forget Richmond’s low incomes and people in New York forget the high poverty rates of Asian-New Yorkers and the overcrowding in Chinatown.

But as in the case of South Tel Aviv, the stereotypes can merge. The racists in South Tel Aviv blend two groups they hate – middle-class leftists and poor non-Jews – into one mass, blaming them for a trend that is usually blamed on the rich and the middle class. Historically, anti-Semitism was fully blended: the Jew was simultaneously poor and rich, wretched and exploitative, communist and capitalist, overly studious and overly physical. This blending of stereotypes was overt in Nazi propaganda, but also in the softer anti-Semitism directed against immigrants to the US.

The urban as a foreigner

Nationalists and populists stereotype cities like prewar anti-Semites stereotype Jews. The urban poor are lazy criminals, the rural poor are honest workers; the urban rich are exploitative capitalists sucking life out of the country, the rural rich are successful small business leaders; the urban middle class are bo-bo globalists, the rural middle class is the very definition of normality. This mentality is hard to miss in anti-urbanist writers like Joel Kotkin, and more recently in articles trying to portray an opposition between the Real Country (in the US but also in Israel and France) and the Urban Elites.

The definition of what is rural and what is urban is fractal. In the South, Long Island is part of New York; on Long Island, Long Island is Real America, distinct from the city that Long Island’s residents fled in the 1950s and 60s. Within cities the Real Country vs. Urban Elite opposition can involve the outer city vs. the inner city, as in Toronto, where Rob Ford won the mayoral election by appealing to outer-urban resentment of David Miller’s attempt to redistribute street space from cars to public transit. But it is in many cases demographic rather than geographic: the newcomer is the new rootless cosmopolitan.

In this mentality, the newcomer can be a rich gentrifier displacing honest salt-of-the-earth third-generation residents by paying higher rents or a refugee doing the same through living multiple people to a bedroom (or even both, in the case of some San Francisco programmers). In either case, the newcomer is a foreigner who doesn’t belong to the city’s culture and does not deserve the same access to city resources. People who build housing for this foreigner are inherently suspect, as are businesses that cater to the foreigner’s tastes. The demands – removal of access to housing – are the same regardless of whether the foreigners so stereotyped are poor or rich, and the stereotypes of wealth and poverty mix easily. That anti-gentrification activism looks so similar regardless of which social class it targets suggests that ultimately, any argument made is an excuse justifying not liking outsiders very much.


  1. Michael James

    low housing construction rates (raising rents), a falling birth rate, or commercialization in city center.

    On AirBnB you have it wrong, and not just Paris. See Barcelona + Berlin (links below). There is little doubt that illegal AirBnb (hotel-style renting in residential blocks) is impacting housing availability for residents (as well as negatively affecting amenity).
    On those points you make, we’ve had this discussion before and you seemingly refuse to change you tune. This argument concerns intramuros Paris, ie. the 90sqkm inside the Peripherique ring road. Clearly housing construction is “low” because it has been pretty much fully developed for the past century or more with limited opportunity for new construction. Having said that the city is doing what it can with redevo of brownfield sites like the railyards used for the Martin Luther Kind Jr development in the 17th. And yes, birth rates in “Paris” are declining like in the more established and more expensive parts of old big cities because the suburbs always attract young families because space is much more affordable. But France retains one of the highest birthrates in the developed world (attributed to government policy on family benefits, childcare-ecole maternelle, etc.). Finally, re commercialisation, that is an odd thing to complain about in the city with the highest residential density in the developed world. It continues to retain a good balance (and better than any other city I have ever lived in.)

    Airbnb destroying Paris suburbs like Marais
    Anne Hidalgo, the Paris mayor, has in the past two weeks accepted a fat cheque from Airbnb while sending out a team of inspectors to track down unauthorised holiday rentals, whose owners face fines of up to €100,000 ($150,000). Paris has 88,700 flats put up for rent on Airbnb, more than any other city.
    Paris Could Pull 43,000 Airbnb Listings by This June
    by MEREDITH CAREY, April 12, 2018
    Barcelona Finds a Way to Control Its Airbnb Market The city’s latest move to limit vacation rentals could come in handy for other cities trying out their own regulations.
    Feargus O’Sullivan, 6 Jun 2018.
    Barcelona’s efforts to rid itself of illegal vacation apartments could be the most effective crackdown on Airbnb yet. Last month, the city told the site to remove 2,577 listings that it found to be operating without a city-approved license, or face a court case potentially leading to a substantial fine. Then on June 1, Airbnb and the city launched a new agreement that gives Barcelona officials access to data about what’s being listed around town.
    Berlin’s government legislates against Airbnb Owners can no longer rent whole properties to tourists, as officals blame websites including Airbnb, Wimdu and 9Flats for driving up rents
    Agence France-Presse, Monday 2 May 2016
    Berlin began restricting private property rentals through Airbnb and similar online platforms on Sunday, threatening hefty fines in an attempt to keep housing affordable for local people.

    • Alon Levy

      Yes, the city’s developing brownfield sites now, but in 2009-14 it wasn’t. And what you’re quoting at me is a bunch of sensational media reports, some of which use laughable lines like “suburbs like Marais” (in the Times – what next, an article about how gentrification is impacting London suburbs like Islington?). Le Parisien is quoting INSEE’s explanation, which include a falling birth rate, a rising death rate, and high rents. High rents could be about Airbnb, but a city that in the period in question had very little construction and not that much Airbnb growth (the big spurt of growth was 2013-present, not 2009-14) maybe shouldn’t blame what’s in effect more hotels for tourists who pay the salaries of many local bistros and brasseries.

      • Nicolas Centa

        The French like to lament how many blue collar jobs disappear in their industries, but they should understand instead that indeed tourism is the big provider in service jobs, and that is something to be promoted.

        Unfortunately waiting bistros has a less good image than, say, making trains.

        Also don’t forget these service jobs are sometimes seen as being reserved to immigrants (irregulars from Africa wash the dishes, Chinese people own the bar-tabac-PMUs…).

        • Michael James

          Alon, since I first knew Paris the entire eastern half of the 13th has been largely demolished (of former light industry) and redeveloped. ZACs were all over the northern and eastern outer parts of the city; for example along the Canal St Martin, particularly its eastern side such as the entire block east of the canal and west of Pl Col. Fabien–right next to where I worked in the 10th; I used to walk thru it sometimes (Jardin Amadou-Hampaté-Ba is at its centre, part of a big pedestrian zone open to the public) and though its 80s-style housing blocks are not my favourite, overall not a terrible model of redevelopment.

          Besides which, as I wrote, the city is extremely dense and there is very little left to develop, particularly brownfield sites. Most of the railyards are outside the Peripherique or already built above such as the 60s-70s development above Montparnasse (those ugly hi-rises around Jardin Atlantique) Another small patch of them is being built over right on the south-eastern edge of 12th, the Charenton-Bercy mixed-development project. Or of course the considerable land recovered from the Thiers Wall where a lot of social housing was built earlier last century.

          Of course we know what you want: to demolish old Paris and replace it with hi-rise. Luckily, that ain’t gonna happen.

          As for Nicolas’ lamentations, seriously? Do you think Parisians or the politicians or unions don’t understand the size of their tourist economy! There is yet another campaign to try to rescue the decline in number of bistros in the city (see article link below). However it is very arguable that displacing residential housing with AirBnB will help, on at least two counts: it is Parisians who patronise these establishments and reducing their residence in the city will be counter-productive (I used to frequent my local every single day–in the morning on the walk to work); and the kind of visitor who probably thinks they are saving money at an AirBnB will also go to Maccas and Starbucks etc,rather than local bistros etc.
          The other thing that I like about Paris is that all those jobs (in the 15,00 restaurants + bistros etc) are mostly full-time proper jobs and which, contrary to your bizarre remarks, are respected by Parisians. Though you spoke with unknowing Freudian candour, in that not so much by some tourists (especially Anglosphere, esp. American). Those jobs do not depend on tips from patrons (an entirely toxic habit, and interesting to see that NYC is trying to change it).

          At the same time, many very popular tourist cities (eg. Venice, Barcelona) are realizing that too many tourists are not desirable, especially as the hordes (esp. off those giant cruise ships; thank goodness Paris is not on the sea) are the ones doing exactly what you appear to be lamenting: not supporting local businesses but slowly destroying the very things that are desirable about these cities.

          Paris Campaigns to Protect the ‘Intangible’ Cultural Value of Its Bistros
          The city wants UNESCO to list the cafe-restaurant hybrids as world heritage sites. Can that save them from decline?
          Feargus O’Sullivan, 12 June 2018.
          The Parisian way of life is under threat. The latest frontline on which it is being attacked is the city’s café terraces and cheap, traditional restaurants. So says a campaign launched Monday that seeks UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Status for Paris’s bistros—a campaign already endorsed by Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo and French President Emmanuel Macron.

          • Nicolas Centa

            Hotels and restaurants represent 19% of the “shadow economy”, which itself represents 10.8% of the PIB.
            French GDP was 2 292 billion euros in 2017, so 10.8% is 248 billions. 19% of this is 47 billions.
            Hotels and restaurants are 7.2% of the GDP, that’s 165 billions.
            It means 28% of the hotels and restaurants is in the “shadow economy”.
            Now do you still think all jobs in hotels and restaurants are mostly full-time proper jobs?

            It’s funny how you conclude by saying the tourists are “lowly destroying the very things that are desirable about these cities”, because that’s exactly what I say people think.

            Of course protecting the local culture is important, but going too far (valuing too much “authenticity”, which tends to be what Hidalog is doing by, for example, cancelling the Christmas Market) creates behavior that is hostile to foreign tourists. Or maybe just to not-so-rich foreign tourists?

          • Diego Beghin

            and the kind of visitor who probably thinks they are saving money at an AirBnB will also go to Maccas and Starbucks etc,rather than local bistros

            Come on, this is a just-so story, and you know it. You could just as well say that tourists on AirBnB are looking for a more “authentic”, “living like a local” experience and thus would prefer bistros, while the ones going to hotels are looking for a more corporate experience and will happily go to Starbucks. The only way to be sure would be to check the numbers and see if the bistros are thriving or dying or somewhere in between.

            Not to mention, AirBnBs aren’t only useful for tourists, they’re useful for anyone moving to Paris and trying to deal with the tricky rental market. And for any student doing a three-month internship etc. How do you separate the “legitimate” short stays from the “illegitimate” ones?

          • Michael James

            Diego Beghin, 2018/07/02 – 07:00

            Not to mention, AirBnBs aren’t only useful for tourists, they’re useful for anyone moving to Paris and trying to deal with the tricky rental market. And for any student doing a three-month internship etc. How do you separate the “legitimate” short stays from the “illegitimate” ones?

            A student doing 3 months is not going to use AirBnB because it is much more expensive than a normal rental apartment, and comparable to a low-level hotel. (In fact, given the uncertainty and risks I wonder whether they are really worth it.) For such situations there is Cité Universitaire (residential campus) which I used when I first moved there. And Paris has always had cheap alternatives such as chambres d’hotes (the original BnB) and of course hostels (which are more and more like regular hotels but cheaper with more sharing and less perfect locations). Heck, you can even camp and caravan in Paris (closest is the Camping du Bois de Boulogne in the 16th, right on the Seine.) And contrary to most travel journalism Paris is a long way from the most expensive hotel city, especially compared to its peers (NYC, Tokyo & London are far more expensive) or across Europe. (Which is not say you can pay a king’s ransom if you want to.)

            But look, I have some confidence that Paris will resolve these issues. Like Barcelona (and maybe Berlin). The system needs strong regulation, so that apartment owners are properly registered with authorities and adhere to the rules agreed about what is appropriate for residential apartment buildings (so they don’t turn into 24-hour party houses for foreigners who don’t give a shit about the residents or the building), with limits to number of days rented and how much of a given building is rented on this “holiday” basis (which previously was strictly illegal; it’s probably illegal in the building you currently live in; for good reasons). This too will bring transparency, eg. on whether owners are paying the appropriate taxes and adverse history can be tracked (and building management and other residents can have recourse if things go bad). It will inevitably reduce the number of apartments available and push up the prices a bit (only fair; AirBnB and its users are trying to extract value out of other people’s costs, and generally ignoring centuries of accumulated functional rules and laws about renting).

        • Michael James

          Nicolas Centa, 2018/07/02 – 00:54

          Not clear what you are getting at. First I note that the shadow economy in France is almost half the EU average. I would guess (and note all this stuff on the shadow economy is a guess) that there is not much of that in the food+drink trade in Paris because it is too intensively scrutinised. (Probably mostly in construction and other sectors mentioned in that report. And more in the south and where a lot of such employment is seasonal with its tourist seasons.) In any case you certainly haven’t convinced me. If that was your case it is very flimsy. Little better than hearsay.

          behavior that is hostile to foreign tourists. Or maybe just to not-so-rich foreign tourists?

          It’s the opposite. As I’ve said here before, I’ve come to the conclusion it was an error to allow the multinational junkfood chains into France. What do they contribute to anything or anyone? Corporatised “food” that promotes bad health and takes money away from vastly better owner-run formats (bistros, cafes, brasseries, bars, restaurants, even merguez stalls & crepe stands and even sandwiches from boulangeries). As for Starbucks, it is atrocious and inexplicable (awful kawfee, ridiculous pseuds choice of “variety”, served in cardboard or styrofoam).

          Are you seriously saying that providing multinational junkfood emporia exactly like you find in any city in the world isn’t “hostile to foreign tourists”. I mean that is exactly why they come to Paris, yes? In fact the huge number and diversity of those bistros etc in Paris from early days is what made Paris such a magnet for visitors. It also means the visitor has a large value range from which to choose, and I doubt those who hang out at Maccas etc save much at all compared to eating in genuine Parisian eateries. But they certain degrade their visit to Paris even if they are too philistine to realise it.

          Re the Christmas Market on the Champs Elysee, that falls into the same category as those golden arches etc. What does it contribute to Paris? Especially when it is apparently not at all “authentic to French culture—in fact, many of (the merchandise) are made in China” and especially as there are plenty of genuine markets in Paris for bricolage of all kinds, including the biggest in the world at Clichy (Marché aux Puces de Clignancourt). This thing is new since I left Paris so it certainly has no enduring tradition behind it and seems a pure commercial ploy by the bloke who runs that ferris wheel (which is also on the endangered list of “inappropriate to Paris traditions”). This bloke, Marcel Campion, is very active at trying to co-opt Parisian public space for his crass commercialism (Champs de Mars). The argument about employment is pure b.s. since it would simply be pulling people away from the approx. 40 permanent markets throughout Paris (he is not filling any unmet need, simply exploiting a famous location). If you believe tourists are being deprived of something then, first you are wrong and second, good (if it attracts that kind of tourist!).

          Oddly, while I am one of those curmudgeons who hates Christmas and its sickly fake sentimentality and tacky Coca-Cola commercialisation, I found Paris the best place to spend it–because it seems considerably less fake and tatty compared to the Anglosphere, and you could treat yourself to some specialties at one of those chi-chi stores you wouldn’t normally visit (Fauchon, Ladurée, Dalloyau, Hédiard etc) and they giftwrap it elaborately (no charge) if you want. It became a tradition of mine to buy armfuls of (small) stuff at Hédiard to take over to my English friends (by night ferry, later Eurostar); from what I’ve read no one is going to do that with this tacky market.

          Another thing that changed over the years I lived in Paris, and later visited: there were an increasing number of those OTT fireworks displays. True, the Eiffel Tower and other parts of the city are a amazing backdrop. However, eventually the city decided it was a bit out of control and cut right back on it. I agree. I think they lost some of their specialness and did seem a bit trivial and perhaps juvenile, a kind of Disneyfication (which is exactly what Maccas is.) Also there is nothing traditional or Parisian about them. (They are more traditional at some of the provincial chateaux etc, the “son et lumieres” but those are a different scale.)

          Contrary to what you think, Hidalgo and other Parisian culture guardians are protecting the more important things by removing these fly-by-night fads and fripperies. (It’s fine to experiment but one should be willing to reverse those that don’t work or don’t fit; Mitterrand’s Fête de la Musique, held on the summer solstice, is one that has stuck and I agree with–it’s a good day on the streets of Paris and brings the city together. And it is free!) Foreign visitors should be thankful.

          Parisian things and behaviour are so hostile to foreign tourists that it receives more foreign visitors than any other city in the world.

          • Nicolas Centa

            Out of curiosity, just how is it you propose to have Starbucks banned?

            Some kind of cultural zoning?

            You know, by the same reasoning, some people refuse halal food shops in their neighborhoods.

          • Untangled

            just how is it you propose to have Starbucks banned?

            Don’t you get it? He’s planning to launch his own crusade against everything, especially Starbucks and McBaguettes, and force the French to rediscover their own traditions.

          • Michael James

            Nicolas Centa 2018/07/02 – 04:27

            Out of curiosity, just how is it you propose to have Starbucks banned?
            Some kind of cultural zoning?

            Fair enough question. Obviously it is tricky. I don’t know exactly how Byron Bay shire in Australia did it. Possibly it was a cabal of local retailers on the council who simply used their power, and no doubt some would say that was inappropriate. Another interesting case is that there is not a single WalMart within NYC and that too is because of resistance by the elected city council, now spanning 5 decades (it must be related to the size and parking WalMart require to be optimally viable).

            I actually am more and more against the chain-ification of food places (restaurants etc). As soon as they turn into a chain of any size they become awful, both in quality and inevitably in the overall experience provided. Yes, I know it is an abiding mystery how customers tolerate it but the immense power of these companies in securing the best retail locations, heavy advertising and cultural brainwashing apparently works, especially as they really gear it all to appeal to young kids with the expectation of establishing lifelong habits.

            I believe one would be justified on restricting their domination of the market on those grounds (health impacts, advertising to children–have a look at the developing world where there are fewer controls if any and it is appalling; they have to more sneaky in the west where it is more restricted, but they get around all the regulation). However I agree it would be very contested. So I think a simple restriction on the number of retail outlets (serving food for direct consumption; not supermarkets) owned by the same company (regardless of marketing name) perhaps on a combined population and geographical basis. For Paris, say 5 to 10, which equates to one per 200k to 400k. That would take care of Starbucks (which would be difficult to ban on the basis of health). And yes, I am perfectly happy that it applies to Paris brasseries and bars etc that have begun chain-ification over the past few decades. I don’t believe a city’s people should have to legally justify to anyone if they choose to limit any particular retailer from its streets (as long as it doesn’t transgress other laws like ethnic discrimination etc). In the case of Paris I believe it is easily justified on the basis of retaining the unique qualities of its hugely diverse and varied eating/drinking establishments, thus to protect its UNESCO status (though as a once-Parisian I could care less about that, rather caring about avoiding it becoming a ghetto of multinationals and looking like every other city in the world). It’s not much different to, say, not allowing a Maccas or Starbucks in St Peter’s Square, or indeed as Paris already controls, not to have giant neon golden arches etc. It’s a rational argument of aesthetics, diversity and guarding uniqueness against gigantic companies using their muscle to force such things on us and our environment (and our children). The argument about providing jobs is b.s. because they are simply claiming custom that would be elsewhere, and indeed would be better quality jobs. There is a reason for the term “McJobs”.

            There is simply no material benefit that chain-ification provides to users. I know there are claims by them and their fanbase but they’re not true, or not significant enough. You get what you pay for.
            Incidentally McDonalds is in decline in the west (while it establishes expanding markets in the developing world). And like all big franchises it can be very exploitative and rapacious:

            In some cases McDonald’s owns the land and building for its restaurants outright. In others, it rents the building from another landlord and subleases it to franchisees. In the latter case, McDonald’s pays its landlords a market rent of about 5 per cent of the restaurants’ sales and then charges its franchisees 10 per cent, according to Ms Senatore.

            McDonalds property arm makes so much money, and owns outright a property portfolio worth >$40bn, recently they seriously considered selling it off as a separate company.

            Franchises in Australia have been revealed as running all kinds of illegal activities, usually at the expense of both the franchisee and their workers (similar behaviour exists in the US though there labor law is much less friendly to workers and commercial law is friendlier to big corporates):
            Franchises in Australia with documented poor practices:
            McDonalds, 7-Eleven, Pizza Hut, Pie Face, Eagle Boys Pizza, Retail Food Group (RFG: Donut King, Brumby’s, Gloria Jean’s, Pizza Capers, Crust Gourmet Pizzas and Michel’s Patisserie).

            Franchisees advised to steal workers’ wages, inquiry hears Muffin Break owner says he was told by franchisor to ‘consider underpaying staff I can trust’ Ben Smee, 31 May 2018

            What’s going wrong with Australia’s franchises? Jenni Henderson, 6 March 2018.

        • Michael James

          Nicolas Centa, 2018/07/02 – 04:27

          You know, by the same reasoning, some people refuse halal food shops in their neighborhoods.

          It is not at all the same reasoning, and when some racists attempt to make these sorts of claims they end up prosecuted under existing law. In France there has been a silly thing about imposing non-halal lunches on schoolkids (that would include practising muslims) but it was bound to fail. I doubt there’s any effective geographical limitation of halal shops (or kosher, which is even stricter than halal) though of course it will reflect ethnic enclaves etc. Naturally there will always be covert or overt prejudices but I’d say France’s laws on secularity (laïcité) are among best in the world.

          As it happens, in Australia we had a political and public fuss about this a few years back and I wrote some articles about it:

          Animal slaughter: the world isn’t all about us
          by Michael R James, Friday, 1 July 2011

          Incidentally, my rules would help protect certain ethnic enclaves such as the Jewish Pletzl area of the Marais in Paris. The short street, rue Malher, now has a BIA (Breakfast In America, a proto-chain) and a Maccas (at its junction with rue de Rivoli). Terrific, huh? Sadly, they appear to have filled a gap created by the demise of Jo Goldenberg’s deli, an institution of the Paris Jewish community for ages, and just nearby (at the junction with rue des Rosiers). The terrorist bombing by Abu Nidal in 1982 failed to close it down, but American junkfood seems to have succeeded!

  2. Joey

    I’ve heard a variation of that Vancouver stereotype applied to certain American cities. The story goes that wealthy foreigners (read: Chinese) are buying luxury condos and not living in them or renting them out as a place to park their cash (as opposed to, say, Swiss bank accounts). I haven’t seen data that definitively proves or disproves this, but it seems dubious at best, and is most commonly applied to cities that want to do anything but permit more housing.

    • Alon Levy

      People in London make the same argument re Russian oligarchs (every rich Russian is definitionally an oligarch). But London’s share of empty apartments held as second homes is even lower than New York’s, 1% vs. 2.2%, and is at a multidecade low. Paris’s share is hard to figure out, since Airbnbs are considered to be empty second homes rather than ersatz hotels, and randomly counting at a given time in a city where everyone gets 6 weeks of vacation time per year is dicey.

      • Michael James

        But London’s share of empty apartments held as second homes is even lower than New York’s, 1% vs. 2.2%, and is at a multidecade low.

        Statistics .. statistics … First, London does not keep reliable statistics (journalists and architects have had to resort to searching voting rolls, and counting lighted windows, in those fancy new apartment blocks to get a reliable estimate of the non-resident component. Second, in a mega-city you should be looking at the fraction of new housing, not total housing. The problem with London is that, ever since Thatcher more or less forced local councils into selling off social-housing to fund their operations, there is almost no social or indeed “affordable” housing being built. Sure enough when every new development (redevelopment, often of demolished estates sold off for peanuts) begins life it has boastful statistics about the number of affordable units, but as the actual construction progresses this magically diminishes. A notorious case is the redevo of the notorious Heygate Estate at Elephant & Castle (a very convenient location):

        In October 2012 MP Simon Hughes called for the first detailed Heygate planning application to be withdrawn because it proposes just eight social rented homes.[25] Outline planning permission for the Heygate site proposes 2,535 new homes in total of which just 79 will be social rented.

        Obviously the massive margins to be made by selling on the open market in such a location, is too much for developers to resist. Worse, these new developments (both the fancy apartment blocks for mostly foreigners in Docklands, and these old estate redevos) set the price for any housing anywhere in London: it has driven the most ridiculous property bubble in London’s history and made the city quite unaffordable to all but the top 10% or so. This is why Mayor Sadiq Khan has promised to build more social housing, however the Thatcherite legacy makes it extremely difficult (he doesn’t have the powers he needs).
        The property billboards that reveal the truth about Britain’s luxury housing market
        The glossy advertising around high-end building sites in major cities show expensive developments bustling with white thirtysomethings. Who are they aimed at, exactly?
        Oliver Wainwright, 4 April 2017

        “Over 50% of the development is public realm,” insists a sign at the foot of the swollen 53-storey shaft of One Blackfriars, a building that attracted ridicule for its promotional video, which featured a young couple arriving in the capital in a private helicopter, visiting museums and “exclusive boutiques” before heading to their penthouse. “50 Shades of Grotesque,” tweeted writer Nereida Diesent. “British condo pitch or trailer for the worst soft-core porn flick ever?” But at least we now know that half of the luxury tower will be open to anyone to walk in whenever they please.
        Stung by the widespread animosity, the developer of One Blackfriars, St George, a branch of the Berkeley Group, now stresses the local benefits of its bulbous totem. “Not only building homes, but building futures,” says the hoarding. “Over 200 new jobs created upon completion of the development.” Never mind that the project gets away with providing no affordable housing on site, paying just 4% of its total value to the council instead.

        You notice that last bit: “paying just 4% of its total value to the council instead”? Exactly the mandated perversion of local government Thatcher “cleverly” planned as a toxic legacy bomb, still exploding years after her reign and her death.
        Britain’s 21st-century housing catastrophe bears an eerie resemblance to my childhood In the 1920s, Harry Leslie Smith was shunted from one cold, dirty, overcrowded hovel to the next, fleeing by night when his father could no longer pay the rent. Nearly a century on, little has changed for many working-class families
        Harry Leslie Smith, 19 Sept 2017.
        Here’s the real backstory to Grenfell – the Tory attack on social housing The government has purposely downgraded public sector housing, to try to force people into the private sector. This assault must be halted
        Nick Forbes, 6 July 2017.
        High-rise solution to affordable inner-city living has failed
        Leonid Bershidsky, 19 June 2017.

  3. johndmuller

    This business of “Them” moving into “Our” village/town/country is seemingly a universal issue; it is happening literally everywhere. Compared to practically all of the unrequested incursions that might occur – e.g. asteroid strike, buffalo stampede, plague of whatever (including just plague), lava, tsunami – a small supply of rich people, 99.999+ close genetic relatives, is hardly a big bummer. Just to keep it further in perspective, in this world it is still entirely possible for some people’s day to begin with a different group of 99.999+ close genetic relatives, this time with weapons and strong intentions of making them move out – more or less indifferent as to whether that is dead or alive.

    You say that can’t happen to you; well, maybe not, but as for myself, I think I’ve felt that probability boundary moving a surprising amount in the last few years, with a lot of bad possibilities returning from what had seemed to be decent burials.

    There is some kind of thing we seem to have about where we were born (at least those of us who were not born on the run) – that “Our” immediate neighborhood has always been the way it was at that moment – and that was the way “God wanted it to be”, now and forever. It seems to me that this notion is complete B.S.; that for hundreds of years in Europe, new bands of 99.999% close genetic relatives were coming over the horizon to kick us out regularly, all the way back to when it was us kicking out them, like it has mostly been in the New World since the 16th century. Maybe there are places in Asia and Africa where there is less turnover, but that is probably illusory too.

    I lived for quite a while in DC, where, among the locals at least, every issue is racial, and gentrification is an issue. Mostly, I lived on Capitol Hill, which is deemed to be “gentrifying”, a status it has had for a good 50 years, the more things change, …

    There is a considerable amount of debate relating to gentrification, and how to slow it, etc., all assuming that the historical, God given, way it always had been, and should be now and forever, was as an all black community. Unfortunately for that theory, DC only really became a black city in the wake of the white flight following the race riots in the wake of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968. [Astute readers or the prior paragraph will note that 1968 = 2018 – 50.]

    During WW2, there was a huge ramp up of big Government in DC to manage the war, which led to a massive housing shortage, which led to a series of regulatory adjustments to allow/force the conversion of many single family homes into apartments and/or boarding houses. You can probably see how, in the short version, this would lead, after the war, into this housing stock losing some of its luster and becoming available to house a new influx of disillusioned black former soldiers moving north into DC. This became a factor in the growth of the black population of DC leading up to the events of 1968.

    Are you confused yet? Well maybe we should skip the parts about black migration after the civil war, or about well-to-do blacks getting screwed over by the depression or squeezed out of their housing in the wartime crunch. The point is that there really wasn’t any traditional setup there and the population and land use had been in a more or less constant state of change ever since white or black people came there. So who is stealing what land from whom?

    Anyway, are things changing on Capitol Hill or not? It is surprisingly difficult to say. On the gentrification front, if real estate prices are the judge, then probably things are gentrifying, but using the traditional DC metric of what color are the people you see on the street or at the supermarket, then things aren’t changing much at all.

    • Alon Levy

      I mean, one of the arguments I’m subtweeting (by someone who follows me on Twitter!) is that white flight in the 1950s created a suburban middle class that doesn’t really get urban values, so now that the white middle class is reurbanizing it’s bringing in suburban values of how streets ought to be. It’s not really true, but it addresses white flight and doesn’t make any claim that black people are somehow indigenous to Harlem, just three generations longer-settled than the white gentrifiers.

      • ardecila

        Weird argument. People have always flooded into cities from rural areas and brought their values with them. That’s part of what a city is. The blacks who settled Harlem came from extremely rural, impoverished conditions in the South. The Mexicans in Chicago’s Southwest Side came from little rocky villages in Jalisco or Michoacan. Neither of those groups, initially, is very familiar with urban streets or subways. If you argue that immigrants (be they domestic or alien) enrich the culture and society of a city, then it still seems racist to argue that one and only one group (of white people) is bringing problematic attitudes with them.

        I don’t dispute the thesis itself, I think suburban-raised white folks do bring some values with them. But those aren’t necessarily problematic. Maybe cities need a constituency for greater safety, less noise, less property crime, etc.

        • Alon Levy

          Historically crime rates fell and then gentrification happened, not the other way around. (Yes, I’m simplifying, because the Village began gentrifying in the 1920s and the Upper West Side in the 1960s, but New York kept seeing net white flight until the 2000s.) It’s not as if black people are pro-crime (lol).

  4. Eric

    Does not wanting people to move into your neighborhood en masse imply a dislike of those people? I’m not sure.

    Individuals choose their neighborhood based on a balance of amenities (such as commute ease, crime level, school quality) and price. They end up next door to other individuals who have chosen the same balance, whom they naturally connect to (and who affect the basket of amenities, for example in their children’s crime levels and educational achievements).

    When a different group moves in, the balance changes, and the individual ends up at a market point she did not choose. Either she is paying for amenities she cannot afford, or she no longer has access to amenities which are important to her. Isn’t it natural for her to oppose this, even if she has no hard feelings towards the people involved?

    • Alon Levy

      The first question is whether those preferences really differ as much as everyone says. For example, take race and crime. In the US, the violent crime rate for whites is 2.05% per year. Make guesses about the Hispanic and black rates and check table 8 on PDF-p. 9 here. For another example, The Nature of Prejudice discusses stereotypes in the era when it was written, in the 1950s, and notes that there are widespread stereotypes about Jews in finance even though, back then, Jews were actually underrepresented in US finance (and, in a survey during the Vietnam War, overrepresented in the military), which was dominated by WASPs.

      The second question is whether heterogeneity of preferences is a bad thing. I don’t feel like I’m losing out from being able to walk to both the usual supermarkets selling what every Carrefour or Monoprix sells and ethnic stores selling things that are less common in French culture like tahini or black beans. On the contrary – it gives me easy access to a varied diet.

      • Eric

        Interesting that you read my comment as “heterogeneity of preferences”. I read it more as everyone having the same preferences, but only some people can afford to indulge them.

        I think even if you were to leave out race, NIMBY arguments do not become incoherent – “there is a rich group moving in, they will raise prices and crowd me out” or “there is a poor group moving in, they will mug me” are still coherent thoughts.

        I expected the reply to my comment to be something like: In reality neighborhood character is never static, it will always change in one way or another. So sometimes you can tell NIMBYs that development will actually preserve the neighborhood character, for example keeping rents affordable.

        I could not figure out a complete and airtight way of saying that myself, so I left it to whoever replied to me. I think there is more to be analyzed there…

        • adamtaunowilliams

          “””I think even if you were to leave out race, NIMBY arguments do not become incoherent”””

          Really? Maybe in certain pockets of a city; most most American cities are principally SFU (single family units) zoned to low density. And ownership rates are very high in these neighborhoods? So in what was is anyone being pushed out due to rising prices? The price to the majority of the residents are locked in, effectively immune to price change. Here in Michigan where property tax increases are capped at 2% – and only reset at sale-and-purchase – people are trying to sing that very same song. It is incoherent; as the financial impact on them is only one – greater equity due to increased values; they get that for free.

          “there is a poor group moving in, they will mug me” – yes, they try to play this argument at the same time they complain about rising prices and displacement.

          Completely incoherent.

    • threestationsquare

      It’s not possible or desirable to preserve neighbourhoods in amber with exactly the conditions they had when a particular current resident moved there. Your neighbourhood will inevitably change, and if that change means you don’t want to live there anymore, you can move to a different one. Migration is a human right, and preventing new people from moving in (onto your neighbour’s land with your neighbour’s consent) is not something you should ever have the power to do.

      • Eric

        I instinctively feel the same way. And yet I realize that it’s easy for me to say this, as a financially secure young male without kids, who doesn’t have to worry about crime or schools, who anyway moves to a new neighborhood every couple of years as desired. What’s best for me may not be what’s best for most other people.

        And in any case, even if NIMBYism is always wrong, you still have to change the NIMBY mind to get anything done.

  5. Brian Arbenz

    There is such a movement as opposition to the economics and tax policies that are the foundation of gentrification. This movement does not condemn individuals or nationalities.

  6. Diego Beghin

    In Brussels, the gentrifiers locals love to hate on are the Eurocrats. But they’re not so different from Belgian whites, if they stick around for more than a few years and start a family, they eventually move to the suburbs. Anyway, I always find it strange when people hate on the very industry which makes their city rich.

    • Michael James

      I believe the reason they hate on the Eurocrats is because those Eurocrats are outrageously subsidized for their stay in Brussels, thus driving up rents or occupying apartments that natives can no longer access or afford.
      I once stayed with a friend in such a Eurocrat’s apartment and it was astoundingly luxurious for such a level public servant. She admitted it was way above what she could afford back home (Germany).
      This is a major reason why Eurocrats love their posting (as well as Brussels being very convivial for the well-paid, often on expense-accounts etc). They are like diplomats (but most are really just mid-level public servants) everywhere. The difference is that there are just so many of them in Brussels.

      • Diego Beghin

        People largely don’t make a difference between actual Eurocrats (i.e. work for the Commission or one of the 28 governments) and the regular grunts who work for the surrounding lobbying industry. A friend of mine is one such grunt earning 1800€/month net salary.

        And again, the Eurocrats’ gentrification threat is way overblown. While it’s true that you’ll find a lot of the younger Commission workers living in popular neighbourhoods like St-Josse and Matonge (where I happen lo live btw), there are also a lot of them in the more traditional leafy areas of Woluwe, Kraainem or Tervuren.

        The main problem in Brussels is the de facto ban on building any higher, which is being eased somewhat (but not enough) in the new development plan. This makes legal redevelopment only profitable in gentrifying neighbourhoods, which is why it only happens there.

        • Diego Beghin

          And FTR, “natives” are around 50% of the population in Brussels. Less if you don’t count born-elsewhere-in-Belgium as natives.

          • Michael James

            50% is seriously high. That is a heck of an impact on those natives!
            I don’t know how it operates today but back then it was explained to me that most Eurocrats worked a set period (I forget, but something like 3 years?) then were strictly rotated back home; there had to be something exceptional to violate that rule; probably a long queue waiting to have their turn in Brussels–as a career thing with the gravy just additional, and apparently many would like to stay (makes sense for a lot of other Europeans including Brits, Germans etc. and only 1h20m TGV from Paris (London & Amsterdam) dahling, what’s not to like!). So that would suggest most would not be in the market to buy homes but as renters. Perhaps there’s a fraction that are semi-permanent? And then there are the lobbyists (and Nato; even the Americans like their stint in Brussels).

            The main problem in Brussels is the de facto ban on building any higher,

            What is the height limit?

          • Diego Beghin

            Commission workers can make their whole career here. But yeah, people who work for member states are usually on a rotation.

            The height limit is the height of the lowest neighbouring property (seriously, I wasn’t joking when I said it was a de facto ban on building higher). They wanted to change it to “three floors higher than the block’s average or 30m, whichever is lowest” but I’m not sure it’s already done. There are also special high-rise zones where you can go higher, but those are almost built-out already.

  7. wanderer

    Alon, you’re painting with too broad a brush here. There certainly is xenophobia in the San Francisco Bay Area, but there’s also serious gentrification. You can’t simply reduce anti-gentrification sentiment to xenophobia. I’ve lived in the same place in Berkeley for over 20 years and it’s a very different place now. As a property owner, the gentrification has increased my property value. But I’ve also seen people forced to move out towards the edge of the region, and some move out of the region altogether. I can see the changes in who’s riding BART.

    There is a developing battle in the neighborhood over whether to build housing on the parking lot at the BART station. To some extent people’s views on that break down on age lines. Virtually everyone who’s against it (or “yes but” it) are over 45 or 50. But there are some of us oldsters who are for it.

    In California, the state sets a target for how much housing should be added in each city–though there are few consequences for jurisdictions that don’t meet it. The target is stratified by income level. Many jurisdictions meet the target for “above moderate” income housing but not for low or very low income housing.

  8. adirondacker12800

    I’m sure there was point when someone wandered through and said “Ick, farm” and “gonna be pain to get down the bay now.” The neighborhood changed when the farm was subdivided into suburban lots. That the neighborhood changes is one of the characteristics of a dynamic neighborhood.

  9. PeeBee

    you can see old town prague and how it has been changed during last 2 decades, add airbnb to that deadly mix and think about it again… gluttons destroyed my lovely home… town of franz kafka and max brod, paul leppin, gustav meyrink, jan neruda and the others. and now they finally got me out like many of my neighbors before… more idiotic tourists, higher income for restaurant and hotel owners, for corrupted local politicians and “civil servants”, more useless luxury, but almost no genius loci anymore…and almost no original inhabitants ( i think, it will be similar in barcelona or venezia.

    well, will chinese, british or german “tourists” recognize the truth? nah, they love to eat and drink and fuck and enjoy their relatively cheap commercial circus holidays.

    anyway, thanks for interesting texts

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