Upstate organizations host panel discussion on Gentrification

Published: May. 25, 2023 at 10:31 PM EDT
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GREENVILLE, S.C. (FOX Carolina) - With more and more people moving to Greenville, some long-time residents are seeing their neighborhoods chang drastically. And those changes are leading to people being priced out and pushed out, especially in historically Black neighborhoods.

The Links Incorporated Greenville and the local chapter of Delta Beta Boule, Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity Inc., set the stage for a conversation to find solutions.

“I think it’s critically important that members of the Black business and political community come together and address this important problem,” said panelist Adrian Washington, the founder of Neighborhood Development Company in D.C.

The problem is gentrification---when wealthy people move into working-class or poor communities, often leaving people priced out and pushed out.

“The word gentrification in itself is not a bad thing. It’s displacement, which is the challenge there,” said another panelist Clyde Higgs, the CEO of Atlanta Beltline.

Displacement is not just a Greenville issue. It’s an issue nationwide. Which is why the panel included experts from other cities. Gentrification often paves the way for new development and quality of life improvements, but—

“The real key is making sure that as that new investment comes into play, again that those long-time residents can benefit from that new investment,” said Higgs.

The question is how?

“It’s a lot easier to do it in the early stages before prices go way up, and then it’s too late,” said Washington.

Local experts have said right now, Greenville is in a critical time. A recent study by Furman University found that over the past 30 years Haynie-Sirrine, one of Greenville’s oldest Black neighborhoods, has seen an 85% decline in Black residents. So how do you get the benefits of gentrification without displacement?

“From affordable housing to entrepreneurship and to policy and policy frameworks,” explained Higgs.

Similar to Inclusionary zoning policies in Atlanta, which require all new developments to offer around 20% of units as affordable, creating mixed-income communities. Panelists talked it out, and worked to get ahead of the vast displacement they’ve seen in neighboring cities.

“That’s really perhaps the future of what could happen in Greenville,” said Washington.