Historically, the gentrification of St Louis has been one of the most important divisions within the region between the east and west. This has happened as communities have become progressively wealthier and whiter as you progress west out of downtown. Increasingly, however, the largest division within the region runs north and south.
Although the housing market is weak, many activists have warned of the gentrification of St Louis and its effects on the area. Particularly in relation to the latest National Geospatial Agency (NGA) headquarters that is under construction in North St. Louis and costing $1.75 billion.
Despite employing potentially over 3000 skilled professionals there is very little evidence to suggest these workers will settle in the surrounding areas. In fact, most of the nearby neighbourhoods close to the new headquarters, has seen a housing market collapsed with some of these properties selling for less than $50,000. If these young professionals did migrate to the area there would definitely be plenty of room for them and could boost the local economy.
In contrast, central Saint Louis is booming with growth in medical, biotech, and various tech start-ups. Gentrification seems to be happening in this area with the area having more attraction to workers than other parts of the city.
The neighbourhoods undergoing “gentrification-like” processes aren’t poor minority neighbourhoods but instead neighbourhoods in and just south of the Central Corridor that ha always done relatively well.
There is also little evidence to suggest that this” gentrification” is pushing out high numbers of low income existing residents due to economic pressure. On the contrary, the rent burden has actually fallen in many of the “gentrifying” neighbourhoods between 2000 and 2016.
Affordable housing is a problem in St. Louis, but the cause isn’t solely gentrification but stagnating wages and a rental market that’s not capable of supplying decent housing for those with low income.
For the black community, concerns about displacement are real. In the 1950s and 1960s, tens of thousands of African Americans were forcibly displaced from their homes.
Especially in older industrial cities like St. Louis, the main problem isn’t that higher-income households are moving toward the poor and pushing them out – but that they still move far from the poor, with no opportunities or resources going towards the poorer areas.
While land prices are still low, action should be taken to preserve an adequate supply of affordable housing through land trusts, nonprofit-owned housing, and other methods.
The massive disruptive challenge facing older industrial cities like St. Louis isn’t gentrification therefore but depopulation and disinvestment. The decline of solid working and middle-class neighbourhoods is the most pressing issue facing St. Louis. Ultimately, it is hoped that city residents will acquire the political power, access to jobs within the new economy, and control over their own communities to effect the changes needed.