Gentrification Is Displacement and Replacement of the Poor for Profit

Syllabus by School of Echoes

This syllabus starts from the assumption that housing is a human right, that every person has the right to a safe and affordable place to live. Housing is much more than shelter: it is our connection to our communities, even our sense of self. This syllabus draws together a host of readings that explore the profound contradictions between the economic use of housing—for profit and speculation—and this social use.

We, School of Echoes, a multi-racial and multi-generational autonomous collective of organizers, teachers, and sometimes artists, have collected this research in support of a practice of anti-gentrification organizing in Los Angeles: through shared leadership with Union de Vecinos, participation in the Boyle Heights Alliance Against Artwashing and Displacement, and as co-founders of the Los Angeles Tenants Union, where we give our energies daily. We hope that you will read these texts with others, and that what you read will support you in understanding the compounding struggles of tenants within contemporary capitalism and our current political system, and inspire you to join us in the movement for housing as a human right.

[Editor’s note: each of the texts cited below maybe be found here.]

1. Gentrification is not community improvement

  • Peter Moskowitz, 2017, “New Orleans,” How to Kill a City
  • David Madden and Peter Marcuse, 2016, “The Residential is Political” and “Against the Commodification of Housing,” In Defense of Housing
  • Causa Justa, “Development Without Displacement: Executive Summary”

2. Gentrification is not revitalization

  • School of Echoes, 2017,”How to Stop Arts-Fueled Gentrification”
  • Martha Rosler, 2011, “Culture Class: Art, Creativity, Urbanism Part ll”
  • BHAAAD, 2016, “A Short History of a Long Struggle”

3. Gentrification is collective trauma

  • Mindy Thompson Fullilove, 2004, “Introduction” and “The Butterfly in Beijing,” Root Shock
  • Uver, “LATU Tenant Story,” as told to Julian Thomas Smith
  • Causa Justa & Alameda County Public Health Department, “Gentrification Is a Public Health Issue”

4. Gentrification relies on prior divestment from low income communities of color

  • Neil Smith, 1996, “Gentrification: The Rent Gap,” The New Urban Frontier
  • A “Forgotten History” of How the U.S. Government Segregated America (Interview with Richard Rothstein, author of The Color of Law), audio interview, 2017 NPR
  • Carman Tse, “These Maps Document The History Of Housing Discrimination ln Los Angeles,” LAist, 2016

5. Gentrification is speculation framed as redevelopment

  • Neil Smith, 1996, “Gentrification and Uneven Development,” The New Urban Frontier
  • Laura Gottesdiener, 2013 “How Wall Street Has Turned Housing Into a Dangerous Get-Rich-Quick Scheme—Again,” Mother Jones
  • Rachel L. Swarns, 2015, “Biased Lending Evolves,” New York Times
  • Emily Badger, 2016, “Why a housing scheme founded in racism is making a resurgence today,” Washington Post

6. Gentrification promotes economic growth over the stability and well-being of citizens

  • Neil Brenner and Nik Theodore, 2005, “Neoliberalism and the urban condition,” City
  • Peter Moskowitz, 2017, “San Francisco,” How to Kill a City
  • Patrick Range McDonald, 2013, “Hollywood’s Urban Cleansing,” LAWeekly
  • Crenshaw Subway Coalition, “Crenshaw Mall Redevelopment: Urban Cleansing by Another Name”

7. Gentrification harrasses, incarcerates, and kills

  • Ben Holtzman, “Gentrification’s First Victims,” Jacobin
  • Rebecca Solnit, “Death by gentrification: the killing that shamed San Francisco,” The Guardian
  • Youth Justice Coalition, “The Echo Park Gang Injunction”

8. Gentrification follows the colonial logics of capitalism

  • David Harvey, 2005 “Accumulation by Dispossession,” The New Imperialism
  • David Harvey, 2010, “Crises of Capitalism,” animated lecture
  • Onur Ulas Ince, 2014, “Primitive Accumulation, New Enclosures, and Global Land Grabs: A Theoretical Intervention,” Rural Sociology
  • Peter Kwong, 2009, “Answers About the Gentrification of Chinatown,” New York Times
  • La Quirky Nancy, 2017, “Nancy Discovers Weird Wave Coffee”

9. Capitalism is the housing crisis: market solutions to housing fail

  • David Madden and Peter Marcuse, 2016, “The myths of housing policy,” In Defense of Housing
  • Peter Drier, 1997, “Rent Deregulation in California and Massachusetts: Politics, Policy, and Impacts,” pp. 1–42, Housing ’97 Conference Paper
  • Elizabeth Capelle, 2017, “The Housing Crisis ls Not Inevitable,” Jacobin

10. We need to build people power to control our own housing

  • Los Angeles Tenants Union, 2016, “Naming the Moment”
  • Los Angeles Tenants Union, 2016, “The People’s Housing Plan”
  • Decolonize This Place, 2016, “The People’s Housing Plan”
  • You Can’t Evict a Movement: Strategies for Housing Justice, 2015, ed. by Viewpoint



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