This dilemma comes from an interesting article in The Atlantic today by Emily Badger.
Badger is citing and summarizing an article in the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research by sociologists, John Joe Schlichtman and Jason Patch.
At one point Schlichtman and Patch ask
"Is there any room," they wonder, "for an ethical housing choice by the middle class?"
Is it necessarily unethical for a white middle-class family that wants to live in a racially and economically diverse neighborhood to move into one? How should that family reconcile that its presence on the block may signal unwelcome change to neighbors?
I live in an area of Nashville, Tennessee that is gentrifying. I can argue that I have contributed less to this because my building was not built in a place where previous housing had to be torn down. Still, my presence in the neighborhood is helping to cause it to change. Some of the change may be good. There are new businesses coming into the area. As Badger asks
And if most investment that comes from outside of a neighborhood is considered suspect – a big-box store, a new Starbucks, an art gallery – how do we expect communities defined by the fact that no one has invested in them to thrive on their own?
The stories are always much more complicated, Schlichtman says. Maybe the big-box store offers the only groceries within a few miles. Maybe the Starbucks is the only place that allows the homeless to use the bathroom.
In my neighborhood, one could argue it is even better than this, since the new businesses tend to be local, not national chains. But, housing costs are going up, and people who cannot afford to live here are being pushed out.
There are difficult questions here, but the main point of Badger's article is that Schlichtman and Patch have broken the ice and started the conversation among academics who study these issues.