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In every society, there is the desire to improve the lives of the citizens, acquire more wealth through high end investments, and restructure our environment to suit the standards we have set as “acceptable”. Such desire is so strong that anyone who comes with a contrary idea is seen as following the lack of development. For example, when the city’s authorities decide to expand a recreational facility, the places designed for such projects are normally regions inhabited by the members of the society with a low income. In their efforts to investigate what analysts refer to as the ‘gentrification of Harlem’, Schaffer and Smith (347) found out that it was true the poor communities were being displaced to pave way for better housing facilities. Although proponents of such projects are normally upbeat with the positive impacts such projects create towards a better society, a closer scrutiny suggests that behind these development frenzies are hosts of miserable families that cannot afford the new housing facilities, and thus have to move out.
The case of USC is not different. USC Master Plan, which lays down the proposal on how the campus is to be expanded, represents a classic example of gentrification. In the plan the proposers highlight improvement of the surrounding communities as part of the plan. However, a critical look at ongoing activities towards the accomplishment of this project suggests a trend of unabated displacements due to high costs of living. In the recent past, several changes have occurred to communities that live along big institutions or government lands designated for big community projects. While there is a general agreement that the goal of such projects is to spur development agendas and bring the living standards of communities at the same level as the rest of other well-to-do community members, the overall ramification is not as glossy as imagines in the long run.
The recent spate of development projects in and around USC has seen a number of changes within the environment. First, the community demographics is changing, with more students and families moving in to live in the improved neighbourhood. Secondly, the improved amenities are likely to improve the overall living standards of the people living within and around the campus. Last, the improved environment around the campus is a sign that security will be improved, with more affluent community members seeking residence around the area. While all these benefits are likely to translate to positive living standards of students and the surrounding residents, the overall impact is far from glossy.
Displacement and segregation
The community members form part of the surrounding environment of USC, and when their lives improve the ripple effect is felt by the campus. More and more, the people argue that displacement of people may just occur for those who occupied the areas designated for the planned development projects. However, there is usually a less noticeable impact on people who lived in the neighbourhood because of the low cost of living. However, when new structures are put in place they may find it difficult to cope with the sudden rise in prices for housing; and even the cost of food. The situation has been getting worse when more affluent families compete for the newly built houses. Private developers, as dictated by capitalism, are bent on making a kill when it comes to property price. The displacement of the less able community members goes on unnoticed, as new people who can afford the new neighbourhoods settle down.
Considering the history of the environmental racism within the United States, as revealed by works of various scholars, it is prudent to assume that USC expansion plans is a typical case of racial discrimination against the poor community members who were mostly non-whites. In his study of environmental racism chronicles Laura Pulido depicts various aspects of this issue that goes unnoticed, and to some extent has a more negative than positive a impact on the society (Pulido 12). Calling it spatial form of racism, Pulido describes how the Whites have more privileges in Los Angeles. In a nutshell, this form of racism is practiced in a manner that the White-dominated neighbourhoods are privileged to have all the best amenities, as opposed to the segregated parts of the city that is defined by the old industrial housing facilities dominated by other races. One may ask how this example given by Pulido is relevant here. It goes without notice that the people who dominated the surrounding of USC before the improvement plans were Non-Whites. However, as the development plans are underway, the owners of new homes within the area are in majority the White who, incidentally, can afford the costs of houses. While one may argue that this form of displacement is just a pure form of capitalism metered by the landlords on tenants, available evidences suggest that racial segregations normally happens unconsciously, an outcome of a lifelong natured mindset (Schaffer and Neil 349). The ‘evicted’ families have no other option than move away to cheaper neighbourhoods that they can afford, living us with the question of how can capitalism be balanced in such a way that it does not exclude the have or the lack property? In fact, it is safer to argue that the discrimination of this nature is a pure form of material segregation, and that the population that is technically driven away from the more affluent neighbourhood of USC is the victim of such segregation.
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The Increased Cost of living
Following periods of sustained infrastructure improvements and housing facilities in and around USC, it is possible to reason that this is a common trend that is not limited to the university but began several years back when new structures replaced old industrial buildings. The cultural ramification of this trend is that new occupants are naturally inclined towards adopting modern lifestyle of middle class population, characterized by younger home buyers, late marriages, increased cases of divorce instigated by social and economic pressure, and fewer children. While this trend has its positive sides, such as each member of the population is able to define their destiny and build their lives in a more conducive environment, it goes without notice that persons who can do blue-collar jobs are driven away, while the white-collar job occupants are immersed into the culture of consumerism (Smith 538). The undisputed result is that the likely occupants of the new housings around USC would be consuming imported goods and services, which comes with higher costs.
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Built environment investments have become popular, and the happenings at USC are not an exception. Our economy is driven by capitalism, which defines the nature of development in all sectors. The acquisition of private property within the surroundings of USC is likely to spur growth of private housings. These developments have the positive effects in that the owners are likely to gain from the hiked prices. Similarly, the improved infrastructure is likely to hasten the movement of people from homes to work. Students are also in line to benefit from such expansion plans. However, it is critical to note that the urbanization of USC surroundings would also lead to a barrier of further acquisition for any other persons outside the economic sphere of the rich. Moreover, the accumulated high cost of living forces the landlords to hold on to the property until they are able to accumulate back their investments (Osman 221). This long term holding of property forces the new enthusiastic buyers to move to other less developed regions to continue with the build economic developments. Obviously, the resultant outcome is a continuous trend that is likely to move the economically less privileged persons further from the suburbanized locations to the continuously congested urban parts of the country.
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The overall effect of gentrification is that the process would lead to the reduction of the perennial problems urban regions. Gentrification is seen to be the core of progressive developments that can benefit those who have languished in poverty. Those for this form of development strategy cite the greater economic activity that comes with the build environment. However, it cannot escape our attention that when the surrounding of USC continually undergoes modification, it is a likely event of the uneven benefits that come with such activities. This would be different if attempts were made to do facelifts for the housing facilities that occupy the neighbourhoods. Simple repairs of any nature would only require minor replacements of worn out window frames, interior decorations, and fixing the water taps. When such repairs are maintained, the students who live off campus would find it affordable for renting, thus making their lives cheaper. When the community members are encouraged to maintain their housings, it is presumed that capital outflow is likely to pick up, with more house owners lacking the incentives to gain more from selling of their properties to rapid developers. Moreover, banks may lack any incentives to lend them money to maintain their small investments. However, it is expected that the desire to build more to gain from private investors dominates the minds of many capitalists, and little care is given to the social and economic ramification of gentrification around USC. When certain development activities are implemented, the need to take care of the surrounding community members’ ability to withstand the likely rise in cost of living is paramount.
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From the foregoing debate, it is difficult to avoid the first argument that the gentrification of surrounding of USC will bring a lot of injustice to the current occupants of the region, subsequently leading to racial segregation. The displaced communities will be forced to move to more dilapidated neighbourhoods that are cheaper, while the new establishments will be occupied by the new residents, mostly working middle class communities who can afford. The dilemma is that this group of new occupants are pure consumers and not producers. The intention to expand the compass would lead to more students admitted, more demand on housing for students. The surrounding community members will be competing for these facilities with the students solely transferring the benefits of such developments to landlords. The displaced community members will become victims rather than beneficiaries of such developments. The end result is the skyrocketing cost of life for both students and residents of the new neighbourhood. Sadly, there seems to be no plans to encounter the social and economic implications that come with the reorganization of USC neighbourhood.
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