Toward a Theory of Gentrification A Back to the City Movement by Capital, not People

Smith, Neil
Journal of the American Planning Association

Consumer sovereignty hypotheses dominate explanations of gentrification but data on the number of suburbanites returning to the city casts doubt on this hypothesis. In fact, gentrification is an expected product of the relatively unhampered operation of the land and housing markets. The economic depreciation of capital invested in nineteenth century inner-city neighborhoods and the simultaneous rise in potential ground rent levels produces the possibility of profitable redevelopment. Although the very apparent social characteristics of deteriorated neighborhoods would discourage redevelopment, the hidden economic characteristics may well be favorable. Whether gentrification is a fundamental restructuring of urban space depends not on where new inhabitants come from but on how much productive capital returns to the area from the suburbs.