Gentrification refers to a dynamic course whereby there is a total restructuring of an urban area that is perceived to be not fully developed to create more development projects aimed at reshaping and renovating the area. Gentrification in most cases takes place in poor urban cities where poor people are forced to relocate due to the economic strains that gentrification brings about. It is characterized by the increase in average income, increased rents, increased taxes, and a general decrease in population as low-income earners are compelled to vacate and look for cheap and affordable areas to settle. On the other hand, redevelopment is more or less the same as gentrification, and it refers to the renovating and restructuring of old buildings and other structures into more luxurious condominiums for the different use other than the previous. In the United States, people who live in large cities like New York, Chicago, and other developed cities have already noticed and focused more on the influence of gentrification and redevelopment to their societies and communities nowadays. Using Los Angeles as an example, we can see that some areas, especially in downtown Los Angeles, have revealed a lot of social problems according to the effect of gentrification, such as the conflict between the poor, middle class, and the high-income earners, escalating cases of crime rate around the gentrified areas, commercial displacement among others. Additionally, gentrification and redevelopment bears some positive aspects such as the increase in property values, augmented social mix, and less strain on local infrastructure and services. Per se, there are other areas that have also experienced the effects of gentrification and redevelopment other than in the United States. A good look at Asia unveils a few of the largest cities in the developed countries that have also embraced gentrification and redevelopment. As an international student, the research on gentrification and redevelopment in Los Angeles has inspired me to investigate more on how gentrification and redevelopment have affected the structure and composition of the Asian societies such as Hong Kong, which is my home country.
Introduction of Hong Kong
Hong Kong is only around 1100 square kilometers large and has been considered to be the smallest city compared with other Asian cities such as Tokyo and Seoul. However, Hong Kong has a large influence on not only the structure of East-Asian economy but also the global economy as at present. Moreover, the city’s high density of the population has also contributed to Hong Kong’s aggressiveness and endeavors becoming one of the most competitive cities in the world. Before the colonial period, Hong Kong was just a small island and the people’s main source of livelihood was fishing and other small businesses that related to the sea activities (Cheng 72). It was also known to be a haven for pirates and refugees who had exiled from their homes due to famine and wars such as the China refugees who fled from the country due to the establishment of the Chinese Republic as well as the advancement of Japan into China. After the Opium War between Britain and China, China was overpowered, and they quickly took over the reign of Hong Kong and announced Hong Kong as a free port of trade, where all ships were allowed to enter free and leave Hong Kong for trading and transportation purposes. Besides, when the Japanese, who had invaded Hong Kong, were defeated by Britain, it was declared secure and safe for trading activities to pick up making it a major trading center. This certainly signified the advancement and endeavors of Hong Kong city to become a world-class city. After the rise of local light industry and the Chinese economic reform in the mid 20th century, Hong Kong successfully rose to become a world finance center, and during that period, a lot of efforts and desire for redevelopment were very conspicuous, which paved way for economic growth and increased people’s living quality and standards. As time went by, Hong Kong gained international recognition making the city stand among the top developed cities in the globe.
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Until the 1980s when China had grown its contacts and relations with Hong Kong became close allies and business partners. In 1987, China and Britain came to an agreement, and Hong Kong once again was left in the authority of the Chinese up to date. Meanwhile, Hong Kong persisted in its development projects expanding most of its areas and building more developed infrastructures such as roads, buildings, and bridges (Brown 66). As such, Hong Kong still considers itself latent and able to accommodate further growth and sees the possibility of going the post-modern way and has indeed seen the city go through a series of multiple developments as far as gentrification and redevelopment are concerned. Apparently, the process of gentrification and redevelopment brought forth a wide variety of changes that affect the people of Hong Kong either positively or negatively. The case in Hong Kong is not as different from that in Los Angeles because of the fact that the social and economic changes that are inherent in the course are in fact the same (Kelly 76). Precisely, gentrification and redevelopment have a tendency of making such areas become integral parts of the fabric of cities throughout the globe, and Hong Kong is no exception of such cities that have tested the economic as well as social benefits accruing to these phenomena.
Benefits of gentrification to Hong Kong’s economy and people’s lifestyle
Gentrification and redevelopment have significantly contributed to the reduction in vacancy rates whereby, some of the many structures in Hong Kong have been reconstructed and renovated making them highly attractive to most high-income earners to put up and start their businesses or settle as their homes (Adams and Hastings 250). This impact is economically vital because of the fact that some of the usually considered being old and beaten buildings. Structures are renewed and given a new face making them look presentable and appealing to rent or buy for the purposes of doing business or homes. Gentrification and redevelopment gave rise to the development of more business ideas and creation of ample spaces for more businesses to thrive in the city. As such, investors both from the local and international origin thronged the city making it the first contact point for most potential investors who saw a chance in the growth of their business at the city. As more and more businesses flocked to the city, there is no doubt that the rate of unemployment decreased. Investors flocked the city to carry out their businesses and prompted a growing need for employees to work in those companies and businesses. This, therefore, increased demand for labor, which in turn created more job opportunities for both residents within as well as outside the city. Besides, the effect also contributed to the development of the Hong Kong’s residents who could afford to rent or buy the buildings hence changing their lifestyles for better (Chan and Lee 356). Because of the increased average income, it meant that most people could afford a higher social status and be able to rent good houses, a fact that explains why their lifestyles had to change positively.
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Moreover, the fact that gentrification and redevelopment contributed to the diminution in the tension for locally available infrastructure and services implies that gentrification and redevelopment in Hong Kong city positively influenced the economic development as well as social status for most of the settlers. The course saw the reconstruction and renovation of the major buildings, roads, railways, and airports including bridges that link the city with other outside destinations (Chu 88). More roads and bridges have been constructed and expanded leading to reduced traffic snarl-ups that used to be a major problem in the years before. Expanded roads have also made it easier for busy business associates to make contacts and share ideas as well as easily transport and move their goods. The course also saw the city reconstruct and put up new structures to utilize the limited available space and accommodate the need of all settlers of Hong Kong City (Guzman, Niro and Tong 42). In addition, the various white elephants that were spread in some parts of the city were constructed and completed successfully creating more space for the growth of business within the city. The transport sector was also not left out as far as trains are concerned. Therefore, railways, which serve most of the transport needs of the Hong Kong settlers, were also expanded to ease transportation. As such, economic activities have been facilitated giving opportunities for locals to move around and carry on with their businesses without experiencing a lot of delays that used to hamper their activities. The airports were also not left out as the government of Hong Kong through its development bureau recorded an augmented need for airport development plan that indeed has seen the development and upgrading of the Hong Kong International Airport to serve the growing needs of customers both within and outside the city.
Gentrification and redevelopment have also seen the stabilization and restoration of warning areas within the city (Lees 396). Consequently, this has enhanced the people of Hong Kong to have access to various social amenities, proper public services and also easy access to various necessities. Additionally, the stabilization has contributed to the establishment of a wide array of businesses and other economic activities within the city making its economic and technological advancement possible from all facets of development. Most of the declining areas in terms of development due to lack of infrastructures have been stabilized by availing the necessary infrastructural development with improved roads and railways, development of schools and hospitals, and recreational facilities. Vital infrastructures have been put to foster development and enable residents to carry out their businesses with ease. Stabilization of these areas within the city has also given rise to cases of innovation and ingenuity cropping from all corners of the city. Per se, the city has been able to realize its economic potential in different sectors of the economy via the opportunities that gentrification and redevelopment have set bare apropos the stabilization of these areas (Goodman and Chen 59).
Disadvantages of gentrification in Hong Kong
However, despite the positive impacts that gentrification and redevelopment have had on the social structure of the Hong Kong settlers, there are various cons that are also associated with these courses. One of such disadvantages includes massive displacement of the low-income earners who had no option but to move out of the city and look for other areas that they could afford (Pacione 95). Migration and displacement of people came in due to the increased rent, increased taxes, and increased prices of commodities and services as well as loss of affordable housing. As such, these low-income earners were compelled to move out of the city in search of other parts in the neighborhood rendering some individuals homeless. Gentrification and redevelopment are all expensive processes that require huge funding, which could be through government savings and borrowing or through revenue collection. This explicates that the cost of gentrification and redevelopment was transferred to the citizens and those who could not afford to pay huge taxes and rents or cater for their growing needs for better services and products had no ruse than to pack their belongings and look for better places to settle.
Additionally, some of the businesses who were also unable to put up with the increased rent of the gentrified and redeveloped areas in the city had no option but to vacate and give room for other wealthy individuals to take over. As the poor individuals left the city, rich individuals from other cities arrived to take over in the rich gentrified areas such as in the real estates and other gentrified areas (Sun 87). Some of the rich people also found it hard to adjust to new conditions. Therefore, the population decreased significantly due to the movement of people from the city. The fact that the rich and wealthy individuals were taking over from the poor ones implies that there was a possible loss of social diversity which has its own devastating effects on the social structure of the people of Hong Kong. Rich people need the services of the poor and so does the poor people. It is weird to live in a society where no social balance exists. This is certainly against nature which dictates that people need each other for survival.
Moreover, as rich and wealthy individuals thronged the city, the effect of social imbalance was noticeable through the escalating numbers of crime within the city. This came about because of the fact that there was overconcentration of wealthy people in the gentrified areas and due to social disparity, organized crimes have become rampant. As such, there has been a looming increase in cases of insecurity making some parts of the city unsafe for settlement as well as for carrying out their businesses. Additionally, gentrification and redevelopment of Hong Kong city have significantly contributed to various conflicts between the rich and the poor where some residents have always been in conflict with others due to various reasons contributed by these phenomena (Yau 99).
In addition, the Hong Kong residents also seem to suffer from collective memory, which in turn affects their apt to embrace any further changes in line with the gentrification and
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redevelopment. Most residents have lived to recall and uphold the eventful memories of the ancient Hong Kong city and this is not ideal because of the fact that it does hinder the ability of these people to accept any further development. Moreover, gentrification and redevelopment in Hong Kong have also contributed to problems of financial risks whereby individuals have put so much trust on the gentrified and redeveloped companies only to fail them and cause some psychological problems as far as trauma due to loss of their investments. For instance, the Initial Public Offers given by the Link Real Estate Investment Trust, which was oversubscribed, was later on overturned after the legality of the floatation of the Link Real Estate Investment Trust questioned (Tiry 29).
In conclusion, the paper has highlighted the processes of gentrification and redevelopment in Hong Kong giving an account of the true definition of gentrification and redevelopment as was the case in Hong Kong. The paper provided also a brief history of Hong Kong, which was depicted as a city that was mainly occupied by the emigrants who were arriving from China due to the effects of war and famine. The paper also highlights how the city evolved through a series of events that combined the arrival of British settlers, the Opium War between the British and the Chinese that saw the defeat of the Chinese. The paper also shows how the Japanese also intruded and tried to take over the city but were defeated leading to several decades’ reign of the city that was considered a free center for trade. As time went by, the Chinese increased their bond with Hong Kong where they negotiated and the city was fully left under the authority of the Chinese government, in 1987. The paper also shows the importance of gentrification and redevelopment as far as economic development giving a detailed approach towards the benefits that are associated with these phenomena. Some of the benefits highlighted include stabilization and restoration of warning areas within the city, augmented values related with personal as well as joint property, less strain on local infrastructure and services, and a significant contributed to the reduction in vacancy rates as well as increased average income with a mix of increased social welfare. On the other hand, the paper also looked at the disadvantages associated with gentrification and redevelopment ranging from displacement of people, increased rates of criminal activities, increased rents, increased taxes, and increase in conflicts. Precisely, the paper has explicated the various effects of gentrification and redevelopment in the lives of the settlers of Hong Kong considering both pros and cons.