For a bad-news perspective on the long-awaited downtown revitalization of Worcester, Mass., check out a recent piece from WGBH, a Boston-based NPR affiliate.
"Many are anxious about the affordability of housing for low-income residents," WGBH reports, quoting one advocate who warns, "we're in danger of gentrification."
The view that gentrification might not be a "danger" but a rather a blessing after years of deterioration, poverty, and decline is hard to detect in the article. The article has lots of claims about relative increases: "Over the past decade in Worcester, the median price of two and three-family homes has more than doubled, and the median price of a single-family home has increased around 40 percent." No mention that the past decade started in the midst of the worst financial downturn since the Great Depression, one that hit real estate finance particularly hard.
For actual price information, a 2018 Worcester Telegram article is more useful: "The gross median rent in Worcester in 2016 was $975, according to the Census Bureau, up from $945 in 2015 and $935 in 2014. In comparison, the gross median rent in Boston in 2016 was $1,369, and the statewide average was $1,129....'If you have a three-family in Boston that is $1.5 million, you can buy the same thing in Worcester for $330,000.'"
The WGBH article is headlined "As Development Booms, It's 'A Race Against Time' For Advocates Securing Affordable Housing in Worcester."
The whole notion of "affordable housing" is more often invoked than defined. No one is making any money by trying to rent apartments at prices that no one can afford. The issue is whether people who had been there will have to move, and, if so, where they will be able to move to. One reason Worcester had been so affordable is that not many people wanted to live there who could afford to move somewhere else. If that is changing, overall it's probably for the best. Not to dismiss the effects for people who are driven out, which are indeed worth reporting on rather than ignoring, but, as someone familiar with Worcester, this particular report just struck me as worth mentioning as an example of the almost comical ability of the press to take a good news story—economic growth and development in previously pretty bleak sections of Worcester—and turn it instead into something about anxiety and danger.
There are plenty of other New England cities — Pittsfield, Bridgeport, Lynn, Brockton — that would almost certainly be hugely grateful to be dealing with a gentrification or displacement-from-development problem rather than the alternative of brownfields, crime, addiction, joblessness, and flight because no one wants to be there.