Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Saturday, May 25, 2024

Tufts plays a part in Medford/Somerville gentrification

“Where there used to be a YMCA for Chinatown … that is now a parking lot for New England Medical Center for Tufts,” Director of the Masters in Public Policy Program and Community Practice at Tufts’ Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning Department Penn Loh said. Gentrification is a general term for the arrival of wealthier people in an urban area, causing increases in rent and property values and leading to changes in the area's character and culture. The term has a negative connotation, often suggesting the displacement of poor communities of color by rich outsiders. According to Loh, this is a practice Tufts University has perpetuated in downtown Chinatown for decades, where the university's expansion has come at the expense of an immigrant community that has resided there for decades.

While the current Tufts Medical Center expansion continues to threaten lower-income Chinatown residents, gentrification is not isolated to our Medical Center. Tufts' presence in Medford/Somerville is also causing gentrification, which is having a tremendous impact on these communities. Symptoms of gentrification affect both students who are passing through and locals who have lived here for generations. Families must bear the burden of increasing rents and property values, caused both by college students living off campus and young adults hoping to live in an urban area with public transportation access. The resulting competition for housing and increasing prices forces many lower-income residents to move away and cut ties with neighborhoods they have known for decades, changing the landscape and composition of the community surrounding Tufts. The social and economic impacts of gentrification often result in serious political and social conflict, intensified by differences in race, class and culture. The expansion of the green line will only serve to intensify the gentrification process in Medford and Somerville neighborhoods.

Although future construction projects and development plans could help relieve the housing shortage students currently face on campus, the benefits and consequences of future campus expansion must be weighed. Although Tufts students commonly refer to our collegiate community as an independent entity, our “Tufts bubble” does not truly exist in a vacuum. The choices we make as an institution greatly affect our surrounding communities.