A Gentler Way to Gentrify?

Venn, a “neighboring start-up” that rents bedrooms and common living space in the quickly gentrifying neighborhood of Bushwick, Brooklyn, wants to bring “fair housing” to residents. The developer manages a number of properties, mostly through long-term leases, including this new building on Cornelia Street. Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

Gentrifier, interloper, developer: A new breed of builders is attempting to reclaim the “D” word and make development a little kinder and friendlier.

The New York Times, by Stefanos Chen, Aug. 16, 2019.

Don’t call the real estate development company Venn a developer. Its founders prefer “neighboring start-up.”

And don’t call the company’s tenants, who are scattered across 20 buildings in the quickly gentrifying Brooklyn neighborhood of Bushwick, renters. They are “members” or “Venners.”

“We describe ourselves as a new way of living,” said Or Bokobza, the chief executive, whose goals include ending the displacement of lower-income residents, creating “fair housing” and “changing the narrative” of gentrification.

The company compiles reports on its progress, recently announcing a 33 percent drop in loneliness among tenants. In Bushwick, Venners pay as little as $900 a month for a “shared apartment” (essentially a private bedroom with a common kitchen and bathroom) and access to community events, like mixers in the back of a bodega.

The model adopted by Venn is similar to what some call co-living, the dormlike division of apartments into common areas and discrete, rentable bedrooms of about 120 to 350 square feet. (The company also rents larger, conventional units.) Included in the rent, about $900 to $1,200 for units with roommates, is access to communal spaces in Bushwick — including a coworking office space, a soon-to-be opened coffee shop and art gallery — and frequent social events, like a recent trip to a Queens beach in a yellow school bus.

By contrast, the median rent for a studio apartment in the neighborhood without any of those amenities was $2,076 a month in the second quarter of 2019, according to StreetEasy.

Called Liz, in honor of Elizabeth Taylor, a major donor to the clinic, the complex near 14th and R Streets in Northwest Washington will have 78 units, most renting for $2,400 to more than $6,000 a month. In part because of a zoning mandate, 12 units will be offered for $1,000 to $1,580 a month. The project was designed by Selldorf Architects, known for high-minded museums and high-end condominiums. The addition was built on and around the original clinic.


This article discusses alternatives to expensive developments that are built as an “alternative” to typical gentrifying efforts that usually displace people. I am interested in how locals view these new apartments. This article affirms that there are ways to gentrify that are “better” than others.