Big Adjustments – Research Update #1

Although I began the summer with extravagant intentions to conduct interviews with a diverse population of Williamsburg residents on the ways in which they experience housing access, my advisor and I quickly came to the understanding that scheduling and preparing for such a grand project was a bit too lofty a goal for a mere 7-week endeavor. Luckily, after reading many of my colleagues’ blog posts, major changes to our original ideas seem to be relatively commonplace. So rather than attempting to construct the meaningful community connections necessary for an interview-based project, I have turned my attention to mainstream media and opinion articles authored by locals. More specifically, I have focused on exploring the Virginia Gazette’s Last Word column–a space where individuals can anonymously submit short blurbs or responses to current events happening both close to home and globally. Thus my original aim of extrapolating how Williamsburg and James City County residents understand, experience, and respond to the housing market has remaining largely the same, but face-to-face interactions have been replaced by commentary submitted to the Virginia Gazette.

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Perceptions of Housing Development in Williamsburg, Virginia by Class

This research endeavor aims to extrapolate perceptions of the housing market, rapidly changing land use, and gentrification from interviews with participants from different class backgrounds residing in and around Williamsburg, Virginia. The quickly expanding construction of businesses, apartment complexes, and other for-profit institutions in the greater Williamsburg area is an important backdrop for better understanding how individuals are involved in or excluded from the for-profit land expansion process according to their financial background, yet there is currently a sizable gap in research. This study seeks to explore how and in what ways local residents are impacted by urban development, and attempt to uncover patterns within class groups from interview data which may demonstrate how changing residence or business markets are differentially experienced. By comparing perspective along a class line, more sound conclusions can be drawn regarding community exclusion or inclusion according to income bracket.  Furthermore, the interviews are intended to expose the ways in which class groups differ in their experiences of fluctuating financial landscapes. Interview questions asked of respondents will revolve around their experiences of housing during their time as a Williamsburg resident, how land use has changed over time, the general response of the greater community to such changes, and their more personal impacts. While many previous studies on gentrification and/or land use have pondered the immediate or long-term effects of such vast economic changes, rarely have researchers attempted to gather personal perspectives from residents of non-urban centers and compare such data to that of large cities. The current research will fill this gap while also providing a space for local residents to express how they experience housing and its changes. The data may be applied to future research, both in Williamsburg or similar towns and as an axis of comparison for more populated cities experiencing similar developmental/economic movement.