Should real estate agents be banned from creating neighborhood names?

There’s a fascinating piece on the subject of neighborhood names at Atlantic Cities. The article includes an overwrought view of the power of Realtors from the University of Chicago’s Gordon Douglas.

“The consequences of realtors providing misleading information are broad,” he [Gordon Douglas, University of Chicago] goes on. “Working families are pushed out of rebranded neighborhoods as housing prices soar. Newer residents pay more to rent or buy, largely as a result of the deceptive marketing.” The practice has grown so commonplace that New York State Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries in mid-2011 introduced legislation that would effectively ban realtors from inventing neighborhood names, instead requiring new names be cleared by the city. Angered by the use of invented names such as “ProCro” (a combination of Prospect Heights and Crown Heights), Jeffries wrote in an editorial that “the best way to change a neighborhood’s identity is not by inventing names out of thin air.”

If real estate agents and developers had been banned from creating neighborhood names Chicago might not have a River North, a South Loop, a West Loop or scores of other named neighborhoods. The three I named are, not coincidentally, illustrations of areas where few – if any – “working families” were “pushed out” and where it strikes me as a distortion of reality to call their naming “deceptive marketing.”

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