How Neighborhood Improvement Can Prevent Gentrification

Rick Jacobus looks for a way out of gentrification paralysis, and suggests that incremental improvements to lower-income neighborhoods can be a bulwark against broad displacement.

"The paralyzing thinking goes like this: We want to improve lower-income neighborhoods to make them better places for the people who live there now but anything we do to make them better places will inevitably make people with more money want to live there and this will inevitably drive up rents and prices and displace the current residents,..." explains Jacobus, director of the Cornerstone Partnership. "Once you recognize this dynamic, it is very hard to talk yourself into wholeheartedly backing any kind of action. It seems wrong to leave distressed communities to rot but it also seems wrong to turn them around."

Jacobus suggests a course of action for the lower-income communities most vulnerable to displacement: "'improvements' that make the place more attractive to slightly higher-income households may actually provide the most promising defense against gentrification."

"What is so promising about a program like the one Alan proposes, which encourages homebuyers to invest in lower-income neighborhoods along with incremental and sustained investment in things like commercial revitalization, is that these things won’t dramatically change the social character of a neighborhood overnight. And that means that the people who will choose to move in will be more likely to be people who are comfortable with the existing character of the neighborhood."

Full Story: It’s Not Either/Or: Neighborhood Improvement Can Prevent Gentrification

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