How to Avoid Green Gentrification

New parks are great—but some projects displace the very people the green spaces are meant to serve.

2 minute read

September 11, 2023, 9:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Aerial view of Atlanta BeltLine greenway with multistory buildings one ither side

The Atlanta BeltLine project included equity goals that some critics say have not been fulfilled. | Aerial Stock Footage / Adobe Stock

“Again and again, researchers have found that access to urban green spaces – from parks to gardens to greenways – positively impacts multiple measures of health, such as community satisfaction, social cohesion and access to healthy foods.”

However, caution Viniece Jennings, Alessandro Rigolon, and Na’Taki Osborne in Next City, new parks can also lead to the displacement of low-income residents and, “perhaps counterintuitively, green gentrification can also exacerbate inequities in health, finances, quality of life and — ironically — access to green spaces.”

As the authors explain, “A scoping review on green gentrification and health examines numerous studies wherein residents experience a lower sense of community, diminished sense of belonging and less green space usage among long-term residents.” The research shows that increasing property values and a lack of renter protections can put greener cities out of reach for many households. “For example, although affordable housing was initially a part of the vision of the Atlanta Beltline, a shift in priorities and a state ban on rent control (among other factors) diminished this commitment,” the article points out. 

“To support health equity as the pathway for everyone to achieve optimal health, cities must address the factors that diminish affordable housing and the consequences of green gentrification.” Some cities are working to address these issues using tools like inclusionary zoning requirements near large parks and rent stabilization initiatives.

The article concludes, “Improving neighborhoods is not the fundamental problem with gentrification and possible residential displacement. It’s the systemic force that aims to set the bar of who has long-term access to quality environments and affordable housing.”

Friday, September 8, 2023 in Next City

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