How Can We Break the Link Between Gentrification and Homelessness?

As residential real estate sales set new highs in Bedford-Stuyvesant, more and more local families are being driven to the city's homeless shelters despite prevention efforts. What can city leaders do to ensure economic diversity?
July 8, 2013, 9am PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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"Those unburdened by skepticism about gentrification argue that it is an ample elevator, lifting up everyone: with renovations come the need for those to lay the subway tiles; with enotecas come the need for those to serve the verdicchio. And yet how often does the waitress pouring the wine in a marginal neighborhood look like someone rescued from grim financial despair rather than a slightly younger, and often more fashionable, version of the person drinking it?" asks Ginia Bellafante. "What has happened in Bedford-Stuyvesant does not easily comply with an optimistic view of transformation."

In recent months, million dollar sales have set new records in the Brooklyn neighborhood while the area continues to struggle with high homelessness. A program was initiated in 2004 to help prevent at-risk families from entering the city's shelter system, "but it has had only negligible success," she notes. 

"Is the current understanding of prevention too narrow?" asks Bellafante. "Do neighborhoods need to be stabilized long before so many families find themselves so close to the precipice? Reason would seem to say yes. The city’s self-analysis, conducted by various academics, places little credence in the impact of the housing market on homelessness. But a report released last month by the Institute for Children, Poverty and Homelessness, a research and policy group, presents a convincing set of facts to defend the notion of causality."

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Published on Saturday, July 6, 2013 in The New York Times
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