Gentrification and Displacement: Not the Relationship You Might Have Thought

The prevailing wisdom is that as a neighborhood gentrifies, long-time, low income residents are forced to move out because of rising rents, i.e. displacement. Two studies from Columbia University and the Federal Reserve draw different conclusions.

January 26, 2014, 5:00 AM PST

By Irvin Dawid


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NPR News investigative correspondent Laura Sullivan "has cast a light on some of the country's most disadvantaged people." In this piece, which you can listen to as well as read, she reports from a changing, "gentrifying" if you will, neighborhood in the District of Columbia. And that means poor people are being forced out, right?

Lance Freeman, the director of the Urban Planning program at Columbia University [and Planetizen blogger], says that's what he believed was happening, too. He launched a study, first in Harlem and then nationally, calculating how many people were pushed out of their homes when wealthy people moved in.

His findings surprised even him. "(P)eople in neighborhoods classified as gentrifying were moving less frequently", he states. "Freeman's work found that low-income residents were no more likely to move out of their homes when a neighborhood gentrifies than when it doesn't," Sullivan writes.

"That squares with a recent study by the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland," writes Sullivan.

"We're finding that the financial health of original residents in gentrifying neighborhoods seems to be increasing, as compared to original residents in nongentrifying, low-priced neighborhoods," says Daniel Hartley, a research economist with the bank.

"He says higher costs can push out renters, especially those who are elderly, disabled or without rent-stabilized apartments. But he also found that a lot of renters actually stay — especially if new parks, safer streets and better schools are paired with a job opportunity right down the block," writes Sullivan.

Read here the results of a recent survey about who benefits from redevelopment in neighborhoods in the District. More findings from the Federal Reserve study can be found here.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014 in NPR

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