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.

Read Time: 2 minutes

January 26, 2014, 5:00 AM PST

By Irvin Dawid


Yuppies are home

lazzarello / Flickr

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

Chicago Commute

The Right to Mobility

As we consider how to decarbonize transportation, preserving mobility, especially for lower- and middle-income people, must be a priority.

January 26, 2023 - Angie Schmitt

Green bike lane with flexible delineators and textures paint in Hoboken, New Jersey

America’s Best New Bike Lanes

PeopleForBikes highlights some of the most exciting new bike infrastructure projects completed in 2022.

January 31, 2023 - PeopleforBikes

Sharrow bike markings on black asphalt two-lane road with snowy trees

Early Sharrow Booster: ‘I Was Wrong’

The lane marking was meant to raise awareness and instill shared respect among drivers and cyclists. But their inefficiency has led supporters to denounce sharrows, pushing instead for more robust bike infrastructure that truly protects riders.

January 26, 2023 - Streetsblog USA

A tent covered in blue and black tarps sits on a downtown Los Angeles sidewalk with the white ziggurat-topped L.A. City Hall looming in the background

L.A. County Towns Clash Over Homelessness Policies

Local governments often come to different conclusions about how to address homelessness within their respective borders, but varying approaches only exacerbate the problem.

February 3 - Shelterforce Magazine

Rendering of mixed-use development with parks and stormwater retention on former Houston landfill site

A Mixed-Use Vision for Houston Landfill Site

A local nonprofit is urging the city to consider adding mixed-use development to the site, which city officials plan to turn into a stormwater detention facility.

February 3 - Urban Edge

Aerial view of downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin at sunset

Milwaukee County Makes Substantial Progress on Homelessness

In 2022, the county’s point-in-time count of unhoused people reflected just 18 individuals, the lowest in the country.

February 3 - Urban Milwaukee