I’ve seen at least at two studies which demonstrate that ‘gentrification’ does not necessarily lead to major displacement of poorer residents.  But that goes against the dominant narrative, so is often not acknowledged – or it’s dismissed.  Indeed, the meme that investment or development leads, ipso facto, to gentrification is spreading, most recently at the open house for the Kits Larch Street rental project:

 

Here’s another perspective from Jesse Van Tol, chief executive officer of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition:

In some communities, gentrification evokes instant distrust. It implies the arrival of selfish developers, investors and corporate chains replacing locally owned, independent businesses – and a flood of well-off white people who inevitably push out the poor black and brown people who were there before.

But for many neighborhoods, gentrification represents much-needed investment. Local residents welcome the resurrection and revival of neglected and disinvested areas. Community leaders desire capital investments, leading to better services, jobs, thriving businesses and other components of a healthy, vibrant neighborhood. As one resident of West Baltimore put it: “How can we get some gentrification in our community?”

It turns out both views are correct. Gentrification does not have to mean displacement – if the circumstances are aligned correctly.

 …displacement of people of color in gentrified neighborhoods wasn’t uniform. For instance, Minneapolis had gentrification in 22 neighborhoods, but only one had indications of displacement. In Los Angeles, 73 neighborhoods gentrified, and there was displacement in 13 of them. The data showed displacement in just 22 percent of the neighborhoods that experienced an influx of new people and new money in the time period studied. The rest did not show displacement.

The notion that gentrification doesn’t always result in displacement may seem antithetical to some, because the term is often used as a synonym for displacement. In fact, if a neighborhood keeps the same number of housing units but has an influx of new residents, then displacement inevitably will occur. But in some places, it appears investment and economic revival are occurring without immediate displacement, suggesting some capacity for longtime residents to stay put and reap the benefits of increased property values – or the production of new housing or utilization of empty units.

 

The full column discusses many of the nuances and caveats involved, and comes from an American perspective.  But it’s another indicator that ‘gentrification’ used as a NIMBY strategy often works against the interests of those who, with the right strategies, would benefit from development, amenity and growth.

Comments

  1. Thanks for posting the study.

    One big caution on applying the findings to Vancouver or Toronto is that the housing markets in those cities are outliers in Canada compared to other Canadian urban housing markets. In this report you will also see that renting (though expensive in Vancouver and Toronto) compared to purchasing a home is not a good value proposition. Royal Bank just released this overview of housing markets in Canada: http://www.rbc.com/economics/economic-reports/pdf/canadian-housing/house-mar2019.pdf

    In Vancouver, there is Council policy requiring for a rezoning the developer have a relocation plan. The hardest to rehouse folks are the elderly and those with medical, including mental health issues. Many long standing older tenants are paying less than $1k a month. Finding a rental apartment for them can be very challenging. For example, Wednesday I discussed this issue with a friend who is in her 60’s, has a heart condition and will likely not be able to work much longer. We calculated that her income when she can no longer work with a small CPP pension, OAS and GIS will be about $1,500 a month.

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