The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Policy Development and Research recently published a report on gentrification in urban areas. How and why does gentrification happen? Is it always a bad thing? And what can localities do about it? The report notes that the real concern around gentrification stems from displacement of longtime and low-income residents when a neighborhood changes. Local governments and residents alike want to make struggling neighborhoods safer and bring them more amenities. But they don’t want rising housing prices to drive out the residents who have waited and in many cases worked hard for those improvements.
HUD’s report looks at trends in urban neighborhood growth and change since the 1990s. Researchers found gentrification has increased over the past 20 years, particularly in urban downtowns, coinciding with the movement back to cities after the urban flight of the mid-20th century. The report then delves into the causes of gentrification and its impacts on existing and new residents. Chief among these impacts are rising rents and the displacement of low-income renters.
Finally, the report’s authors discuss four strategies local policymakers can use to combat displacement of lower-income families and longtime residents in urban neighborhoods, and to address community resistance and fears of what change will bring. The report discusses these strategies in detail:
- preserve existing affordable housing through Rental Assistance Demonstration, Housing Choice Vouchers, and other preservation initiatives;
- encourage greater development to increase the supply of affordable housing;
- engage community residents to increase buy-in for housing-related initiatives and ensure remaining residents stay connected to the community as it changes; and
- look at regional cooperation and strategies to assist lower-income households in suburban locations.
Researchers list HUD programs relevant to each of the strategies and provide examples of how several large municipalities – including San Francisco, New York, Washington DC and Atlanta – have used the strategies to mitigate the negative effects of gentrification.