Inside Gentrification: The Emotional, Physical, and Financial Implications

Photo courtesy of Derek Hyra

The following is a condensed conversation between practitioners and thinkers about gentrification sparked from a blog post about neighborhood revitalization on Rooflines. With so many basic questions up for debate like “What does it mean?” and “Is it always bad?” we felt a deeper conversation needed to be had.

Participants: Maria Cabildo, Robbie Clark, Mindy Fullilove, Derek Hyra, Rick Jacobus, Alan Mallach, and Harry Smith.

Jump to other parts of the conversation:

On Everyone’s Mind
Who’s Controlling the Change?
Community, Not Commodity
Shifting Power Dynamics
It’s All Connected

Miriam Axel-Lute: When you say displacement and when you say gentrification, what do you mean by those things, and how does that differ from how you hear them being used in the broader conversations?

Alan Mallach: Gentrification has become a very broad buzzword. People talk about any kind of neighborhood change where there’s an increase, say, in more affluent people, or if it’s an issue of race and ethnicity, more white people in a neighborhood, regardless of how that may affect the dynamics of the neighborhood.

You can have gentrification without displacement, or you could have displacement as a byproduct of gentrification. There are so many different forms of economic change that may take place in a neighborhood over time, that to lump them as one phenomenon, especially with a value-laden term like gentrification [is problematic].

Obviously people move all the time, but I think there’s a fundamental difference between when somebody moves because of reasons that he or she is controlling versus when they’re pressured or forced to leave in an untimely fashion. That is what displacement means.

Rick Jacobus: Do you think that there’s, in addition to forced displacement, like someone’s building is being torn down, that there’s also a problematic displacement where people are pushed out by market forces?

Alan Mallach: Absolutely. When I say forced, I’m using that term very broadly. If somebody lives in an apartment and the rent is raised to the point where they can no longer afford it, that is as much a forced displacement as if the building is going to be knocked down.

Rick Jacobus: Is there also a problem where people who would have moved into a neighborhood choose to move outside of a neighborhood because it’s become more expensive?

Alan Mallach: Not necessarily. That’s more of an ambiguous issue. The question is, what are their alternative choices. If their alternative choices are reasonably comparable, then I’m not sure it’s necessarily a problem.

Rick Jacobus: That seems like the whole question.

Alan Mallach: This whole issue is very different if you’re talking about a city or a region where prices are very high, vacancies are very low, and there’s huge pressure on affordability generally versus a city or a region where prices are much lower and vacancies are much higher, and there’s much less pressure on affordability overall.

Mindy Fullilove: We haven’t defined gentrification. Gentrification is a process in which a poor or working-class neighborhood is replaced by people of a higher income.

Rick Jacobus: It’s fair to define gentrification as independent from displacement, though I’m not convinced that there are a lot of examples where it’s not accompanied by displacement. But even if no one’s forced out of their current residence, if the neighborhood changes character, there is, in at least in a lot of cases, negative social consequence. And that’s the thing that people are calling gentrification.

Miriam Axel-Lute: Often people talk about wanting to have a mixed-income neighborhood, and a place of choice where the existing residents could stay and other people would choose to move. But, it’s hard to tell whether one is heading toward that kind of neighborhood or a replacement scenario.

Mindy Fullilove: We have gone through a period of intense separation, and people don’t live together in neighborhoods. We’ve divided them over and over and over again. Once gentrification starts, its logical conclusion is the elimination of the older group and replacement by the earlier group.

I don’t know that you see this everywhere, but you certainly see it in a place like Hoboken, where a very ethnically mixed, economically mixed city has become basically a really wealthy city of young white people. That’s the part that is so horrible for people, is that they come to feel like the old people are driven out by the new people.

How do we exit from this larger dynamic of race and class hatred and really begin to have neighborhoods that are welcoming and inclusive of everybody? I don’t think when we say mixed-income neighborhoods, we actually know how to achieve that.

Alan Mallach: A mixed income neighborhood, as often as not is mixed income because it’s in transition. It’s not mixed income in any kind of stable, sustainable fashion. That is a reality that we have to figure out how to deal with, and we don’t have a good way of doing that, because the market pressures tend to have their impact.

Change is part of what happens in cities and in societies. And while we have to have ways to protect people from the most harmful effects of change, I get concerned by [the] thinking [that] neighborhoods are something that somehow should not change.

On Everyone’s Mind

Rick Jacobus: I agree with your general concern that people use gentrification as an excuse to prevent any kind of change, and the fear of it paralyzes people from doing sensible things to improve their neighborhoods every day.

But, I think there’s a real and negative consequence: an appropriation of quality, where people are working hard and they’re improving a place, and then they’re not able to benefit from it.

There’s a social equity consequence there, but there’s an even bigger historical consequence, because it’s not an accident that gentrification’s really defined or described in terms of race, not just class.

The thing that the real estate industry’s looking at when they think about the potential for growth, for development in any neighborhood, is a neighborhood that turns over and pushes out all the people that are there and brings in a completely different racial group, or economic group.

It’s not happening everywhere, but it’s in everyone’s mind, and it’s really destructive to see that as the paragon of improvement in a neighborhood. A lot of the real estate industry actually does think that way. We need a different way of developing.

Maria Cabildo: I think a lot of the work that we started almost 20 years ago was about bringing investment into a neighborhood that had seen very little investment from both the public and private sector. And now, we’re a neighborhood that just got written up in the New York Times and is getting discovered.

We do want investment. Our residents are advocating for resources to come into the neighborhood, but we want to make sure that the people that have been doing this advocacy actually get to benefit from the improvements.

Sometimes neighborhoods are advocating for safety, and then somehow, when you make public spaces safe enough that residents can go out and enjoy a walk around the block, that also creates a safety that makes it attractive to a population that otherwise had avoided the neighborhood altogether.

Mindy Fullilove: Appropriation of equity is a beautiful term. In the process, that’s really fearsome, and people really get scared. If you plant a community garden, it makes the whole neighborhood more worthwhile, and then somebody wants to cash in on it.

One of the most dramatic examples of that was [in the late 1990s] when Mayor Giuliani wanted to take 800 community gardens.There were 11,000 vacant lots in New York City, but Giuliani wanted to take the 800 community gardens to sell for new housing. That’s because the people who did the community gardens had created extra value, as was shown by studies from NYU.

Who’s Controlling the Change?

Harry Smith: When people often say “We could use a little gentrification,” what people are talking about is we want to see this neighborhood “nicer,” in whatever way that means.

The key question for me is, who’s controlling that change, who owns the property, who owns the land, how is that process being managed, and who is in control. When you talk about only gentrification, it leads to this kind of spiral-down where people say, “Well, the neighborhood’s always changing in some way or another,” and it lets everything off the hook.

Alan Mallach: Ultimately we live in a capitalist economy. In that environment, ownership in the literal sense is what dictates outcomes. The Lower East Side in New York is a great example: there was a lot of effort by people in the community to create an identity of that community, particularly around the Latino population, and yet there was no literal ownership at all. [Ed note: There are some limited-equity co-ops on the Lower East Side, so not quite none. But it’s modest.]

When the market pressure started to increase, that whole thing was brushed aside by the power of the market, and people were displaced. If you don’t have some form of ownership, you can’t control outcomes.

Mindy Fullilove: Even if you do have some form of ownership, you can’t necessarily control outcomes. Ownership is not a guard-all shield.

Harry Smith: In Dudley Street, several hundred home owners in and around the neighborhood lost their homes in this most recent foreclosure crisis, not to mention the one that came 10 years earlier with the predatory lending, where people who had already paid off their mortgage were suddenly getting mortgages and losing their homes.

Home ownership by itself is not a solution.

Alan Mallach: Without it, you don’t even have a shot.

Mindy Fullilove: What is it that gives people a shot? Home ownership’s become an easy, facile way of saying, “Oh, the problem is black people, for example, don’t have home ownership.” But, they did have homes that got taken over and over again.

How do we go a little deeper and talk about the processes that place all homes at risk? In other societies where they’ve acknowledged the right to housing, these things play out a little differently. We don’t acknowledge a right to housing, and so taking people’s homes is perfectly legitimate.

Robbie Clark: If you look at a neighborhood like West Oakland or the Mission District in San Francisco, you see both that people are being kicked out and you do see the culture that existed there being further commodified by the investment.

For example, instead of having a taco truck or a taqueria sell the taco for $1.75, you’ll have an investor go in and build a restaurant that is selling tacos for $6, elevating the cost of this culture. That restaurant is not being run by someone whose family has been in the Mission 20 years. It’s being run by an investor who’s just coming into that neighborhood.

People who have been long-term residents should be engaged in those processes to define what kind of neighborhood improvements they would want to see and be a part of reaping the benefits of those improvements.

Harry Smith: There’s going to be economic pressure if you’re in San Francisco or New York or Boston that’s going to displace people that kind of has nothing to do with this question of gentrification.

But, I think inside the community development field, we have a real opportunity and a challenge to map out an alternative. If your neighborhood is distressed, if you want to make it better, how do you do that without ending up in the Mission, right? How do you do that without ending up like the Lower East Side? There’s ways to do that, but we don’t have a lot of good examples of a neighborhood that got better and where people retained control.

There aren’t a lot of DSNIs [Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiatives] out there with eminent domain and ownership. Somehow it seems like the thing that we can do is map out strategic options for people that aren’t either/or, either you make it better and you end up getting displaced, or you let the community fall apart.

Robbie Clark: The combination of the market forces, a history of neglect, past government policies from the federal down to the local level, are part of the whole process of gentrification and then the resulting displacement that happens from communities. Developing a new way of looking at development that doesn’t mean just because you improve your neighborhood that you have to leave is what we’re interested in creating.

Nationally this year, with our alliance, Right to the City, we launched a campaign called “Homes for All” that’s about bringing together people from various housing sectors to build one united housing justice movement, because we understand that the type of change that we’re trying to build is a change that has to happen at the federal level all the way down to the local.

We do door-to-door organizing;, and one-on-one services to help people stay in their homes, fight illegal evictions, and fight for better habitability; [and] policy work around improving habitability in places where we know development is slated to happen. In the Bay area over the next 20 years, there’s going to be 23 different sites of major development.

We are working to expand eviction protections and also expanding rent control in addition to looking at community land trust and limited equity cooperative models to figure out how to develop permanently affordable housing here in Oakland and in San Francisco.

Maria Cabildo: When we founded East L.A. Community Corporation, we were focused on revitalizing and attracting investment into our neighborhood. Now, most of our work is around anti-displacement because we want to keep the East Side of Los Angeles a place where Latino families can thrive regardless of their income.

We organize community residents to be involved in decision-making. There is a light rail that came through our neighborhood, which is one of the reasons why we’re facing more gentrification and displacement pressures. They eminent-domained hundreds of homes and assembled land that a private developer would never have been able to assemble.

And now, these lots have been sitting vacant in our community for over 10 years, and so we decided that, while we couldn’t necessarily change and pressure the private market, that we could pressure government entities to make sure that whatever gets developed on those publicly-owned parcels doesn’t contribute to gentrification.

We have an asset-building arm, which is focused on foreclosure prevention and the promotion of home ownership and financial literacy. We have developed strategies so that families that are in what is de facto affordable housing in our neighborhoods through rent control don’t end up losing their housing because of a financial crisis.

We’re also an affordable housing developer, so we’ve been very aggressive in purchasing parcels in areas where we feel most of the displacement will take place. We’re competing with investors and constantly losing because they’re able to close transactions in a very short window of 15-day escrows with all cash. We’re getting squeezed out of our own neighborhood by private investors.

Harry Smith: We’re making sure that, beyond the land trust, we have a memorandum of agreement with the city that all city-owned land, or all land that needs zoning or licensing has to come through DSNI to co-run a community process around it. That is one way to try to keep ensuring that there are large amounts of affordable housing [in] any development project.

The research is showing that half of all the evictions in Roxbury and Dorchester are coming from families living in subsidized housing, and that half of those families being evicted are being evicted owing less than $1,200 in arrearages. That really speaks to the impact of the recent financial crisis, but also the long-term financial crisis that families are facing. It’s not just lack of affordable housing.
It’s also lack of income and lack of assets and lack of a family safety net that a lot of other families enjoy. We are working a lot around more economic development strategies that are trying to help families put dollars in their pocket and withstand some of these blows. We’re intervening with management companies of subsidized housing to get them to agree to have an intervention before they just send out a notice to quit and work with those families to stay in their homes.

We’re trying to hit up and down the spectrum. It was very surprising to us, the high number of evictions for nonpayment in subsidized housing where the rents are $300, $400, $500.

Derek Hyra: I was the chair of the Alexandria Housing Authority board for four years. In that time, with the decreasing money coming from HUD, we were looking for creative ways to get more income to preserve our buildings, and our director wanted to put in minimum rent, something I voted against but got outvoted by my own board. We’ve tightened up on drug enforcement and all these other things, in part because of financial pressures to bring in more rent revenue.

Community, Not Commodity

Miriam Axel-Lute: The tricky part of gentrification is knowing when to start. There are a number of people in community development groups who have started off in an area that seemed very disinvested, had a lot of vacancy, and focused on improving the quality, and then experienced — wait, we have to think about displacement. We’ve improved this enough that people are coming in.

The question is when do we bring these concerns into the community development process to make sure they’re in place in time to prevent displacement.

Alan Mallach: This is one of the toughest issues there is, because for the most part, the private market is much more nimble than either government or the community development industry.

There are a lot of distressed neighborhoods. If you don’t happen to be in Boston or New York or the Bay area, the overwhelming majority are not gentrifying, and probably are not likely to. How do you identify within a given city, within a given cluster of neighborhoods, which ones it’s going to happen to?

Now, in some cases, like if you look at East L.A. with the light rail, with the strength of the market in L.A. and so forth, that seems pretty clear. But, in a lot of cities, it’s not that clear.

One thing we could probably use is some better understanding of what are the early warning signs and how a CDC or a CDC in partnership with government can actually start to lay the groundwork for what might become in time a stably mixed-income neighborhood rather than a neighborhood which completely flips.

Rick Jacobus: It’s not enough just to have art galleries as that early warning sign?

Alan Mallach: I don’t know. I think you’d have to look at what type of art they’re selling.

Miriam Axel-Lute: There’s the question of preserving affordable housing, and then there’s the question of how CDCs engage in other activities like creative placemaking in a way that is inclusive and aware of who they’re serving.

Harry Smith: There’s a common misunderstanding, or misconception, about how the neighborhood change works.
What happens in every neighborhood is that there’s competing types of change that people are proposing and pushing for. DSNI doesn’t actually own a very large share of the real estate, but the community in Dudley Street totally owns the future of the neighborhood in a symbolic sense.
What happens in most neighborhoods, though, is that you’ve got somebody—maybe a real estate speculator, maybe a property owner, maybe even a restaurant owner—trying to turn it into a hot neighborhood because they have a financial interest in that. And you’ve got some community groups that are trying to make it a safer place, and you’ve got this competition. The existing community loses control of the identity, and it becomes a commodity instead of a community.

The kinds of things that people need to do to make their neighborhood a better place, even if there’s never going to be gentrification, are the same kinds of things that you need to do to keep the speculators from commodifying your neighborhood. If it’s safer, if it’s cleaner, and people want to live there, that doesn’t make it hipper. There’s actually competition. You have regular people competing with the upscale Yuppie families for the opportunity to occupy that space.

The things that we do that make people want to live there, make families want to stay there, make people want to improve their homes, make people want to take the time to plant the community garden, those are all working against the gentrification, but you have to also monitor what’s happening at the large scale with the city and other planning.
You see all over the country neighborhoods where somebody’s trying and failing to gentrify a neighborhood.

Alan Mallach: If you go outside of the very few hot markets in the United States, there are a lot more neighborhoods losing ground, whether it’s home ownership or quality of life or crime or abandonment than there are neighborhoods that are being gentrified by the even broadest definition.

Derek Hyra: If we look at what happened in the 1990s and the 2000s, we had a whole bunch of money through Hope VI that helped to gentrify neighborhoods. We had the run-up in subprime lending that raised property values across the board. We had this pretty strong wave of gentrification happening in many places across the country.

That the whole country went through a stall [in that] process of gentrification during the Great Recession, but we should keep in mind that we’re coming out of the recession. A lot of speculators went in and bought low in 2008, and now that property values are coming back, they’re looking to rehabilitate and revive areas.

We have probably more pressures of gentrification happening around the country today than we have had in a number of years. Yes, there are many places that aren’t gentrifying, that are still struggling, but we’re going to see more and more neighborhoods feel greater pressures as the housing market and the overall economy recover, going forward.

Harry Smith: There are a lot of neighborhoods in Boston, that 20 years ago, people would have said there’s no way this will ever be anything different than it is, and the neighborhoods have changed very quickly. In Jamaica Plains, the Latino grocery store was closed down and a Whole Foods was put in there, right in Hyde Jackson Square, which 20 years before I daresay nobody would have said that’s going to happen any time soon.

In Dudley we control about 32 acres of land, but it’s a drop in the bucket compared to what’s been even more effective, which is really engaging in trying to control the planning processes that are happening that are determining hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of units of housing and whether that’s going to be benefiting current residents or not.

The Fairmount [rail] line is coming through, and they’re trying to build around the train stations. The debate in the neighborhood is who’s going to benefit? Should it be for new people coming in and we use it as a way to attract them, or should it be benefiting and creating jobs for residents in the neighborhood?

Whether it’s in a gentrifying neighborhood or in a neighborhood that’s just dying for investment, we have to think about who’s controlling.

Robbie Clark: A lot of times what happens in development is that the folks who are controlling that development are folks who are not from the neighborhood. If you talk to people in the neighborhood, they are not going to have the same type of planning language, but we’re still going to have demands for what we want to see in our community, right?

I grew up in Oakland, and now I organize here. I know that, in a lot of the neighborhoods, people have wanted investment for years, but it’s not until there is the a thought that a new grouping of people is going to come to the area that that money gets put into that area. Hope for new people or new capital [is] driving development a lot more than what the existing residents need.

I don’t see as much of the difference between neighborhoods that are starving for investment versus neighborhoods that are gentrifying. To me, those things are one and the same because any time you bring investment into an area that has been disinvested in for decades, that’s going to be the end result.

Shifting Power Dynamics

Miriam Axel-Lute: How do we define who is the community that should have the control of these planning processes? Who should have control if it’s a neighborhood where there have been new residents coming in for a while, and what are the power dynamics there?

Harry Smith: I don’t think it’s a question of who should have control. It’s just a question of, if you live in a community, or you’re concerned about a community, how do you go about getting control for the people you’re concerned about. Neighborhoods should change, and nobody should have a permanent claim to a neighborhood just because they lived there before. But so then what? What do you do to make your neighborhood a better place? How do you influence your neighborhood? Everyone’s going to disagree about what the perfect neighborhood looks like.

Maria Cabildo: We struggled with this a little bit because we brought people onto the table that weren’t usually involved, but they were still homeowners. We found that they weren’t willing to advance the work that we felt would . . . I guess I’ll just cut to the chase: we ended up just focusing on low-income renters. We were working in a neighborhood that’s 85 percent renters. There’s something terribly wrong when all development decision-making goes through a group of about five elderly homeowners.

We just decided, well, we’re going to be organizing families, because we have a very young population, and we’re going to organize renters. Of course, anyone else is welcome to join, but that’s going to be our focus. We decided the community that needed to be at the table was this population.

Derek Hyra: I wouldn’t frame it as who should have control, but that there should be an equitable distribution of influence over the decisions in a particular community.

You do see in many communities the homeowners have a disproportionate influence, and in the neighborhoods that I’ve looked at where a gentrification process is occurring, you see the upper-income residents try to take political control. Basically, I look at a concept of political displacement. Even when you have strong city policies that enable low-income people to stay when their neighborhood gentrifies, often a political displacement process happens, where they lose the political power and the control over the circumstances of their neighborhood. Even if their neighborhood, “improves,” there’s sometimes a lot of resentment to that improvement because the long-term residents feel like they weren’t involved in the planning decisions to bring in whatever new amenities came to the community.

To make mixed-income and mixed-race communities work, there has to be an equitable distribution of political power. That’s very difficult to maintain, but it’s something that HUD and policymakers haven’t thought much about.

Mindy Fullilove: Change is the only constant, so we know things are going to change.

It’s useful to differentiate displacement, which is about some group in power being able to push out the other people, from the evolution of cities, which goes on constantly.

Displacement is a land grab. There’s no reason to feel sanguine about this. How do we acknowledge those processes exist, are repeatedly acted out on the poor and the vulnerable, and how do we stop them?
Land grabs and the displacement of populations, not just individuals but whole communities, undermine the health of the society and the health of the people.

Because land grabs are so profitable for some, they keep happening, but they’re very destructive to society.
It’s like clear-cutting forest. The timber companies make a lot of money, but it destroys the forest. How do we understand that ecosystems can’t be used at our will? We have to have limits.

Harold Simon: How do you get the government to be on your side instead of the market side?

Mindy Fullilove: But one can also ask, how do we get the market to be on our side? How do we come to understand that we have some common interest in making stable cities that are livable for all?

Alan Mallach: I think a lot of this ultimately comes down who has the power in the system.

Robbie Clark: I think that a lot of the problem is around short-term gratification, and people not looking at things over longer periods of time. People look for things to be successful or to reap some benefit in the next two years or three years or five years rather than looking at things over the next 10 years, or looking at things generationally. That’s a challenge around both development and around just thinking about how it is that we create sustainable cities.

Harold Simon: Is it just a function of organizing and demanding political power?

Harry Smith: It’s a question of organizing and demanding political power, yes. It’s also the day-to-day organizing around specific developments that are coming in and looking at who’s at the table, making decisions around zoning and land use. It’s almost like you can’t lift your head up long enough because things are moving so fast.

[In] hot neighborhoods, and it’s hard to stay ahead of the Realtors as they start carving up your neighborhood into different squares and parks and commons, and you thought you were living somewhere and you’re living somewhere else.
There’s not one moment you stand up and say this is gentrified or this isn’t. You’re just kind of in the middle of it.

Derek Hyra: In Central Harlem, there’s been a good amount of racial changeover, but the public housing is remaining. There are 20,000 people that live in public housing in Central Harlem who may potentially benefit from some of the redevelopment that has occurred there over time.

Ensuring that we maintain to a high quality our subsidized housing in neighborhoods that are transitioning and gentrifying is really important. The South Side of Chicago is still suffering, but when and if that neighborhood turns around, all the people along the State Street corridor are going. They ripped down all the public housing.

The Quality Housing and Work Responsibility Act of 1998 repealed the one-for-one replacement for public housing. That’s in part why Chicago knocked down all their public housing, and Atlanta, and New Orleans. But there are certain places that, at the city level, they’ve maintained that one-for-one replacement. Trying to advocate for policies like that is important.

Alan Mallach: Then, there’s starting to think about how can you change larger systems that are working against healthy communities.

Mindy Fullilove: We taught all the school kids in America to recycle, and now everybody recycles. How do we begin to teach people what is a healthy community? So, as an example: Displacement is not change. Displacement is a land grab. It’s theft. How do we begin to create some of these ideas: stable communities benefit a whole city, benefit a whole region? We allow regions to have prosperous areas and areas that are falling apart as if that’s normal. How do we challenge that and say, no, a healthy region, every piece of it is healthy.

Robbie Clark: Right now housing is primarily viewed as a commodity and not viewed as the right that it is.
One of the goals of [Homes for All] is to get the federal government to recognize the role that it has in housing. The federal government has turned away from that more and more. For us, it’s about building up a base of people power throughout the nation who will put the pressure on and who will assert that housing is a human right.

It’s All Connected

Miriam Axel-Lute: It’s not just talking about homelessness versus not homeless, but talking about this stability in your home, which is part of a community, which is part of a social network.

That’s a lot of what underlies the emotion behind the topic of gentrification when it’s raised. It’s not necessarily that there isn’t another affordable neighborhood somewhere in the region, unless you’re in a hot market and there isn’t without going somewhere really far away, but that moving involuntarily in and of itself, even to another place where you are housed, carries a significant loss.

Derek Hyra: When I speak with developers, I always assume that they’re profit motivated, and they’re thinking short-term. They want to get in the deal and get out.

What about the people that move into the developments that they create—the gentrifiers?

Some of the newcomers that move in are moving in, in part, to be in an integrated space. They don’t want to be in homogenous suburbs. I try to do a good job of interviewing the newcomers to get an understanding from them what type of communities they want to be in, but also elevate when they do political actions that go against the integrated space that they wanted to be in in the first place, how that may contradict some of the things that they strive for.

I don’t think we need to educate the low-income people. But some of the newcomers that come in are oblivious to the struggles of low-income people and don’t quite understand how their actions are contributing to displacement.

Derek Hyra: Mindy and I work with an organization, Organizing Neighborhood Equity, ONE-DC. Part of their role is that they bring together the long-term residents and some of the newcomers around collaborative projects.
But an organization like that struggles tremendously to fund-raise. Nobody wants to fund them. How can we get local government, or federal government funding streams to bolster organizations that are bringing people together in neighborhoods that are in transition?

Mindy Fullilove: How do we begin to understand that we live in one ecosystem and that we have something in common when we feel so divided and stratified? Howard Thurman, the African-American Christian thinker, said that what we have to do is work together.

Invent a project where people who otherwise wouldn’t be together get to come together. If it’s to write poetry on the street or to plant a tree, we have to find ways to bring people together, doing work so that we come to find our common interest and common cause.

Maria Cabildo: I want to see us protect everything that we have in place. There are often efforts to dismantle things like rent control and the subsidized housing stock.

We have three public housing developments, and I want those three public housing developments to remain in our neighborhood. If we were to lose them, we’d really lose economic diversity. We need to look at making sure that what we have doesn’t get negotiated away and handed over to private capital.

1 COMMENT

  1. Great discussion! Here in Nashville, we are seeing the same things: a neighborhood works really hard to deal with crime and run-down property; then, it becomes trendy, newcomers arrive, and housing costs go way up (taxes, rent, etc).

    I’d be interested to know what the panelists think about some legislative methods of preventing displacement:
    1) Some cities have programs that freeze the property taxes of long-term residents (I think Louisville is one of these) — which reduces the pressure on low and moderate income homeowners to move out.
    2) Other cities have “inclusionary zoning,” requiring a certain number of affordable units to be a part of any developer’s plan for new condos, houses, etc. We are seeing more and more condos springing up in neighborhoods that once were pretty stable low and mod income areas. If Nashville had inclusionary zoning, the private market could be providing at least some percentage of replacement affordable housing — without any government funding.

    No doubt the panelists are familiar with these — and other — tools. But I didn’t see any discussion about them.

    Thanks for providing this discussion to us all!

    Mike Hodge
    Neighborhoods Resource Center
    Nashville, TN

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