Neighborhood Change

As community demographics shift and there’s neighborhood change, what are the issues affecting longstanding and new residents alike? When is change desirable, and when is it undesirable, and how can it be turned to the benefit of those who need it most?

Data Systems for Social Change

Throughout Chinatown Community Development Center’s 39-year history in San Francisco, we have grown to encompass multiple strategies in our quest for comprehensive community development....

Golf Course Wars in Benton Harbor

Golf courses have been lightning rods and symbols for class struggle around the world, as in Morelos, Mexico, where a golf course sucking up...
farm stand in lot.

(The Urgent Case for) Middle Neighborhoods, One of the Most Overlooked Assets in America

Middle neighborhoods are places where home prices are generally affordable to the average household. But, these neighborhoods are often on the edge between growth and decline.

A Community Planning Process–Even A Good One–Is Not Enough

Just the inherent language of community “transformation” signals that what has come before is not worth holding on to, and renders the history of these public housing sites insignificant.

Small is Beautiful – Again

The shrinking cities movement imagines revitalization without growth - and housing advocates take a hard look at what that means for the poor.

How Immigrants Are Revitalizing America’s Fading Suburbs

The Urbanophile, Aaron Renn, has an interesting new post about how American suburbs, particularly inner-ring suburbs, are being revitalized by immigrant populations. His...

3 Things for Nonprofits to Remember About Abandoned Properties

“'Do nothing' is not an option.” So says Jerry Flach, construction project director at Paterson Habitat for Humanity, of the need to take action on...
Two students wearing blue shirts stand in front of posters in their school.

Schools that Support Students’ Whole Lives

Community schools support kids, families, and neighborhoods in their mission to improve education.

Help Restore Post-Katrina NOLA Neighborhoods by Tearing Down the Freeway

As we reflect on the five years that have passed since Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, we can observe both progress and much, much...

Defensible Space

In the Five Oaks community of Dayton, Ohio, during 1991, violent crimes increased by 77 percent, robberies by 77 percent, vandalism by 38 percent,...

The Best Thing I Didn’t Hear All Week

I'm in Lexington, Ky., this week for the National Community Land Trust Network conference, hosted by the Lexington Community Land Trust. The Lexington CLT had...

Author Roundtable

Shelterforce authors discuss the roles of place, mobility, and displacement on health and neighborhoods.
speech conversation balloons

Starting Conversations with Public Art

An arts collaboration comes up with a creative spark to facilitate discussions about neighborhood change.

Conflict and Placemaking in Humboldt Park: La Crucifixion

It took 10 years, but a local Chicago activist managed to save a mural that portrays Pedro Albizu Campos, the leader of the movement for Puerto Rican independence.

The Tenacity of Dysfunction

The word resilience has different meanings in different fields. In the field of material science, it refers to the ability of a material to...
An African-American man and woman stand happily outside on their front porch. The woman is wearing a red coat and a black and white hate, while the man is reader a read Oakland A's hat and a black jacket.

Getting Ahead of Gentrification in the South Side of Columbus

More than a decade after several groups came together to improve substandard housing in the South Side of Columbus, signs of gentrification and forced displacement are beginning to emerge. Can something be done so current residents can afford to stay in their neighborhoods for years to come? The short answer is yes.
A female dentist cleans a young boy's teeth.

The Place-Based Charter School?

What is the relationship between charter schools and neighborhoods—and what could it be?

Can D.C.’s Bridge Park Work for Everyone?

There is a decrepit old bridge extending from 11th Street in southeast Washington, D.C. and across the Anacostia River...

Interview with George McCarthy, President of the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy

After 14 years at the Ford Foundation, most recently as the director of the Metropolitan Opportunities Unit, George "Mac" McCarthy became the fifth president of the 41-year-old Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, trading in his long daily commute to New York City and returning to Boston, where he grew up. McCarthy brings to the job that critical and nuanced eye for detail that comes with being an accomplished housing economist with the mission of bringing social justice to those denied it around the world. Well-known for his blunt and honest views and his ability to challenge as well as inspire those he works with, McCarthy has long seen land use policy as a means to reach the equity goals he's worked for in his roles as a teacher, researcher, and funder.
Front porch with three chairs.

Taking Back the Front Porch: Using Art to Reclaim Community Identity

The front porch is a space in-between our private family space and our more public spaces where we create our own definition of “community.” In many parts of Chicago, this space is often a battleground.

Interview with Mayor Ivy Taylor, San Antonio, Texas

When Julian Castro, then-mayor of San Antonio, Texas, was picked to be the new Secretary of the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development last year, the city council voted in Ivy Taylor from among their ranks to replace him. The first African-American mayor of the largely Latino and Anglo city, and strongly identified as an urban planner, Taylor casts herself as someone interested more in getting work done than leaving a political legacy. However, she has not shied away from controversial positions, and her initial position that she would not be running for re-election fell by the wayside as she announced her candidacy on February 16, less than two weeks after this interview. We spoke with Mayor Taylor, who has a background in affordable housing, about what it’s like to move between the community development sphere and city government, some of her difficult decisions, and her vision for stable, mixed-income neighborhoods in the city she is serving.

Above the Fray?

As the school reform debates rage on, community groups struggle to stay out of the politics and yet keep influencing the quality of education in their neighborhoods.
store closing

The Displacement Crisis of Immigrant-Owned Small Businesses

Growth of new business is a sign of a robust economy, but New York City’s true success hinges on ensuring that all residents have access to opportunity and community resources.

What Happens Once the Artists Arrive?

Conventional wisdom says that artists and gay people are tend to be pioneers in distressed neighborhoods, signs that change is...

‘Gentrification’ is a Linguistic Weapon Hurting Us All

As the challenges of community development have evolved and become more complex especially over the last decade, the language used to frame and define...

Why Are Community Development Lenders Financing Charter Schools?

The choice to support privately-operated, publicly-funded schools puts these lenders at odds with many of their usual political allies and constituencies. So what’s the motivation?

Making a Pipeline for Vacant Building Rehab

Baltimore’s Vacants to Value program sparked revitalization block by block with a few key legal powers and partnerships.

Cory Booker’s #Neighborhood

If there was some radio silence on Newark, NJ Mayor Cory Booker's Twitter feed on Tuesday, it was only because...

Home Again

With the help of its local community development corporation, a Boston neighborhood comes to terms with its transformation as a beloved church, long a treasured part of the community is reborn as housing.

Seattle Eyes Zoning’s Third Rail–Single Family Neighborhoods

My city of Albany, N.Y., is currently going through a rezoning process. Mostly this entails cleaning up a fragmented,...

The Two Vacancy Crises in America’s Cities

Vacant properties are a serious problem in two kinds of neighborhoods. To address them, we need to know which kind we’re looking at.

“Detroitism”: What’s the Role for Community Developers?

Guernica, a self-described “magazine of art and politics,” has a fascinating essay by Wayne State University professor John Patrick Leary about the “ruin porn”...
A round blue and orange sign on an urban street corner with a train on it reads "Welcome to the Ironbound"

Tales of Three Cities

The poster child for gentrification in the eastern U.S. is Hoboken, NJ. A 15-minute subway ride from midtown Manhattan, for decades it was a...
An abandoned home in Cleveland.

Myths and Misconceptions About Demolition in Cleveland

Demolition can generate emotional reactions, especially in places with a history of urban renewal. But critics of demolishing any vacant homes are ignoring the evidence.
demolished building

Is “Sustainability” Old Hat?

Americans have treated the word “sustainability” as though everyone practices sustainability daily and the concept is old hat. We should know better.

Community Development and Hot Markets

At the People and Places Conference earlier this month, we organized a mini-track around “Community Control and Hot Markets.”...

Transforming Vacant Land Into Community Assets

Vacant land activities can be low cost and high impact; the price of failure is not steep, but the return on investment can be high.

In Mississippi, the New Urbanists Take Charge

Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, but it actually hit the Gulf Coast of Mississippi much harder. Several towns were literally wiped off the map,...

How to Fight Vacancy? Do It All

The fight against vacancy in Youngstown, Ohio, shows us that we shouldn’t rely on a single strategy—everything is needed at once.

Who Is It For?

A Washington, D.C. nonprofit undertakes a redevelopment project and tackles the issue of cultural displacement.

Gentrification and Public Schools: It’s Complicated

An influx of more affluent families and their resources and advocacy is just what every struggling school needs, right? Well . . .

Still Learning, After All These Years

I had a great education and was fortunate enough to have scholarships to become the first in my family to obtain a Master’s degree. But I made a career choice in 1974 to forego a PhD for experiential learning. I didn’t know that at the time. For me it was a job then not just […]

Community Development and School Reform: Odd Bedfellows?

In my couple decades hanging around the community development field, I can’t count the number of times conversations about...
One-pager reads Do Section 8 voucher holders increase crime in a neighborhood? No! Shows two graphs illustrating the point. Image links to pdf version.

Q: Do Section 8 voucher holders increase crime in a neighborhood?

A: No! This is a perennial fear, but research shows that additional voucher holders don't change the crime rate at all. However it does show that . . .

Another Day in the Lower Ninth Ward

Sweat pours down Reginald “Trigger” Smith’s face as he cleans out a storage unit squeezed next to three FEMA trailers on his lot in...

Do Developers Know They’ll Get Old, Too?

Mid-July marked the 20th anniversary of more than 700 Chicagoans dying in a heat wave. When the temperature peaked at 106 degrees on July...

How CDCs (and TIFs) Might Help Create Equitable Public School Districts

As many parents know instinctively, and economists have shown, there’s a reason why the housing cost in many communities is...

Gentrification Was the Killer in Oakland Fire

It’s usually hard to distinguish a victim of gentrification. Many people have a story of getting priced out of their neighborhoods, of being looked...

New Territory

How two CDCs added school reform to their agendas.
One-pager showing differences between municipal land banks and community land trusts. Image links to pdf version.

Q: Is a land bank the same thing as a land trust?

A: Nope. They are totally different, though complementary tools. This chart will walk you through the differences.

NYT in a Time Warp?

The following is a letter to the editor I submitted to The New York Times: The Times’ Aug. 8 article, “Housing Program Moves Poor...
Residents of four historically African-American neighborhoods hold up a sign that reads "This Land is Our Land! #TentCityATL"

The Right to Stay Put

There is much work to be done around housing and equitable development, but the solution is not simply to move people around. A key challenge is creating real choice.

Inside Gentrification: The Emotional, Physical, and Financial Implications

The following is a condensed conversation between practitioners and thinkers about gentrification sparked from a blog post about neighborhood revitalization on Rooflines. With so...

Land Banks Are Not a Silver Bullet

We were very excited to hear that after many years of organizing, Philadelphia succeeded in winning a municipal land...

How to Fund Land Banks

The number of land banks grew dramatically in the wake of the foreclosure crisis. So has our understanding of how to successfully fund them.

Finally! A Concrete Proposal to Address Gentrification-Driven Displacement

I, and others, have sometimes felt that the fair housing community can be too focused on opening up the...
Man with a cane stands at the top of set of stairs in a park .

Poem: “Gentrification”

I have seen a neighborhood eat itself for dinner

Detroit as a Test Site of the Green Future

Recently a group of planners, including long-time NHI researcher Alan Mallach, visited Detroit to survey the city’s vast vacant spaces...
The F Market line is one of several light rail lines in San Francisco that uses historic equipment.

Who Most Needs Access to Core Neighborhoods?

We have a limited number of dense core neighborhoods where getting around without a car and without a lengthy daily commute are possible.

Yes, Virginia, There Is A City Planner

Sometimes, the road more traveled by makes all the difference. It’s not news that there is significant...
“La Crucifixion de Don Pedro,” the oldest Puerto Rican mural in Humboldt Park.

Conflict and Placemaking in Humboldt Park: Paseo Boricua

The area surrounding Paseo Boricua is not exclusive space, but in a gentrifying part of the city, it is undeniably—and perhaps unavoidably—contested space. 
A group of people stand behind a red ribbon before the opening of an art exhibit at a charter school. To the right, youngsters prepare to cut the ribbon with large scissors.

Charter Schools, Gentrification, and Weighted Lotteries

Charter schools in gentrifying neighborhoods have the power to exacerbate the inequity that exists between low-income residents and wealtheir newcomers. How can they use their power to instead ensure their student populations are as diverse as the neighborhoods they operate in?
Boston residents participants marched to a nearby national gathering of YIMBYs with a sign that reads "Displacement is the Crisis ... We Are The Answer."

What We Don’t Know About Development and Displacement

The data on the relationship between new development, affordability, and displacement is not nearly as clear-cut as advocates (of all persuasions) often imply.

It’s Not Actually About Ownership

Private Property and Public Power: Eminent Domain in Philadelphia, by Debbie Becher. Oxford University Press, 2014. 334pp. $30.50 (paper) Purchase here.
A man and a woman stand in front of a chalkboard sign that reads "This House Could Be ..."The man is writing on the board, as many others have done. Some of the suggestions for what the house could be include a community gathering space and a senior center.

Rebellion Spurs Opportunity and a New Housing Movement

How a Baltimore collaborative plans to make shared-equity housing a significant sector in the local housing market.

Is Gentrification Different When It’s Not in a Booming Metro?

Interesting research that adds a wrinkle to the gentrification conversation: Todd Swanstrom writes about “rebound” neighborhoods in St. Louis and...

In New Jersey’s Hub City, A Push to Change Government Gets Big Government Resistance

In the 1970s, New Brunswick, NJ was struggling. Like other New Jersey cities experiencing the hangover of race riots of the 1960s, the schools...
Cover image of Race, Class, and Politics in The Cappuccino City.

A D.C. Neighborhood’s Transformation From “Chocolate” to “Cappuccino”

To longtime residents of D.C., the findings presented in Derek Hyra’s Race, Class, and Politics in the Cappuccino City—that gentrifying neighborhoods’ racial and economic diversity does not translate into integration—is likely not surprising.
Yellow sign reading 'Aloha.'

Reflecting and Planning Using a Community Wealth Building Lens

Over an organization’s 25 years in existence, how do staff and volunteers measure impact and build off of lessons learned to guide their next steps forward?

7 Policies That Could Prevent Gentrification

The following are seven policy initiatives that could be part of a community stabilization agenda using smart growth and equitable investments to prevent or mitigate gentrification in Roxbury and other at-risk neighborhoods in Boston.

The Heavy Hand of Demographic Change

Washington Ave St. Louis (credit: Google Earth)As I continue to wrestle with the future of cities and urban neighborhoods,...
HUD Secretary Julian Castro poses in a formal headshot in front of an American flag.

Interview with HUD Secretary Julian Castro

Shelterforce got a chance to speak with Secretary Julian Castro about some of the current ways in which he’s working to make HUD a force for good in people’s lives, and what steps there are left to be taken.

Hung Up on Gentrification? Don’t Be

In my last Rooflines post I described an approach—centering on a tax credit for families to buy substandard houses in targeted neighborhoods, fix them...

The Dangers of Being an “Armchair” Anything

The East Side Commercial Historic District is an enclave of historic structures representing a fascinating cross-section of Milwaukee’s eastern commercial development...
Atlanta's BeltLine bike path bordered by new homes.

Sustainable for Whom? Large-Scale Sustainable Urban Development Projects and “Environmental Gentrification”

Absent a fundamentally new approach to redevelopment planning that places housing affordability at the center of the process, large-scale sustainable development projects are likely to become engines of what has been termed “environmental gentrification.”

Revitalizing Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine (Part 3 – the Progress)

This was going to be the final installment of my miniseries about Cincinnati’s remarkable Over-the-Rhine neighborhood, but I’m on too much of a roll...

Gentrification Is More Widespread Than We Think

In Miriam Axel-Lute’s recent post here, “Place Matters But Place Changes,” she references “a study done by Governing magazine...

Seattle Neighborhood Planning

At first glance, the Neighborhood Planning Program in Seattle, Washington, sounds like a remarkably progressive idea. Begun in 1995, the program is one of...

Building Communities From the Inside Out

In distressed communities across the United States, savvy organizers and leaders are rediscovering ancient wisdom about what builds strong communities, and then developing new...

Engaging the Public Schools: Are You Ready?

Many community development organizations approach the issue of public education with trepidation. Too many public schools have been entrenched in mediocrity for too long....

What Does It Mean for a Neighborhood to be Stable?

What should be the focus of a neighborhood stabilization program? It's an ongoing topic of conversation within community development...

Can Banksy Make New York City Affordable Again?

Earlier this month Shelterforce posted a conversation about gentrification that posed many different questions about the term and its role in community...

Fighting Displacement Fights Crime

There's an utterly fascinating recent post by John Roman on the Metrotrends Blog of the Urban Institute called “Gentrification Will...

If You Build It: A Story of Transformation Through Education

“If You Build It,” a new film directed by Patrick Creadon, explores what happens when teachers urge students to...

The Millennials Are Marching…But is Anyone Else?

Last month I wrote about how well-educated members of the millennial generation are moving in large numbers to the central cities, and how places...

What Creating a ‘Stable Neighborhood’ Really Means

Last month I wrote about why Project Rebuild is basically a bad idea, and why the Obama administration is making...

Place Matters, But Place Changes

“Place matters, but place changes,” Univ. of Southern Calif. professor Manuel Pastor observed at the opening plenary at PolicyLink’s...

Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine, On the Verge

Cincinnati’s historic and very centrally located Over-the-Rhine neighborhood is poised to become one of America’s greatest revitalization stories, in the process creating a national...
Chicago resident Tom Gordon speaks to a crowd. He, as well as other organizers, are fighting for a citywide community benefits campaign.

Chicago Activist Convention Shifts Focus to Community Benefits Campaign

Standing on a truck in front of a group of several hundred protesters, Tom Gordon expressed a feeling shared often at the ONE Northside...

How We Connect: Bridging the Gap Between Neighborhoods Through Public Land

When I worked as a local newspaper reporter, it was frustrating to see community members with ideas of how to transform or beautify their...

It’s Not Either/Or: Neighborhood Improvement Can Prevent Gentrification

Even where gentrification is only a distant threat (or hope, depending on your perspective) it looms large in any discussion of neighborhood change.

The Value of a Visit: Community Schools Learn from Each Other

Oakland Unified School District is one of the few full-service community school districts in the country.  What does that mean?  Let’s start with a...

Will Columbia Take Manhattanville?

Balancing an Ivy League university's expansion plan with a Harlem neighborhood's needs is a tricky business, especially when eminent domain is in the mix.
"Coming Soon, Very Sad" painted on border wall outside of new development.

We Are All NIMBYs…Sometimes

If we built enough housing, we would still need subsidized housing for many people, but market prices would be low enough that most people could afford them. But we’ve chosen not to. And the reason we give for that choice, more than any other, is that we are trying to preserve or improve the character of our communities.

Forget NSP, Tax Credits Will Save Neighborhoods

If we want to revitalize neighborhoods, we must recognize that it’s a multiyear project. It should be an income tax credit program for three reasons:

Portland Gets Proactive on Gentrification

We've been talking about gentrification and displacement a bunch here on Rooflines recently. One of the perennial problems in dealing with...
Black Panther newsletter from 1969

What Black Panther-inspired Gift to Oakland Should Have Looked Like

Disney's Black Panther-inspired gift to Oakland children is great, but there is a way it could be better.

Gentrification and the “Slums of Beverly Hills”

In 1998, when Slums of Beverly Hills was released, I lived in West Los Angeles, relatively near (in LA...

Fighting Foreclosure On All Fronts

While national coverage has subsided, a handful of immigrant families in Chicago's Albany Park neighborhood are still fighting to stay in their foreclosed apartment building, and their story is simply part of a larger struggle in the country's third-largest city.

Drexel to Follow in Penn’s Community-University Footsteps

The University of Pennsylvania is well-known as a leader in community-university partnerships, and especially the kind that actually try to build community wealth. Under...