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?

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...

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...

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...

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?

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...
porch party

Sitting on a Porch Can Be Good for Your Health

To help combat isolation and reweave the connecting fabric that had been lost, a neighborhood arts center launches an initiative that eventually became a movement.

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.

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:

From Eyesores to Assets: CDC Abandoned Property Strategies

To save a neighborhood that’s in danger of going down, you can’t simply add new homes. You have to put the process of decline in reverse

An Urban School Reduces Violence . . . With Nonviolence

When students feel like they are in jail when at school and the adults around them consider them all potential...

Stop Talking About Displacement

A well informed community organizing effort with a targeted purpose should be the first line of defense in protecting opportunities for wealth building and access to opportunities for upward mobility in working class communities as they experience inevitable changes.

Who Is It For?

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

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...

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...

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.
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?
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?

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 . . .

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...

Education Reform Backlash?

Today in New York state, third through eighth graders are wrapping up their second week of increased testing under the...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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,...

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.

“No Evictions. We Won’t Move!”

"This land is too valuable to permit poor people to park on it."  -Justin Herman, former executive director of the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency, 1970 The...

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.

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.

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...
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 . . .
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.

Public School Closures: Loss And Opportunity

In many people’s minds, a neighborhood is not complete without a public school, as they not only hold the key to the next generation’s success, but also represent an open and welcoming space for civic interaction. Practitioners, policymakers, and researchers alike have based their work on this vision. Local school districts and community partners have […]

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.

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.
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.

Interview with Richard Baron, CEO of McCormack Baron Salazar

It still surprises many people that Richard Baron, the CEO of one of the largest for-profit affordable housing developers, got his start in the field supporting public housing tenants in a rent strike.

Who Is a Gentrifier, and What Should They Do?

As people with choices move back into (some) urban areas that were abandoned/systematically disinvested from decades ago, gentrification is...

Why Can’t Harlem Stop Gentrification?

In his May New York Times editorial, “The End of Black Harlem,” Michael Henry Adams portrays the historic African-American...

Myths and Realities About Cycles: Avoiding the Inevitability Trap

About a year ago I wrote a post about Paul Krugman and whether building luxury housing could mitigate the...

Modern Community Development for a Modern Crisis

A story about a nonprofit organization that achieved a large-scale bulk purchase of mortgages. The properties, all vacant and abandoned, and many deteriorated, are located primarily in the New Jersey municipalities of Newark, Orange, East Orange, and Irvington.

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...

New Territory

How two CDCs added school reform to their agendas.
Barcelona apartment buildings

Shelter Shorts—The Week in Community Development, April 20

NIMBYs, YIMBYs, PHIMBYs-Oh My! | Can Algorithms Make Equitable Cities? | Retail Segregation Takes a Toll | E.R. Visits and "Tough" Neighborhoods | Enough Innovation Already | More...
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.
Kennetha Patterson of Homes for All in Nashville speaks on a megaphone during Renter’s Week of Action.

Tenant Power: Organizing for Rent Strikes and Landlord Negotiations

In the face of high rent increases and substandard housing, many tenants are realizing they are not alone in their landlord troubles and are joining together to push for building-level wins, and policy change.

Revitalizing Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine (Part 2)

Last week I wrote the first installment of my miniseries about Cincinnati’s remarkable Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. As I wrote then, this distinct and historic...

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,...
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.
homeless camp under bridge

Shelter Shorts—The Week in Community Development, May 4

A Trauma-Centered Approach to Youth Violence in Cleveland | We May Know Who Benefits From Port Covington | What Housing Crisis? | Clearing Homeless Encampments in Philadelphia | Restaurant Tax for Affordable Housing

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.

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...

The Soul of the Neighborhood

Why do we call community-based development an "industry" rather than a "movement" these days? "Industry" is such a satisfyingly hard-nosed word. It says, 'we...

Interview with Tony Pickett, Urban Land Conservancy

Probably no one in the country is in a better position than Tony Pickett to talk about efforts to include long-term affordable housing in two of the nation’s largest Transit Oriented Development (TOD) ventures: Denver’s FasTracks plan, and Atlanta’s Beltline project.

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...
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.

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.”...
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

‘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...
A once-vacant lot in Philadelphia that has been cleaned.

Greening Vacant Lots: Low Cost, Big Effect in Philly

A Philadelphia program is cleaning up abandoned lots, helping formerly incarcerated residents get jobs, and improving the overall health and well-being of neighborhoods.

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...

The Gentrification Vaccine

Can a neighborhood be immune to gentrification? If so, can local governments and community organizations work together to build...

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...
Residents of four historically African-American neighborhoods hold up a sign that reads "This Land is Our Land! #TentCityATL"

A Community Benefits Proposal Is Ignored. Is Displacement Far Behind?

Residents of four historically African-American neighborhoods in Atlanta are in the midst of an occupation of Turner Field—the former home of the Atlanta Braves.
Mabel Duffy, Myrtle Stern, and the May Day marching band occupy a major intersection in the East Liberty neighborhood of Pittsburgh.

Game of Chance: Mass Eviction in Pittsburgh

In Pittsburgh, hundreds of Penn Plaza residents were given 90-day eviction notices after their building was slated for demolition. The mass eviction was well known throughout Pittsburgh, but few knew what was happening inside the building.

Can Calling Attention to Gentrification Make Things Worse?

In early march, when Austin was enduring the annual South-by-Southwest festival, Facebook user Briana Smith stunned the world by...

Public Land Should be Used for Public Good

When a vacant lot in Oakland was close to becoming the home of a 24-story, market-rate development, local activists worked together to prevent it from happening.

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...

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.
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.

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...

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.

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...

Revitalizing Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine (Series Conclusion – Making It Green)

This is the final installment of my miniseries (Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3) about Cincinnati’s remarkable Over-the-Rhine neighborhood, potentially a national model...

20 Years Later, What HOPE VI Can Teach Us

Affordable housing programs are at great risk of elimination under the current administration. In this uncertain climate, what can we learn from a program that leveraged private interest while aspiring to be a protector of affordable housing?
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.

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...
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.

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.

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 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.

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...
Some of the Seattle's historic and longstanding neighborhoods, like Chinatown/International District with high proportions of color are seeing displacement of residents.

Seattle Takes Ownership of Its Displacement Challenge

Seattle is tackling displacement by aiming to reduce the systemic and structural barriers in connecting marginalized populations to opportunity.
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.

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....
An image that says "Stop Gentrification in Pilsen."

NPR: “Gentrification May Be a Boon To Longtime Residents”

Studies say that gentrification could be a good thing for low-income residents, but people suffer when they can't afford to stay in their neighborhood. So what's up with these studies?
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.

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...
speech conversation balloons

Starting Conversations with Public Art

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

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...

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...
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.

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...

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.
A classroom full of students in a charter school in St. Louis.

The Charter School Lenders

Despite the controversy surrounding them, charter schools have become a major segment of the CDFI field’s business, requiring new assessment tools to keep the lending mission-focused.

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...

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...

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 […]

Gentrification in Brooklyn the Result of Plans, Not Markets

Doug Henwood, editor/publisher of Left Business Observer, has an interesting piece in the Nation this week that argues that gentrification and displacement in New...
westlake mural

Shelter Shorts, The Week in Community Development—Aug. 24

Philly's Fight for Affordable Housing | HUD Targets Facebook In Complaint| An Eviction App | A "Massive" Multifamily Housing Fraud