Gentrification and Displacement

It is not news that the flip side of increased property values, renovated housing and creation of “mixed income” neighborhoods is that the folks who previously called those residences “home” are now looking for new shelter, new schools, new bus routes, maybe even new jobs.

In my own hometown newspaper this week, an article titled, “Thousands wait for housing aid,” states that, “About 12,000 low-income families in Louisville remain on a waiting list for federal housing subsidies when fewer vouchers are available and less public housing exists...” The article refers to a report issued October 17 by the Metropolitan Housing Coalition that, “argues that the waiting list is likely to grow because of rising foreclosures, higher gasoline prices and jobs that don't offer health coverage and other benefits...The coalition and other advocates of affordable housing say the shortage of Section 8 vouchers adds to another problem for low-income families: The city hasn't yet replaced hundreds of subsidized public housing units lost when Clarksdale Homes was demolished to make room for the Liberty Green mixed-income development just east of downtown.”

I pass by Liberty Green most mornings on my way to work in downtown Louisville. I’ll be the first to admit it looks a lot nicer than it did a few year ago when it was the former Clarksdale Homes. And the idea of having mixed income residents living there together seems great. But what happened to the people who used to live there?
According to the same article, “Nearly 2,700 families were waiting to move in to public housing as of last month, the highest number in five years, according to information provided by the housing authority. The repercussions are being felt in homeless shelters, where families are staying for months rather than weeks, and service providers are looking beyond Louisville to find affordable housing for low-income families.”

Apparently, there are alternatives to this type of displacement. The Urban Institute conducted a study, “In the Face of Gentrification: Case Studies of Local Efforts to Mitigate Displacement,” that presents “strategies used by nonprofit organizations, for-profit developers, and city agencies to ensure low- to-moderate-income residents can live in revitalizing and gentrifying neighborhoods…Low- and moderate-income households face a number of challenges threatening their housing options: robust housing markets, stagnating wages, and the gentrification of their neighborhoods. This report highlights strategies used to help low-income families weather these challenges and remain in their neighborhoods.”

While there is clearly no single strategy that solves the displacement problem, the Urban Institute’s report sheds light on some thoughtful and successful approaches to keeping people in their neighborhoods and improving the neighborhoods at the same time. If your community has a creative approach to this problem, we’d love to hear from you.

Caroline Heine

Posted at 10:26 AM, Oct 19, 2007 in Economic Development | Permalink | Comment