The Damaging Impacts of Gentrification on Urban Communities. Is Enough Being Done to Address this Issue?

As cities across the U.S. recovered from the Economic Recession, numerous families and households in urban communities were faced with increasing rent for their homes and local businesses. This was the result of gentrification, which involves increased capital investment in – and the development of – disenfranchised communities. When this investment occurs, the market value for the surrounding areas increase, causing a rise in property taxes. The end result is a surge of wealthier individuals moving into these neighborhoods, while low income residents are forced to leave or are “displaced” because they are unable to afford these new costs of housing and food associated in these redeveloped areas. In addition to an increase in property taxes, when urban communities undergo gentrification, residents often express negative shifts and changes with the social character and structure of their community.

A great example of a Historic Urban Community that has experienced unforeseen gentrification and whose historical characteristics have completely changed forever, is Historic Overtown of Miami, Florida. Historic Overtown was established as the central African American Neighborhood during the Jim Crow era which was comprised of a community in which the median average income was less than $30,000. With the incorporation of immigrants from the Caribbean, black-owned business spiraled and this area was deemed, “Harlem of the South”. Due to governmental blithe and destruction of homes and businesses for construction of the additional I-95 highway that now passes through this community, the cost of the area is inexpensive to buy out and build upon. Because of this construction, Overtown is currently experiencing high volumes of development. What once served as a historic African American community is now unidentifiable and has created soaring property taxes that have already displaced remaining residents/local businesses.

Are there better ways to develop urban communities? Policy options like inclusionary zoning and tax increment financing for housing subsidies in the form of vouchers are being considered in states across the U.S., however, it is not clear that these efforts have been effective at helping residents and preserving the original character of the community. This is, in part, because reinvestment happens at an uneven rate. For example, instead of making up 100% of units in redeveloped areas, only 25% of units are public housing – and sometimes it is less. This “wicked problem” needs more effective policies that would help prevent gentrification so that existing residents benefit from the development in their community. Developers, for instance, could be held accountable for the displacement of residents in these communities and policies should be set in place so development practices preserve the character, historical structures, etc. of these communities. Similarly, developers could be offered tax credits/bonuses to ensure 100% affordable housing to the residents who are native to these communities, policies must be enacted to ensure developers adhere to this, and it must be regulated by local governments.

Gradually, developers are scouting for more areas of opportunity in predominantly African American urban communities, to create development that is not meant to support the community members who already reside in them. When I graduate from FSU it is my goal to help preserve these communities and the businesses that support them.

References:

Feldman, M. H., & Wolfe-Borum, J. (2005). Affordable Housing Cost for Families Residing in Low-Income Miami-Dade Neighborhoods. Research Institute on Social and Economic Policy (RISEP), CLR&S, Florida International University.

Has Climate Gentrification Hit Miami? The City Plans To Find Out. Robynne Boyd – https://www.nrdc.org/stories/has-climate-gentrification-hit-miami-city-plans-find-out

Overtown Expressway – #thisisCNU. (2019, May 7). Retrieved from https://www.cnu.org/what-we-do/build-great-places/overtown-expressway.

Perez, Y. A. (2010). Relocating MIU to the cityscape: gentrifying Wynwood’s art district from industrial to institutional. WIT Transactions on Ecology and the Environment, 142, 27-38.

Priemus, H., Kemp, P. A., & Varady, D. P. (2005). Housing vouchers in the United States, Great Britain, and the Netherlands: Current issues and future perspectives. Housing Policy Debate16(3-4), 575-609.

Shaw, K. (2008). Gentrification: What it is, why it is, and what can be done about it. Geography Compass, 2(5), 1697-1728.

Sillers, A. (2015, April 6). Report finds 44 percent of U.S. children live in low-income families. Retrieved from https://www.pbs.org/newshour/nation/nccp-finds-44-percent-u-s-children-live-low-income-families.

Zuk, M., Bierbaum, A. H., Chapple, K., Gorska, K., & Loukaitou-Sideris, A. (2018). Gentrification, displacement, and the role of public investment. Journal of Planning Literature, 33(1), 31-44.

Recommended Readings:

Producing Affordable Housing in Rising Markets: What Works? By: Lance Freeman   Columbia University

Toward a Theory of Gentrification: A Back to the City Movement by Capital, not People By: Neil Smith

Keandra Davis is a second year MPA Student in the Askew School of Public Administration and Policy from Miami, FL, studying Public Policy with a Concentration in Urban Communities. Keandra currently serves as the President of the Public Administration Graduate Association and is most passionate about serving underrepresented communities.

The featured image is from Miami Grid.

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