New York City gentrification creating urban ‘islands of exclusion,’ study finds
By UC Berkeley Public Affairs
April 10, 2019
Photo courtesy Wikimedia
The New York metropolitan area has seen tremendous economic growth, but many residents in rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods are struggling to afford to live in the 31-county, tri-state region, University of California, Berkeley researchers have found.
The interactive Urban Displacement Project map, released today by a Berkeley team, graduate students from New York University’s Center for Urban Science and Progress (CUSP), and the Local Initiatives Support Corporation’s (LISC) New York City office (LISC NYC), shows that 12 percent of low-income neighborhoods are experiencing ongoing or advanced gentrification and an additional 9 percent are experiencing displacement – households being forced to leave — without any gentrification at all. When residents are displaced from New York City, they have few choices, since a majority of the suburbs have gentrified and grown increasingly exclusionary toward low-income residents.
“Our work shows that the housing affordability crisis is displacing low-income families throughout the New York region, a pattern that is being replicated in other high-cost regions around the country,” says College of Environmental Design Professor of City and Regional Planning Karen Chapple.
With some caveats — such as the time lag of census data in capturing population shifts and the challenges with data reliability throughout all of the region’s neighborhoods — there were several key research findings, including:
- In 2016, more than one-third of low-income households lived in low-income neighborhoods at risk of or already experiencing displacement and gentrification pressures, comprising 24 percent of the New York metro area’s census tracts.
- Over 12% of neighborhoods in the region are gentrifying or in an advanced state of gentrification – defined as an increase in housing values or rents accompanied by an influx of high-income, high-educated residents – while almost 9% are experiencing displacement without gentrification.
- In 2018, 515 census tracts in the region were designated as Opportunity Zones under a program that provides tax incentives for private investment in low-income urban areas. Twenty-three percent of the tracts are located in gentrifying neighborhoods, and an additional thirty percent are in neighborhoods at risk of gentrification.
- There are 314 super-gentrified or exclusive neighborhoods in the metro region, forming a ring of very high-income suburban and exurban communities around New York City, in addition to creating islands of exclusion in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens. Most of these have long been exclusive, but some 71 of these neighborhoods transitioned between 1990 and 2016 from low-income areas to areas where the median household income, at $140,000 was greater than 200 percent of the regional median in 2016. The rapid rise of incomes in these neighborhoods suggests that gentrification is no longer just a problem for the urban core of New York City.
The online map allows residents, neighborhood groups and governments to assess where their neighborhoods are in terms of the risk and actual occurrence of gentrification and displacement. In the San Francisco Bay Area, many different stakeholders have used similar interactive maps produced by the Urban Displacement Project: residents have shown the maps at city council meetings to raise awareness of neighborhood change, cities have asked developers to study the maps to assess the potential impacts of their proposed buildings, and the federal government has used the maps to enact anti-displacement preference policies for subsidized housing waitlists.
The Urban Displacement Project map also serves as a regional early-warning system at the census tract level. Overall, 10 percent of neighborhoods, with almost 550,000 low-income households, are vulnerable to gentrification, based on the availability of affordable housing as well as the presence of residents who are vulnerable in terms of income, education, renter status, or race/ethnicity.
These maps can be helpful in identifying tenant protection strategies for low-income residents living in places such as the Bronx and Newark where many residents are experiencing displacement in neighborhoods that lack signs of significant investment.
Subsidized housing and tenant protections such as rent control and just-cause eviction ordinances can be effective tools for stabilizing communities, says Chapple, yet the regional nature of the housing and jobs markets means that some local solutions are insufficient to address the full crisis.
“Our research suggests strategies that can help stabilize communities and keep them affordable,” Chapple says, noting that the tools involve ways to produce and preserve subsidized units and promote community organizing.