Urban Displacement Project Considers Transit’s Role on Gentrification

The Urban Displacement Project's interactive map feature allows users to view data on housing, income and other demographics by county or city to better understand or predict where gentrification and exclusion is happening in the Bay Area. Photo courtesy Urban Displacement Project.

Karen Chapple, Professor of City and Regional Planning


Team: Dr. Miriam Zuk, Professor Karen Chapple, Mitchell Crispell, Nicole Montojo, Sam Maurer


Metropolitan Transportation Commission
Association of Bay Area Governments
California Environmental Protection Agency Air Resource Board

Project Description

As communities across California begin planning and implementing more transit-oriented development in response to SB 375, the state’s climate action goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through coordinated transportation and land use planning, existing low-income communities of color are concerned about how the new transit investment (and subsequent development) will affect their ability to continue living in the Bay Area.

The Urban Displacement Project, spearheaded by Dr. Miriam Zuk and Professor of City and Regional Planning Karen Chapple, is an interactive mapping tool designed to visually show the relationships between transit investment and neighborhood change. The map allows users to filter through 39 different data sets encompassing nine counties surrounding the Bay Area, from Sonoma County in the north to Santa Clara County in the south. The outcome is to show neighborhood impacts according to identified levels of risk. The project is intended to serve as a “regional early-warning system” at the census tract1 level. Classifications range from levels of gentrification, advancing exclusion of low-income housing and changes in home values.

Mapping data points were derived from over 50 different variables analyzed from studies between 1990-2013. Using data on demographics, transportation, housing, land use and policies, the team’s researchers have developed a “gentrification index” to characterize places that experienced significant demographic shifts due to investments in real estate that historically housed vulnerable populations. The study’s results have been significant. More than half of low-income households across the nine counties surveyed live in neighborhoods either at risk, or are already experiencing displacement and gentrification. Furthermore, the study found that although there has been a net gain of 94,408 low-income households between 2000 and 2013, there was a concurrent loss of nearly 106,000 naturally-occurring affordable housing units where low-income people pay 30% or less of their income on rent.

While both market-rate and subsidized housing development reduces displacement pressures, the Urban Displacement Project has found that subsidized housing is twice as effective as market-rate development at a regional level.

This mapping project grew out of an earlier study by Karen Chapple on gentrification. 

1Census Tracts are small, relatively permanent statistical subdivisions of a county or equivalent entity that are updated by local participants prior to each decennial census as part of the Census Bureau's Participant Statistical Areas Program.