Affordable Housing and Gentrification: The Interconnected Problems

Creating New Affordable Multi-Family Homes, Expanding Voucher Funding and Establishing Rent Control Can Address Effects 

An October 23, 2019 Citylab article, “Untanglng the Housing Shortage and Gentrification” reminds us how closely linked the nation’s affordable housing crisis is to gentrification in many neighborhoods across the country. 

The two problems are not distinct.

Low-income renters are affected by gentrification when the rents in their neighborhood, their community begin to rise. They are forced to leave the place where they not only have an affordable home but social connections and most likely access to jobs, religious institutions, transportation and their children’s’ schools.

Indivdiuals and families negatively impacted by gentrification can lose their social networks. And when a household is at risk of homelessness, it is often those social networks that can provide the support and resources to stabilize housing and avoid homelessness.

When a physically attractive neighborhood gentrifies, the low income households who are not able to afford the rising rents that come with gentrification, might be forced to move. Community members often disperse to a less desirable neighborhood or neighborhoods.

Gentrification affects neighborhoods, often neighborhoods of color, while whole cities and regions face housing affordability crises. Suburbs that surround the rings around the cities are often just as unaffordable as the cities. Where do displaced former residents of gentrifying neighborhoods go? Former neighbors are often almost literally competing against each other for what affordable rental homes may exist.

In order to end the affordable housing crisis, we need to develop not only single family homes but multi-family homes. Policies such as rent control may prevent homelessness and the development of multi-family homes and the funding of new housing vouchers will meet the current housing needs of low-income households. We need more comprehensive housing policy – a multi-pronged approach.

The article’s author, Devin Michelle Buntin, who teaches urban planning at MIT concludes by making the point

“But particular crises require particular solutions. Planning for transformational change requires getting the details right.”

At the recent Summit Building Racial Equity in our Homeless Service Systems, the problems of gentrification and the affordable housing crisis were part of the Conversation on Race and Homelessness