Gentrification FAQ

What is gentrification?

  • A process of neighborhood change that results in the displacement of poorer households as wealthier households move in.
  • It often includes a change from rental housing to for-sale single family homes and condominiums.

Who is displaced by gentrification and how does it happen?

  • Low-income households who cannot afford the (often rapidly) increased rents/house prices have to move.
  • There are two kinds of displacement:
    • Direct: when a landlord raises the rent beyond what a tenant can afford.
    • Indirect: when property values increase to the point where current residents can no longer afford to live in the area.

Who are the gentrifiers?

  • Typically, gentrification in the US is both income and race-based, with wealthier White households moving into poorer Latino or Black neighborhoods.
  • But it’s not always like that: middle-class Black households are moving into Bronzeville, and in Pilsen both middle-class Latino and White households are moving in.

What causes gentrification?

  • First, there is a process of disinvestment. As households (especially White households) moved to the suburbs, so did jobs, services and amenities. Those who could not afford to move (especially Black households) were left behind. Disinvestment happens when City policies prioritize higher income neighborhoods, when individual homeowners/landlords can’t afford to fix up or maintain their buildings (or who choose not to), and through policies that affect access to land and funds (e.g. segregation, redlining). Rents and house prices drop.
  • Gentrification follows this period of disinvestment.
    • Over time, property owners see a chance to increase their revenue, usually by renting/selling to a different group of people than are currently living there.
    • At the same time, homebuyers see the area as a good investment opportunity.

What are some alternatives to gentrification to revitalize communities?

  • Making a neighborhood a better place to live without displacement is possible.
    • Locally: securing enough affordable housing for lower income families, educational and employment opportunities to enable people to get good jobs, and daycare and early childhood education programs
    • More broadly: improved access to public transit, economic policy that supports full employment and diverse opportunities with living wages, zoning and housing policy that supports a full mix of housing types and prices, policies that protect renters against sudden increases in rent or unscrupulous landlords (e.g. rent control, no eviction zones)