OpEd titled “A Community-Centered Perspective on Displacement” in Shelterforce

Image Credit: Tree City Architecture. Illustration by Fritz Ahlefeldt via flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

In the last year, displacement has become a hot topic for policy analysis and intervention in New York City and across the country. For example, in 2017 the Regional Plan Association released its fourth plan for the NY-NJ-CT region since 1929, and it included a report titled Pushed Out: Housing Displacement in an Unaffordable Region.

Vicki Been, former commissioner of NYC’s department of Housing Preservation and Development and now professor of public policy at the NYU Wagner Graduate School of Public Service and faculty director of NYU’s Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy, released a paper “What More Do We Need to Know About How to Prevent and Mitigate Displacement of Low- and Moderate-Income Households from Gentrifying Neighborhoods.” Public officials and staff from 10 U.S. cities (Austin, Buffalo, New York, Denver, Nashville, Philadelphia, Portland, Oregon, San José, California, Santa Fe, New Mexico, and the twin cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul) joined together with PolicyLink to form The All-In Cities Anti-Displacement Policy Network. The Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development (ANHD) and the Pratt Center for Community Development released The Anti-Displacement Toolkit to Fight Displacement in NYC Neighborhoods and Flawed Findings: How NYC’s Approach to Measuring Displacement Risk Fails Communities, respectively.

Together and independently, these initiatives acknowledge displacement as a critical policy issue related to housing and urban development and aim to create and share resources for those doing planning and housing work in cities across the country.

Underpinning these initiatives are certain assumptions about what displacement is and why it matters. Commonly, these reports focus on residential displacement, and discuss it at the individual-household level. They discuss how forced or coerced moves from one’s current housing may affect their health, employment, neighborhood and housing quality, and finances. In addition, anti-displacement policy is discussed vaguely in the vein of social justice. If race and ethnicity are specifically mentioned, it is from a justice perspective; with the addition of clarifying that everyone, regardless of their background or circumstances, has a right to housing. All of this is underpinned by the notion that anti-displacement policy and action is about creating more prosperous and healthy communities and cities for all.

I am thankful that displacement is getting some serious attention from housing and community development professionals and policymakers, and I don’t disagree with the concerns highlighted in their work. But I also think the work overlooks an important perspective—that in contrast to the narrow, individual/household level analysis and redress, displacement is a place-based, community-level phenomenon, and that anti-displacement work is also about community preservation.

Continue reading: A Community-Centered Perspective on Displacement — Shelterforce

Posted on: November 13, 2018