The processes of gentrification and displacement are happening in cities across the country, including Oakland, Boston, and New York. In a place like the Bronx, New York, where the average median income is $37,525, 80% of residents are renters and one third of households are paying over half of their annual income to rent, rising costs for residential and commercial tenants place already struggling families in even more precarious situations.
Although framed as much-needed investment into Bronx communities, gentrification obscures the decades of systemic disinvestment and the historically unanswered calls for safer streets, quality affordable housing, and decent jobs that residents have put forward for decades. Meanwhile, local advocates and residents have developed their communities from the ground up.
The displacement crisis today
Measuring the flows, forces, and factors of displacement and gentrification is a matter of intense debate even among those who agree that they are significant processes in cities today. What is undeniable is that in many American cities, real estate markets have heated up, driving up housing costs, while real incomes for most people (especially people of color) have stagnated or decreased. Between 2000 and 2016, rents in the Bronx rose by 77%, while median household income increased by 29%. Adjusting for inflation, median rent rose by 26%, while median household income for Latinos fell by 6%. The increasing gap between incomes and rents fuels displacement in the Bronx, while landlords’ legal and illegal practices and the City’s desire to create “mixed-income” neighborhoods simply exacerbate the issue.