Transit-Oriented Displacement or Community Dividends?
An examination of the neighborhood transformation, gentrification, and displacement that accompany more compact development around transit.
The open access edition of this book was made possible by generous funding from the MIT Libraries.
Cities and regions throughout the world are encouraging smarter growth patterns and expanding their transit systems to accommodate this growth, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and satisfy new demands for mobility and accessibility. Yet despite a burgeoning literature and various policy interventions in recent decades, we still understand little about what happens to neighborhoods and residents with the development of transit systems and the trend toward more compact cities. Research has failed to determine why some neighborhoods change both physically and socially while others do not, and how race and class shape change in the twenty-first-century context of growing inequality.
Drawing on novel methodological approaches, this book sheds new light on the question of who benefits and who loses from more compact development around new transit stations. Building on data at multiple levels, it connects quantitative analysis on regional patterns with qualitative research through interviews, field observations, and photographic documentation in twelve different California neighborhoods. From the local to the regional to the global, Chapple and Loukaitou-Sideris examine the phenomena of neighborhood transformation, gentrification, and displacement not only through an empirical lens but also from theoretical and historical perspectives.
Growing out of an in-depth research process that involved close collaboration with dozens of community groups, the book aims to respond to the needs of both advocates and policymakers for ideas that work in the trenches.
Download the book here.
Rising Housing Costs and Re-segregation
The California Housing Partnership and Urban Displacement Project documented the mobility patterns for low-income people of color at the neighborhood level in Alameda, Contra Costa and San Francisco counties. Our reports and maps provide evidence that low-income people of color in the Bay Area suffer the most as housing prices rise, and displacement pressures push them into higher poverty, lower-resource neighborhoods where the odds are stacked against them. Key findings include:
- Between 2000 and 2015, as housing prices rose, the City of Richmond, the Bayview in San Francisco, and flatlands areas of Oakland and Berkeley lost thousands of low-income black households. Increases in low-income black households during the same period were concentrated in cities and neighborhoods with lower housing prices and fewer resources —such as Antioch and Pittsburg in East Contra Costa County, as well parts of Hayward and the unincorporated communities of Ashland and Cherryland in Alameda County.
- Large increases in the number of low-income people of color living in areas that became newly segregated and high-poverty between 2000 and 2015 are evidence that rising housing costs and migration patterns have contributed to new concentrations of segregation and poverty in the region.
- Low-income households of color were much more vulnerable than low-income white households to the impact of rapid increases in housing prices. In the Bay Area, a 30% tract-level increase in median rent paid between 2000 and 2015 was associated with a 21% decrease in low-income households of color but was not associated with a change in low-income white households.
- Low-income households who made any kind of move in 2015—whether they stayed within their county of origin or left it—ended up paying a higher share of their income on rent than those who did not move, a clear indicator of the high cost of displacement.
- Upon moving, a significant share of low-income people of all races not only left their county of origin but left the region altogether. For example, 40 percent of low-income black households in Alameda County who moved in 2015 left the Bay Area, another indication of regional displacement pressures.
Reports and Interactive Maps
Research Brief on the Consequences of Displacement
In metropolitan regions across the country, residents face constrained, expensive housing markets and rising income inequality. As neighborhoods change and housing demand shifts, landlords are presented with a new set of financial prospects. Displacement and evictions are central components of this changing landscape, altering the geography of race and class across regions. San Mateo County, located about half way between San Francisco and San Jose in the heart of Silicon Valley, is no exception, despite having one of the highest median household incomes in California. Through in-depth phone surveys with households who live in and/or were displaced from San Mateo County communities, this study examines the relationship between displacement and housing costs and quality, commutes, neighborhood location and quality, mental and physical health, and healthcare access.
Key findings include:
- Tenants report that, aside from being formally evicted, they were harassed out by landlords, priced out by market forces, and pushed out by poor housing conditions.
- After being displaced, survey respondents were forced to make difficult and precarious tradeoffs when searching for housing (e.g., substandard housing conditions, crowding, moving far away, etc.), limited by both market forces and exclusionary practices.
- Approximately one in three displaced households reported some period of homelessness or marginal housing in the two years following their displacement. Several of these households remained homeless even months after they were displaced.
- After being displaced, only 20 percent of households reported staying in the same neighborhood (within one mile of their previous home). Thirty-three percent of households left San Mateo County, generally moving to the Central Valley or eastern communities in the East Bay.
- After being displaced, households moved to neighborhoods with fewer job opportunities on average, leading to longer, more costly commutes for households who left the county. These new neighborhoods also had more environmental and safety concerns as well as fewer healthcare resources.
- Displacement was a significant disruption and trauma for respondents and their children. Two out of three children in displaced households had to change schools.
Developing a new methodology for analyzing potential displacement
In 2008 California passed Senate Bill 375 requiring metropolitan planning organizations (MPO) to develop Sustainable Communities Strategies (SCS) as part of their regional transportation planning process. While the implementation of these strategies has the potential for environmental and economic benefits, rising housing costs and changing neighborhood conditions may compel low-income residents and households to move out of transit-oriented neighborhoods. In our ARB-funded study we examined the relationship between fixed-rail transit neighborhoods and displacement in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area. The research modeled patterns of neighborhood change in relation to transit proximity and found that transit proximity is associated with changes in the stability of the surrounding neighborhood, such as increases in housing costs and the loss of low-income households. We find that gentrification and displacement in rail station areas would only be likely to cause an increase in auto usage and regional vehicle miles traveled (VMT) when accompanied by a significant loss of population near transit. The results support the consideration of displacement in the development of SCSs, and the research also explored the possibility of considering displacement in travel demand models used by the LA and San Francisco MPOs and via off-model tools. Finally, we examined the effectiveness of anti-displacement strategies, and the results may be useful for MPOs, local jurisdictions, and communities.
Read the report: Developing a New Methodology for Analyzing Potential Displacement.
Research Brief on Housing Production and Displacement
Debate over the relative importance of subsidized and market-rate housing production in alleviating the current housing crisis continues to preoccupy policy makers, developers and advocates. This research brief adds to the discussion by providing a nuanced analysis of the relationship between housing production, affordability and displacement in the San Francisco Bay Area, finding that:
- At the regional level, both market-rate and subsidized housing reduce displacement pressures, but subsidized housing has over double the impact of market-rate units.
- Market-rate production is associated with higher housing cost burden for low-income households, but lower median rents in subsequent decades.
- At the local, block group level in San Francisco, neither market-rate nor subsidized housing production has the protective power they do at the regional scale, likely due to the extreme mismatch between demand and supply.
Although more detailed analysis is needed to clarify the complex relationship between development, affordability and displacement at the local scale, this research implies the importance of not only increasing production of subsidized and market-rate housing in California’s coastal communities, but also investing in the preservation of housing affordability and stabilizing vulnerable communities.
Read the research brief: Housing Production, Filtering and Displacement: Untangling the Relationships.
Literature Review on Gentrification and Displacement
In 2015, researchers at UC Berkeley and UCLA completed a review of the academic and practitioner literature on gentrification, displacement and its relationship to public and private investments. This review highlights many limitations in the literature and provides detail on the following findings:
- Neighborhoods change slowly, but over time are becoming more segregated by income, due in part to macro-level increases in income inequality.
- Gentrification results from both flows of capital and people. The extent to which gentrification is linked to racial transition differs across neighborhood contexts.
- Commercial gentrification can also transform a neighborhood’s meaning.
- New fixed-rail transit has a generally positive effect on both residential and commercial property values, but its impact varies substantially according to context.
- Proximity to high quality schools and parks, as well as access to highways, increases home values.
- Displacement takes many different forms—direct and indirect, physical or economic, and exclusionary—and may result from either investment or disinvestment.
- Despite severe data and analytic challenges in measuring the extent of displacement, most studies agree that gentrification at a minimum leads to exclusionary displacement and may push out some renters as well.
- Previous studies have failed to build a cumulative understanding of displacement because they have utilized different definitions, compared different populations, and adopted a relatively short timeframe; there is not even agreement on what constitutes a significant effect.
- Existing studies rarely account or proxy for regional market strength, which undermines their relevance to particular contexts.
Download our full literature review. This literature review has also been published as a working paper by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco available here and as an academic article in the Journal of Planning Literature (2017) available here.
Urban Displacement Project Gentrification and Displacement Maps
As part of the Regional Early Warning System for Displacement project funded by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, UC Berkeley conducted regional data analysis to better understand the nature and drivers of gentrification and displacement, which was validated through 9 neighborhood case studies. From this analysis, and with careful review and input from an advisory committee, we developed 8 neighborhood typologies to help communities better characterize their experience and risks in an effort to raise awareness and stimulate action.
In 2009, we developed an early warning toolkit for gentrification with funding from the Association of Bay Area Governments. Read our early warning gentrification report.
Case studies on gentrification, displacement, and development impact