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

In these reports on rising housing costs and re-segregation, the Urban Displacement Project and California Housing Partnership, together with support from  The San Francisco Foundation, document the mobility patterns for low-income people of color at the neighborhood level in the nine-county Bay Area region. 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, historically Black cities and neighborhoods across the region lost thousands of low-income Black households. These areas include the Bayview in San Francisco, flatland neighborhoods in Oakland and Berkeley, and the cities of East Palo Alto, Richmond, and Vallejo. Increases in low-income Black households during the same period were concentrated the region’s outer edges, namely cities and neighborhoods in Solano County, eastern Contra Costa County, and southern Alameda County that have relatively lower housing prices and fewer resources.
  • 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 suggest that rising housing costs and migration patterns are contributing 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 (inflation-adjusted) was associated with a 28% decrease in low-income households of color. There was no significant relationship between rent increases and losses of 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 substantial share of low-income people left the region altogether; approximately 30% of low-income people of color who moved in 2015 left the Bay Area. The share of movers leaving the region was highest among those moving from San Francisco and San Mateo counties, which have some of the most expensive rents in the region.

Reports and Interactive Maps

Bay Area Regional Report

County Supplement (County-Specific Charts) to Bay Area Report

Alameda County Report

Contra Costa County Report

San Francisco Report

Rent and Demographic Change Map

Migration Map

Examining the Unintended Effects of Climate Change Mitigation: A New Tool to Predict Investment-Related Displacement

This project will examine the unintended effects of climate change mitigation investment-related displacement, focusing on three regions: the Bay Area, Los Angeles, and Fresno county. This research will estimate the relationship between displacement pressures and California’s climate mitigation strategies, policies and the investments made possible by the Cap and Trade program in order to create tools that state agencies can to use to predict and mitigate the displacement impacts of future investments.

The project is funded by Strategic Growth Council, and partners include Stanford University, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, Public Advocates, Public Counsel, California Housing Partnership and Leadership Counsel.

Assessing the Impacts of Tenant Protections in San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties

This project will study the impacts of tenant protections in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, focusing on the analysis of rent stabilization and just cause for evictions policies in East Palo Alto, Mountain View and San Jose. The project is funded by Silicon Valley Community Foundation and will be carried out in collaboration with Stanford University, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and Public Advocates.


Evaluating the Impacts of Policies and Investments on Displacement in the Bay Area

This project will study the the impacts of a variety of policies and investments on displacement at the regional scale in the Bay Area. Such policies and investments will include tenant protections policies – such as rent stabilization and just cause for eviction ordinances – and investments – such as new market rate housing construction. This project is funded by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.

Strong, Prosperous, and Resilient Communities Challenge (SPARCC)

The Urban Displacement Project is providing technical assistance to the national initiative, SPARCC (Strong, Prosperous, and Resilient Communities Challenge), in the cities of Atlanta, Chicago, Denver and Memphis. We are supporting local SPARCC partners with analysis of local gentrification and displacement data - towards a better understanding of neighborhood change in each of these cities, as well as towards a national narrative around gentrification and displacement. This project is funded by SPARCC.


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.The new research brief, Displacement in San Mateo County: California Consequences for Housing, Neighborhoods, Quality of Life, and Health, provides a window into the consequences of displacement for households in the San Francisco Bay Area, with implications for researchers and policymakers both locally and across the nation.

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. This out-migration is called “displacement.”

Our ARB-funded study 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.

Executive Summary of the Urban Displacement Project

Read an executive summary of our project's key findings.

Read our article about the Urban Displacement Project and gentrification warning systems in other metros.

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. The review was published in the academic Journal of Planning Literature in 2017, which you can download here.  This review highlights many limitations in the literature and provides detail on the following findings:

  1. Neighborhoods change slowly, but over time are becoming more segregated by income, due in part to macro-level increases in income inequality.
  2. Gentrification results from both flows of capital and people. The extent to which gentrification is linked to racial transition differs across neighborhood contexts.
  3. Commercial gentrification can also transform a neighborhood’s meaning.
  4. New fixed-rail transit has a generally positive effect on both residential and commercial property values, but its impact varies substantially according to context.
  5. Proximity to high quality schools and parks, as well as access to highways, increases home values.
  6. Displacement takes many different forms—direct and indirect, physical or economic, and exclusionary—and may result from either investment or disinvestment.
  7. 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. 
  8. 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.
  9. 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 available here

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.

View our online, interactive Bay Area maps

View our online, interactive Los Angeles maps

Previous Work: Susceptibility Report

In 2009, we developed an early warning toolkit for gentrification with funding from the Association of Bay Area Governments.

View our early warning gentrification report

Case studies on gentrification, displacement, and development impact