Nearly One Million at Risk of Housing Displacement

Regional Plan Association today released a study, Pushed Out: Housing Displacement in an Unaffordable Region, showing how rising housing costs and the growing popularity of walkable neighborhoods have put pressure on low-income residents. Often thought of as a problem confined to fast-changing New York City neighborhoods, the study reveals how displacement pressure has spread around the metropolitan region. There are nearly one million people at risk of future displacement, the study finds, affecting communities from New Brunswick, N.J., to Poughkeepsie, N.Y., to New Haven, Conn.

The report proposes a range of policies, including legal protections and broader rental subsidies, to prevent displacement. Recognizing that our affordability crisis can only be solved if the region builds enough new homes for a range of income levels, the report complements other RPA analysis arguing that housing production needs to be increased substantially to meet our housing needs.

Wealthier populations are replacing low- and moderate-income residents especially in communities that have good access to mass transit and jobs, the report finds. These accessible neighborhoods have seen an 11% increase in households making more than $100,000 since 2000, while households making less than $100,000 have declined by 2% in the same places.

The study also illustrates how rising housing costs have taken a particular toll on people of color, who represent two-thirds of the population in communities vulnerable to displacement.

Among the report’s key findings:

  • The growing popularity of walkable, job- and transit-accessible neighborhoods has driven up housing costs in these areas, forcing lower-income residents to move elsewhere.
  • There are 990,000 people in the metropolitan region who are vulnerable to future housing displacement pressure. More than two-thirds of them are black or Hispanic.
  • While gentrification is often thought to be confined to New York City, there are neighborhoods throughout the New York-New Jersey-Connecticut metropolitan region that are vulnerable to displacement pressure.
  • The absence of rent protections and subsidized housing outside of New York City increases the vulnerability of low-income residents in those communities.

The report lays out a series of steps that states and municipalities can take to protect socially and economically vulnerable residents, including extending access to legal counsel for low-income residents with eviction cases to communities region-wide; limiting rent increases in accordance with local regulations; expanding rental subsidies for low-income residents; and incorporating displacement risk into local land-use decisions. These actions will help ensure that all residents will be able to benefit from investments that improve neighborhood conditions and opportunities.

“The extent and human costs of displacement call for stronger actions at all levels of government,” said Tom Wright, President, Regional Plan Association. “We can build the housing we need without pushing out our most vulnerable residents.”

The study is part of a series of reports that lay the groundwork for the fourth regional plan, a long-range vision for the metropolitan region due out this fall.

The report contains detailed maps showing which census tracts around the region are poised for displacement pressure based on characteristics that RPA analysis has shown lead to gentrification. It also includes audio interviews with residents from around the region who are experiencing displacement pressure and worried about their future housing.

As part of the research, RPA held a half-day forum today at the Ford Foundation to discuss how municipalities can prevent displacement and ensure existing residents benefit when neighborhoods change. Panel discussions were moderated by Errol Louis, host of Road to City Hall on NY1 News, and Barika Williams, deputy director of the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development.

Joan Byron, Program Director, Neighborhoods First Fund, said: “RPA's report powerfully maps the threat of displacement not only in New York City but across the region. It underscores the urgent need to preserve affordability in neighborhoods that offer opportunity and stability to the communities of color, immigrants, and low-wage workers who sustain the region's economy and vitality.”

Lucas Sanchez, Long Island Director, New York Communities for Change, said: “RPA’s study shows how gentrification is forcing hundreds of thousands of black and brown people out of their homes in New York City. Low income people of color are being pushed into extremely segregated suburban counties like Nassau and Suffolk. We have to tear down invisible walls and put in place strong rent protections and low income housing all over the region.”

Staci Berger, President and CEO, Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey, said: “Many New Jersey communities are tackling the difficult challenge of redeveloping while ensuring that longtime residents and businesses aren’t displaced. As noted in RPA’s report, local officials can adopt strong inclusionary ordinances, rent control and other policies that can help ensure all neighborhoods grow and thrive fairly.”

Alicia Woodsby, Executive Director, Partnership for Strong Communities in Connecticut, said: “We work every day to provide safe, secure, affordable homes for every resident of Connecticut because we know strong communities require a wide diversity of residents, and those residents need a wide assortment of housing choices. We are focused on having affordable, high-quality homes in all of Connecticut’s municipalities and will strenuously oppose any public policies that result in displacing residents or reducing their housing choices in any way.”

Michael Higgins Jr., Community Organizer, Families United for Racial & Economic Equality, said: “From our work within newly gentrifying low-income communities, we find that far too often government promotes a model of development to promote economic opportunity without doing the work to prevent displacement. We support these recommendations for additional of public policy to ensure the communities the right to remain in their homes and fully benefit from the influx of capital into these formerly disinvested spaces.”

The full report can be viewed here