Gentrification: Numbers not anecdotes.
November 10, 2015 10:51 AM   Subscribe

What the numbers say as a neighborhood gentrifies. New research is finding that gentrification, contrary to popular belief, doesn't actually force poorer residents to leave areas at atypical rates—though that doesn't mean the changes don't have negative consequences.Relatively reliable data over a period of 12 years.
posted by rmhsinc (39 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
Point of order:

They also considered residents' credit scores as a proxy for how vulnerable they may be to being forced to leave.

I got good credit. But that is only because I prioritize keeping good credit as a financial choice; it does not mean that I am by any means able to afford moving to a better or more expensive neighborhood.

So - what on earth was the justification for considering credit scores, as opposed to income, when it comes to who's most likely to move out of a gentrifying neighborhood? I may have good credit, but my salary is still for shit.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:02 AM on November 10, 2015 [19 favorites]


They also considered residents' credit scores as a proxy for how vulnerable they may be to being forced to leave.
Could someone who has a better background in housing policy than me provide some basis for this? I agree that credit score is vaguely associated with wealth/mobility (due to being better credit scores making it easier to get a lease), but it seems to me that both people with great credit scores are affected by gentrification (if they don't make enough money to pay for a different place) and people with poor credit scores are unaffected by gentrification (if they own the house they live in and gentrification doesn't substantially alter their cost of living).

I like numbers, but this seems like a bit of a stretch to me.
posted by saeculorum at 11:03 AM on November 10, 2015 [2 favorites]




Good questions about credit score--perhaps the issues with credit scores are: they are relatively easy to secure and verify (unlike income) and they were(also) looking at the extent gentrification forces people to move out. People with low credit scores were not "forced" to leave at atypical rates because it became unaffordable.
posted by rmhsinc at 11:10 AM on November 10, 2015


people with poor credit scores are unaffected by gentrification (if they own the house they live in and gentrification doesn't substantially alter their cost of living).

Well, one of the ways in which cost of living is effected is that property values go up and so that means property taxes go up. So in a household that has no mortgage - because their parents paid it off/it's a family house - the largest household expense is the annual property tax. If property prices are rapidly increasing, that means that the tax on an unchanged property can go up several hundred dollars in a single year. This is obviously dependent on the pace of property price change, but rising taxes have been a point of focus for those concerned with gentrification's effects.
posted by ashworth at 11:14 AM on November 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


one of the ways in which cost of living is effected is that property values go up and so that means property taxes go up

This is the primary reason I think anti-gentrification activists should oppose property tax as inherently immoral.
posted by saeculorum at 11:16 AM on November 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Credit is increasingly seen as an indicator of ethical reliability and resourcefulness. For better or worse.

Good salary: this person has money right now, cool

Good credit: this person does whatever it takes to repay their debts, whether employed or not, they will get the money and play the game for a high score

Both: you are An Upstanding Citizen
posted by aydeejones at 11:23 AM on November 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


It does seem like a dubious metric here. Oh you don't say, people who know their earning potential and control their debts mindfully tend to bail out when they realize they can't afford to live somewhere much longer? You can just as easily interpret it that way. Without including income in the calculation it's just as possible that people with higher credit leave because they see the writing on the wall more urgently than someone who doesn't really care if they damage their credit and eventually get evicted.
posted by aydeejones at 11:29 AM on November 10, 2015


This is the primary reason I think anti-gentrification activists should oppose property tax as inherently immoral.

Until we stop funding public education with property taxes, it is immoral to oppose them. See Prop 13 for details.
posted by grumpybear69 at 11:29 AM on November 10, 2015 [19 favorites]


As a Philadelphian, I'm a bit leery of using Philadelphia a representative city for this study. The city did a terrible, terrible job at assessing property values during the period in question, which in effect meant that property taxes were kept low and not at all reflective of actual housing prices in gentrifying areas. That only changed in 2013, with the roll-out of the city's Actual Value Initiative (AVI), at the very end of the period herein studied. At that point, many properties hadn't been re-assessed in decades and were paying property taxes based on their values in the 1980s. Three years later, we're still running a tax abatement program to offset the steep property tax increases in gentrifying areas. I don't see this addressed in the study, but I haven't finished reading it, so perhaps they've already considered that. If not, it's an odd thing to overlook.
posted by cjelli at 11:31 AM on November 10, 2015 [7 favorites]


Does Philadelphia have rent control? Because that would make a huge difference in when poorer residents are forced to leave.
posted by maryr at 11:38 AM on November 10, 2015


this is a case study on how to mislead people.

in fact, the study shows that gentrification *does* accelerate the rate at which people leave a neighborhood, just that it doesn't dramatically accelerate that rate. Further, it showed that former residents with lower credit scores suffered by having to move into worse neighborhoods. That people with a greater capacity to move were more likely to move is, you know, fucking obvious. Also, that residents in gentrifying neighborhoods saw their credit scores rise is evidence of soft "red-lining" i.e. their credit score was artifically low because of where they lived.
posted by ennui.bz at 11:39 AM on November 10, 2015 [8 favorites]


ennui--it does not seem to mislead based an the study itself--it says almost exactly what you said.
posted by rmhsinc at 11:46 AM on November 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


No, Philly doesn't have rent control.
posted by joyceanmachine at 11:47 AM on November 10, 2015


I'm pretty sure that there's no rent control anywhere Pennsylvania.
posted by octothorpe at 11:49 AM on November 10, 2015


If you know what you want the study to say, all you have to do is find the numbers that support the premise.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:55 AM on November 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


Here is a summary of finding from several studies on the economic effects of gentrification. My take is that the negative affect on lower income individuals is somewhat exaggerated but still a real issue and the overall implications for the larger community ( all SE groups) is generally positive.
posted by rmhsinc at 12:10 PM on November 10, 2015


This is consistent with other quantitative analyses of gentrification I have seen point out that while technically long term residents might not be priced out in dramatic fashion, that's because pre-gentrification there will be a regular churn of lower income residents who are moving in and moving out. Gentrification puts an end to that by eliminating the churn since lower income residents can no longer move in. That underlying "voluntary"(-ish) displacement ends. The net effect of gentrification is that the neighborhood no longer becomes a place that gives lower income individuals an opportunity to move to. Maybe they would have left, and maybe they would have stayed, but the "input" is gone, meaning that the demographics inevitably shift in favor of the gentrifiers. At least in places like DC and Philadelphia, there are still ungentrified or ungentrifiable neighborhoods for people to move to. By contrast, in the SF Bay Area, there is basically nowhere for lower income people to go if they've been priced out and no where for lower income people to move to who come into the area from elsewhere.
posted by deanc at 12:24 PM on November 10, 2015 [8 favorites]


Credit is increasingly seen as an indicator of ethical reliability and resourcefulness. For better or worse. \

Credit scores are also an excellent backdoor to discrimination against immigrants.

I had to get my younger brother to cosign for my wife and I despite being nearly 50 and having always paid (staggering) debts on time. The issue? My wife and I had a "thin file" because our credit history was Canadian and British and invisible to the company that our building contracted their credit check out to.
posted by srboisvert at 12:27 PM on November 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


None of the studies in rmhsinc's link, or any others I've seen, consider the effects of increased tax revenue on poor people.

In SF, where housing prices have skyrocketed, property tax revenue has too. That money is disproportionately spent on things that benefit poor people (public schools, low income medical services, senior housing, supplements to SNAP). Prop 13, for all its many faults, guarantees that only people who have bought their homes at a high price pay the increased property tax. If you bought when housing was cheap, your property taxes stay low. This is shitty for the housing market overall, but it serves as a rent control-like protection for property tax, more or less guaranteeing that increased housing prices don't force owners to sell.

Cities went broke when higher income (mostly white) people fled for the suburbs in in the 50's through 80's. Lower income people benefitted at least in the form of lower housing costs (rent in big cities was dirt cheap in the 80s). Now where they are returning, that effect is somewhat reversed. I realize this symmetry is pretty coarse, but either white flight was bad, or gentrification is bad.

There are winners and loses in both, of course, but I'm going to say gentrification looks like the better option.
posted by andrewpcone at 12:37 PM on November 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


New research is finding that gentrification, contrary to popular belief, doesn't actually force poorer residents to leave areas at atypical rates...

This is a specious and quite deliberately misleading 'truth' at best.

No, gentrification doesn't cause poor residents who already live in an area to leave "at atypical rates" (only at first), but poor areas have higher turnover rates, and gentrification has the effect of preventing other poor people from replacing the poor people who move out -- which means that gentrification does have the effect of displacing poor people from an area even though it doesn't cause poor residents to move out at higher rates initially.

Glad the authors of such 'research' aren't here in the room with me, or I might not be able to stop myself from committing an instance of the ad boculum fallacy.
posted by jamjam at 12:39 PM on November 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


Also, if anyone has seen studies on the relationship of racism and gentrification, I'd like to read them. In particular, the less scared higher income (typically white and Asian) people are of black and Latino people, the more willing I would think they are to live in the latter's neighborhoods.

I've lived most of my adult life in majority black neighborhoods (I'm white). My friends and relatives who have less favorable views of black people are more likely to express concern for my safety, sometimes to the point of expressing astonishment that I've never been mugged or beaten up. This seems to be mostly an age thing. People under 35 rarely see this danger; people from my parents' generation express it ceaselessly, and are utterly not dissuaded by either crime statistics or my reported experience—it's just axiomatic to them that black neighborhoods are extremely dangerous.

Like, racist attitudes toward black people, while still alarmingly common, have fallen precipitously:
http://www.ijreview.com/2014/04/133024-10-charts-show-racist-america-really/
http://www.addictinginfo.org/2014/05/01/new-data-proves-white-republicans-are-more-racist-than-white-democrats-images/

That alone would seem to cause an increase in housing prices in black (and probably similarly Latino) neighborhoods.
posted by andrewpcone at 12:53 PM on November 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


gentrification has the effect of preventing other poor people from replacing the poor people who move out

Our political system is completely unequipped to handle influxes of new people to an already-existing town or city. The established pattern was that neighborhoods would accommodate low turnover and new residents would be simply the younger version of longtime residents. There would never be an "influx" of new people beyond the capacity of neighborhoods/towns/cities to absorb because it was expected that those people would move to empty land used as housing developments.

The idea that more housing would be built in existing neighborhoods to accommodate a larger population or that new residents would be of a different (especially lower) socio economic class as the existing residents is completely anathema to the entire political structure of local zoning and development.

No one wants to accept a San Francisco of a million people or a Seattle of 800,000. Meanwhile, people keep having babies, immigrants keep arriving, and workers head off in search of job opportunities and make choices about what kind of life they want to live with the resources they have available.
posted by deanc at 12:54 PM on November 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


No one wants to accept a San Francisco of a million people or a Seattle of 800,000.

Eh? I live in Seattle and I'm rather looking forward to it. The city is growing up and that's a good thing. We definitely need to eliminate most of our zoning system though, since it's crippling our housing market.
posted by Mars Saxman at 12:57 PM on November 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


People under 35 rarely see this danger; people from my parents' generation express it ceaselessly

People whose entire concept of the state of the country was formed in the 70s and 80s will remember the astounding levels of crime. Everyone my parents age who lived in the NYC neighborhood I live in (which was not a "bad" neighborhood even back then) had a story of having been mugged. So obviously they believe that we, too, will be mugged sooner or later. Even in the absence of gentrification, crime has been collapsing since the 1990s. People who have few memories of the 70s and 80s have a more accurate understanding of contemporary crime risks.
posted by deanc at 12:59 PM on November 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


Our political system is completely unequipped to handle influxes of new people to an already-existing town or city I am not sure what political or economic system does have that ability--unless it is a rapid influx of people of means/relative wealth. You are talking about land use restrictions, construction/remodeling, moving people/inertia, economic investment, respecting cultural/ethnic preferences. amenities etc.
posted by rmhsinc at 1:12 PM on November 10, 2015


I am not sure what political or economic system does have that ability

One example: Japan, where multifamily housing (apartments, condos) was allowed on over 90% of zoned land in 1975 and planning is mostly done at a federal level. For comparison, Seattle (the city proper, don't get me started on the burbs!) allows multifamily on less than 15% of its land area. Accommodating more residents is effectively banned in most North American neighbourhoods.

North America is somewhat unique in reserving a majority of land for single-family housing, and I'd recommend Zoned in the USA if you're interested in a comparison to other developed nations with very different planning systems.
posted by ripley_ at 1:58 PM on November 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


Ripley, Actually I was thinking of Europe, less so the US, where i have seen the changes over the last 35 years and attempts to accommodate an influx of new residents. Not aware of the demographics of Japan thanks
posted by rmhsinc at 2:05 PM on November 10, 2015


andrewpcone: "In SF, where housing prices have skyrocketed, property tax revenue has too. That money is disproportionately spent on things that benefit poor people."

I don't buy this argument, because whatever monies that are collected will just go towards services people who pay the tax want. No need to spend money on poor communities which are shrinking.
posted by xtian at 3:50 PM on November 10, 2015


One example: Japan, where multifamily housing (apartments, condos) was allowed on over 90% of zoned land in 1975 and planning is mostly done at a federal level. For comparison, Seattle (the city proper, don't get me started on the burbs!) allows multifamily on less than 15% of its land area. Accommodating more residents is effectively banned in most North American neighbourhoods.

In Chicago it is even weirder. They go backwards. The more desirable neighborhoods are declining in density as three-ups are torn down or converted into single family dwellings. You need a special approval to add more units but you don't need it to remove units. There are even a few streets where people are knocking down rows of houses and building massive multi-lot mansions. Now these neighborhoods are well past gentrification and in some sort of weird second wave gentrification.
posted by srboisvert at 4:53 PM on November 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


It's the same here. My neighborhood has gone from over 3000 people in 1940 to about 500 right now. Lots of empty next couples or widows rattling around in four or five thousand square foot Victorian mansions that used to house a seven or eight people each. The neighbors freak out about any mention of higher density housing.
posted by octothorpe at 5:05 PM on November 10, 2015


If my neighborhood were to become gentrified, my rent would go up, probably higher than I could afford. So I'd be looked to rent somewhere else.
I have lousy credit. As a result, where a person with a good credit score could come up with first months rent + a security deposit (which might be equal to a months rent but often isn't around here), I'd need to come up with first and last months rent + security deposit equal to a months rent to do it. I know this because I recently looked into a better apartment, and those were the terms. Three months rent (around $2400 at $800 a month), then the cost of the move, the cost to switch utilities on and off, etc means that it would be very difficult to actually move.

That may explain why credit scores were used, at least to some degree.
posted by disclaimer at 6:25 PM on November 10, 2015


Eh? I live in Seattle and I'm rather looking forward to it. The city is growing up and that's a good thing. We definitely need to eliminate most of our zoning system though, since it's crippling our housing market.

The housing market is crippling the housing market. Seattle, like most major cities, is experiencing the return of the early 20th century allocation of urban space, wherein most people pay a lot for substandard housing, a few people pay a ton for decent housing, and the upper crust gets the lion's share, paying what appears to us to be an astronomically huge amount of money in exchange for extraordinarily high quality housing.

Fixing the housing market doesn't require simply ending height restrictions or removing parking minimums on market developments. It also requires building an ample supply of public housing priced well below market rates.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 6:32 PM on November 10, 2015


And I agree — Seattle should have 800,000 people in it. And San Francisco should have at least 1.1 million.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 6:35 PM on November 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


There's at least a loose correlation between credit scores and income (and I'd guess a better correlation with wealth), and as noted better credit scores make it much easier to rent (and rent in better neighborhoods), so credit scores might be a good proxy for the vulnerability they are trying to assess.

Seattle, like most major cities, is experiencing the return of the early 20th century allocation of urban space, wherein most people pay a lot for substandard housing, a few people pay a ton for decent housing, and the upper crust gets the lion's share, paying what appears to us to be an astronomically huge amount of money in exchange for extraordinarily high quality housing.

The housing market in places like Seattle seems most striking for how it has repriced formerly middle class and lower-middle class housing into the stratosphere. Places that not all that long ago were easily affordable by a single-earner teacher or union worker are now crazy expensive, but the actual housing isn't any better -- it is still mostly post-WWII quickly built houses of moderate size and moderate quality. Rentals have done the same -- rents go up, but it's still the same shitty apartment being rented.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:41 PM on November 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


and new construction is almost always aimed at the luxury market, because that's where the money is.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 6:46 PM on November 10, 2015


Sure, firms generally prefer to sell higher-margin goods first and luxury goods tend to have higher margins. The fix is to sate the luxury market so that developers move on to slightly less profitable housing.

The typical objection to that is that there is so much luxury demand that it cannot be sated, but 1) that's seriously underestimating North American limits on urban housing growth, 2) rich people are very capable of renovating existing housing if new housing isn't allowed, and 3) markets in other goods pretty clearly show that luxury demand can be sated. Only about 1/8 of Toyota's sales are Lexuses.

I completely agree that we also need more below-market-rate housing.
posted by ripley_ at 8:38 PM on November 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Fixing the housing market doesn't require simply ending height restrictions or removing parking minimums on market developments. It also requires building an ample supply of public housing priced well below market rates.

Building an ample supply of any kind of housing would be an improvement. Housing prices are rising because demand has increased but supply is not keeping up. Of course it is too late to push prices back down, but at least we could stop them from continuing to rise if we did away with the incredibly restrictive zoning rules that put over 80% of the city off-limits to development.

Perhaps we do need some sort of government intervention in the low end of the market to make up for the massive distortion created by years of crazy-excessive zoning control, but before we do that we should at least stop making the problem worse, and that means we need to get rid of the single-family-uber-alles NIMBY model that has prevailed for decades.
posted by Mars Saxman at 12:32 PM on November 11, 2015


So is this just saying: "we don't force you to leave but we won't let you back in?"
posted by Pembquist at 1:08 PM on November 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


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