Gentrification is when wealthier, usually white, people arrive in an existing urban neighborhood and cause changes in the community. These changes are usually very complicated and contradictory. The changes include an increase in median income of the neighborhood, increases in rents and home prices, development of luxury housing, and a disturbance of the neighborhood’s character.

According to the NYU Furman Center, neighborhoods in New York City are classified into three categories: gentrifying, non-gentrifying, and higher-income. The first category, gentrifying neighborhoods, consist of areas that had low-income from 1990 to 2014, and experienced rent growth above the median sub-borough area rent growth between the 24 years. Non-gentrifying neighborhoods started off as low-income areas in 1990, but experienced more rent growth. The last category, higher-income neighborhoods, started off with higher incomes in 1990. Based off of this system, fifteen of the fifty-five neighborhoods in the city were gentrifying, seven were non-gentrifying, and thirty-three were higher-income (5).

National Analysis

Throughout the overall country, the costs of renting urban homes and apartments have risen substantially in recent years. New York was amongst the cities where its residents paid the highest amounts of their income on rent. According to a study done by the Zillow Real Estate Research between 200 and 2014, the median household income rose 25% while rents increased by 53% (9).

Low-income families have a higher rate of housing instability. In 2004, Lance Freeman, a Professor in the Urban Planning program at Columbia GSAPP, examined the process of gentrification in New York City over the span of 8 years, from 1991 to 1999. The regions that were most affected were Chelsea, Harlem, the Lower East Side, Morningside Heights, Fort Greene, Park Slope, and Williamsburg. Freeman found that these neighborhoods had a higher population of white people, higher average rent and home prices, higher average incomes, and higher educational attainment. In a neighborhood like Harlem alone, the average apartment now rents for approximately $1,700.

Displacement of the Poor

Freeman noted that the most significant point drawn from his data was that low-income households have much higher turnover rates than other households. This was because the families of lower-income could not afford to maintain the higher rents, leading them to move out of the area. When this happens, the wealthier, higher-income families take their spots. This led to the conclusion that low-income households have much higher turnover rates than other households. Thus, gentrification does not only displace the neighborhood’s original low-income inhabitants, it replaces them.

Displacement can be difficult to measure. Kathe Newman, an Associate Professor in the Urban Planning and Policy Development Program at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, conducted the 2003 American Housing Survey. Newman included a question about the public’s reasons for moving out of the neighborhoods; the survey showed that approximately 225,000 renters with low-incomes below the poverty level moved at least once and mentioned cost pressures as a reason. Of these renters, 96,000 were directly displaced from their neighborhood by the private landlord or government actions (4).

In some cases, landlords will go to extreme measures to bully the tenants in an attempt to drive them from the housing unit. For instance, landlords may stop accepting rent and take the matter to court, give misinformation on succession rights, abuse construction practices, and more. Many of the rent-stabilized tenants do not wish to leave their neighborhoods because it is their home, and their home holds sentient, which is sometimes more powerful than increasing rent prices. The low-income residents then remain in the neighborhood by living in substandard housing or paying a larger percentage of their income for rent. Generally, tenant evictions increase as a result of unfair landlord practices in gentrified neighborhoods.