What People Say

Displacement is a complicated process and over time, even if the same people remain, a neighborhood will change. How a neighborhood changes is based on two things: the local government practices and the demographics of the residents. One ideology remains constant: some people are going to dislike how the neighborhood changes, but no one will be able to stop it from reflecting the majority of the residents. The only way to attempt a positive transition is to listen to how constituents view their communities and ensure that the vision is not one-sided.

Marginalized communities dislike new residents because it signals the arrival of surveillance and higher taxes. Because urban renewal is based on proclaiming that an area is a slum or exhibits blight, many residents can feel pressured to sell, especially if they have been unable to maintain their homes according to city ordinances  or even their personal standards. Low valuation deprives them of leverage, making it further difficult to acquire renovation financing. When neighbors sell, properties are often valued higher, which means that the block, the street, and soon the neighborhood experiences higher tax rates. Low home values and high taxes mean that working class residents have a limited time in the neighborhood, and feel alienated from their own homes.

Higher income neighborhoods fear incoming constituents because they want to preserve the character of their communities, whatever that means. Many descriptions of “character” imply demographics, while such constituents claim that their argument is based on architectural integrity and surrounding business composition. While environmental conservation is vital, many advantaged communities have just as many cars as distressed areas, which is enigmatic based on the availability of public transit and dissolves the argument that character preservation is based on environmental needs. On the contrary, higher income neighborhoods maintain their autonomy because of their ability to renovate, their strict development guidelines, and often more flexible schedules.

Newcomers are looking for places to live, and often forget that wherever they move will have a history. Whether said history includes extensive oppression or pleasant nostalgia, most new residents are responding to advertising, some of which has been endorsed by the local government. Tensions arise when people move into their homes, but feel as if they will never be fully integrated in a community where they found a home that fits their lifestyles. Consequently, some become activists and petition on behalf of the long-term residents, while some double down on their right to live in the neighborhood regardless of previous occupants.

Both low- and high-income neighborhood residents prefer that their neighborhoods continue to include them. Underneath the NIMBY exterior lies an obvious concern that their neighborhoods would be perceived as “better” without them living there, and some of that concern is legitimate when discussing marginalized communities. Higher income communities have often maintained their demographics for longer, and focusing on character can translate to exclusion, regardless of intent. Everyone wants to stay in their neighborhoods, but after a transition, few will be able to do so, and new residents should be aware that they may have displaced someone in favor of a great deal.

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