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How a Rapidly Gentrifying City Can Help Its Most Vulnerable

January 18, 2015 in Blogs

By Steven Samra, T3 Threads

Gentrification is pushing out the last of affordable housing units. Here's what cities need to do for its low-income populations.

Whenever I train homeless service providers to provide housing focused outreach, the first question I typically receive is, “Yeah, this is great and all, but what if you don’t have any housing available?”

Yeah, what if?

The reduction in affordable housing stock in this country is endemic. According to The National Low Income Housing Coalition’s report, Out of Reach 2014, “Finding a decent, affordable home is a challenge for all renters, but the poorest households have very few options. For every 100 extremely low income (ELI) renter households, there are just 31 affordable and available units” (4).

Making matters worse, the National Coalition to End Homelessness states, “According to HUD, in recent years the shortages of affordable housing are most severe for units affordable to renters with extremely low incomes. Federal support for low-income housing has fallen 49% from 1980 to 2003 (National Low Income Housing Coalition, 2005). About 200,000 rental housing units are destroyed annually.”

Let me help you defrost these cold, impersonal statistics with a real world example. A December 4th opinion piece in The New York Times regarding the explosive growth and gentrification of Nashville, Tennessee laments:

“These two tendencies — save our soul, but grow grow grow — are now colliding in a bizarre form of hyper-gentrification. Neighborhoods close to downtown once drew teachers, writers and musicians with well-built, well-priced Craftsman homes. But with the influx of wealth has come a new kind of buyer, often an investor offering cash well above asking price. A house that went for $40,000 a decade ago might now go for 15 times that amount. Even worse, for many of these new gentrifiers, the old Craftsman homes are just too small, so developers have been buying up these small houses, then demolishing and replacing them with much larger ones.”

This “gentrification wave” is certainly not isolated to Nashville, and is impacting large and small cities around the country, but I digress. As a former street outreach specialist in Nashville and current …read more


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