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Preventing Involuntary Displacement of the Neighborhood's Lower-Income Residents

Preventing Involuntary Displacement of the Neighborhood's Lower-Income Residents

This is one of three strategic approaches for the goal of promoting equitable revitalization. Click here to read about all three in context.


Preventing or minimizing involuntary displacement is fundamentally different from preserving affordable housing. While the latter is inherently a long-term effort, the former is designed to mitigate the effects of change in the short run, by focusing on the immediate pressures affecting lower-income tenants and homeowners. While most tenants are highly mobile, they should be able to move when they want to, not when the landlord has come up with a more profitable alternative.


Many lower-income homeowners in an appreciating neighborhood may be able to benefit significantly from the appreciation taking place in their midst, but only if they can preserve the quality of their asset and are not pressed to move prematurely by tax increases or other factors. This in turn suggests that asset-preservation strategies – including foreclosure prevention and assistance to help owners extract themselves from untenable subprime or predatory loans – can also play an important role in helping lower-income owners benefit from, rather than be victimized by, market change.


A long-term, equitable revitalization strategy will depend on preserving or creating enough affordable housing to sustain an economically integrated neighborhood. In the meantime, the short-term concerns of the area’s residents are more likely to hinge on the immediate issue of potential displacement. Mitigating or preventing displacement is an important goal in itself, even when it does not necessarily lead to long-term preservation of the affordable housing stock. Appropriate strategies must be devised for homeowners, tenants in private-market properties, and tenants in subsidized or affordability-controlled properties [see table below]. Preventing displacement for tenants of subsidized housing, however, is usually a by-product of actions taken to preserve such housing, rather than a separate strategy. 


Strategies and Activities to Prevent Involuntary Displacement of Lower-Income Residents

 prevent involuntary displacement


While preserving or creating affordable housing often involves taking the initiative in gaining control of land and assembling financial resources, actions to prevent or mitigate displacement are more likely to involve regulatory changes designed to impose constraints on practices of property owners, developers or lenders. These may include imposing rent controls, granting tenants the right of first refusal to purchase their buildings, establishing rules for relocation assistance or discouraging predatory and subprime lending. Constraints on private market behavior must be carefully designed to address the problems it raises without discouraging positive changes. The goal is to manage change, not stop or reverse it.


Preserving affordable housing and mitigating displacement go together. Many actions, such as giving tenants a right of first refusal to buy their multifamily buildings if the owner plans to sell or convert them to condominiums, further both strategies. The two strategies can also be linked by creating affordable housing in ways that enable it to be used as replacement housing for those displaced from private-market housing, or by designing displacement prevention strategies that may lead to private-market housing becoming long-term, non-market affordable housing.



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