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A nice park and an affordable home: Planning to combat environmental gentrification

Authors: Alessandro Rigolon*, The University of Utah, Jon Christensen, University of California, Los Angeles
Topics: Urban and Regional Planning, Urban Geography
Keywords: Environmental gentrification, urban green space, anti-displacement strategies, environmental equity, political ecology
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Environmental gentrification, which describes the influx of wealthier residents to low-income neighborhoods due to new green spaces, has become a key challenge for planners in Global North cities. Driven by the belief that low-income communities should not have to choose between parks and affordable homes, some nonprofits and cities in the U.S. are starting to address environmental gentrification proactively. Yet limited research has examined common successes and struggles among projects.
In this paper, we report the results of a study on parks-related anti-displacement strategies (PRADS) in the U.S., including strategies to preserve and protect affordable housing and create good-paying jobs for low-income residents. Based on reviews of planning documents and media accounts and interviews with project stakeholders, we identified 27 major park development projects located in low-income neighborhoods in 19 cities across the U.S. We found 13 projects in 12 cities for which nonprofits or cities implemented or proposed PRADS.
We identified 25 types of PRADS and grouped them into six categories based on the beneficiaries (renters, homeowners, businesses and workers) or the implementers of such strategies (developers, public and nonprofit housing organizations, and park funders). A few lessons emerged across projects. First, PRADS should be implemented at the early stages of park planning. Second, community engagement is key to identify and address environmental gentrification threats early on. Third, affordable housing initiatives should be coupled with the creation of jobs for longtime residents. Finally, park funding agencies (e.g., states) should require or incentivize the implementation of PRADS.

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