Strategies for preventing displacement

As we all work to further develop our local neighborhoods, we must ensure that the long-term residents and businesses of rising communities can afford to live and enjoy the benefits of our work to create a #JustEconomy. This session will go over strategies to prevent displacement that have been successfully used by groups around the country, as well as examine the role that financial institutions can play in preventing displacement.

David Snyder, Organizing Director, Jewish Community Action, St. Paul, MN

Ted Wysocki, CEO, Institute of Cultural Affairs USA, Chicago, IL
Nelima Sitati Munene, Executive Director, African Career Education and Resource, Inc, Brooklyn Park, MN
Mark Harrell, NAC Coordinator/Community Organizer, Southwest Community Development Corporation, Philadelphia, PA
Kevin Stein, Deputy Director, California Reinvestment Coalition, San Francisco, CA

By Zoe Paige

Gentrification tends to pair with displacement, but it isn’t necessarily the cause. The Strategies of Preventing Displacement session covered equity planning, opportunity zones and access to critical resources like transportation and jobs. In the panel, affordable housing definition has varied dramatically, especially referencing to equity planning. Ted Wysocki from Institute Cultural Affairs in Chicago, Illinois, stated, “the question is Equity Planning for who?” which sparked the overall mission of developers and investors. Chicago was referenced as the “tale of two cities” where there is a large wealth gap displacement, and gentrification has occurred. According to the panel the term “affordable” has been pinpointed to target new residents coming for jobs rather than the current residents who lived in the area for years. Altering the target brought a higher median income, ignoring minimum wage and made it harder for residents to stay in the areas they grew up. Community involvement is critical in the narrative if they want what their neighborhoods should offer. 

Opportunity Zones have become a current topic related to displacement. Opportunity zones are a new concept that could tackle it; it could also be a way to accelerate it. Wysocki stated, “Opportunity Zones should not only be inclusionary but also need to be inspiring to prevent displacement.” Developers and investors don’t have to be from the area they are working in which means the new infrastructure or improvements to current properties may not fit the community’s needs.

Nelima Sitati Munene, who works for African Career Education and Resource, Inc., in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, talked about what it means to feel like an outsider. “Who holds the narrative, holds power…people who are the most affected are not at the table?” An issue her area faces is like many majority-minority communities; people living in a poorly managed properties that barely meet their bare necessities. There is an initiative to have mandatory community involvement during the process of community development. Although it is a possible solution, it wouldn’t be effective until the community is aware of their rights and active with local officials and developers.

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