What can we learn from Newark?: Public Policy and Anti-Gentrification Efforts
October 25, 2017
Just last month, the City of Newark, New Jersey voted against a housing law that aimed to curb gentrification in the city. The law sought to “mandate 20 percent of large residential projects to be set aside for low and moderate income residents.”  The law did not pass, but it was an attempt nonetheless by the city’s legislators to try and find a balance between, “development and affordability.” 
By Mona Hagmagid
SAS Class of 2020
Wharton PPI Intern 2017
Institute for Social Policy and Understanding
Although Newark is only one city and the proposed law was only one potential solution presented to help address the growing issue of gentrification, it is an excellent example of conversations that are happening all across the country. Such conversations cut across fields such as urban studies and africana studies, public policy and economics, engaging different people, both residents of gentrifying neighborhoods and policy makers and shapers themselves.
Growing up in Northern Virginia, I have watched the city of Washington D.C. change and shift significantly over the past decade. Neighborhoods like Shaw and Howard have seen shifts in the demographics moving in and have been witnessing rising rates of eviction of poorer tenants. Richer people are moving into what used to be seen as poorer neighborhoods, previously struggling with crime and other social difficulties, those of which are now brimming over with expensive cafes and bakeries.  The money of the rich brings better resources to communities, such as libraries, grocery stores stocking fresh produce, and community programming. Neighborhoods become safer, schools produce higher performing students, and more businesses move into old spaces. But at what cost?
From an economics standpoint, the numbers look good for many gentrified neighborhoods. The average household income is higher, and the overall economic health of the neighborhood has improved. In DC alone, the average neighborhood shift in average income level witnessed only a 17% increase, but in special neighborhoods more prone to gentrification, average income increased by 147% and 138% from 1999-2010. However, in many cases there is a very racial, and very real cost to that change: the residents of those neighborhood, generally predominantly African-American and low income, sometimes can no longer afford to live in the neighborhoods where they once resided.  In a sense, gentrification does not make a poor neighborhood rich. Instead, it moves the poorer neighborhood into other poorer neighborhoods and replaces it with a wealthier one. The populations who were poor and underserved at the beginning of the gentrification process tend to still be poor decades later, just moved into another space or neighborhood.
Some might say, that gentrification is simply an effect of capitalism at work, and that the benefits that gentrification brings (lower crime rates and better access to health and educational resources) can positively impact all residents who can afford them, regardless of race or ethnicity. However, in communities across America, urban spaces included race and poverty are closely tied together for a number of historical and political reasons. Additionally, in the case of Washington D.C., the numbers show a clear decrease in the population of African Americans in neighborhoods over the past decade.  However, other studies argue that black low income families are not more likely to move out of their homes in a gentrified neighborhood as compared to a non-gentrified one. But the reality still insists however, that even if that is the case, when low income residents move out of their neighborhoods, they are often not moving to higher income areas but lower ones, further crippled by crime, drug trade, poor schools, and other issues.
Public policy serves many purposes, but a key one is to develop policy that protects and advocates for the betterment of the public. In a sense it can be viewed as an attempted system to protect American citizens and residents from the possible downfalls or harms from political, economic, and social phenomena. Urban residents, particularly poorer, older, black and Hispanic residents, deserve to feel as protected and benefited by policy as the richer and often whiter residents that move into the same neighborhoods.
It is also critical to look at gentrification seriously because of how it furthers cycles of poverty. Policy aimed at preserving income diversity in neighborhoods benefits all residents. Just as stated previously, many of the benefits of gentrification are not just benefits but things that former residents have been wanting, demanding, and working towards for decades in some cases: more jobs, better schools, safer streets, more access to healthy foods, etc. All of those resources can help people rise out of poverty especially access to better education, which helps to make the city a healthier place for families of multiple backgrounds. Diversity is important not just to minorities and disaffected populations, but it can and should be important to the majority of the population as well. In any cases those moving into gentrified neighborhoods are younger, single, white residents who make more money and have few dependents Gentrification not only changes the racial landscape and economic landscape of a neighborhood but also changes the age of the neighborhood, not just in terms of historic buildings (some of which are torn down or renovated) but in terms of the population’s age.  Having communities that are more diverse in age brings stability to a neighborhood’s older residents who are now less likely to move out, switch careers, etc. Families tend to have children who are sent to schools and in turn can offer students a more diverse set of students to go to school with, collaborate with, and communicate with as well. Additionally, community is important in gauging the health of a neighborhood as well: the feeling of creating a home with cultural spirit and story. Neighborhoods and homes are not just commodities but places where people live. They are special, personal, and hold deep emotional, familial, and historical ties. If maintaining that vibrancy is important to people living in those communities, then policy should respond to that need for residents.
But this discussion begs the question, what is there that public policy can do to both bring economic development to underdeveloped neighborhoods and ensuring that those benefits are made accessible to a diverse and wide community of residents?
Newark, New Jersey is a case example of a city that attempted to pass legislation that could better regulate the housing market and opportunities for Newark residents. However, anti-gentrification laws could also focus on addressing the businesses moving into neighborhoods to decrease the cost of living, allowing more residents to afford to stay in their homes. Or, on the other hand, policy could go a different route and instead of regulating the economy, it can work harder to make sure that basic resources that any community needs to flourish, libraries, good schools etc., are being provided to neighborhoods across the board regardless of average income. Community programming and offering opportunities for dialogue and intergenerational conversation allows for neighborhoods to be able to create their own solutions and means to help those who live within them to feel as though their needs are being met.
Some might say that my vision is idealistic, that I have not accounted enough for the hard and fast facts about economic development, poverty, and corporate greed . Of course there will be no complete solution for gentrification as cities shift and change all the time. That is the nature of human settlement and as the economy shifts and changes so do the ways in which, and the places where, people live. However, I do believe public policy can aid in making sure that more than just wealthier, younger, and single urban residents can share the benefits of anti-gentrification policy, and that the costs will not continue to disproportionately affect African American and poorer residents.
Newark’s law might not have passed and it arguably might not have been what was best for the city, but it is clear that the pressure is mounting for lawmakers to begin to investigate real and significant solutions, both short term and long term, to address America’s changing cities, and the people who are being left behind.
Student Blog Disclaimer
The views expressed on the Student Blog are the author’s opinions and don’t necessarily represent the Penn Wharton Public Policy Initiative’s strategies, recommendations, or opinions.
 Yi , Karen. “Newark Law Intended to Curb Gentrification Fails.” NJ.com, NJ.com, 12 July 2017, www.nj.com/essex/index.ssf/2017/07/affordable_housing_law_fails_in_newark_on_annivers.html
 Kate Rabinowitz, “DC Gentrification by the Numbers,” DataLensDC, September 14, 2015, , accessed August 06, 2017, https://www.datalensdc.com/gentrification-by-numbers.html
 Gringlas, Sam. “Old Confronts New In A Gentrifying D.C. Neighborhood.” NPR. January 16, 2017. Accessed August 07, 2017. http://www.npr.org/2017/01/16/505606317/d-c-s-gentrifying-neighborhoods-a-careful-mix-of-newcomers-and-old-timers.
 Billingham, Chase M. “THE BROADENING CONCEPTION OF GENTRIFICATION: RECENT DEVELOPMENTS AND AVENUES FOR FUTURE INQUIRY IN THE SOCIOLOGICAL STUDY OF URBAN CHANGE.” Michigan Sociological Review, vol. 29, 1 Oct. 2015, pp. 75–102. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/10.2307/43630965?ref=search-gateway:61a2caead9798afb282819cf09997fbf.
It is estimated that one individual organ, eye, and tissue donor can save up to 75 lives . Currently an average of 22 individuals die each day waiting to be matched for a transplant . Donated tissues and organs both have lifesaving potential, but unlike donated organs, donated tissue is also purchased by biotechnology and cosmetic companies for research purposes. Most donors, however, are not aware of the differences between organ and tissue donation, including how it is removed, used, and regulated . Even fewer are aware that by registering for organ donation, they have become tissue donors by default and that their tissues can be sold for up to $80,000 to profitable companies . In order to increase transparency and not lose informed consent of donors, registration for tissue donation and organ donation in the United States should be separate processes.
Google, Facebook, Twitter, Snap, Amazon, Microsoft, Apple — these companies have become household names, and the world today heavily relies on their services. To many, the benefits of cheap and easy connection to information are obvious, ranging from increased educational and career opportunities to an increased rate of technological innovation. However, as the pace of this progress accelerates, two distinct issues have remained concerning: the use of these technologies and access to them. The topic of this article mostly focuses on how people still lack access to the Internet. This lack of access to and of use of the Internet is known as the “digital divide.”
Leo drives a mid-2000s Acura TSX and arrives at the pickup point in front of a train station in Trenton, New Jersey. I’m headed home from New York City for the Thanksgiving holiday. Leo gives me a hand with my suitcase, and in under a minute, we’re off, driving Interstate 276 West most of the way there. The 26.66 mile trip takes 45 minutes. It costs me $34.68 on one of the most popular rideshare platforms, of which Leo receives about $25, minus the cost of gas, tolls, and vehicle mileage. Leo is a pretty talkative guy, and the subject turns to the various driving platforms, like Uber and Lyft. Leo is a young guy, and he tells me he’s one of the approximately 1 in 4 drivers who does not have health insurance.
Many young Americans leave home and never return. In particular, this trend can be seen in rural America. 1,350 counties “non-metro” counties have lost population since 2010. Since the mid 1990s, rural population growth has been significantly lower than urban areas. The movement of people has resulted in national economic growth, but there are consequences. Behind these numbers lie worrisome consequences.
Caffeine has been heralded as the world’s most popular drug. However, as more people want their coffees to go, the industry has failed to confront the waste from single-use cups. In the last two decades, the United Kingdom has seen a 400% increase in the number of coffee shops. The sheer volume of waste affects both the environment and the country’s waste management infrastructure . In the UK alone, people throw away 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups a year . The scope of this problem is magnified by the difficulty of recycling wax-lined paper (the most common material for coffee cups), with only 0.25% of these cups being reprocessed . In order to combat the growing practical and environmental effects of throwing away single-use cups, UK lawmakers have stepped in, and are considering instituting a “latte levy,” a new tax to influence on-the-go coffee drinkers.
Pharmaceutical drug price hikes have now become a common feature in American news. From Martin Shkreli’s infamous Daraprim price hike that saw a $737 increase to the chemotherapy drug Cosmogen that currently sells for $1,400 in the U.S. compared to $20-30 overseas, the problem is clearly systemic . Many important cancer drugs, including Gilead’s Sovaldi, Merck’s Keytruda, and Vertex’ Kalydeco all cost over $80,000 for a course of treatment . Often prices increase are unrelated to any new research and development done. There is a clear need to address such drastic drug price increases in order to prevent these dramatic hikes and create a more stable biopharmaceutical market.
The state of American infrastructure figures prominently in current national policy discussion, prompted by poor report cards, energized political campaigns, and recent executive initiatives. Severe underfunding of needed infrastructure projects has prompted proposals from both sides of the political aisle, with public-private partnerships (P3s) featuring prominently. This article evaluates and offers perspective on different types of P3s, examining their benefits and costs and the Trump administration’s plans.
Nuclear energy has the potential to assist nations in tackling climate change and sustain a rapidly growing world population. In the first part of this series on nuclear energy, I analyzed why nuclear energy is superior to other energy sources in achieving this end but also why current market forces prevent its growth. However, even if US legislators decided to pass legislation that aggressively expanded the country’s nuclear infrastructure, there are three primary non-market challenges with current U.S. policy, or lack thereof: a hostile public, the absence of a centralized nuclear waste disposal site, and concerns with proliferation and the imperilment of U.S. national security objectives. In order to responsibly expand nuclear energy capacities and prevent proliferation to hostile states, policy-makers have an obligation to address these issues. Not doing so may bear worse consequences than wantonly enlarging the United States’ atomic sector.
In 2015, Seattle legislators signed a bill to gradually increase the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour over several years. Businesses with fewer than 500 employees will still have until January of 2024 to deal with the full ramifications of the act. However, businesses that do not provide medical benefits and employ over 500 people were forced to pay their workers $15 dollars an hour starting this past January . Since then, two major studies have been published on the effects of the act, one concluding that it has had a positive effect on economic activity and employment and the other stating that it has made the labor market far too rigid.
Today private prisons house about 126,000 federal and state inmates . Orders issued under the Obama Administration to phase out the use of private prisons are now being reversed under the Trump Administration, which has caused some debates over the efficacy of private prisons to resurface. Chiefly, this reversal has sparked controversy over the economic benefits of private prisons in America, as the most avid dissidents highlight problems with the economic argument for private prisons and even moderate objectors point to inconclusive data as a poor indicator of their advantages.