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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.” [1] 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.” [1]

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. [3] 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. [4] 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. [2] 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.

Rowhouse in Newark.Rowhouse in Newark.

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. [2] 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.

References:

  [1] 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

  [2] Kate Rabinowitz, “DC Gentrification by the Numbers,” DataLensDC, September 14, 2015, , accessed August 06, 2017, https://www.datalensdc.com/gentrification-by-numbers.html

  [3] 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.

  [4] 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.

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RESOURCE SPOTLIGHT:

  • <h3>The World Bank Data (U.S.)</h3><p><img width="130" height="118" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/130/height/118/484_world-bank-logo.rev.1407788945.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image484 lw_align_left" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/4/width/130/height/118/484_world-bank-logo.rev.1407788945.jpg 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/4/width/130/height/118/484_world-bank-logo.rev.1407788945.jpg 3x" data-max-w="1406" data-max-h="1275"/>The <strong>World Bank</strong> provides World Development Indicators, Surveys, and data on Finances and Climate Change.</p><p> Quick link: <a href="http://data.worldbank.org/country/united-states" target="_blank">http://data.worldbank.org/country/united-states</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
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  • <h3>The Penn World Table</h3><p> The Penn World Table provides purchasing power parity and national income accounts converted to international prices for 189 countries/territories for some or all of the years 1950-2010.</p><p><a href="https://pwt.sas.upenn.edu/php_site/pwt71/pwt71_form.php" target="_blank">Quick link.</a> </p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>MapStats</h3><p> A feature of FedStats, MapStats allows users to search for <strong>state, county, city, congressional district, or Federal judicial district data</strong> (demographic, economic, and geographic).</p><p> Quick link: <a href="http://www.fedstats.gov/mapstats/" target="_blank">http://www.fedstats.gov/mapstats/</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>Federal Reserve Economic Data (FRED®)</h3><p><strong><img width="180" height="79" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/180/height/79/481_fred-logo.rev.1407788243.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image481 lw_align_right" data-max-w="222" data-max-h="97"/>An online database consisting of more than 72,000 economic data time series from 54 national, international, public, and private sources.</strong> FRED®, created and maintained by Research Department at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, goes far beyond simply providing data: It combines data with a powerful mix of tools that help the user understand, interact with, display, and disseminate the data.</p><p> Quick link to data page: <a href="http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/tags/series" target="_blank">http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/tags/series</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>USDA Nutrition Assistance Data</h3><p><img width="180" height="124" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/180/height/124/485_usda_logo.rev.1407789238.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image485 lw_align_right" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/4/width/180/height/124/485_usda_logo.rev.1407789238.jpg 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/4/width/180/height/124/485_usda_logo.rev.1407789238.jpg 3x" data-max-w="1233" data-max-h="850"/>Data and research regarding the following <strong>USDA Nutrition Assistance</strong> programs are available through this site:</p><ul><li>Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) </li><li>Food Distribution Programs </li><li>School Meals </li><li>Women, Infants and Children </li></ul><p> Quick link: <a href="http://www.fns.usda.gov/data-and-statistics" target="_blank">http://www.fns.usda.gov/data-and-statistics</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>Federal Aviation Administration: Accident & Incident Data</h3><p><img width="100" height="100" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/100/height/100/80_faa-logo.rev.1402681347.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image80 lw_align_left" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/4/width/100/height/100/80_faa-logo.rev.1402681347.jpg 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/4/width/100/height/100/80_faa-logo.rev.1402681347.jpg 3x" data-max-w="550" data-max-h="550"/>The NTSB issues an accident report following each investigation. These reports are available online for reports issued since 1996, with older reports coming online soon. The reports listing is sortable by the event date, report date, city, and state.</p><p> Quick link: <a href="http://www.faa.gov/data_research/accident_incident/" target="_blank">http://www.faa.gov/data_research/accident_incident/</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>National Center for Education Statistics</h3><p><strong><img width="400" height="80" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/400/height/80/479_nces.rev.1407787656.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image479 lw_align_right" data-max-w="400" data-max-h="80"/>The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) is the primary federal entity for collecting and analyzing data related to education in the U.S. and other nations.</strong> NCES is located within the U.S. Department of Education and the Institute of Education Sciences. NCES has an extensive Statistical Standards Program that consults and advises on methodological and statistical aspects involved in the design, collection, and analysis of data collections in the Center. To learn more about the NCES, <a href="http://nces.ed.gov/about/" target="_blank">click here</a>.</p><p> Quick link to NCES Data Tools: <a href="http://nces.ed.gov/datatools/index.asp?DataToolSectionID=4" target="_blank">http://nces.ed.gov/datatools/index.asp?DataToolSectionID=4</a></p><p> Quick link to Quick Tables and Figures: <a href="http://nces.ed.gov/quicktables/" target="_blank">http://nces.ed.gov/quicktables/</a></p><p> Quick link to NCES Fast Facts (Note: The primary purpose of the Fast Facts website is to provide users with concise information on a range of educational issues, from early childhood to adult learning.): <a href="http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/" target="_blank">http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/#</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
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  • <h3>National Bureau of Economic Research (Public Use Data Archive)</h3><p><img width="180" height="43" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/180/height/43/478_nber.rev.1407530465.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image478 lw_align_right" data-max-w="329" data-max-h="79"/>Founded in 1920, the <strong>National Bureau of Economic Research</strong> is a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization dedicated to promoting a greater understanding of how the economy works. The NBER is committed to undertaking and disseminating unbiased economic research among public policymakers, business professionals, and the academic community.</p><p> Quick Link to <strong>Public Use Data Archive</strong>: <a href="http://www.nber.org/data/" target="_blank">http://www.nber.org/data/</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>Congressional Budget Office</h3><p><img width="180" height="180" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/180/height/180/380_cbo-logo.rev.1406822035.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image380 lw_align_right" data-max-w="180" data-max-h="180"/>Since its founding in 1974, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has produced independent analyses of budgetary and economic issues to support the Congressional budget process.</p><p> The agency is strictly nonpartisan and conducts objective, impartial analysis, which is evident in each of the dozens of reports and hundreds of cost estimates that its economists and policy analysts produce each year. CBO does not make policy recommendations, and each report and cost estimate discloses the agency’s assumptions and methodologies. <strong>CBO provides budgetary and economic information in a variety of ways and at various points in the legislative process.</strong> Products include baseline budget projections and economic forecasts, analysis of the President’s budget, cost estimates, analysis of federal mandates, working papers, and more.</p><p> Quick link to Products page: <a href="http://www.cbo.gov/about/our-products" target="_blank">http://www.cbo.gov/about/our-products</a></p><p> Quick link to Topics: <a href="http://www.cbo.gov/topics" target="_blank">http://www.cbo.gov/topics</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
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