Health Effects of Gentrification
Gentrification is often defined as the transformation of neighborhoods from low value to high value. This change has the potential to cause displacement of long-time residents and businesses. Displacement happens when long-time or original neighborhood residents move from a gentrified area because of higher rents, mortgages, and property taxes.
Gentrification is a housing, economic, and health issue that affects a community’s history and culture and reduces social capital. It often shifts a neighborhood’s characteristics (e.g., racial/ethnic composition and household income) by adding new stores and resources in previously run-down neighborhoods.
Causes of Gentrification
The causes of gentrification are debatable. Some literature suggests that it is caused by social and cultural factors such as family structure, rapid job growth, lack of housing, traffic congestion, and public-sector policies (Kennedy, 2001). Gentrification can occur on a small or large scale. For example, individual newcomers can slowly populate an area because of renovations. Conversely, large-scale redevelopment and the accompanying regeneration can cause an immediate shift in neighborhood residents.
Where people live, work, and play has an impact on their health. Several factors create disparities in a community’s health. Examples include socioeconomic status, land use/the built environment, race/ethnicity, and environmental injustice. In addition, displacement has many health implications that contribute to disparities among special populations, including the poor, women, children, the elderly, and members of racial/ethnic minority groups.
These special populations are at increased risk for the negative consequences of gentrification. Studies indicate that vulnerable populations typically have shorter life expectancy; higher cancer rates; more birth defects; greater infant mortality; and higher incidence of asthma, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. In addition, increasing evidence shows that these populations have an unequal share of residential exposure to hazardous substances such as lead paint.
Other health effects include limited access to or availability of the following:
- affordable healthy housing
- healthy food choices
- transportation choices
- quality schools
- bicycle and walking paths, exercise facilities, etc.
- social networks
Changes can also occur in:
- stress levels
- violence and crime
- mental health
- social and environmental justice
Gentrification and Environmental Justice Resources:
- Characteristics of Sustainable Brownfields Projects (http://www.epa.gov/brownfields/pdf/sustain.pdf) U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response. 1998.
- Environmental Protection Agency—Brownfields Cleanup and Redevelopment http://www.epa.gov/brownfields/index.html
- National Institute of Environment Health Sciences (NIEHS)—Health Disparities and Environmental Justice http://www.niehs.nih.gov/research/supported/centers/disparities/
- U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)—Economic Development http://www.hud.gov/economicdevelopment/index.cfm
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (http://www.epa.gov/smartgrowth/equitabledev.htm)
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (http://www.epa.gov/environmentaljustice/sustainability/index.html)
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (http://www.cdc.gov/omhd/AMH/EJ.htm)
- Active Living and Social Equity: Creating Healthy Communities for All Residents. A Guide for Local Governments ( http://22.214.171.124/images/stories/rpt_icma_jan2005.pdf) International City/County Management Association, January 2005.
- Dealing with Neighborhood Change: A Primer on Gentrification and Policy Choices (http://www.policylink.org/pdfs/BrookingsGentrification.pdf) Maureen Kennedy and Paul Leonard. Discussion Paper prepared for the Brookings Institution Center on Urban and Metropolitan Policy and PolicyLink. April 2001.
- In the Face of Gentrification: Case Studies of Local Efforts to Mitigate Displacement ( http://www.urban.org/UploadedPDF/411294_gentrification.pdf [PDF - 955 KB]) Diane Levy, Jennifer Comey, Sandra Padilla for the Urban Institute. 2006.
- Reducing Health Disparities Through a Focus on Communities (http://www.policylink.org/Research/HealthDisparities/) PolicyLink. November 2002.
- PolicyLink—Equitable Development http://www.policylink.org/EquitableDevelopment/
- Equitable Development Toolkits—includes healthy food retailing, local hiring strategies, rent controls, and more: http://www.policylink.org/EDTK/tools.html
- Principles of Smart Growth http://www.smartgrowth.org/about/principles/default.asp
- HUD USER Bibliographic Database—Collection of full-abstract citations related to housing, economic development, and urban planning issues www.huduser.org/bibliodb/pdrbibdb.html
- Environmental Justice and Climate Change Initiative
Dealing with Neighborhood Change: A Primer on Gentrification and Policy Choices ( http://www.policylink.org/pdfs/BrookingsGentrification.pdf) Maureen Kennedy and Paul Leonard. Discussion Paper prepared for the Brookings Institution Center on Urban and Metropolitan Policy and PolicyLink. April 2001.