A Community-Centered Perspective on Displacement

In the last year, displacement has become a hot topic for policy analysis and intervention in New York City and across the country.

Together and independently, these initiatives acknowledge displacement as a critical policy issue related to housing and urban development and aim to create and share resources for those doing planning and housing work in cities across the country.

Underpinning these initiatives are certain assumptions about what displacement is and why it matters. Commonly, these reports focus on residential displacement, and discuss it at the individual-household level. They discuss how forced or coerced moves from one’s current housing may affect their health, employment, neighborhood and housing quality, and finances. In addition, anti-displacement policy is discussed vaguely in the vein of social justice. If race and ethnicity are specifically mentioned, it is from a justice perspective; with the addition of clarifying that everyone, regardless of their background or circumstances, has a right to housing. All of this is underpinned by the notion that anti-displacement policy and action is about creating more prosperous and healthy communities and cities for all.

I am thankful that displacement is getting some serious attention from housing and community development professionals and policymakers, and I don’t disagree with the concerns highlighted in their work. But I also think the work overlooks an important perspective—that in contrast to the narrow, individual/household level analysis and redress, displacement is a place-based, community-level phenomenon, and that anti-displacement work is also about community preservation.

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