To Control Gentrification: Anti-Displacement Zoning and Planning for Stable Residential Districts


Displacement from home and neighborhood can be a shattering experience. At worst it leads to homelessness, at best it impairs a sense of community. Public policy should, by general agreement, minimize displacement. Yet a variety of public policies, particularly those concerned with gentrification, seem to foster it.

Section I of this paper provides a very brief account of the nature and causes of gentrification and displacement including their relationship to abandonment. This section also examines public decision making and illustrates the range of public decisions that are made in the absence of any comprehensive and explicit policy for dealing with displacement.

Section II argues the need for a comprehensive and planned approach to the problem. Section III proposes one broad way to implement a policy to combat displacement: Residential Stability or Anti-displacement Zoning, in the form of a set of floating zones, which may be used in various areas threatened by displacement in accordance with their specific local needs but which are part of a city-wide policy to minimize displacement. Section IV catalogues a variety of other measures that might be used, separately or together, to implement an anti-displacement goal. The focus throughout is on the possibilities for municipal action, an unfortunate limitation, perhaps, but one consistent with current political realities.

A Model Anti-displacement Residential Stability Zoning Ordinance is set forth in the Appendix.

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