Gentrification study released

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Gentrification a topic at Denver conference today.

Gentrification accelerating in Denver with rapid growth.

Gentrification study will provide roadmap for city.

gentrification

This map is from the gentrification study released by OED on Wednesday.

Gentrification is an increasingly hot button issue in Denver.

Today, the city will hold its “first critical conversation” on gentrification at an affordable housing task force that hundreds of stakeholders will attend.

The conference comes in the wake of a 40-page study released on Wednesday by the Denver Office of Economic Development.

The Gentrification Study: Mitigating Involuntary Displacement, will serve as a tool to guide future neighborhood public investments within Denver.

Gentrification is when residents, often renters, are displaced when they can longer afford to live in their neighborhood.

More than 1,000 households move to Denver each month, which has accelerated gentrification, according to the study.

“Denver has seen an influx of young and highly educated residents, which has led to the displacement of long-time residents in some of the oldest neighborhoods and has fueled concerns that many of Denver’s neighborhoods are rapidly becoming unaffordable to many people,” according to the study.

Yet, while the process of gentrification “seems easy to identify,” it can be “challenging to define,” according to the report.

It notes that scholars debate the “specific social and economic” factors that drive gentrification and whether they have a “positive or negative impact on residents, neighborhoods and the city as a whole.”

It is clear, however, that market-driven forces and public investment can cause housing displacement and other negative impacts of gentrification, according to the OED study.

“Neighborhoods that have long been underserved and overlooked deserve the same investment, amenities and services as all of Denver’s neighborhoods,” said Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock.

“But we know, especially in this market, that we must be thoughtful to ensure our investments intended for the betterment of the current residents and businesses don’t negatively impact their quality of life,” Hancock continued.

“We’re committed to addressing this challenge head on, but we cannot do it alone,” Hancock said.

“This study provides a tool for the city to support critical conversations with our partners and the community to prevent the negative impacts of gentrification,” according to the mayor.

The study researched where residential and business displacement has occurred in Denver. It also looked at where it is anticipated to occur unless action is taken.

It includes a set of preliminary recommendations for OED to implement,

The OED will work with community stakeholders. The idea is to balance efforts to provide Denver’s neighborhoods with enhanced amenities and services while preserving affordability and accessibility for the current residents.

Among the study’s  recommendations:

  • Strong collaboration across city agencies, and among housing, nonprofit and educational partners.
  • Coordinate a comprehensive set of strategies to mitigate involuntary displacement.
  • Affordable housing creation and preservation.
  • Creating protections for existing homeowners.
  • Boosting middle-skill jobs creation.
  • Focus on supporting local small businesses in vulnerable neighborhoods.

The city’s said its “first critical conversation “will take place today as the OED convenes almost 400 industry stakeholders for the city’s second annual summit on affordable housing.

Designed to inspire action to keep the metro area affordable and accessible for all, the summit will include a gentrification breakout session. The session will focus on balancing revitalization with strategies to preserve affordability and reduce involuntary displacement. “Public investment can serve as a catalyst for private investment, which has the potential to significantly change a neighborhood’s population and character,” said OED Executive Director Paul Washington.

“Through this data-driven study, we’re embracing a thoughtful and intentional approach to help ensure that equitable development takes place in our neighborhoods,” Washington said.

“We’re asking our partners from throughout the city and beyond to be mindful of neighborhood vulnerabilities and be willing to look at alternative approaches.”

OED conducted an intensive national review of the strategies and tools that can be employed to reduce the negative effects of such investments – especially involuntary displacement of the very residents that the investments are intended to help.

Completed by OED staff, the study includes a literature review, best practices from other communities, as well as a local neighborhood analysis based on an existing model developed by academic researchers in Portland.

The analysis of housing and demographic data spans from 1990 to 2013  and identifies differing stages of gentrification across Denver, from areas in the later stages to neighborhoods that are currently vulnerable.

The study also provides a comprehensive review of programs deployed in other cities that are working to minimize displacement as neighborhoods are being revitalized.

In the coming months, the city will conduct a series of input sessions and events to further explore the study’s findings and to build solutions with participation from Denver’s residents, businesses, nonprofits and neighborhoods.

 Have a story idea or real estate tip? Contact John Rebchook at JRCHOOK@gmail.com. DenverRealEstateWatch.com is sponsored by 8z Real Estate. To read more articles by John Rebchook, subscribe to the Colorado Real Estate Journal.

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John Rebchook

John Rebchook has more than 30 years of experience in writing and communications. As the Real Estate Editor for the Rocky Mountain News, he wrote about residential and commercial real estate for 26 years. He has won numerous awards for business stories and columns that he wrote, both as an individual and part of teams. In addition to real estate, he also covered economic development, banking and financing, the airlines, and cable TV for the Rocky. In addition, he was one of the original freelance writers for GlobeSt.com, covering commercial real estate for the Internet publication.

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