Funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation
For much of the last two decades, urban decline was taken as given. Nothing, it was thought, could be done to stem the exodus of middle-income families from the urban core. But in the past few decades, American cities have seen an unexpected reversal of fortune. Instead of collapsing, as was widely predicted, many former industrial cities are increasing in population for the first time since World War II. Almost overnight, the policy discussion shifted from large-scale demolition, “right-sizing,” “moth-balling,” and metropolitan annexation to neighborhood revitalization projects with the potential to reverse decades of neglect. But this trend generated concerns as well. If market forces are driving neighborhood revitalization, how can policy be structured to ensure that legacy residents – those could not or would not leave the neighborhood – benefit from the renewal? Will the revitalization process follow the well-documented pathways of gentrification and displacement, or is a third way possible – a virtuous cycle of renewal that recreates diverse mixed-income neighborhoods? Starting in 2015, researchers from the Poverty and Inequality Research Lab have set out to address these issues with an in-depth case study of East Baltimore. The research is focused on three questions:
1) What does the process of neighborhood revitalization look like?
2) What factors drive supply-side actors (landlords and developers) to invest in a neighborhood?
3) What effect are the changes having on community demographics – who’s moving in, who’s staying, and who’s leaving?