Study says gentrification doesn’t negatively affect longtime residents as much as previously thought


AUSTIN (KXAN) — A study about gentrification recently looked at 100 cities across the United States and found that the effect on local neighborhoods isn’t as bad as you might think.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia’s report “The Effects of Gentrification on the Well-Being and Opportunity of Original Resident Adults and Children” came to the following conclusion:

“Gentrification modestly increases out-migration, though movers are not made observably worse off and neighborhood change is driven primarily by changes to in-migration. At the same time, many original resident adults stay and benefit from declining poverty exposure and rising house values. Children benefit from increased exposure to higher-opportunity neighborhoods, and some are more likely to attend and complete college.”

According to the national research, Austin is a top 10 gentrifying city in the U.S. with about 23% of the city rapidly developing.

In east Austin, many longtime residents told KXAN the Philadelphia Fed’s findings for 100 cities don’t necessarily apply to Austin. Researchers acknowledged the report is a national study and not specific to one city.

“I think we have to look at the very unique history of Austin,” said Carmen Llanes Pulido, a member of Community Strategy Team at the Department of Population Health at Dell Medical School.

She said, in Austin, families are being forced to look outside the city limits to find affordable housing.

“I could name dozens of people,” Llanes Pulido said. “If we all got in a room and said how many people have we seen have left the community, it would be in the thousands.”

She added, “If you’re a person of color and the only family members you have in the city limits are in public housing, what does that say?”

“If you did a specific report about Austin, it would be far different than the conclusion the report reached overall,” said Jim Harrington who’s been living in Austin since 1983.

In his neighborhood in east Austin, Harrington said, “Housing prices here have tripled, quadrupled, which means that taxes go up, and people leave.”

He said if people can afford to stay long enough, the might see the benefits of gentrification as stated in the report, but in Austin, people are being priced out quickly.

“It’s not that they want to go. It’s pretty much that they have to go,” said Reedy Spigner.

He told KXAN his family’s been in Austin since 1941. He’s a 3rd generation Austinite.

“Absolutely for me, it’s a horrible change, it’s a bad change,” said Spigner said. “It’s really really an odd feeling when you’re in your own community as a 3rd generation, 4th generation Austinite, and people are looking at you like you don’t belong in this community.”

Llanes Pulido said when families are forced to move, they also experience negative health impacts.

“Some of those have to do with being removed from the community where you have access to good healthy food, activities that keep you healthy,” she explained. “[You also lose] family’s ability to take care of each other. Neigbors’ ability to check in on each other. Loss of certain supports like child care and elder care.”

Harrington said, “Gentrification might be great somewhere. Who knows,” but in his and Spigner’s eyes, gentrification in Austin has been more detrimental than beneficial.

Coming up at 9 and 10 p..m. on KXAN News, Yoojin Cho talks to several east Austin residents who say the study isn’t the whole story.

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