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How homeowners cause gentrification

Randy Shaw is the Editor of Beyond Chron, Director of San Francisco’s Tenderloin Housing Clinic, and author of, Generation Priced Out: Who Gets to Live in New Urban America.

In his recent piece in Beyond Chron, he makes the argument that, from San Francisco to New York, homeowners who oppose new multi-unit housing are in fact the ones driving gentrification.

He admits that there are some exceptions and cites San Francisco’s SOMA neighborhood as a place that became upscale because of new development. (I think it’s more nuanced than that.)

But the key point is that there countless examples of neighborhoods changing their socioeconomic position without the presence of new development. (There’s investment, but at a smaller or individual scale.)

Here’s an excerpt from Shaw’s article:

Banning apartments from single family home neighborhoods limits new residents to those who can afford to purchase a home. Banning new multi-unit construction also artificially reduces supply, driving up home prices for existing owners.

That’s how most San Francisco neighborhoods, and those in other high-housing cost cities, gentrified. It happened with little or no multi-unit construction. Yet homeowners have adeptly shifted blame for the gentrification of urban neighborhoods from their own land use policies to builders—even when no building has occurred.

But in the end, do these details even matter? What we have here are competing self-interests. Developers, obviously, want to build. And many people benefit when this does happen. But others don’t see it that way.

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