Waves of displacement: Sea level rise triggers gentrification of inland communities

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Waves of displacement: Sea level rise triggers gentrification of inland communities

A new study projects disparate risks of climate gentrification through secondary displacement in Florida. As coastal communities become displaced by rising sea levels, inland communities with lower socioeconomic status, lower education attainment, and higher rates of non-white renters are among those predisposed to secondary displacement risk.

Melix, B. L., Jackson, A., Butler, W., Holmes, T., & Uejio, C. K. (2023). Locating Neighborhood Displacement Risks to Climate Gentrification Pressures in Three Coastal Counties in Florida. The Professional Geographer, 75(1), 31–43. https://doi.org/10.1080/00330124.2022.2087695

Coastal communities in Florida are projected to migrate inland due to climate change-induced sea level rise. Although specific migratory trends have yet to be identified, the communities that are nearby and inland are logically where coastal migrants will first relocate. Receiving communities are likely to be historically underinvested and marginalized neighborhoods. Analyzing the demographic characteristics of these receiving communities will help predict the social landscape where the bulk of migrants will settle. Therefore, policymakers and planners in receiving communities must balance serious quality of life needs for residents and newcomers, while avoiding secondary displacement. Possible measures to jointly address these challenges include climate mitigation and adaptation strategies such as green infrastructure and housing redevelopment. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act increases funding available for green infrastructure and housing initiatives. However, without equitable measures and deeper funding, a second wave of displacement in receiving communities may be inevitable.

In a recent study, researchers at Florida State University and the University of Illinois at Chicago predicted displacement pressures across coastal and receiving communities in three Florida counties. Their article uses principal components analysis (PCA) to uncover secondary displacement risks across Duval, Miami-Dade, and Pinellas counties. A PCA is a statistical technique used to identify strong patterns across multiple variables in a dataset. The authors define secondary displacement as the emigration of existing residents from receiving communities after higher-income coastal migrants raise property values, pushing out existing residents.

In Duval County, 30 percent of census block groups faced high risk of secondary displacement. Certain risk factors made households more likely to be displaced. The biggest risk factors were low socioeconomic status, Hispanic homeowners outside of block groups likely to be inundated by sea level rise in 2040, and neighborhoods with high eviction rates and low-proficiency schools.

In Miami-Dade County, 25 percent of census block groups faced high risk of secondary displacement. The risk factors in Miami-Dade were slightly different. While low socioeconomic status was still a risk factor, the other big risk factors here were Hispanics in high eviction rate neighborhoods, and single parents living in neighborhoods with low proficiency schools.

In Pinellas County, a lower, but still substantial, 20 percent of census block groups faced high risk of secondary displacement. Risk factors in Pinellas County included low socioeconomic status and neighborhoods with low job proximity and low proficiency schools. Hispanics who are renters, single-parents, live in neighborhoods near high-proficiency schools, and live in high eviction rate neighborhoods have higher risk of secondary displacement in Pinellas County.

Additionally, this study reports that low-income and underinvested areas that are also designated as Opportunity Zones or Community Redevelopment Areas are more likely to undergo climate gentrification. These redevelopment designations, along with climate mitigation strategies, pose a threat to neighborhoods with lower socioeconomic status. The authors state that redevelopment projects undertaken without built-in protections for affordable housing and stabilization risk contributing to secondary displacement. Therefore, policymakers and planners must bridge the gap between development projects and climate change impacts by considering displacement risk factors such as socioeconomic position, as well as race and gender.

This study identified block group characteristics that make a community more vulnerable to climate-related and secondary displacement. To protect against climate-related and secondary displacement, planners and policymakers must consider how green and climate-resilience investment will likely affect housing and affordability for inland residents. Anti-displacement strategies and tools serve as an opportunity to encourage collaboration among stakeholders in the housing and environmental sectors. For example, community land trusts can establish community-led decision-making processes by balancing the needs and interests of residents and additional stakeholders. Other solutions span inclusive housing, rent controls, the right of first refusal, and community benefits agreements that ensure affordable housing in areas threatened by climate gentrification and secondary displacement. Policymakers and planners in receiving communities must protect existing residents from secondary displacement while preparing to receive migrants displaced by rising sea levels and climate change.

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