Cities that build in strategies for preventing or mitigating displacement as land use plans are being adopted or updated can implement more effective displacement interventions than cities that react to displacement after projects are already well underway. Including vulnerable residents in the land use planning process also helps ensure more inclusive and equitable outcomes.
Strategy #4a: Create and support planning processes that incorporate a focus on mitigating displacement with ongoing input and oversight by impacted residents.
• Community-driven, neighborhood-scale displacement mitigation plans
A displacement mitigation plan covering a neighborhood or collection of neighborhoods should incorporate meaningful community participation at every step in the process. Plans should include the identification of annual goals, strategies, and priorities, along with annual performance assessments. Plans should be created through an inclusive process and set forth specific tools with clear timelines for implementation. A community oversight committee like the one used in North/Northeast Portland, which meets regularly to review the city housing programs and outcomes in the community, provides for greater transparency and accountability in the implementation of the plan. The success of a comprehensive displacement mitigation plan is also contingent on dedicating adequate funding towards the implementation of the plan.
Examples: Portland’s North/Northeast Neighborhood Housing Strategy (2014); Guadalupe Community Development Project Plan (Austin, 1980)
Considerations: When backed with deep levels of funding, enables cities to have a concentrated impact on mitigating displacement in a neighborhood in a way that is transparent and responsive to community needs.
• Community impact analyses
Community impact analyses require developers and public agencies to analyze how proposed developments, zoning changes, public investments, and infrastructure projects will impact communities, housing affordability, and displacement. Several cities have adopted impact analyses that must specifically incorporate a racial justice lens. Community impact analyses raise awareness of how certain city decisions impact vulnerable communities, thus increasing public transparency and increasing the potential for elected officials to be more responsive to the needs of vulnerable residents and communities. The analyses can also enhance the ability of stakeholders to identify specific displacement threats and thus develop and implement strategies for remediating the displacement. To be effective, the assessment should include a clear and accepted methodology for assessing impacts.
Examples: Austin (Affordable housing impact statement); Atlanta (Affordable housing impact statement); Portland (Racial equity toolkit worksheet); King County, Washington (Equity impact review tool); Seattle (Racial equity toolkit assessment).
Considerations: Community impact analyses do not include enforceable measures for limiting the displacement; they only identify the impact of potential developments or investments. Cities and developers can still proceed with a development even when the community impact statement shows a negative displacement impact.
Strategy #4b: Strengthen vulnerable residents’ ability to have a voice and active role in the development of their neighborhoods.
• Invest in community organizing
Community organizing is a process of bringing people together and coordinating efforts to promote their common interests. Community organizing is a critical tool for increasing the participation and impact of vulnerable residents in shaping private and public decisions that affect their homes and communities. Community organizing initiatives often include community education regarding planning and local issues and supporting vulnerable residents in negotiating specific agreements with developers to ensure that development projects are more responsive to the needs of the community. Community organizing of vulnerable tenants and other residents has been a critical component of several anti-displacement mitigation efforts in Texas cities.
Examples: Austin (on-going city funding support for Building and Strengthening Tenant Action, BASTA); Washington, D.C. (Tenant Purchase Technical Assistance Program); Boston (Boston Tenant Organizing Program); New York City (Partners in Preservation pilot program); Los Angeles (Strategic Action for a Just Economy).
• Community engagement plan requirements
Community engagement plan ordinances require development project applicants in vulnerable communities to prepare and follow an inclusive plan for how the applicant will actively engage with the community concerning the proposed project and provide impacted residents with the opportunity to provide input on the project. The City of Oakland has a five-step community engagement process that development applicants are required to follow. The process includes preparation of a community engagement plan, partnership with a community- based organization that has experience working with impacted stakeholders, contacting the stakeholders in multiple languages and different forums, and conducting the actual engagement activities. The applicant must submit the proposed engagement process to the city for review and approval.
Examples: Oakland (Community Engagement Guidelines).
Considerations: Requires city funding and staffing to review and monitor the plans as well as community organizations experienced in working with impacted stakeholders.
Strategy #4c: Increase resident and community ownership of land.
Residents who own their land or govern a community organization that owns land have much greater power in influencing land use and redevelopment decisions and reducing displacement. In addition to the tools discussed here, tools for increasing resident and community ownership are also discussed under the strategies for tenant acquisitions of apartment complexes and mobile home parks.
• Capacity building support and incubation of neighborhood- centered community development corporations
Community development corporations (CDCs) are nonprofit, community-based organizations focused on improving the quality of life in the neighborhoods they serve. CDCs can play a key role in facilitating anti- displacement planning and provide long-term affordable housing that meets locally-identified needs. CDCs such as Guadalupe Neighborhood Development Corporation in Austin are governed by residents of the neighborhoods served by the CDC, empowering residents to shape the future of their community. Establishing a successful CDC requires extensive capacity building and leadership development, which cities could support by: (1) funding local experts to help incubate and provide technical assistance to CDCs, (2) providing seed and ongoing administrative funding for CDCs, and (3) funding leadership development programs for residents. City support for community organizing, discussed in other sections of this toolkit, could also be linked to the formation and support of CDCs.
Examples: Memphis (CDC Capacity Building Fund).
Considerations: Requires ongoing city funding for operating support to be effective until the CDC is able to build a reliable stream of revenue, such as from rental income from properties owned by the CDC (if there is limited debt in the property or after the debt is paid off).
Strategy #4d: Reduce barriers to participating in planning and land use decisions impacting gentrifying neighborhoods and utilize effective community engagement tools to elevate community voices.
Public planning processes need to incorporate cultural competence and robust and inclusive community engagement. Many community members who are most directly impacted by displacement also have the highest barriers to entry for participation in public planning and decision-making processes. These barriers include childcare obligations, transportation, work obligations, and potential lost income if meetings conflict with work schedules.
Community participation around the issue of displacement presents a further difficulty: Many directly-impacted residents with historic ties to the area no longer live there, yet still arguably deserve a voice in the planning process. In North/Northeast Portland, the social networks that existed in the local African-American church community were used to connect with former residents. Neighborhoods that were known to contain high numbers of displaced people were also targeted for outreach. Future residents from vulnerable groups are also unrepresented in planning unless tenant advocacy groups and other advocacy organizations are brought to the table to represent their interests.
Balancing between homeowner and renter interests is another concern, and renters are usually underrepresented in participatory planning processes. Tenant advocacy groups can be useful voices to make up for the challenges of getting consistent renter participation in these processes.
• Comprehensive community engagement strategy
A comprehensive community engagement strategy should be developed and implemented each time a city seeks to engage residents and should include: (1) understanding who makes up the community and setting clear engagement goals, (2) measuring the effectiveness of engagement efforts by tracking who is and is not participating and adjusting efforts as needed, (3) providing relevant information that is easy to understand, (4) using diverse and accessible forums for participation, (5) understanding and removing barriers to participation that are specific to the targeted communities, and (6) targeting areas where displaced residents are known to live. Effective community engagement increases accountability and responsiveness to the needs of vulnerable persons and communities and can result in plans that are more effective and innovative. Plans created through robust community engagement also have stronger community buy in.
Examples: Portland (North/Northeast Neighborhood Housing Strategy forums and Diversity and Civic Leadership Program); Boulder (Code for America partnership); Center for Urban Pedagogy (Making Policy Public); Los Angeles/ SAJE (People’s Planning School).
Considerations: Requires additional city resources and time compared to “top down” planning processes. May reveal divisions within the community that require further in-depth engagement.