City and Regional Planning

Dealing with Gentrification

Fall 2017 MCP Studio

Tools and Recommendations from a Comparative Study of Five U.S. Cities

Graduate City Planning students at the University of Pennsylvania have conducted a comparative study of gentrification in five growing U.S. cities, and developed an interactive online toolkit to help guide the process of equitable neighborhood development.  

Can we fix gentrification by building more housing? Does gentrification cause homelessness? Why should we care about gentrification if neighborhood change is a natural process?

To answer these questions, a graduate City Planning studio in the University of Pennsylvania School of Design conducted a comparative analysis of five U.S. cities simultaneously experiencing rapid population growth, rising rents, and rising homelessness. The studio’s findings, detailed in a working paper, reveal important relationships between gentrification and housing insecurity in growing cities. These findings also informed the development of a website designed to help community advocates and policymakers address neighborhood change in an equitable way.

The primary research included analysis of spatial trends and site visits to each of the five case study cities: Denver, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and Seattle. The team conducted interviews with government officials, area experts, and grassroots activists in each location. Key findings include the prevalence of housing insecurity; the impact of state and local constraints on development; and the promise of strategies that return agency to vulnerable residents. The web-based toolkit offers policy solutions tailored to neighborhood attributes and concerns selected by the user, while the working paper describes the studio’s methods, findings, and recommendations in more depth.