When under served neighborhoods banish pollution, housing prices tick up, forcing residents out. This exacerbates inequality by ensuring clean air and vibrant public parks remain a luxury for high earners. Green gentrification is getting its time to shine, as the entire diverse communities become homogenized all over the country. The frustration comes in as established residents, some even generations deep, believe they have to choose between affording to live here and being able to breathe.
The displacement of longtime residents perpetuates poverty, according to a recent paper from the Autonomous University of Barcelona. Displaced people often end up living farther from friends, family and work, in a neighborhood with underfunded schools and meager public transit, where rampant pollution fuels ailments like asthma, bronchitis and chronic stress that drive up medical costs and erode quality of life. Helen Cole, lead author of the paper, warns “the health benefits of greening can only be fully understood relative to the social and political environments in which inequities persist.”
A 2017 report from the California Environmental Justice Alliance calls on city officials to “stabilize the existing affordable housing stock, increase the number of affordable units accessible to all income ranges… and encourage the construction of affordable housing.” Likewise, numerous advocates have called for raising the minimum wage, which could help a multitude of struggling families make rent.
With a long list of natural disasters and different neighborhoods being vulnerable to different events due to size, inequality and diversity, Los Angeles recently released a resilience strategy to cope. Some of the 96 actions are already funded, with a large portion treating environmental resilience and social equity as interdependent.
Under the current infrastructure, many residents are “cut” from green space, which affects the neighborhood’s resilience to climate change.
Despite these proposed steps, the path forward for Los Angeles, and other cities investing heavily in the physical and social infrastructure of resilience, could be a difficult one. The threat of “green gentrification” looms over some of the city’s marquee efforts, like the L.A. River revitalization.
investing heavily in the physical and social infrastructure of resilience, could be a difficult one. The threat of “green gentrification” looms over some of the city’s marquee efforts, like the L.A. River revitalization. Improving a neighborhood’s access to high-quality public spaces without producing a real-estate bonanza remains a vexing problem.