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Gentrification, a form of neighborhood change in which an influx of capital into urban neighborhoods prompts a shift in socioeconomic demographics, too often benefits newcomers to the detriment of existing communities and residents. This phenomenon is the latest in a series of forced displacements of the United States’ most vulnerable populations, who can face housing instability and homelessness as a result.

This paper investigates the conditions of five case study American cities — Denver, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and Seattle — to illustrate the commonalities of this country’s most at-risk neighborhoods, as well as to distinguish the diverse local variables that influence the causes and consequences of gentrification. Drawing on these cities’ lessons, we envision a radical alternative to the present situation, in which growing American cities and regions develop equitably and empower vulnerable residents to shape their communities and live where they choose.

To this end, this paper proposes two policy responses that appeal to both lay advocates and policymakers: a programmatic toolkit that municipalities may employ in order to harness neighborhood change to create sustainably mixed-income neighborhoods, and an overhaul of federal policy that transforms the nation’s conception of fair housing and equitable development.