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Health Equity Forum: Technical Assistance Spotlight – October 2015

Gentrification and Displacement Result in Significant Health Consequences

By Causa Justa :: Just Cause

Gentrification is rapidly changing our cities at the expense of residents who have long called their neighborhoods home. When people are moved from their long-term homes and communities, it can result in negative individual and community health consequences.

Development without Displacement’s community-centered analysis highlights the communal, family, and individual health impacts of displacement. Our report concludes that increases in mental stress; physical strains on daily routines such as longer commutes to work, school, places of worship; and the greater distance to health and human services providers makes displaced populations more vulnerable to health inequities.  

For instance, long commutes have been shown to contribute to stress and reduce time for health-promoting activities like sleep and exercise, as well as reduce the time parents or caregivers can spend with their children.

A growing body of research has suggested that chronic stress, particularly stress driven by financial burden and limited control over one’s life conditions, can be toxic. Chronic stress can affect health and mental functioning in the short term, and can contribute to chronic disease and death in the long term.

Our focus on the negative health impact of gen­trification is crucial because historically, the razing of poor urban communities has been justified by citing “health concerns.” It is important to emphasize the displacement may “clean up” a neighborhood, but it does not repair decades of disinvestment. The problem isn’t solved, it is only dispersed and often exacerbated.

“In addition to having an impact on health outcomes, we found that research suggests gentrification may increase health inequities or difference in health outcomes that are unnecessary and avoidable,” said Dawn Phillips, CJJC co-director and main author of the report.

These differences in health outcomes across place, income, race, and other demographics are tied to underlying social, political, economic, and environmental factors.

“Access to safe and affordable housing, quality jobs, good schools, and safe places to play and work are factors that impact multiple health outcomes -- including life expectancy and quality of life,” Phillips continued. “Gentrification is a timely public health issue from the national to the local level and it is critical for the public health field to understand and address displacement in order to improve health outcomes and advance health equity.”