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Moving Beyond Cleanup: Identifying the Crucibles of Environmental Gentrification

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Paper Number: 2007-02

Document Date: 01/08/2007

Authors: Spencer Banzhaf Eleanor McCormick

Subject Areas: Hazardous Waste; Renewable Resources and Conservation: Land Use; Distributional Effects

Keywords: land cleanup; Reuse; brownfields; gentrification

Abstract: This paper reviews the distributional impacts associated with "environmental gentrification" following the cleanup and reuse of Superfund sites, brownfields, and other locally undesirable land uses (LULUs). By making a neighborhood more attractive, cleanup and reuse of LULUs may drive up local real estate prices. Renters in the neighborhood would have to pay higher rents. Although they would also reap a capital gain, homeowners too would face higher housing costs, including perhaps higher tax bills. Moreover, existing residents may not value the removal of the disamenity as much as other households, creating a mismatch between their priorities and the new character of the neighborhood. Thus, even if they do not move, existing residents, especially renters, may be harmed by the gentrification effects of cleanup. If many former residents do move, to be replaced by wealthier households, the character of the neighborhood would change further, feeding the gentrification. Such environmental gentrification is a key concern of local stakeholders. Nevertheless, the extent of environmental gentrification, if any, following cleanup and reuse of LULUs has not been solidly confirmed in the empirical literature. This paper seeks to fill that void by reviewing the evidence to date.
We find limited evidence for rising real estate prices following cleanup of LULUs. We find stronger evidence for increased housing density and increasing incomes, but no evidence for racial impacts. Our review also uncovers a variety of factors that are likely to temper the adverse consequences of gentrification for residents.

Attachment: 2007-02.pdf (392K, About PDF)

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