Community Development Without Displacement

July 19, 2023
by Samira Payne, Director, Community Revitalization at Rebuilding Together National

Across America, concentrated poverty, which was often created by design, has led to significant challenges and barriers for low-income neighborhoods of color. Concentrated poverty impacts these communities through limited opportunities, environmental hazards and a lack of social resources. A promising approach to this problem has emerged, which can be seen in 193 metropolitan neighborhoods across the nation. These communities have successfully reduced poverty rates by 10 percentage points or more between 2000 and 2015 without displacing their Black and Latino populations. These neighborhoods have proven that development without displacement is possible. 

Uphams Corner, a section of Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood, experienced a transformation within their community. Initially a bustling mixed-income community, it faced neglect and abandonment over the years. A group of newcomers from Cape Verde saw an opportunity to revitalize the neighborhood. Through strategic property investments and fostering a sense of community, they laid the groundwork for poverty reduction without displacement

Drawing upon research conducted by Common Good Labs, eight key factors contribute to successful poverty reduction without displacement. These factors include external elements like economic growth, low homicide rates and low risk of displacement in nearby areas. Additionally, there are internal factors that influence the success of poverty reduction without removal. Factors such as higher rates of homeownership, lower vacancy rates, self-employment opportunities, increased housing density and the presence of community-building organizations play crucial roles in fostering vibrant and stable neighborhoods. 

Committed individuals and organizations can make a substantial difference in creating positive neighborhood transformations. Ms. Roz, a resident of Dorchester, purchased her home in 1999 and considers herself to be a “community liaison.” When she first moved in, the neighborhood experienced drug addiction, crime and gang activity, but getting organized, together with her community, has made a huge positive impact. Today, the neighborhood is thriving. Although Ms. Roz had her house appraised and found that she could sell it for a good price, she expressed her desire to stay. “I’m not interested in selling, I’m interested in staying. I’m retired, I’m a senior citizen, and I want to stay in my house.” Rebuilding Together Boston provided Ms. Roz with repairs to her outdoor space, including a new deck, landscaping and a patio. Before repairs, the deck had multiple hazards, making it unsafe for Ms. Roz and her family to use. Now, they can enjoy their outdoor space safely.

Rebuilding Together seeks to understand the current and historical practices and policies that contribute to housing inequity. Through providing free, critical repairs, we seek to disrupt these practices and support these neighbors in aging in place, maintaining their homes, retaining equity and continuing to be a part of a thriving community. 

By adopting a comprehensive approach that addresses concentrated poverty's external and internal factors, communities can reduce poverty without displacement. With a more precise understanding of the factors that make a difference, policymakers should be able to make fine-tuned decisions about what any particular place needs. The success stories of 193 neighborhoods nationwide demonstrate the potential for substantial change. Through efforts like these, we can build more vibrant communities where all residents have the opportunity to thrive. 

Read more about “The Neighborhood That Got It Right” here.