Fighting gentrification and displacement

August 19, 2015
 
As Roxbury experiences increasing development and rising housing costs, we are pushing back on a major issue facing EJ communities here and across the country: gentrification and displacement.
 
Over the past year, we have been speaking with residents to identify trends and concerns in the neighborhood, and doorknocked in Dudley to survey the impacts of gentrification. 
 
In April, we partnered in Roxbury Stand Against Gentrification, a community forum where residents shared stories and organizing strategies. In June, we held Hyjack dah Hood in Dudley Square to explore residents' vision for a just future. With Right to the City's #Right2Remain campaign, we are working for a Just Cause Eviction Policy that will offer basic protection to renters, who make up the majority of Boston residents.
 
Major development projects are transforming Dudley Square. With the Ferdinand building redeveloped for the school department, the expansion of the Tropical Foods grocery store, the demolition of Bartlett Yard in preparation for mixed-income housing and a proposed 25-story tower with market-rate units, among others, hundreds more people will be living and working here.

 
While this reverses decades of disinvestment, the branding of Dudley as a new hot spot threatens current residents with displacement, particularly those with low-incomes. More than one-third of Roxbury residents are under the poverty line, and the neighborhood's median household income is the lowest in Boston, at $26,280.
 
As investment floods the area, housing costs have increased dramatically. The average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Roxbury is now $1,654 per month, a rate affordable to renters with an income of at least $60,000 - far above the average income of our neighborhood. In April, an attached triple decker on Circuit Street in Roxbury listed for sale at $929,000, and single-family homes are now selling for over $500,000. These skyrocketing prices are leaving many Roxbury residents with few options to rent or buy locally, and if the real estate signs of speculative investors are any indication, this trend is likely to continue.
 
As Boston maintains its position as one of the fastest gentrifying cities in the U.S., rising housing costs are now becoming a problem for middle-income families, an issue low-income people have struggled with for years. And in tune with a recent study showing that income inequality in Boston is still stratified by race, communities of color are being hit the hardest. While homeowners are more likely to be able to remain in gentrifying neighborhoods, only a third of black households own their homes, compared with over 79 percent of white households. Communities of color like Roxbury, East Boston and Chinatown are less likely to have access to resources to withstand rising living costs.
 
 
Residents who have been working with us for a healthier and greener neighborhood - pushing for tighter air quality regulations to fight Roxbury's high asthma rates, cleaning up some of the worst brownfields in the state, and building and cultivating community gardens - deserve to remain in Roxbury. Residents should be meaningful participants in redevelopment and the primary folks benefiting from new, long-denied amenities.
 
Join us to remain, reclaim and rebuild our neighborhood! Contact us to learn more about doorknocking and other outreach opportunities, and join us at our next member meeting on Wednesday, September 23, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. If you are a Roxbury resident, fill out our survey and tell us your experience! We look forward to organizing with you for our #Right2Remain.