Gentrification vs. Affordable Housing

Joshua Case

Joshua CaseExecutive Director

Our country is in crisis mode. The gap between the rich and poor continues to grow. An unsettling bi-product of this cultural shift is the instability of housing within our inner-cities. As the affluent begin to move to the suburbs, houses are abandoned. As houses are abandoned, they are bought up by speculators and investors looking to flip the houses for a profit. At the same time, in places like Evansville with an aging housing stock, the supply cannot keep up with the demand leading to a massive increase in the cost of those houses purchased by speculators and investors. Eventually, it leads to a housing crisis. This is the state of housing in much of Evansville.

High Occupancy = Housing Instability = Increased Homelessness  

Evansville has a 97%+ occupancy rate, a need of at least 1,500 more affordable housing units, and the highest homelessness rate per capita in the State of Indiana. A healthy housing market has a housing occupancy rate in the low 90s and enough affordable housing to meet demands which leads to low homelessness rates. With such a high occupancy rate, there is not enough supply and rent prices increase. These leads to several things: people move away to cities with more opportunity, people pay higher prices than normal for rent just to get a place, or people end up homeless because they have no place for which they can afford to live.

This process has been occurring in Evansville for years. But, it hasn't been ignored. In order to combat this issue, several non-profit housing developers have been building and rehabilitating homes as affordable housing. Affordable housing is housing which is built or rehabilitated and is then designated as housing which is only available to individuals and families making less than 80% of the area median income. Those who make less than this are often left with unaffordable options when seeking out market rate housing. Affordable housing is there to provide an option which is decent, safe, and affordable (rent which is less than 30% of gross income) for those in need. It takes years of affordable housing development to meet the needs of the community. During this time, those working hard to provide for the needs of the community are often confronted with opposition claiming harm in the name of gentrification.

Gentrification = Got To Go

Affordable Housing = We Want You To Stay

Gentrification has a storied past. But, it should not be confused with affordable housing. Gentrification is the opposite of affordable housing. Gentrification occurs when new housing is developed with the direct intention of moving out the current residents of a neighborhood with the plan of moving in new, often more affluent, residents in their place so that the landlord/owner can gain more profits. Affordable housing is the development of housing with the direct intention of providing those already living in the neighborhood, paying rents beyond what they can afford, with an option to live in a new, safe, affordable home without leaving their neighborhood. Gentrification divides and destroys neighborhoods. Affordable housing revives and restores neighborhoods.