The boom in urban revitalization is causing severe economic and social disruption among displaced elderly, poor and minority city residents, a National Urban Coalition study confirmed yesterday.
The two-year study of 65 neighborhoods in 44 cities gave the first substantial documentation of middle-class newcomers who are rapidly turning poorer original residents into what it called "urban nomads." It warned of "rising hostility and tension" between the new and old residents, and a need for private and government assistance to the displaced.
While the addition of affluent residents helps most cities, neither government nor private institutions are heeding "the needs, the frustration and anger" of persons "priced or pushed out of their neighborhoods," Urban Coalition President M. Carl Holman said at a news conference.
Holman said there is "an abysmal ignorance" in most communities about the variety of programs to aid those affected by high housing and land costs that follow revitalization. Tax abatement, low-income borrowing plans and relocation programs exist, but are used by only a few of those eligible, he said.
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Patricia Roberts Harris praised the information and advocacy group's research and declared her department "determined to protect the rights of those who want to remain in the city when they are threatened" by renovation.
Washington, where the Capitol Hill, Dupont Circle and Adams-Morgan neighborhoods were surveyed, was cited as having the most widespread problem of displacement as well as higher prices for renovated houses throu in other cities.
The survey, covering most of the nation's largest cities, found that the recent surge in inner-city renovation began about eight years ago, and nearly always in neighborhoods near downtown areas. Most of the financing for renovation was provided by private sources, with an estimated, half of it from banks.
In general, the revitalized neighborhoods had a decrease in blue-collar workers, an increase in professionals, and a corresponding rise in income levels. Single persons and childless couples became more numerous, and the number of elderly persons was reduced drastically during and after rehabilitation.
About half of the neighborhoods included said they had a higher number of minority group members before renovation, but 37 percent had no substantial change, while the rest saw an increase in minority presence.
The report noted that displacement of poorer inner-city residents does not always coincide with changes in racial and ethnic characteristics of the area, but emphasized that the fact of discrimination reduces the options available to such groups and increases the risk for them of displacement.
Nearly half (46 percent) of the cities had larger populations living below the poverty level than the national average of 11.8 percent for central cities.
As for what becomes of the displaced, the survey said the two apparent tendicies are for people to move to neighborhoods near those they are pushed out of or to move to nearby, older suburbs where low-cost housing is available.
The coalition, among other recommendations, urged that federal, state and local governments devise strategies for minimizing the impact of urban redevelopment on poorer persons.
"People who are dislocated from improving neighborhoods do not vanish into thin air," the report warned. [TEXT OMITTED FROM SOURCE] with them" and, in the absence of governmental policy to prevent it, the improvement of one part of a metropolitan area will probably mean the decline of another.
Harris said that while her department encourages the redevelopment of inner cities, she intends to avoid "a repetition of the bad consequences that accompanied urban renewal" when entire neighborhoods were relocated and scattered "willy-nilly."
Harris announced the awarding of a $125,000 grant (one of about 200 HUD information grants totaling over $3 million) to the Urban Coalition to help combat the ill effects of renovation through counseling of threatened residents.
Holman said the coalition's affiliates in cities around the country will begin today providing advice and help on matters ranging from mortgage information to energy saving for city residents.
Holman said that while this survey goes further "in breadth and number of cities surveyed" than any previous assessment of displacement, even more study is needed.
"People don't know what help is available, they are panicking, they are selling and moving out," in the absence of adequate information, he said.