Envisioning Healthy Development without Displacement
By Zoë Levitt
The Alameda County Public Health Department (ACPHD) has witnessed the health consequences of gentrification for years. As Oakland neighborhoods have become less affordable and housing resources have decreased, the health threats have increased for the county’s most vulnerable residents. Case managers in ACPHD’s home visiting programs have heard numerous stories of low-income clients being threatened with eviction if they complain about housing conditions that contribute to asthma and other health issues. Many of our clients have been forced into areas where services are less accessible and still others have been pushed into homelessness—a devastating scenario for health.
Gentrification and displacement have also come up repeatedly in the work of Place Matters, a community-centered local policy initiative of ACPHD.* This initiative was built on the recognition that the places where we live critically shape our health. Social inequities drive health inequities, and policies and institutions are largely responsible for the vastly unequal conditions faced by people based on race, income, and geography. Over the years, it has become clear that while Place Matters and our community partners were successfully engaging in housing, land use, and transportation policy to improve health, gentrification was undermining those efforts by displacing longtime residents and preventing them from benefitting from neighborhood and city-level policy change.