Gentrification means a new mindset for city planners

Rising rents elicit reexamination of zoning principles.

September 14, 2017 |
A street in downtown Austin, Texas

With urban living becoming a more popular choice, especially by young people of means, long-time city residents and small businesses are being priced out of popular neighborhoods.

The problem has worsened in the past decade, with seven out of the 11 largest metropolitan areas in the U.S. becoming less affordable to the median metro-area renter between 2006 and 2014. While a few decades ago, city planners were focused on reversing inner city economic decline, today many are facing the challenge of making areas more inclusive and affordable for the working class.

In response, some cities have revamped zoning and land-use planning to create more affordable housing. In East Austin, Texas, for example, the city is allowing construction of accessory dwellings on properties that can be rented to help defray the increased costs of living. 

Another option is to encourage more small-footprint, multi-unit housing. City planners are facing more pressure to take action as gentrification protests have proliferated in cities across the country recently.

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