Now Is the Time!: Challenging Resegregation and Displacement in the Age of Hypergentrification

By Bethany Y. Li

Abstract

Gentrification is reaching a tipping point of resegregating urban space in global cities like New York and San Francisco, often spurred by seemingly neutral government policies.  The displacement resulting from gentrification forces low-income people from their homes into areas of concentrated poverty.  Low-income communities consequently lose space, place, social capital, and cultural wealth that residents and small businesses have spent decades building up.

This Article argues that communities at this tipping point must integrate litigation strategies directly aimed at stemming the adverse impacts of gentrification.  Community organizing is integral to antidisplacement efforts, but litigation—and its injunctive powers—should play a larger role in protecting residents in hypergentrified neighborhoods.  Using a rezoning that spurred gentrification in New York City’s Chinatown and Lower East Side as a case study, this Article considers how the Fair Housing Act, state constitutions, and a new vision of property law could counter the negative and often racially discriminatory effects of gentrification on low-income communities.