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Immigration and Climate Gentrification

Open Concerns over Climate Gentrification

There are a series of factors that contribute to climate gentrification in regions across the world. A combination of urbanization and rapid population growth in coastal and wetland areas driven by economic, cultural, and environmental factors increase the number of individuals exposed to increased flooding. Climate change is likely to increase migration flows over the coming decades. Increasingly frequent and severe extreme weather events are expected to increase “forcible displacements”, and the “slow-onset” impacts of climate change are expected to make the hardest hit regions uninhabitable.

A prime example of climate gentrification is the movement of individuals or businesses from lower to higher elevations. In other words, studies have shown that residents impacted by flooding and rising sea levels have spurred a mass exodus. To find relief, these residents, who are typically middle- or high-income earners who once desired the more expensive and prime beachfront properties, move inland or uphill. This has caused formerly low-income areas at higher elevations to become more popular locations for higher-income people. As a result, financial strain increases for the original residents of these areas, which can lead to their displacement.

Five Cities Impacted by Climate Gentrification From Robert F. Smith Website

Climate gentrification has impacted cities across the U.S., but five stand out: Miami, FL; New York City, NY; New Orleans, LA; San Francisco, CA; and Charleston, SC.

1. Miami, FL

Because of its location and rising sea levels, many areas in Florida are more prone to flooding and other natural disasters, such as hurricanes. As a result, many middle- and high-income families are moving inland. This migration has prompted developers to seek business opportunities in low-income neighborhoods farther inland to meet demand. These new developments have caused rents to rise and the cost of living to skyrocket.

A 2022 study published by ScienceDirect shows that Miami, FL, has become particularly troubled by climate change, which has caused many of its former residents to move to areas, such as Little River. Little River is a less affluent neighborhood near Miami Shores that is less prone to flooding. With a lower threat of flooding, Little River has been quickly gentrifying, with an increasing rate of evictions because of rising property values.

2. New York City, NY

The threat of rising sea levels is not limited to the shores of Florida; it is also a growing concern for residents in New York City. Scientists believe that rising sea levels will result in more flooding caused by intense rain, high tides and hurricanes. According to the NYC Panel on Climate Change, New York City sea levels will increase anywhere between eight inches to 30 inches by 2050. By the end of the century, that number is expected to double.

Rebuild by Design estimates that almost 1.3 million New Yorkers live in or near areas at risk of flooding. A prime example of the devastating impact of rising sea levels occurred in 2012 when Hurricane Sandy hit the five boroughs. One of the areas that were hit hardest was Red Hook, a formerly working-class community in Brooklyn. However, instead of prompting residents to move away, Hurricane Sandy sparked gentrification in the area as it recovered. In fact, the area attracted developers who could afford to pay for rebuilding and costly flood insurance rates. As a result, more middle- and high-income residents have moved into the area, which has caused the local cost of living to rise.

3. New Orleans, LA

Louisiana is at the forefront of climate change impacts. While its residents may be familiar with extreme weather events, such as hurricanes, tornadoes and flooding, the intensity of these events is exacerbated by climate change. As a result, areas throughout the state have become a hotbed for climate gentrification. For example, Hurricane Katrina displaced many residents of New Orleans, LA, and its surrounding areas. In the aftermath of the storm, higher-elevation neighborhoods that Black Americans previously inhabited shifted into majority-white, more affluent communities.

The 2019 census data reveals that Black American populations in New Orleans neighborhoods with higher elevation have declined by more than a third over the last 19 years. Ultimately, this has caused many residents to become displaced, which has increased societal inequities.

4. San Francisco, CA

Another city impacted by climate gentrification is San Francisco, CA. In recent years, climate change has caused prolonged droughts, habitat loss and rising sea levels in the San Francisco Bay and Delta. To combat these issues, the city has been making investments in green infrastructure. In turn, this has sparked gentrification in low-income areas throughout the city.

Some examples of investments in green infrastructure are sustainable public transportation, fire prevention and energy-efficient building upgrades. However, these upgrades have caused residents of low-income communities to become displaced because of rising property values and rents.

5. Charleston, SC

South Carolina, like many coastal states throughout the U.S., is becoming increasingly flood-prone because of rising sea levels. Studies show that Charleston, SC, saw between 10 and 25 floods annually through the 1990s. In 2019, South Carolina experienced 89 floods, with 69 in 2020.

One of the most flood-prone areas is the East Coast, an area that has become primarily inhabited by Black Americans. Advocates say that while the city is making efforts to mitigate flooding, its actions will not work as a permanent solution.


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