Climate Gentrification in South Florida
By Maya Gowda and Emily Vo Abstract
In addressing the crisis of climate change, environmental racism is oftentimes ignored or sidelined. Black, indigenous, and people of color are more likely to live near polluted areas, resulting in severe health problems such as asthma or high blood pressure (Newkirk, 2018). When addressing environmental racism, specifically in South Florida, the issue of climate gentrification arises as a sharp indicator of injustice. Climate gentrification, the concept “in which some properties become more valuable than others due to their ability to better accommodate settlement and infrastructure in the face of climate change”, is perpetuated by the interest of capital gain as lower-income communities are pushed out of their neighborhoods in order for developers to build property. The role of climate change in gentrification continues to disadvantage communities already vulnerable to serious health issues, economic disadvantages, and the repercussions of extreme weather events. Introduction
In addressing the crisis of climate change, environmental racism is oftentimes ignored or sidelined. Black, indigenous, and people of color are more likely to live near polluted areas, resulting in severe health problems such as asthma or high blood pressure (Newkirk, 2018). When addressing environmental racism, specifically in South Florida, the issue of climate gentrification arises as a sharp indicator of injustice. Climate gentrification, the concept “in which some properties become more valuable than others due to their ability to better accommodate settlement and infrastructure in the face of climate change”, is perpetuated by the interest of capital gain as lower-income communities are pushed out of their neighborhoods in order for developers to build property. The role of climate change in gentrification continues to disadvantage communities already vulnerable to serious health issues, economic disadvantages, and the repercussions of extreme weather events. Literature Review
The term “climate gentrification” was first introduced in 2018 in a study of Miami-Dade county’s rising housing prices. Due to the increase in global sea temperatures, hurricanes have become more frequent and devastating, especially to areas prone to severe weather events such as Miami. The 2018 study from Harvard University examined three explicit forms of climate gentrification. The first form of climate gentrification involves wealthy developers and homebuyers migrating into low-income neighborhoods due to the community’s favorable location or low risk of weather damage. Moreover, the second form includes the high expenses of investment and protection. For instance, in living areas vulnerable to natural disasters or toxic air quality, the investment in resiliency infrastructure or programs can cost thousands of dollars. Many of these resiliency plans include storm drains, flood walls, and reinforced architecture. And consequently, low-income households are forced to move away as a result of expensive investment. The third form of climate gentrification entails similar conditions of the previous example in which resiliency plans negatively impact access to housing. As resilience plans improve certain areas, they are deemed much more favorable in terms of real estate and developing, which become inaccessible for low-income communities. Historically, climate gentrification has manifested in numerous locations across the United States. From Arizona to South Florida, low-income households are forced to move, because of the profitable interests of developers and homebuyers.
The historical context of gentrification and redlining have not only been exacerbated by climate change but are becoming increasingly detrimental to the health and lives of low-income, black, and indigenous communities. Redlining refers to the federal government’s practice of rating neighborhoods as “risky” in order to dissuade mortgage lenders from investing in these “risky” areas. The label was purely based on the number of African Americans and immigrants living in these locations. Moreover, the link between redlining and gentrification continue to perpetuate social and climate injustice today. In San Francisco, 87% of redlined, low-income neighborhoods are currently undergoing gentrification (Urban Displacement Project). With the onslaught of the climate crisis, gentrifiers are seeking out higher ground (due to high sea level) and areas, previously deemed “risky”, that are now low risk to weather damage, result in the displacement of low-income families. Climate Change Causes Population Displacement
Coastal cities around the world are inhabited by higher income citizens, but due to a rise in sea level they end up facing consequences that can hurt them catastrophically. A consequence that many are familiar with are hurricanes. In coastal properties, hurricanes are the strongest there and with their power can blow down palm trees and shatter houses, leaving citizens with weather damage that can cost billions of dollars. Hurricanes are only progressing which leaves higher-income citizens wanting land on higher ground. This higher ground is usually inhabited by lower-income citizens. Before these areas were looked down upon, but because of their climate resilience they are suddenly wanted. Due to their social status, citizens of higher class believe that they have more of a right to land or resources that will allow them to stay safe from climate change effects. With this stark mindset, citizens that used to live in those areas are forced to move to places, such as coastal properties, that are hurt by climate change tremendously. Not only is this putting their lives at risk, but it is also taking them away from their culture and home. Therefore these groups are affected by population displacement, a global trend. With population displacement comes the following: inequality, a decrease in resources, extreme weather events, conflict between social groups, and a decrease in health. Eldery, children, and citizens who reside in poverty are the most impacted healthwise. Communities in Africa and Asia are projected to be the worst hit by population displacement. There are small land masses, or islands, that are starting to ‘sink’ due to rising sea levels (Kalin, 2008). More people are becoming refugees and seeking asylum. For instance, citizens of Jakarta and Manila, coastal cities in Indonesia and the Philippines, have been forced to move from their homes due to their low income status. They are starting to face many of the consequences listed before. There are more cases of this around the world, but a good example in the U.S. is the state of Florida. Florida, a peninsula, has started to undertake the effects of rising sea levels. Citizens of Miami-Dade and Broward County are well aware of the injustice they are facing due to this problem.
Climate Gentrification in Miami
Residents of Miami have been dealing with climate gentrification for years now. Miami is one of the first cities in the U.S. to start studying the issue and finding ways to resolve it. Communities, located in Miami-Dade, significantly affected by the issue are Liberty City, Overtown, Little Havana, Little Haiti, and Allapattah. These communities are on ground with higher elevation which keeps them safe from a rising sea level. The residents are mostly of color and were forced to move into those areas due to racist standards. Standards which were implemented by real estate businesses and policies instituted by the government (Harris, 2018). The citizens have established themselves a home and have provided a variety of cultures for Miamians to enjoy. Now, wealthy developers are realizing that their land is significantly important in averting the effects of the climate crisis. Land in those areas now holds a larger value and it is becoming harder for residents to pay that money. Pushing those residents into areas with sea level threats is not doing them justice, instead it is making their lives harders and putting them at risk. When tropical storms or hurricanes come into play they may have to pay millions for the repair of their homes that they did not even choose to live in. Putting all of their money in these types of issues leaves them with less money for health problems and reliable foods. To add, not everyone can afford homes in low-elevated areas. This can leave many people homeless. These problems will continue to hurt them for years to come if the government decides not to do anything about it. Citizens of these communities have been protesting, but they are still waiting for solutions and changes that will ensure their safety.
Climate Gentrification in Broward County
The lack of research on displacement and climate justice within Broward County is of paramount importance, one which should be addressed with a sense of urgency. Research on climate gentrification is fairly new to Miami-Dade county but has brought significant attention to local organizations and government offices, however, the issue has yet to gain traction in Broward County. Kilan Ashad, PhD and Nancy Metayer, MHS in Climate Change: The Threat Multiplier details the statistics and solutions to climate gentrification, focusing on Little Haiti, Liberty City, Overtown, and Little Havana. In addition to solutions to Miami-Dade county, Ashad and Metayer proposed certain solutions for research in Broward County.
‘Green’ Climate Gentrification and Social Inequality
Green climate gentrification occurs when investments in green climate infrastructure and sustainability are associated with gentrification risks. Examples of green resilience plans in urban settings include green roofs, rain gardens, detention basins, and improved stormwater management. However, according to the article “Why green “climate gentrification” threatens poor and vulnerable populations”, “recent research suggest that green infrastructure planning for climate change is rooted in a green and resilient city orthodoxy…[that] either overlooks or minimizes negative impacts for socially vulnerable residents while selling a new urban brand of green and environmentally resilient 21st century city to investors, real estate developers, and new sustainability-class residents.” The supposedly ‘green’ solutions that are marketed off as sustainable and modern may very well be environmentally friendly but are only achieved at the expense of lower income communities who are overwhelmingly exposed and directly affected by climate change. Concepts like green resilient infrastructure serve to cater the white, upper-middle class, while gentrifying minority communities and perpetuating the cycle of poverty and environmental injustice. The case study of East Boston (a Latino and Italian neighborhood), discussed by aforementioned article, highlights the issue of green climate gentrification on the working class and communities already vulnerable to the consequences of climate change. It states “East Boston is also part of the large-scale 2018 Resilient Boston Harbor plan, which aims to deploy green infrastructure projects—elevated berm landscapes, resilient parks—along the 47 miles of the Boston shorelines… Part of the Harbor plan focuses on inclusivity through community-led planning…Yet, although the plan includes efforts to preserve some existing affordable housing and create some key mixed-used redevelopment projects, overlooked are issues of green climate gentrification and short- or mid-term displacement risks.” To elaborate, the East Boston Harbor plan involves “building resilient properties for elites and displacing lower-income residents in the process” (Anguelovski). Although the solutions attempted to address the problems of lower-income and minority residents, the execution and use of private financing resources ultimately deprioritized the needs of communities most at risk and propagated social injustice. It is crucial for solutions to center around community-led organizers that aid communities through direct action.
After discussing climate gentrification in Miami-Dade and Broward County, there is an urgency to find solutions which will help in solving the problem. As sea level continues to rise for Miami there is less land to accommodate for all residents. One way to solve this is by taking, for example, a large population of Little Haiti residents and packing them into buildings. Other sites such as markets, stores, and schools also need to be kept on higher-elevated land. The government can also instill community land trusts. In this situation a nonprofit can buy a piece of land and construct houses on it and lease them to low-income residents (Harris, 2018). To add, owners may start to do house allowances. House allowances are not taxable to income tax, but are taxed under self-employment laws (Business dictionary, 2020). More studies are being done on this matter to come up with better and affordable solutions for all people affected by climate gentrification. Organizations such as Catalyst miami are working on supporting low-income residents in the community who are affected by the rising gentrifying levels. Right now the housing crisis is signifying due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Catalyst Miami is demanding that Miami-Dade declares an official Housing State of Emergency to recognize the housing crisis (Catalyst Miami, 2020). This state of emergency is projected to address both the climate and COVID-19 economical problems. Climate gentrification will continue to be a problem in Miami until solutions are made that will benefit everyone subjected by this problem. References
Anguelovski, I., Connolly, J., Pearsall, H., Shokry, G., Checker, M., Maantay, J., . . . Roberts, J. (2019, December 26). Opinion: Why green "climate gentrification" threatens poor and vulnerable populations. Retrieved July 01, 2020, from https://www.pnas.org/content/116/52/26139 Beeman, A. (2019, September 18). Climate Gentrification and Resilience Planning: What Is at Stake for At-Risk Communities? Retrieved July 01, 2020, from https://www.eli.org/vibrant-environment-blog/climate-gentrification-and-resilience-planning-what-stake-risk-communities Creative, G. (2020, March 10). Fighting for the Soul of Little Haiti in Miami. Retrieved July 01, 2020, from https://caseygrants.org/evn/fighting-for-the-soul-of-little-haiti-in-miami/ Florida, R. (2018, July 05). 'Climate Gentrification' Will Deepen Urban Inequality. Retrieved July 01, 2020, from https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-07-05/-climate-gentrification-will-deepen-urban-inequality Filippo GrandiUnited Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, – Angelica, A., & – Eulirio, A. (n.d.). Global Trends - Forced Displacement in 2018 - UNHCR. Retrieved July 01, 2020, from https://www.unhcr.org/globaltrends2018/ Harris, A. (2018, December 18). Climate gentrification: Is sea rise turning Miami high ground into a hot commodity? Retrieved July 01, 2020, from https://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/environment/article222547640.html Kälin, W. (2017, May 10). Displacement Caused by the Effects of Climate Change: Who Will Be Affected and What Are the Gaps in the Normative Framework for Their Protection? Retrieved from https://www.brookings.edu/research/displacement-caused-by-the-effects-of-climate-change-who-will-be-affected-and-what-are-the-gaps-in-the-normative-framework-for-their-protection/ Keenan, J. M. (2018). Retrieved July 01, 2020, from https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/aabb32/pdf Newkirk, V. R. (2018, February 28). Environmental Racism is Real, According to Trump's EPA. Retrieved July 01, 2020, from https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/02/the-trump-administration-finds-that-environmental-racism-is-real/554315/ Says:, M., & *, N. (2020, February 06). Climate is the Newest Gentrifying Force, and its Effects are Already Re-Shaping Cities. Retrieved July 01, 2020, from http://sitn.hms.harvard.edu/flash/2019/climate-newest-gentrifying-force-effects-already-re-shaping-cities/
Maya Gowda is a rising junior at Gulliver Preparatory School and climate activist. This summer she was in intern at Fridays For Future Miami.
Emily Vo is a junior at Coral Springs High School, who served as an intern this summer with Fridays For Future Miami.