Unjust Cities? Gentrification, Integration, and the Fair Housing Act

Olatunde C.A. Johnson* 

What does gentrification mean for fair housing? This article considers the possibility that gentrification should be celebrated as a form of integration alongside a darker narrative that sees gentrification as necessarily unstable and leading to inequality or displacement of lower-income, predominantly of color, residents. Given evidence of both possibilities, this article considers how the Fair Housing Act might be deployed to minimize gentrification’s harms while harnessing some of the benefits that might attend integration and movement of higher-income residents to cities. Ultimately, the article urges building on the fair housing approach but employing a broader set of tools to advance a more robust form of integration. This broader framework would attend to how public and private goods are distributed in gentrifying cities, and build governance and participation mechanisms that enhance the voice and participation of traditionally excluded groups.

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* Jerome B. Sherman Professor of Law, Columbia Law School. J.D., 1995, Stanford Law School; B.A., 1989, Yale University.
For helpful research assistance, I am grateful to Amelie Hopkins and Alexander Perry. Many thanks to Jessica Bulman-Pozen, Lance Freeman, Richard Sander, Serena M. Williams, and participants at the University of Richmond School of Law Symposium and the faculty workshop at Columbia Law School for their helpful comments and suggestions.

 

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