UMN research sheds light on gentrification concerns

Researchers conducted interviews with nearly 60 Twin Cities residents to better understand how they view neighborhood changes.

Wesley Hortenbach

University of Minnesota researchers presented results from two years of research on Twin Cities gentrification at a forum Friday.

The first set of findings — presented in 2016 — showed gentrification taking place in some low-income Twin Cities neighborhoods. The second component, which researchers discussed Friday, used interviews to gain a better understanding of how residents view changes in their neighborhoods.

Researchers from the University’s Center for Urban and Regional Affairs conducted 58 interviews with residents of neighborhoods in North Minneapolis, Northeast Minneapolis, South Minneapolis, Hamline-Midway in St. Paul and Frogtown/Thomas-Dale in St. Paul. They selected neighborhoods that the first component of the study identified as “gentrifiable.”

Generally, gentrification takes place when landlords increase rent based on renovations of amenities in low-income neighborhoods, said Edward Goetz, lead author and CURA director.

About two-thirds of participants are afraid of “physical displacement” due to the increasing cost of living, according to the study.

In interviews with community members, all respondents viewed rising rent and home values as signs of change in their neighborhoods, and 88 percent noticed an “increase of whiteness in their community,” the study says.

“So as much as I like to see good [white] people running around and … enjoying their amenities, those amenities shouldn’t just come with those people,” a participant told CURA researcher Brittany Lewis during an interview.

Researchers also identified gentrification-related concerns specific to certain neighborhoods. For example, in some Northeast Minneapolis neighborhoods — part of a historic art district — participants noted that rent for living and working spaces has become unaffordable for many artists, forcing them to the suburbs.

South Minneapolis residents relayed worries about losing their familiar surroundings, Lewis said during the presentation. They say they’re concerned about “Uptowning,” or becoming similar to the Uptown area if locally-owned businesses are pushed out by chains.

A long-time Twin Cities resident told researchers during an interview that in the 1990s, “Uptown was this really cool eclectic mix of like small business owners and really interesting […] ethnic and just cool little stores. And now it’s like the Apple Store and Victoria’s Secret and […] just all this crap.”

In Frogtown/Thomas-Dale in St. Paul, residents expressed concerns about affordability. 60 percent of residents devote one-third of their income to housing expenses, the study found. This forces some to “double up” by fitting extra people in a living space to save money, the study says.

As more white people have moved to the Hamline-Midway neighborhoods, residents have noted an increased police presence in the area. The study says that though crime in the area is down, phone calls to 911 and 311 have increased.

“As demographics begin to shift in the neighborhood and younger, white families move into the neighborhood and become more visible, so does the identity of those who get to control the narrative surrounding youth crime,” according to the study.

CURA launched the Gentrification in Minneapolis and St. Paul project in 2016 in order to better understand changes in low-income neighborhoods. Researchers first presented preliminary findings in fall 2016 that showed that more than one-third of low-income areas in Minneapolis experienced gentrification between 2000 and 2014.

Later this year, CURA researchers will host five policy-focused forums in each Twin Cities region studied to gather resident feedback, including recommendations to address trends revealed by the research.