Managing Neighborhood Change: Selected Anti-Displacement Strategies in Practice

Report by Metropolitan Area Planning Council
February 6, 2014

Metropolitan Area Planning Council   (Boston)

The Green Line Extension through the City of Somerville will dramatically improve transit mobility for both residents and businesses. New growth attracted to Somerville may expand housing opportunities, increase ridership and fare revenue, and bolster municipal finances with new tax revenue. However, previous experience in Somerville and across the country suggests that the creation of new transit service may result in unintended negative consequences if rising rents and land values cause the displacement of low-and moderate-income residents who comprise the "core users" of the transit system. 

MAPC recently completed an analysis on the neighborhood changes that may occur in Somverville; the report estimates the magnitude of the displacement risk through a variety of mechanisms so that the city and community partners can focus efforts on the strategies with the best potential to mitigate that risk. They found that rent increases and conversion of rental units to condominiums are the most significant mechanisms of potential displacement; but the greatest threat to overall affordability is slow housing production. They estimate there will be demand for at least 6,300 and as many as 9,000 new housing units in Somerville by the year 2030; if new supply cannot keep up with this demand, prices may rise even further and it will be even more difficult for low income families to move to or stay in Somerville.

The report also presents a set of indicators that can be used to track how the City of Somerville and the GLX station areas change over the next decades as the new transit service becomes a reality. The indicators measure the city’s demographic diversity, housing cost burden, auto ownership and usage, and livability.