What Causes Gentrification? What to Know and What to Do | What Once Was

Written By: Ben Perez

Edited By: Elisa Calderon



Gentrification is a contentious issue that impacts communities around the world and has been affecting Austin neighborhoods and communities for years. It has become a focal point for discussions on urban development, cultural heritage, and ideas about equity. In this blog post, we will look into gentrification’s causes, economic factors, the impact it has on neighborhoods, the problems it poses, the likely areas where it occurs, and what we can do about it.

Understanding Gentrification

Gentrification describes the transformation of a neighborhood or area, typically occurring in urban settings, where wealthier residents move in which leads to economic as well as cultural changes. For a more in depth look at what gentrification is, you can refer to our blog post “What is Gentrification?” found here (insert link).


What Causes Gentrification?


Gentrification is driven by a combination of metropolitan policies, the influx of wealthier residents, and decisions made by local city governments. These governments create policies which, though often geared towards revitalizing areas, inadvertently contribute to the displacement of low-income residents that comes with the gentrification of neighborhoods.


What Economic Factors Contribute to Gentrification?


Economic factors are pivotal in the process of gentrification. Low-income residents in gentrifying neighborhoods are especially vulnerable to rising property values & costs and urban development initiatives, which often lead to their displacement. As housing prices soar, these economic shifts force many long-time residents out of their homes and businesses.

What Makes a Neighborhood Gentrified?


A gentrified neighborhood undergoes a significant transformation in its demographics, property values, development, and cultural fiber. Shifting demographics, driven by an influx of affluent (and overwhelmingly white) residents, lead to changes in the neighborhood’s culture and character. Urban development and increasing property values contribute to this process, which causes the area to be considered gentrified.

What Issues Does Gentrification Cause?


Displacement and erasure of cultural heritage are just a couple of the negative impacts experienced by affected communities. The lack of affordable housing options exacerbates these problems, making it difficult for displaced residents to find affordable housing. This leads to a loss in the original “character” of these neighborhoods.


Where is Gentrification Most Likely to Happen?


Gentrification occurs in lower-income neighborhoods, especially in areas experiencing rapid job growth with a demand for urban living. One example is East Austin, where the tech industry boom led to a surge in property values and urban development projects which have led to the displacement of many long-term residents and local businesses.


What Can We Do to Combat Gentrification?

Even though gentrification presents significant challenges, there are ways to combat its effects. You can start by actively participating in your community through voting, supporting organizations dedicated to affordable housing, and staying up to date on local policies regarding these issues. Organizations like E4 Youth and the What Once Was initiative are making a difference by preserving the cultural heritage of gentrified neighborhoods in Austin. By partnering with or donating to organizations like this, you contribute to the preservation of community identity and help create a more equitable urban environment.


Gentrification is a complicated issue with wide-ranging impacts and effects. Understanding its causes, effects, and potential resolutions is essential for inclusive and equitable urban development. By staying engaged, supporting relevant organizations, and advocating for equitable policies, we can work together to mitigate the negative effects of gentrification and retain the vibrant history and heritage of Austin’s historical communities and neighborhoods.