Local research shows gentrifying forces in JP

May 9, 2014
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A 2012 doctoral dissertation, written by JP resident Jen Douglas, outlined where gentrification is making the greatest impact in Hyde Square and possible tactics for slowing the process.

Douglas’s dissertation is cited in a forthcoming study on Whole Foods Market’s impact on Hyde Square demographics, as the Gazette previous reported. The dissertation was for Douglas’s doctorate in public policy at the McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies at the University of Massachusetts Boston.

Douglas created bilingual flyers about her dissertation’s findings for this year’s State of the Neighborhood forum, held in February. She was one of the speakers at the affordable housing group, where she distributed about 50 copies of the flyers.

According to the flyer, gentrification is definitely taking place in Boston’s Latin Quarter.

“I live in the neighborhood and I would observe, first-hand, the displacement of prior residents. I began to wonder if it would be possible to observe the phenomenon playing out at the very local scale,” Douglas told the Gazette.

She found that gentrification pressures are highest between Boylston and Paul Gore streets, where there are higher and still-rising incomes; the highest concentration of professionals; and a higher and growing percentage of owner-occupied condos and rising rents. That area is also the second-densest cluster of higher sale prices in the JP area.

The area between Centre and Heath streets, east of Walden Street, is facing the second-highest gentrification pressure.

“Nearly 1,000 Latinos left Hyde-Jackson between 2000 and 2010. At the same time, however, there was an increase of nearly 500 Latino residents at Bromley-Heath [public housing]. The overall result was a decline of 13% in the Latino population,” the flyer states.

That flyer states that gentrifying forces in the Hyde/Jackson area move “block by block.”

“Real estate agents and developers are remaking the space for the incoming population,” it states. But “getting land out of the speculative market makes a difference,” she said.

That means reusing large parcels of vacant land for below-market-rate housing like affordable co-ops, rentals and ownership.

“There might be an opportunity to preserve the ability of people who occupy housing right now to stay and not be so vulnerable to market forces,” she said. “Once people are pushed out and prices go up, it’s very difficult to reverse.”

Douglas hopes her research will inspire locals to take action, even if she’s not expecting her influence to spread beyond JP.

“It would be nice to have an impact” on City housing policy, Douglas told the Gazette. “But I doubt the mayor will pay a lot of attention to my dissertation.”

“Perhaps a better-case scenario would be for it to stimulate discussion among local actors, people who are concerned about housing affordability and community stability,” she said.

Douglas can be reached at [email protected]