By Alicia Kitsuse, Director, TFN’s Older Industrial Cities Program

The Turning the Corner project was incubated by the Federal Reserve-Philanthropy Initiative, a collaborative research partnership between TFN’s Older Industrial Cities working group and regional Federal Reserve Banks.

Two new reports from the Urban Institute share lessons on neighborhood displacement risk in five cities with recovering or moderately strong housing markets. The study reports on research gleaned fromTurning the Corner: Monitoring Neighborhood Change to Prevent Displacement, which piloted a research model to monitor neighborhood change, drive informed government action, and support displacement prevention and inclusive revitalization in five cities: Buffalo, Detroit, Milwaukee, Phoenix, and the Twin Cities. Findings from the research,
which took place in 14 neighborhoods experiencing change in their residential or local business environment, highlights the diverse baseline conditions where displacement risk occurs and illustrates the various trajectories displacement risk may take.   

One of the key takeaways from the report: Residents’ perceptions of change provide key qualitative data that’s essential for informed, pro-active response to prevent displacement and support inclusive neighborhood revitalization.

The Funders’ Network is proud to have contributed to efforts that resulted in the publications Turning the Corner: Lessons from Five Cities on Displacement Risk in Changing Neighborhoods, and Turning the Corner: Implications of Neighborhood Revitalization for Public Safety, Small Businesses, and Capital Investments, including staffing the TFN Federal Reserve-Philanthropy Initiative (FPI), which helped guide the project. The FPI is a collaborative research partnership between TFN and regional Federal Reserve Banks that focuses on community and economic development issues.

The reports’ authors will share findings and recommendations from the study in a webinar on May 2nd. (You can find more information and a link to register here.) The report will also be featured at the 2019 annual meeting of TFN’s Older Industrial Cities working group in Cleveland. (Stay tuned for more details!)

The Turning the Corner Project piloted a research model to monitor neighborhood change, drive informed government action, and support displacement prevention and inclusive revitalization. The project studied the effects of new investment in neighborhoods made up of longer-term residents with low and moderate income, most of whom are people of color.

Site-based teams composed of a research partner, a local funder, and a cross-sector advisory group of local stakeholders used quantitative and qualitative data to explore residential, commercial, and cultural displacement.

Researchers found that residents often see change happening before it shows up in quantitative data, and that engaging people who live or work in affected neighborhoods can help to interpret trends. For example, residents in Detroit saw investment in infrastructure such as lighting and street resurfacing as early indicators of market transition, data that is not captured in conventional measures of neighborhood change.

Interviews with neighborhood stakeholders also revealed that associations between neighborhood revitalization and presumed improvements in neighborhood well-being, such as reduction in crime, did not necessarily translate into greater feelings of safety among residents. Researchers found that some community members reported feeling less safe after new investment in their neighborhood, due to increased police presence in the area and lack of connection with new neighbors. These findings varied by race, and appeared to indicate concern about racially biased policing practices, suggesting a need for a nuanced understanding of residents’ lived experience in the crafting of neighborhood revitalization plans and related policies.  

The site of new luxury apartments slated for Milwaukee’s Walker’s Point neighborhood. Photo Credit: Urban Institute

The study also found that small local businesses are at greater risk of displacement due to neighborhood change, as rising rents, regulatory changes, and loss of clientele destabilize the business environment. Researchers note that funders can provide meaningful assistance to businesses through intentional and targeted business supports. In the Twin Cities, for example, a funder collaborative offered businesses affected by light rail expansion technical assistance and loans to cover revenue losses.

Key recommendations from the cross-site inquiry include:

  • Inclusion of residents by civic actors and local governments in decision-making about their neighborhood’s future direction. Formal structures for shared influence in guiding the future of neighborhoods can help ensure residents benefit from new investment, as can collective land ownership models such as cooperative housing and community land trusts.
  • Coordination between the civic sector and local government to prevent displacement. Cross-sector coalitions can quickly engage when new opportunities for influencing development arise, and can help shift the narrative to encourage proactive efforts to pre-empt displacement in weaker markets.
  • Regular, monitoring of neighborhood change by a trusted data intermediary. Up-to-date information on where change is occurring can help communities identify strategic opportunities for interventions to prevent displacement and can suggest what types of neighborhood investment might be most useful.

In addition to the two reports, the Urban Institute published three resources for communities to monitor change:

In addition to the two reports, the Urban Institute published three resources for communities to monitor change:

Guide to Measuring Neighborhood Change to Understand and Prevent Displacement: A guide on data sources and methods for monitoring neighborhood change, drawn from the experiences of the Turning the Corner local research and from NNIP.

Turning the Corner Qualitative Toolkit on Neighborhood Change: Protocols and related materials for conducting resident focus groups and business manager interviews about perceptions of neighborhood conditions and trends.

Turning the Corner Literature Catalog: A listing of recent literature and projects on neighborhood change and displacement, categorized by topic and method.

Funder Support

TFN staffed the Turning the Corner project’s Steering Committee and served as a communications liaison with the local funders who supported the study: 

Arizona Community Foundation

Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo 

Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan

Greater Milwaukee Foundation

Hudson-Webber Foundation

John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

McKnight Foundation

Northwestern Mutual Foundation

Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation

The Skillman Foundation

Vitalyst Health Foundation

Zilber Family Foundation

Support for the Urban Institute’s participation in the study was provided by The Kresge Foundation.

Connect with TFN

We’re eager to hear your thoughts, questions and concerns about the role funders can play in supporting displacement prevention and inclusive revitalization in changing neighborhood markets and look forward to hosting discussion of the study in Cleveland during our annual Older Industrial Cities working group meeting. If you’d like more information about the Older Industrial Cities working group, the
Federal Reserve-Philanthropy Initiative (FPI), or other TFN efforts to support inclusive economies, please feel free to reach out to me directly at

About the Author

Alicia Kitsuse, Director, TFN’s Older Industrial Cities 

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As Director of TFN’s Older Industrial Cities program, Alicia connects funders engaged in the challenging work of revitalizing post-industrial cities to learning opportunities, key resources, and most importantly to one another. She is also the lead contact for TFN’s Anchor Institutions Funders’ Group.

Prior to joining the Network’s staff in January 2017, Alicia served as a Program Officer at the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation in Flint, Michigan. As a member of Mott’s Flint grantmaking team, she worked on a variety land use, community and economic development, and workforce-related projects focused stimulating growth and revitalization in the City of Flint and the surrounding region. Alicia also provided technical assistance to the City of Flint on its award-winning Imagine Flint master plan, and served on a variety of local and national advisory boards.

As a funder member of TFN while at Mott, Alicia played a variety of leadership roles within the OIC program, including as a member of OIC Steering Committee, and as Co-Chair of the OIC’s Federal Reserve/Philanthropy Initiative.

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