Rainier Beach Action Coalition, the Multicultural Community Coalition and Puget Sound Sage studied the risks of disaster gentrification created by the COVID-19 pandemic and propose what our local governments can do now to protect and stabilize our BIPOC communities.
May 2021 – Rainier Beach Action Coalition, the Multicultural Community Coalition and Puget Sound Sage came together to develop a shared analysis of the threats the COVID-19 pandemic may pose to the land and housing of our Black, Indigenous and People of Color communities. We refer to the primary threat as “disaster gentrification”, when people with wealth (investors and speculators) take advantage of a disaster to buy and/or take land and housing for cheap from lower-income people, and then sell or rent to higher-income people for a profit.
Together, we looked to history and studied the subprime mortgage crisis and Great Recession, a clear example of disaster gentrification which resulted in the dispossession and displacement of BIPOC households, while corporate landlords took possession of our land.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created an economic disaster that puts our BIPOC communities at risk for disaster gentrification again: thousands of homes are at imminent risk of foreclosure while hundreds of thousands of renters are at risk for eviction. Meanwhile, corporate landlords have amassed hundreds of billions of dollars and are poised to take advantage of our vulnerability. Just as disaster can have a multiplier effect on our communities—increasing loss of housing, stability, wealth and widening racial disparity—local governments can pass policies that stabilize, build resilience, and repair historic harm.
To tackle this crisis, local governments should take the following actions:
- Reduce evictions and foreclosures by forgiving rent debt, extending the eviction and foreclosure moratoria, and making rent relief contingent on increased tenant protections;
- Create opportunity for BIPOC communities to secure land and buildings to preserve affordability by robustly funding acquisition and preservation funds;
- Increase BIPOC power in planning and development by establishing local planning and accountability through equitable development zones;
- Preserve affordability and create a path for tenant ownership by passing a Tenant/Community Opportunity to Purchase Act;
- Stop harassment of vulnerable homeowners by creating non-Solicitation/cease and desist zones;
- Discourage property flipping for profit through a tax on certain real estate transactions.