Business & economics, Research, Politics & society

How housing production, policies impact displacement

By Ivan Natividad

wide shot of hundreds of houses in San Francisco
In the Bay Area and other areas where housing costs are higher, landlords may have a stronger incentive to evict tenants, despite the hardships of the pandemic, Berkeley researchers say. (Photo by Mike McBey via Flickr)
wide shot of hundreds of houses in San Francisco

The first-of-its kind database sorts pro-housing policies from 20 states by factors related to affordability and equity. (Photo by Mike McBey via Flickr)

New research from UC Berkeley will provide lawmakers with previously unavailable data that pinpoint the impact that new housing production, rent stabilization and just-cause eviction policies have on residential displacement.

The study, “ Housing Market Interventions and Residential Mobility in the San Francisco Bay Area ,” was released this week by Berkeley’s Urban Displacement Project, in collaboration with the Changing Cities Research Lab at Stanford University and the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. The research has major implications for California’s housing crisis, which is experiencing a shortfall in housing production that will reach 1.5 million units by 2025, said Karen Chapple, Urban Displacement Project director and professor emerita of city and regional planning at Berkeley.

“Displacement disrupts lives and livelihoods, often forcing people to move far from their jobs, schools and communities,” said Chapple, who is also director at the School of Cities at the University of Toronto. “The effects are devastating and can be long-lasting, so even one displaced family is one too many.”

The new study uses granular data on displacement in the Bay Area, and by examining the socio-economic status of households that are displaced, identifies how housing policies, like market rate and subsidized development and tenant protections, impact displacement over a four-year period.

The study focused on the nine-county Bay Area. Key findings for the study include:

  • Neighborhoods where new market rate housing is built see an increase in rates of displacement for very low-to-moderate socio-economic groups at 0.5% to 2% above normal rates.
  • More market rate housing construction primarily serves the most affluent — these residents are the least likely to move out and the most likely to move into neighborhoods with new construction.
  • For all socioeconomic groups, market rate construction is associated with a slightly higher chance of making a move to a lower-opportunity neighborhood.
  • Rent stabilization helps residents of the lowest socioeconomic status stay in their neighborhoods, but it also prevents other low-income people from moving in.
  • Just-cause eviction protections help the lowest socioeconomic status residents remain in gentrifying neighborhoods where displacement pressures may be especially strong for vulnerable residents. In these hot market areas, just cause can reduce the likelihood of displacement by up to 1% for the lowest income residents. But these protections do not encourage new low-income residents to move in.
  • Renters make fewer downward moves from neighborhoods where more units are covered by just-cause protections — suggesting people are able to make planned moves.

“To address the housing affordability crisis and mitigate displacement and exclusion, California’s leaders must pursue not only the preservation of unsubsidized affordable housing, but also bolder initiatives that substantially expand social housing — rental or homeownership units made affordable at a moderate income or below, run by a public or nonprofit entity,” Chapple said. “Matching the urgency of the housing crisis will require wide implementation and investment.”

Read the study here.