Climate Gentrification; The Next Threat South Florida Faces: Advocates

The only issue is the city does not know how to identify it.

On the second floor of the Jose Marti Gym in downtown Miami, a group made up of around 20 city officials, concerned citizens and professors began a discussion of what might be the next challenge the city faces.

Mass development has already raised the issues of gentrification in areas like Little Haiti and Overtown, while rising seas and stronger storms have made the term 'resilience' a household name all across South Florida.

But, at the crossroads of both these issues, advocates say, lies climate gentrification.

In short, climate gentrification is when a person is displaced from a neighborhood, either through higher property taxes or raising rents, and is forced to live in an area that places them in greater risk of climate related impacts.

The only issue the city seems to have is how to identify it.

"We're seeing neighborhoods that are traditionally disinvested throughout the city get a renewed interest from LLCs to acquire properties and increase rents," Josephe Eisenberg says - he is part of the City of Miami's planning department. "It's difficult to say whether those acquisitions are occuring because the development community is acknowledging that sea level rise is occuring, or that climate change is real."

The subject was first brought to the attention of officials earlier this year by the city's own Climate Resilience Committee. The group passed a resolution asking the City of Miami to find evidence of gentrification caused by climate change.

Committee members say all they had to go off of at the time was anecdotal evidence. Community members in Little Haiti were saying they experienced an influx of developers coming to their neighborhoods, buying land or offering them money to sell their homes.

Climate Resilience Committee member Frances Colon says with all the personal accounts they acquired, the committee was able to narrow down what climate gentrification could mean for South Florida.

"So if I'm living in Little Haiti, and I can no longer pay the taxes on my property, or I can no longer pay the rent because the neighborhood is gentrifying, and it is one of the few high elevation areas in the city," Colon says. "And I have to move further west, closer to the everglades, or to Homestead, or to places that are at higher risk, because those would be the only places I can afford, then to us that's climate gentrification."

The committee hoped policies could be made based off the evidence found in the resolution. That way people could prepare before the issue got out of hand.

However, despite months of back and forth, city planners like Eisenberg say the data being looked at is making any sort of progress on the subject difficult.

"Parsing through the data is a little bit slow. It's dependent on the quality of the data we are working with."

At the workshop in downtown Miami, the discussion was centered around how to properly record gentrification caused by climate change.

Those that attended suggested tracking the price appreciation of homes in higher elevated areas of Miami, compared to lower elevated homes. Others wondered if it would be possible to follow migratory patterns of those people who say they are being displaced to lower elevated areas.

No concrete decisions were made at the end of the workshop, but Colon says the next step is to continue pressuring the city for answers.

"These impacts are coming at us pretty fast, they're here now, and the delay in action, or formulating policy that will protect vulnerable communities is putting us at a greater risk every day."

Contact Us