Paper Distills Learnings from Healthy, Equitable, Active Land Use (HEALU) Network Summit
A new Prevention Institute (PI) brief shares key learnings from a recent summit in Los Angeles (LA) to discuss tools and strategies for supporting healthy community development without displacing current residents. The October meeting of policymakers, funders, academics, practitioners, and resident activists added a strong health frame to the ongoing conversation in LA on gentrification and displacement.
PI facilitates LA’s HEALU Network, whose members represent multiple sectors and complementary approaches (active transportation, parks, affordable housing, safe routes to school, environmental law, public health, and more), from grassroots organizing to community development to strategic policy advocacy. In LA, as in many places, low-income communities of color have not received the same level of investments or innovations in healthy, equitable, and active land uses that have benefited higher-income neighborhoods.
As detailed in the new brief, Healthy Development without Displacement: A Summit of the Healthy, Equitable, Active Land Use (HEALU) Network, the forced, involuntary, and serial displacement of communities serves to widen health disparities and amplify health inequities. Many families are forced to move to undesirable locations, into overcrowded conditions, or need to work more hours to make up for an increase in rent. As a result, they are often more susceptible to several chronic diseases and illnesses such as cancer, asthma, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Commercial corridors fair no better, often experiencing the first wave of displacement, which adversely affects both employees and the community as a whole.
The HEALU summit brief highlights local initiatives that are bringing health-promoting development to the city’s low-income communities; identifies ways that “healthy communities” initiatives can promote equity and prevent displacement; and explores linkages between the health community and groups working on affordable housing and anti-displacement. It recommends that local initiatives must be mindful of—and unified with—affordable housing and anti-displacement efforts to ensure healthy, sustainable development that benefits low-income communities of color. Without proper protections in place, “healthy communities” initiatives like increasing access to rail transit, bike lanes, parks, and healthy foods could be precursors to gentrification, and this can lead to unhealthy, forced displacement of longtime residents and businesses.
In LA—and across the country—there is a great deal of momentum around creating safe and healthy communities for all, as reflected in the City’s recently adopted “Plan for a Heathy Los Angeles” and “Mobility Plan 2035”, “Vision Zero,” LA Metro’s “Transit Oriented Communities,” and the Mayor’s “Great Streets Initiative”.
The future direction of how communities are planned and designed makes it all the more imperative to understand the historical and current nexus of gentrification, displacement and health. To create strategies that achieve healthy development without displacement moving forward, all parties will need to be increasingly thoughtful and collaborate across the various silos working on the built environment and land use.