Local environmental improvement plans are increasingly popular among urban planners. As climate change and environmental justice concerns increase, many communities demand a change in local land use policies that put these concerns at the forefront. One such community is the city of Houston, Texas, which issued several environmental improvement plans in recent years after the devastation of Hurricane Harvey. As used in this Comment, an environmental improvement plan is a local government planning initiative that aims to implement positive environmental change in urban areas historically burdened by environmental hazards. Such neighborhoods are often undeveloped, low-socioeconomic communities blighted by an accumulation of hazardous pollutants. These communities lack open, green space, clean and affordable natural resources, and resiliency against natural disasters. However, when cities successfully implement environmental improvement plans, targeted neighborhoods often undergo gentrification, thereby displacing the poorer community members into another area blighted by the same environmental hazards the plan was intended to protect them from. This Comment seeks to explore the intended benefits of Houston’s various environmental improvement initiatives, to evaluate the current gentrification trends in Houston neighborhoods targeted for improvement, and to highlight the potential future concerns for vulnerable Houston neighborhoods as these new land-use policies go into effect. Environmental improvement plans are an important and necessary aspect of responsible and sustainable development, but, if implemented without regard to possible gentrification effects, they can have negative, unintended consequences on a city’s diversity and economic health. Fortunately, there are ways that city planners and community members can mitigate these negative effects and ensure positive change and inclusive growth.
Madeline M. Byers,
Houston, We Have a Gentrification Problem: The Gentrification Effects of Local Environmental Improvement Plans in the City of Houston,
Tex. A&M J. Prop. L.
Available at: https://doi.org/10.37419/JPL.V7.I2.2