UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Gentrification without displacement : determining the costs Moguin, Aaron


Around the world, the global flow of capital often influences urban growth in ways that can be disadvantageous to residents. Outside investment in a city’s residential real estate destabilizes the equilibrium of local housing supply and residents’ ability to afford it. One of the attractors of this capital, the renewal and expansion of existing housing stock through demolition and reconstruction, often involuntarily displaces these residents. This changes behaviour in ways that are less mentally and physically healthy, more environmentally harmful, and consume more resources. However, this also creates new supply, which by responding to rising demand, helps affordability and replaces aging housing, improving resilience, accessibility, safety, resource consumption and environmental impact. This investigation asks: 1. What would the financial cost be to mitigate or eliminate involuntary displacement while still allowing creation of new housing supply and upgrading of the built environment? 2. How feasible, and successful, are some solutions that could enable this? 3. What are some strategies that would maximize its feasibility and success? The neighbourhood of Metrotown, in greater Vancouver, Canada, was identified as an ideal case area in which to examine these questions. A prototypical land development project was synthesized from empirical data and used to test various valuations of displacement elimination as well as alternatives to involuntary displacement. It was found that even under favourable market conditions for redevelopment, all strategies tested for full displacement elimination are not financially feasible under typical for-profit scenarios and expectations. Some voluntary displacement scenarios are shown to be financially viable, although less socially and environmentally feasible. To allow full displacement elimination, project costs must be further reduced, revenue increased, or profit targets reduced. It is shown that eliminating 50% of required parking reduces costs, increasing profit while encouraging sustainable behaviour and reducing material usage and embodied carbon. However, to achieve full financial feasibility, a typical for-profit project under these market, social and jurisdictional conditions must shift even more costs away from the developer to be able to afford full displacement elimination while allowing all advantages of new and additional housing construction and local upgrading to occur.

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