By: Chavelle Zackery, ’23-’24 Florida Fellow
I vividly recall the day I first set foot in Tampa, Florida. From the historic streets of Hyde Park to the serene beauty of Bayshore Boulevard, each neighborhood whispered tales of its own. I felt an instant connection to this city, drawn in by its warmth and diversity. Yet, amidst the city’s charm, I began noticing subtle shifts as I got older. Conversations about rising sea levels, flood-prone areas, and the changing landscape became commonplace.
The term “climate gentrification” floated in discussions, painting a complex picture of the city’s evolution. Climate justice and gentrification are two interconnected issues that deeply impact communities worldwide. It is important to understand that their relationship with one another is crucial in understanding the broader dynamics of environmental sustainability, urban development, and socioeconomic disparities.
Intersection of Gentrification and Climate Justice:
Gentrification in Tampa Florida has led to a myriad of inequalities in the realm of climate justice, affecting various communities differently based on their socioeconomic status, geographic location, and access to resources. The intersection of gentrification and climate justice in Tampa raises critical questions about equitable development and environmental resilience. Gentrification, while bringing economic growth, can widen socio-economic disparities and displace marginalized communities to areas more vulnerable to climate risks. This displacement often leads to increased environmental injustice as these communities face greater exposure to environmental hazards.
One notable example of climate gentrification in Tampa is the rising sea levels affecting coastal (Zone a) neighborhoods. Areas that are prone to flooding have become less desirable for long-term habitation, prompting wealthier individuals and business developers to seek higher ground. This in effect raises the costs of living and often displaces low-income residents who have resided in these waterfront communities. Walking around these areas, you notice how the roads are unkept, creating more
The lack of adequate infrastructure and resources in these vulnerable neighborhoods exacerbates the issue. Communities facing the brunt of climate impacts often lack the necessary resources to adapt or mitigate these effects. As a result, when developers target these areas for potential gentrification due to their relative safety from climate risks, residents are left in a precarious position, unable to afford rising living costs or access resources to make their homes more resilient to climate challenges.
A new study shows how it’s possible to map where climate gentrification is already happening or is at risk of happening in the future. The study on measuring, mapping, and anticipating climate gentrification in Florida, particularly in Tampa, is a critical exploration of the complex interplay between climate change, urban development, and socio-economic dynamics. Tampa’s gentrification patterns follow a comparable trend, where areas perceived as less susceptible to flooding witness increased property values and development. As a consequence, long-term residents, particularly those from marginalized backgrounds, face challenges in affording housing or staying within their familiar neighborhoods.
Businesses in Tampa are beginning to displace lower-income residents who live in areas that are safer from flooding. In Tampa, the researchers looked at a neighborhood called Dixie Farms, another low-income community near neighborhoods with higher flood risks. The model showed that displacement has been happening at a high rate there.
Understanding the nuances of climate gentrification is crucial not only for these specific cities but also for urban centers globally facing similar challenges. By studying these case studies, policymakers, urban planners, and communities can devise more inclusive and sustainable strategies that prioritize both resilience to climate change and social equity.
Living in Tampa amidst the specter of climate gentrification has been a poignant experience, filled with moments of awe and concern. The city’s allure remains undeniable, woven into the tapestry of its diverse neighborhoods. As I navigate the complexities of this evolving landscape, I’m reminded and empowered by the power of community, resilience, and the unwavering spirit that defines Tampa. In this journey lies the hope for a more equitable and sustainable future, one where every corner of this beautiful city finds its place in the sun.
Chavelle Zackery, (’23-’24 Florida Fellow) is located in Tampa FL and is a recent college graduate from the University of Tampa. She studied Economics and Political Science and is going into Graduate School for the 2024-2025 school year. She is a a big ocean and animal connoisseur and loves to read and sleep.