A Tale of Two Cities: Miami and Detroit

Climate change is upending Miami’s real estate markets, turning one of its poorest neighborhoods into some of the most desirable real estate around. It’s a phenomenon known as “climate gentrification,” a term coined by urban studies professor Jesse Keenan. In a 2018 paper, Keenan writes that while gentrification is most often driven by supply – that is, a surplus of devalued property that invites development and transformation – climate gentrification is the opposite. “[It]is really about a shift in preferences and demand function,” says Keenan. “And that's a much broader phenomenon in terms of geography and physical geography or markets in some markets than any kind of localized gentrification in a classic sense.” In other words, as people are attracted to areas of lower vulnerability, developers see an opportunity to make a killing. Valencia Gunder, a community organizer and climate educator in Miami, recognizes the irony. She says that in that city’s earliest days, Haitian, Bahamian and Caribeean immigrants were barred from living in the tony beachfront areas. “Black people had to live in the center of the city, which is different than most America, because usually low income black communities are in lower lying areas…and so everything they did that they thought they were doing to hurt us, actually ended up helping us in the long run.” But there’s only so much Little Haiti to go around. As longtime residents are being priced out of their community, climate change isn’t helping matters. “Once the water comes in, Little Haiti will be beachfront property,” Gunder predicts. “Bottom line, it’s gonna be beachfront property, it’s going to be the new shore. So it's become like the hottest toy on the shelf.” Guests: Valencia Gunder, Founder, Make the Homeless Smile Jesse Keenan, Lecturer, Harvard University Graduate School of Design Guy Williams, President and CEO, Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice Portions of this program were recorded at The Commonwealth Club of California in San Francisco. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

by Climate One