Measuring Displacement and Designing Urban Policy to Proactively Address It

Memphis, TN
Rhodes College




Procurement Method:

University Partner:

Rhodes College

Partnership Description

The City of Memphis’ Division of Housing and Community Development (HCD) will be working with Austin Harrison (Visiting Instructor, Rhodes College) to measure and map direct and indirect residential displacement in Memphis. The city-wide displacement measuring tool and accompanying research will help frame communications around neighborhood change at the hyper-local level in two ways: (1) Conversations to complement ongoing dialogues HCD is having in neighborhoods, such as Orange Mound and Binghampton, in the Community Coalition program; (2) Rhodes College Urban Studies partnership with Juice Orange Mound, a community non-profit, to create a neighborhood plan mindful of displacement pressures and developed by the neighborhood for the neighborhood. The research itself will result in an opportunity for Rhodes students to implement a mixed-methods approach that leverages quantitative and spatial research to frame necessary conversations around how communities can proactively address displacement at the neighborhood level.


The City of Memphis’ Division of Housing & Community Development (HCD) is seeking a data-driven solution to to measure residential displacement or the loss of low-to-moderate income housing units for our residents and at the neighborhood level in Memphis.


In recent years, Gentrification has come to dominate the neighborhood change discussion nationally and the sensationalization of this term has muddied the waters in community conversations around development or investment. Neighborhood leaders are reasonably concerned with investment leading to displacement or the cultural or social transformation of their community. 

HCD is always seeking ways to leverage public investment to increase quality of life for all Memphians. However, if neighbors are concerned with losing places for working and middle-class families to live, then previous HCD research has shown that is happening in a variety of ways. For example, the recently published State of Memphis Housing Report found that Memphis is losing its affordable housing from the “bottom of the market” or from the processes of disinvestment. As a result, existing ways to measure displacement are more geared to the “top of market” housing affordability lost common in hotter market cities like Washington, D.C., San Francisco, or Los Angeles. 

The National Low Income Housing Coalition reports that Memphis is missing over 38,000 affordable housing units at the 30% Area Median Income or lowest level of affordable housing need. How can we track where and how Memphis losing affordable housing and how can this data inform HCD program and policies to proactively address this loss?

The academic research team will be provided:

  • Access to all publicly available data from the City of Memphis and through partnerships with Innovate Memphis, Shelby County Government, and any other local partners
  • A small team of HCD employees to help design the research and think through ways to operationalize any key findings or policy recommendations
  • As needed access to HCD leadership for updates, questions, and overcoming any stumbling blocks for the project
  • Ability to set up interviews with any partner in the Housing & Community Development space in Memphis and assistance organize any larger community conversations, as needed.

Requirements & Outcomes

HCD seeks to an academic partner that has a(n):

  • Understanding of necessary data and spatial analysis methods to create an interactive, geospatial measurement tool that allows HCD and partners to see which neighborhoods are experiencing various types of displacement pressures 
  • Knowledge to connect or situate how displacement looks in Memphis with larger national discussions of neighborhood change 
  • Ability to help with the dissemination of any research in an understandable and accessible way to frame necessary communication amongst a variety of stakeholders
  • Comprehension of anti-displacement policy that can help HCD think through the best potential interventions in different neighborhoods

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