Upcoming Project: Residents' Experiences of Gentrification in Somerville

 


 

 

This summer The Welcome Project will be part of a community-based participatory research project headed by members of the UEP (Urban & Environmental Policy) department at Tufts University. The project, currently known as, “Residents’ Experiences of Gentrification in Somerville: A Community-Led Listening and Learning Pilot Project,” aims to understand how Somerville immigrant and low-income residents are experiencing gentrification and development in Somerville. In addition to The Welcome Project (TWP), the project will be run in partnership with the Somerville Community Corporation (SCC) and the Somerville Homeless Coalition (SHC) and will be funded by the Tisch College Community Research Center at Tufts University with the Board of Director, Susan Ostrander, also assisting on the project.

 

The Welcome Project met with Laurie Goldman, Lecturer in the UEP department, to understand the goals and current status of the project. The project is currently in the process of creating focusing groups to bring people together from different constituent groups (Union United, SHC, TWP, CAS, SCC) to ask questions like: “Have you seen changes in your neighborhood or the city? What changes have you seen? How do these changes affect you? What do we want to learn more about?” These questions are meant to gauge what residents are experiencing due to development pressures, how they are dealing with these pressures, and what additional information is needed to correctly address these pressures and build strategies to help.

 

Gentrification does not only cause the displacement of families, it often involves the closing of small businesses, residents living with less money, dealing with more property taxes, and changing jobs, to name just a few. The purpose of the community-based research is to understand these changes on a more personal level to complement big-picture data available from the census, government surveys, and real-estate companies regarding rent prices and the changing demographic of renters in Somerville. If expanded beyond the summer months, this project would provide important perspectives to add to a growing body of literature on gentrification, displacement, and community organizing.

 

After consolidating information from the focusing groups, researchers hope to develop a questionnaire and sample strategy. Throughout the summer, “listening” teams consisting of Somerville immigrants, low-income community members, and UEP interns will go door-to-door collecting information. Goldman mentioned that one of the challenges the project may face is collecting sufficient information on door steps since time is often limited. Regardless, an important goal for those surveying is to widen an existing base of community members against displacement by providing information for residents who may not already be a part of these initiatives.
Although the project is still in its preliminary phases, it will provide crucial information about the experiences of Somerville residents and will help create an even stronger coalition of community members united under the shared purpose of development without displacement.