Let’s Talk About Gentrification

Uneasy about discussing the housing crisis —and its related issues like gentrification, environmental racism, and homelessness—with your students? Here are some resources to start the conversation.

Access to shelter is necessary for survival, yet, in the United States, not everyone can afford this basic human right. More individuals and families are being pushed out of their homes—and out of their communities—because of high rents, stagnant wages, and a shortage of available affordable housing. This country is experiencing a housing crisis.

A shrinking pool of aid exists for those who are forced to leave their homes or in need of permanent housing—typically low-income people and people of color.

In this “Let’s Talk About” collection, we urge students to dive deep into the issues of affordable housing, gentrification, and homelessness, as well as explore the innovative ways individuals are fighting back. These topics will push students to think about their own communities and how identities like race and class influence where someone is allowed to live. 

You and your students can learn more about innovative affordable housing solutions that communities are coming up with across the country in The Affordable Housing Issue.

How to Use This Collection

Suggested below are steps to a thoughtful and meaningful discussion with your students about gentrification and affordable housing. Choose what is appropriate for your class.

1. Students complete a pre-survey  (optional).

2. Choose at least one YES! article and one outside article for a robust compare and contrast.

3. Use the discussion questions—or craft your own—to gauge your students’ understanding and opinions.

4. Students complete a post-survey  (optional).

5. Explore curriculum if you’d like to dive deeper.

Reading Materials

YES! Articles

Infographic: Why Normal People Can’t Afford a House

5 Ways Communities are Creating Affordable Housing  

How to Protect a Renter Nation

Comic: The Upside of Crowded Living

How the Ultrarich Can Help Fix the Affordable Housing Crisis

Outside Resources

Federal court says cities can’t ban sleeping on the street. What’s it mean for Bellingham? (The Seattle Times/Bellingham Herald)

Nearly 4 People Are Evicted Every Minute: New Project Tracks U.S. Eviction Epidemic & Effects (Democracy Now)

Building Justice: NYC’s Sacrifice Zones and the Environmental Legacy of Racial Injustice (CityLimits.org)

How To Know If Your Neighborhood Is Being Gentrified (Forbes)

Discussion Questions

1. Imagine you could move. What would be the features of your dream house or apartment? What would the neighborhood be like? How would it be different (or not) from where you live now? Could your family afford to move?

2. If you are a person displaced by gentrification, it’s easy to see its negative consequences, but what about the positive sides? Describe what you think are both the negative and positive effects of gentrification, especially for people of color and youth. What are meaningful investments or improvements that mutually benefit current and future residents?

3. There are many factors surrounding homelessness, but the main reason people experience homelessness is because they can’t find affordable housing. How are people who are homeless treated in your community? What level of responsibility does society have for the homeless, and what can communities like yours do to alleviate homelessness?


Lessons About Housing Issues In the U.S. and Around the World (Habitat for Humanity)

Whose Community Is This? Mathematics of Neighborhood Displacement (Rethinking Schools)


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