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The Rebooted Boarding House: A Novel Proposal to Mitigate Gentrification

Zachary Slobig

As both the affordability and diversity of the great U.S. cities declines, Alan Durning argues for lifting bans on boarding houses. It could be a simple, cost free tool for increasing density and sustainability, he says. Now, we'll just have to figure out how to rebrand the Boarding House into something that doesn't conjure grizzled bachelors with substance problems.

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  • John Wynn

    The idea of reputable boarding houses does indeed harken back to a different era and as you pointed out above, today conjures up the image of "grizzled bachelors with substance problems." Having lived for 23 years in a gentrified neighborhood with one such place at the very top of my street, it did keep life interesting, to say the least. They survived new zoning laws and restrictions thanks to a "grandfather clause."

    That being said, I love the concept of reintroducing "rebranded" boarding houses. Not only does it offer the opportunity to live in vibrant metropolitan areas without paying astronomical rent, it's a great alternative for someone relocating to a new city.

    Thanks for sharing the link Zachary.

    • Zachary Slobig

      Thanks for your thoughts, John. Here's a map of San Francisco (where I live) showing all the evictions that have taken place since the late 90s under California's Ellis Act—a provision that allows landlords to clear out tenants for a planned "change of use" of the building which is really rarely more than a way to boost the rent.

      I can't help but wonder how different this map might look if there were more options available akin to a boarding house.

      • John Wynn

        Wow...that's a lot of red flags...and very distressing. Gentrification does have it's downside and its unfortunate victims have the fewest options open to them.

        I've watched it happen here in Cleveland, as well. The Jay Hotel, the boarding house that I spoke of earlier, was eventually forced to close and is currently undergoing renovation into luxury condos.

        Pockets of the city are on fire and occupancy rates are soaring, home prices are sky-rocketing and rents are increasing dramatically.Naturally, CDCs and developers are expanding the boundaries of these neighborhoods and as they do so, lower income dwellers are being displaced at alarming rates. I wonder if a similar map exists for the Greater Cleveland Area.

        Thanks again for the thought provoking article and the very insightful map.