noun | ad·ap·ta·tion | \ a-dap-ˈtā-shən

Areas within Norfolk identified as being too vulnerable to sea level rise to warrant infrastructure investment. Norfolk faces some of the highest rates of sea level rise in the world. In Vision 2100, Norfolk’s comprehensive defense plan against rising sea levels...


verb | beau·ti·fi·ca·tion | \ byü-tə-fə-ˈkā-shən

The process of beautifying a neighborhood with particular concern towards aesthetic and historical preservation. In Ghent, in the early 1960’s, neighborhood leagues took it upon themselves to enforce strict beautification standards...


noun | block·bust·ing | \ bl/ˈbläkˌbəstiNG

Convincing property owners to sell their property quickly and at low prices by appealing to fears of minority residents moving into the neighborhood. Real estate agents often...


Part of the URC Forum on Gentrification


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The ABCs of Gentrification

A Concise Dictionary of Urban Terms and their History in Hampton Roads



ad·ap·ta·tion | \ ˌa-ˌdap-ˈtā-shən. 1:


Areas within Norfolk identified as being too vulnerable to sea level rise to warrant infrastructure investment. Norfolk faces some of the highest rates of sea level rise in the world. In Vision 2100, Norfolk’s comprehensive defense plan against rising sea levels, the city is divided into four zones: green, purple, red, and yellow. Green and purple zones signify tracts of land relatively safe from flooding. Red zones are areas that contain economic assets essential to the city, and should receive heavy investment to mitigate flood risk. Yellow zones are ‘adaptation’ zones, where the city plans a mixed approach of private investment, residential innovation, and land retreat.  



Beautification – verb

beau·ti·fi·ca·tion  | \ ˌbyü-tə-fə-ˈkā-shən


The process of beautifying a neighborhood with particular concern towards aesthetic and historical preservation. In Ghent, in the early 1960’s, neighborhood leagues took it upon themselves to enforce strict beautification standards for their residents. In an effort to conserve and restore Ghent’s historical appeal, things such as yard maintenance, and trashcan locations became enforcible standards among homeowners. In the mid-1960’s the Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority declared Ghent a conservation area, allowing for Federally insured loans to be given to residents who restored historic homes.


(See also: NRHA; Blockbusting)


Blockbusting – verb

block·bust·ing  | \ bl/ˈbläkˌbəstiNG/


Convincing property owners to sell their property quickly and at low prices by appealing to fears of minority residents moving into the neighborhood. Real estate agents often resold those properties to minorities at inflated prices. In the 1960s, as part of Ghent’s beautification process the Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority began buying land in Colonial Place which black families began to move into. White residents began fleeing the neighborhood, selling their homes quickly and below value, in part fueled by fears stoked by release agents.


Census Tract – noun

cen·sus tract | \ ˈsen(t)-səs \ ˈtrakt


A semi-permanent statistical subdivision of a county. Census’ help track which parts of America are eligible for federal support. The census tracks American population trends from migration and income, to ethnicity and family relationships. This data is in turn used to divide up congressional districts, and designate distribution of federal funding programs like Economic Opportunity Zones. In Norfolk, the entire St. Paul’s area is composed of three census tracts. The average median income for the St. Paul’s area, based on the 2016 Census is $12,647. Because the median income is significantly lower than the national poverty line, the St. Paul’s Area is designated as an Opportunity Zone.


(See also: Opportunity Zone)



Density – noun

den·si·ty | \ ˈden(t)-sə-tē


The number of people living in an urban space. Urban density was long criticized by urban planners, with residents instead opting for the less densely populated suburban sprawl.  But since the early 2000s, urban density has become associated with benefits as more people move back into cities from the suburbs. Proximity to cultural assets, walkability, reliance on public transportation, and city diversity have all become associated with the benefits of denser urban living. However, as affluent residents begin returning to cities, increasing that cities’ density, less affluent residents are forced out of the city to the suburbs.


(See: Gentrification)


Exclusionary Zoning – noun

ik-ˈsklü-zhə-ˌner-ē |  \ ˈzō-niŋ \


A broad term used to describe zoning laws that typically lead to residential segregation. In 1917, many cities carried zoning ordinance that made it illegal for black residents to live on streets home to a majority white population. After the passing of the Fair Housing Act in 1968, city zoning ordinance began implementing restrictive measures designed to discriminate against class instead. Ordinance that require minimum square footage, minimum lot size, and prohibit multi-family homes have limited low-income residents from living in affluent neighborhoods. Exclusionary Zoning ordinance helps perpetuate concentrated poverty, as low-income households are barred from living in neighborhoods that provide stronger public services.


(See: Mixed-Use)


Fair Housing Act – noun

fair hous·ing act \ ˈfer \ | \ ˈhau̇-ziŋ | \ ˈakt


Also called Title VIII. A law passed in 1968 that protects against discrimination on the basis of race, sex, disability, natural origin, color, religion, and familial status, in the process of renting, selling, negotiating, and advertising housing. The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination against practices such as convincing white homeowners to sell their homes at a loss by stoking fears of arriving African American neighbors; or issuing a mortgage with higher interest rates to single mothers due to their family status. 


(See: Blockbusting; Redlining)



Gentrification – noun

gen·tri·fi·ca·tion | \ ˌjen-trə-fə-ˈkā-shən


The process of redeveloping neighborhoods occupied by low-income, typically minority, residents as more affluent residents move in. Gentrification can either be sponsored by city beautification projects which seek to attract affluent residents, or carried out by private real-estate developers who buy cheap, often historic, properties, renovate them, and sell them to wealthier residents. As more affluent people move from the suburbs to urban centers, the need for housing increases. Impoverished neighborhoods which have historically been located in city centers become targets of gentrification. Gentrification is often accompanied by a rise in rental prices, and changes in the social character of the neighborhood, which can drive poorer long-time residents out of their homes.


In Ghent, gentrification pushed low-income families out of the East Ghent block between Granby Street, Princess Anne Road, Colonial Avenue, and 20th Street in the mid 1960s. Ghent, originally a planned community, was in part converted to temporary housing for shipbuilders during World War II. After the war, many Ghent homes were abandoned as families moved to the suburbs. Low-income families took up residency in Ghent, having moved from previously demolished slum housing. In the 1960s, the 86-acres of East Ghent land was purchased by the Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority, which oversaw the aggressive construction of single-family homes and apartment buildings to attract high income residents. As housing prices increased, low-income residents were forced out of Ghent.


(See: Beautification)



HUD – abbreviation

\ ˈhəd \


The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. Founded in 1965, HUD is a Cabinet department in the Executive wing of the federal government. Principally, HUD is responsible for providing affordable housing and enforcing anti-discrimination housing laws. HUD operates a number of programs designed to provide public housing, assist renters, and develop communities. These programs include Section 8, designed to assist low-income families with renting property; Section 202, designed to assist low-income elderly residents; and Section 184, designed to assist Native Americans in securing home loans. HUD is also responsible for the construction of public housing units, such as Young Terrace, Tidewater Gardens, and Calvert Square. HUD also requires any city receiving federal funds to enforce anti-discrimination laws, such as the Fair Housing Act.


In Norfolk, the city’s plan to redevelop the St. Paul’s Area, which consists of three public housing neighborhoods, is funded in part by a HUD grant of $30 million. The plan, which will see the replacement of 4,200 public housing units with mixed-income residencies is part of HUD’s community development program.


Livability - noun

liv·abil·i·ty | \ ˌli-və-ˈbi-lə-tē \


An ambiguous term used differently by various groups to describe the urban livability of cities. Broadly, livability refers to the quality of one’s life in an urban city as it relates to physical and social well-being. A city with a high degree of livability is one in which residents have access to working infrastructure, education, and sanitation, a shared sense of community, access to nature, and are not struggling to provide basic human needs, to name a few descriptors.  Cities with poor livability are those with instances of high crime, lack of opportunities, crumbling infrastructure, failing schools, poor work-life balance, and a dearth of cultural resources. Though the ambiguous nature of what makes a city livable various by city, state, and country. Poor livability is often cited as the impetus to demolish public housing projects. In Norfolk’s case, the deteriorating livability of the St. Paul’s Area due to constant flooding and a growing lack of basic sanitation in public housing units has marked them fit for demolition. 


Mixed-Used ­– adjective

\ ˈmikst-ˈyüs \


A type of development that incorporates multiple property uses. Mixed-use developments are blends of residential, office, retail, or civic spaces. Mixed-use developments can be a single building, or multiple blocks of city space. For much of the United States’ history, zoning laws have prohibited mixed-use housing. Zoning ordinance against mixed-use developments emerged as a reaction to the negative effects of the industrial revolution; cities enacted strict codes to protect residents from the noxious effects of manufacturing by separating uses. Recently, however, mixed-use development has been gaining attraction with urban developers due to their benefit. Namely, these include an increase in diversity of residents, increased pedestrian activity, increased housing availability and affordability, reduction in car ownership, and greater environmental protections.


(See: Zoning)


NIMBY – noun / acronym

nim·by \ ˈnim-bē \


An acronym for Not In My Backyard. An attitude characterizing an opposition to a proposed development near where one lives. Those who practice NIMBYism are called NIMBYs.  The term is often used a pejorative. NIMBYs are not against development per se, but object to certain private or public developments in their neighborhood. For example, if the city wants to build public housing units in an affluent neighborhood, NIMBYs might reject to their construction due to a fear of increasing crime, congestion, noise, and decrease in property values. However, NIMBYs would not oppose to the construction of public housing in another part of their city.


In Virginia Beach, NIMBYism was responsible for blocking the expansion of public transportation routes from Norfolk into Virginia Beach. Virginia Beach residents did not oppose the construction of Norfolk’s light rail, ‘The Tide’, in Norfolk, but rejected extending access to Virginia Beach due to a number of economic, class, and racial attitudes.

Opportunity Zone – noun

op·por·tu·ni·ty | \ ˌä-pər-ˈtü-nə-tē  -ˈtyü-\


Targeted census tracts designated to generate economic investment in deteriorated neighborhoods. Signed into law in the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Each census tract must have a poverty rate of at least 20%, and a median family income of up to 80% of the median area income. Opportunity Zones are designed to incentive long-term investing in impoverished areas by offering tax cuts to profits made on investments to Opportunity Zones, including the erasure of capital gains tax on investments held for more than 10 years.


In Norfolk, the entire St. Paul’s Area is designated as an Opportunity Zone, spurring major interest from financial investors that hope to transform the current 1,674 units of public housing into an economical thriving mixed-use development.


Public Housing

pub·lic hous·ing  | \ ˈpə-blik\ ˈhau̇-ziŋ


Housing that is administered to low-income residents at a reduced market rate by HUD, or state and local subsidiaries of HUD. Typically, a household pays 30% of their income towards the rent. In contrast to Section 8, public housing units are owned and administered by a governmental body, such as the Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority. Currently, Norfolk is home to 3,244 public housing units.


(See also; Section 8, HUD).


Redlining – noun

red·lin·ing | \ ˈred-ˌlī-niŋ\


The illegal practice of denying loans or insurance to residents in neighborhoods deemed too financially risky, often based on discrimination against race and ethnicity. Historically, banks would outline in red predominantly black urban neighborhoods, and label them as unfit for financial investment, or mortgage issuance. The practice of redlining was made illegal with the passing of the 1968 Fair Housing Act. But the consequences of redlining have persisted today, most evidently in the racial wealth gap. The accumulation of wealth in the United States, long tied to property ownership, was historically denied to African Americans on the basis of their race. While white families lived primarily in neighborhoods deemed safe for mortgage issuance, black families (including those in the upper middle class) were often denied financial services making it harder for them to own property, and thus accumulate wealth. Redlining is a factor contributing to the concentration of poverty in black neighborhoods today.


In Norfolk, when the Home Owners Loan Corporation released its map of Hampton Roads, 66 neighborhoods were not redlined, and only one of those neighborhoods had an African American resident. At the same time, half of all the redlined neighborhoods were home to an entirely African American population. Today, neighborhoods that were redlined maintain a majority African American population and have median incomes around half of what non-redlined neighborhoods have. []



 Section 8 – noun

sec·tion eight | \ ˈsek-shən \ \ ˈāt \


Also called the Housing Choice Voucher Program. A HUD administered rental assistance program that subsidizes rent for low-income residents living in privately owned properties, allowing residents to choose where they want to live. Section 8 differs from public housing where typically residents are charges 30% of house hold income to live in government owned buildings. Section 8 residents pay around 30% of their income towards the rent in privately owned properties, with the government paying the rest of the cost.


(See also: HUD, Pubic Housing)


Urban Renewal – noun


A practice through which typically privately held properties, often in historic parts of a city, are targeted for demolition and/ or redevelopment by local municipalities in an effort to eliminate blight and deterioration. Created by Title I of the 1949 Federal Housing Act, local municipalities were granted expanded room to exercise eminent domain. This new law saw cities seize land and resell property to private developers at a lower cost in order to spur economic activity. Urban renewal projects, often closely aligned with gentrification and city beautification plans, were in part responsible for failed large scale public housing developments such as Cabrini-Green and Pruitt-Igoe.


In Norfolk, post-WW II urban renewal plans included the beautification and historic conservation of Ghent, as well as the demolition of slum housing. More recently, Norfolk’s plan to demolish the 3,244 deteriorated public housing units that make up the St. Paul’s Area is part of an urban renewal program meant to generate economic vitality and eliminate blighted structures.


(See Also: Beautification, Gentrification, NRHA).


White Flight - noun


The departure of white residents from a neighborhood with high levels of minority residential growth. Most prominent in middle and upper-class neighborhoods, white flight is often used to describe the exodus of white residents from urban areas into the suburbs during the mid-20th century as neighborhoods began to desegregate. Subsequently, as inner cities become gentrified pushing low-income minority residents further out into the suburbs, white residents are moving back into the city centers. No longer confined to simply white and black neighbors, Asian and Latino populations experience similar patterns of segregation between urban and suburban neighborhoods.  



YIMBY – noun / acronym

yim·by \ ˈyim-bē \


An acronym for Yes In My Backyard. An attitude characterizing support of proposed developments in order to create more housing and services. As opposed to NIMBYs (Not In My Backyard), YIMBYs broadly support the construction of housing complexes in order to lower the cost of rising rent prices in urban areas. For example, in San Francisco where jobs are becoming increasingly concentrated, NIMBY-blocked housing developments have contributed to increasing rent prices due to a shortage of affordable housing. YIMBYs in San Francisco campaign for building more housing complexes in order to offer affordable housing.