Don't let the Starbucks fool you. We're not gentrifying, and this is how.

"There's a lot of development in the pipeline that people don't even know about," Mayor Ras Baraka said in a recent sit-down interview with NJ Advance Media. "Like incredible stuff that blows my mind about the city I grew up in."

But amid ribbon cuttings and buzz that Amazon could open its second headquarters here, there is also the Newark where the most pressing issue is securing an affordable place to live.

More than half of Newark's children live in low-income homes. The median household income is $37,000 and only 18 percent of residents are employed in the city. Median rents have risen 20 percent since 2000 in a city where 78 percent are renters. 

As new developers gobble up land and the city pushes new mandates for low- and moderate-income housing, residents at city council meetings often ask, "Who is that for?" and "Affordable for who?" 

Hope of a renaissance is also inciting fear of displacement. 

The challenge for the city: How to welcome needed development that is inclusive of all residents. It's a feat most cities have failed to meet and an increasingly difficult one as the country -- and Newark more deeply -- grapples with an affordable housing crisis. 

"We need smart, courageous people to think about how to get this done, not just to be mad at the fact that it's happening, but to figure out how to change something that nobody has figured out," Baraka said. "I think we can collectively figure this out."

A recent report by Rutgers University found the risk of displacement for Newarkers is already high, even though threat of gentrification remains premature. 

"Displacement through gentrification comes about because cities make deliberate tax policy decisions that favor certain elements over others," said David Troutt, one of the authors of the report and director of Rutger's Center for Law, Inequality and Metropolitan Equity.

"A city like Newark has to exercise that same authority to protect (residents)," he added. "This is an obligation to make sure as it plans for growth, it also plans for affordability. Otherwise people disappear."

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