A new study shows gentrification greatly affects the nation’s biggest cities but rarely impacts most other places. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
CHARLOTTE, NC — A new interactive map shows which Charlotte neighborhoods have been gentrified and, consequently, which groups of people were ultimately forced out of their homes. The map was included as part of a major new study published this week by the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit dedicated to creating opportunities for people to build wealth.
Gentrification is a process that leaves winners and losers. It follows a deluge of investment and changes to the existing environment, and leads to rising home values, family incomes and an area’s educational levels. That’s the upside of gentrification.
The downside: it often results in cultural displacement, which is a fancy way of saying minorities are forced out in droves and replaced, often by "affluent, white gentrifiers," the researchers wrote.
The study identified more than 1,000 neighborhoods across the country that experienced gentrification between 2000 and 2013. In just 230 of them, about 135,000 people were forced to leave their homes. The study used U.S. Census Bureau tract data and each tract served as an imperfect proxy for a neighborhood. The tracts average about 4,000 residents each.
Accompanying the study was an interactive map where users can search any town in America to see neighborhoods most affected by gentrification.
In Charlotte, you can see several neighborhoods experienced gentrification, the map shows. These areas initially had at least 500 residents as well as below-average income and home values. Post-gentrification, they ended up with above-average home values, higher college graduation rates and saw household incomes increase.
Dark purple showed areas that underwent gentrification. Pink areas show gentrified neighborhoods where blacks were displaced most. Salmon shows Asian displacement, orange shows Hispanic displacement and gold represents white displacement.
In Charlotte’s Optimist Park neighborhood, for example, the number of whites living in the area grew by a factor of 10 between 2000 and 2010. At the same time, minority families across the board were displaced as the median home value rose from $75,344 to $86,800, the report found.
The transformation was more dramatic in neighborhoods west of Third Ward. In the area near Bryant Park, almost half of the black families in the neighborhood were displaced as median home values nearly doubled in that same time span, jumping from $90,984 in 2000 to $171,900 in 2010.
Perhaps the starkest finding was just how uneven gentrification and cultural displacement have been nationwide. Just seven cities accounted for nearly half of the country’s gentrification overall. They were New York, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Baltimore, San Diego and Chicago.
"The big investments that fuel gentrification and cultural displacement didn’t reach most of the nation’s poorest neighborhoods and rural areas," Jason Richardson, the organization’s director of research and one of the study’s authors, said in a release.
In the largest cities, such as New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago, gentrification and displacement were spread across different neighborhood clusters, the report said. But in smaller cities, like Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and Baltimore, gentrification was more concentrated, often seen near downtown business districts and spreading to adjacent neighborhoods, waterfronts and commercial areas where jobs and amenities are most concentrated.
The nation’s capital saw the highest percentage of gentrified neighborhoods at 40 percent. More than 20,000 people were displaced in Washington, D.C. alone.
Here are the 10 cities where gentrification has been most intense:
Washington, D.C — 40 percent San Diego, CA — 29 percent New York, NY — 24 percent Albuquerque, NM — 23 percent Atlanta, GA — 22 percent Baltimore, MD — 22 percent Portland, OR — 20 percent Pittsburgh, PA — 20 percent Seattle, WA — 20 percent Philadelphia, PA — 17 percent
It doesn’t have to be this way. While gentrification and cultural displacement often go hand in hand, there are steps communities can take to usher in new investment while keeping long-time residents in their homes. For starters, these areas should take advantage of the "Low Income Housing Tax Credit," or LIHTC, to keep housing affordable.
The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development calls the credit the "most important resource" for creating affordable housing. The program, created by the Tax Reform Act of 1986, gives state and local agencies nearly $8 billion a year to dole out tax credits for buying, rehabilitating or building rental housing for low-income households.
The NCRC stressed there needs to be strong national policies and local action. This includes encouraging lending and investments that keep housing affordable and maintain commercial options.
"Inclusive zoning rules, tax and rent controls, opportunity zones, split rate taxes and other policies are not exclusive of investment," said Richardson. "They create the circumstances for inclusive neighborhood revitalization that preserve the vitality and character of neighborhoods."
Patch national staffer Dan Hampton contributed to this report.