DCist: D.C. has had the most gentrifying neighborhoods in the country, study finds

DCist, March 19th, 2019: D.C. has the most gentrifying neighborhoods in the country, study finds

When it comes to the intensity of gentrification across the country—at least over the first 13 years of the 21st century—the District tops the list.

D.C. had the highest percentage of gentrifying neighborhoods in the country between 2000 and 2013, according to a study from the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, a group that works to “increase the flow of private capital into traditionally underserved communities.” It estimates that around 20,000 black residents were displaced over that period.

The study, which was first reported on by the Washington Post, identified more than 1,000 neighborhoods in 935 cities and towns across the country where gentrification occurred during that time frame. Rapidly rising rents, property values and taxes forced more than 135,000 residents to move away in 230 of those neighborhoods.

These neighborhoods for each city were considered eligible for gentrification if they were in the lower 40 percent of home values and family incomes in the area (the study used a type of census data that characterizes urban areas beyond just their physical borders). When the study began, half of the neighborhoods in D.C. were considered eligible for gentrification, which the study defines as a force that happens when “lower-income neighborhoods receive massive levels of new investment, adding amenities, raising home values and bringing in new upper-income residents [which] can lead to cultural displacement.”

By 2013, 41 percent of those neighborhoods were gentrified.

Black residents, in particular, have struggled to stay in D.C. Once known as Chocolate City, the D.C. population used to be 71.1 percent black in 1970. By 2015, that number had dropped to 48.3 percent. The study showed that D.C. was one of four cities that had the highest percentage of black displacement when adjusted for the number of gentrified neighborhoods it has, along with Richmond, Charlottesville and New Orleans.

While D.C. was the most gentrified city by percentage of eligible neighborhoods that experienced gentrification, New York City was the most gentrified by sheer volume. Both cities were among the seven cities in the country that accounted for nearly half the amount of gentrification nationally, including Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Baltimore, San Diego and Chicago.

The period that the study examined coincided with significant population growth in D.C. for the first time in decades, particularly amid the region’s comparatively stable economy during the Great Recession. While that growth has slowed somewhat in recent years, housing costs have continued to rise and make affordable housing increasingly scarce.

“The tens of thousands who have migrated to Washington, D.C., over the last five years live in a city that rolled out the proverbial red carpet for their arrival. Infrastructure has been altered, public property has been privatized, the will of voters has been rescinded, minority-owned businesses have been shuttered and the bodies of people of color have been stopped and frisked to accommodate and enhance the respective presence and comfort of newcomers,” Sabiyha Prince, an activist with the group Empower DC, wrote in an essay accompanying the report.

Last year, one group of residents sued the city over its housing and renewal policies.

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Redlining and Neighborhood Health

Before the pandemic devastated minority communities, banks and government officials starved them of capital.

Lower-income and minority neighborhoods that were intentionally cut off from lending and investment decades ago today suffer not only from reduced wealth and greater poverty, but from lower life expectancy and higher prevalence of chronic diseases that are risk factors for poor outcomes from COVID-19, a new study shows.

The new study, from the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) with researchers from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee Joseph J. Zilber School of Public Health and the University of Richmond’s Digital Scholarship Lab, compared 1930’s maps of government-sanctioned lending discrimination zones with current census and public health data.

Table of Content

  • Executive Summary
  • Introduction
  • Redlining, the HOLC Maps and Segregation
  • Segregation, Public Health and COVID-19
  • Methods
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Conclusion and Policy Recommendations
  • Citations
  • Appendix

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