Gentrification In Boston: See Areas Most Affected

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A new study shows gentrification greatly affects the nation’s biggest cities but rarely impacts most other places.
A new study shows gentrification greatly affects the nation’s biggest cities but rarely impacts most other places. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

A new interactive map shows which Boston neighborhoods have been gentrified, 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 creates both winners and losers, the researchers noted. It is marked by rising home values, family incomes and educational levels, but can also result in cultural displacement, meaning that minorities are forced out of their neighborhoods and replaced by more affluent whites.

The study used U.S. Census Bureau tracts, averaging about 4,000 residents each, as proxies for neighborhoods. It identified more than 1,000 neighborhoods across the country that experienced gentrification between 2000 and 2013, resulting in displacing of hundreds of thousands of people.

Accompanying the study was an interactive map where users can search any town in America to see neighborhoods most affected by gentrification.

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 Boston, nearly a dozen neighborhoods, mostly in south and southwestern parts of the city, 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.

But it does not appear that the process of gentrification resulted in significant cultural displacement.

In one South Boston neighborhood, for example, the population rose dramatically, from about 1,900 people in 2000 to nearly 3,250 in 2010. The populations of blacks, Asians and Hispanics all rose slightly, but that of whites exploded, accounting for more than 1,000 of the increase.

More noticeable were the soaring income levels, which rose 40 percent, from $50,576 in 2010 to more than $71,000 in 2013. Median home values nearly doubled over the same period, from $208,000 to $404,000.

Source: National Community Reinvestment Coalition

Perhaps the starkest national 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:

  1. Washington, D.C — 40 percent
  2. San Diego, CA — 29 percent
  3. New York, NY — 24 percent
  4. Albuquerque, NM — 23 percent
  5. Atlanta, GA — 22 percent
  6. Baltimore, MD — 22 percent
  7. Portland, OR — 20 percent
  8. Pittsburgh, PA — 20 percent
  9. Seattle, WA — 20 percent
  10. 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.