A new report on the state of the city’s housing released today by NYU’s Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy has a special focus on gentrification and neighborhoods that have seen rapid change in the last few decades. The report provides quantitative evidence that confirms what we already know– that rents are rising, people are being displaced, and areas around the city including Bushwick, Williamsburg, and the Lower East Side look very different today than they did in 1990, or even 2000. But there are a couple of surprises worth noting. We’ll have an in-depth followup tomorrow, but for now here’s a summary of the report’s findings.
There are only a few neighborhoods left in the city that are not gentrified or gentrifying, according to the report. These include Highbridge, Kingsbridge, University Heights/Fordham, Soundview/Parkchester, Bensonhurst, Coney Island, and East New York. The rest of the city falls into two categories: either gentrifying or higher-income. B+B’s five neighborhoods fall into the former category– Bushwick, Williamsburg, Greenpoint, East Village, and the Lower East Side/Chinatown are all gentrifying areas. Which, duh. But so are places like Bed-Stuy, Brownsville, Crown Heights, and East Harlem. On average, these areas saw a 30 percent increase in rent between 2000 and 2010-2014.
But taken individually, average rent increases (from 1990 to 2010-2014) in these shifting areas varies considerably. Greeenpoint/Williamsburg, unsurprisingly, has seen the greatest increase at 78.7 percent. In Bushwick, that number is 44 percent. In South Crown Heights, it’s 18.1 percent. Only two neighborhoods have seen a decrease, Mid-Island and Queens Village, and these areas qualify as “higher-income.” Even non-gentrifying areas saw an increase: East New York, for example, saw an 8.2 percent rise.
Average rents in Greenpoint/Williamsburg were between $751 and $1,000 in 1990, but have risen to over $1,250 across all of the neighborhood’s census tracts. College graduates, less than 30 percent of Greenpoint/Williamsburg’s population in 1990, are now greater than 50 percent. And Williamsburg’s Hispanic population has dramatically decreased in recent years.
Despite rapid change in gentrifying neighborhoods, these areas still haven’t gained back the population loss that was suffered by the city during the economic downturn of the ’70s, a decline that continued even into the ’80s when the economy was on its way back up. In 2010, population in these areas was still 15.8 percent lower than it was in 1970, while the rest of the city experienced a 3.6 percent gain from 1970 to 2010.
And yet, these areas added much more new housing than other, higher-population neighborhoods. Between 2000 and 2010, gentrifying areas gained 57,550 new units– that’s 33.8 percent of the new apartments added to the city overall in that period.
While the city as a whole has seen remarkable changes in the last few decades, as you might expect, the population shifts in gentrifying neighborhoods have been even more intensely skewed toward becoming “younger, more educated, and more weighted toward non-family households.” The report theorizes that this might explain why rent increases were more acute in these zones. Gentrifying neighborhoods have also become whiter– between 1990 and 2010, the population that identified as black fell from 37.9 to 30.9 percent (mirroring an overall trend in the city). But people who identify as white grew from 18.8 to 20.6 percent, which goes against the citywide trend of a decrease in the white population.
We’ve been hearing for a while now about the increasing wealth gap caused by stagnant or falling wages and the rising cost of housing, food, and other goods. Since 1990, New York City as a whole saw a slight increase in average household income but only until 2000, after which income decreased. However, the Furman report finds that gentrifying neighborhoods were the only areas to experience income growth between 2000 and 2010-2014– from $51,400 in 1990 to $58,550 in 2010-2014 (compared to average income in nabes that qualify as “higher income,” which was $95,200 in 2010-2014).
The Furman Center also offered several observations that could be indicators of the impact of rising costs in gentrifying neighborhoods, though they caution that “there is no way to measure the effect of rising rents” and that their conclusions are simply “suggestive insights.” These figures numbers that demonstrate a decline in the number of low-income residents in gentrifying neighborhoods, something that could mean “that low-income residents have become less able to move into or remain in gentrifying neighborhoods,” or that “poor residents are more able to lift themselves out of poverty in gentrifying neighborhoods,” or that both of these outcomes are occurring. (Though it should be pointed out that there’s no shortage of anecdotal evidence to indicate that people are being priced-out of their neighborhoods and displaced – see: predatory landlords.)
Other indicators hint that life has become more difficult for low-income residents living in gentrifying areas. Rent burden has increased more dramatically in these areas than in the rest of the city, and likewise the number of low-income rental units have “declined the most in gentrifying areas.” On the whole, the city’s population is continuing to shift and taking a beating when it comes to “rent pressures,” but the Furman report concludes that these changes are “magnified in gentrifying areas.”