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Baltimore among nation's most gentrified cities, study shows

Baltimore is among seven U.S. cities that accounted for nearly half the country’s gentrification between 2000 and 2013, according to a new study.

Researchers with the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, a Washington-based nonprofit, examined census data for 935 metropolitan areas in the U.S. They found gentrification — investment that led to rising home prices, incomes and education levels of residents — was most intense in large coastal cities, and it was concentrated in larger cities with vibrant economies. Researchers also looked at any corresponding displacement of black and Hispanic residents.

Neighborhoods were considered eligible for gentrification if in 2000 they were in the lower 40 percent of home values and family incomes for the area. Census tracts in Baltimore, New York, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, San Diego and Chicago accounted for nearly half the country’s gentrification from 2000 to 2013, according to the report. Of the 1,049 census tracts across the country that experienced gentrification during that time period, 501 fell in those cities, according to researchers.

Researchers estimated racial displacement affected at least 135,000 black or Hispanic residents between 2000 and 2013.

Although Baltimore saw some displacement of minority residents as a result of gentrification, unlike the other areas studied, the city also experienced some displacement of white residents. That trend was particularly evident in East Baltimore, where the Hispanic population grew as residents’ incomes, home values and education levels also increased, said Jason Richardson, the study’s lead author.

“You see both white and black displacement, which really is kind of rare,” Richardson said of Baltimore.

Most of the neighborhoods that experienced gentrification in Baltimore from 2000 to 2013 were already heavily white. The study showed gentrification was centered around the Inner Harbor — particularly areas south and east of downtown Baltimore — and along the Interstate 83 corridor.

“What stands out with Baltimore compared to other areas is that most of what gentrified ... was mostly areas that were already white,” Richardson said. “There was a very limited amount of black displacement just because black neighborhoods weren’t gentrified.”

Baltimore’s leaders have exacerbated the problem of gentrification by acting to attract wealthy residents to neighborhoods rather than making areas better for residents who live there, said Carol Ott, tenant advocacy director for the Fair Housing Action Center of Maryland.

“We’re always improving things for other people, and I think that’s when gentrification and especially displacement really take hold,” Ott said. A luxury condo development built in a working-class neighborhood, she said, would force a dramatic shift in its environs. Instead, she said, the city could work to build more community centers and encourage the construction of affordable housing — for people who earn the city’s median income or under.

“You can improve a neighborhood without displacing people,” she said. “Everything has to be done for the people who live here now. Not the people who you want to live here in 10 years.”

The city had the fifth-highest number of gentrified census tracts, and the sixth-highest percentage of gentrified tracts: 171 of the city’s 679 census tracts were considered eligible for gentrification, and 22 percent of those neighborhoods experienced gentrification.

“In Baltimore we’ve got the problem of not enough money going into the areas that really need it,” Richardson said. “It’s probably due to kind of a long history of segregation in Baltimore, but also the real lack of investment in Baltimore compared to other areas.”

The study traced low- and middle-income neighborhoods’ eligibility for gentrification to redlining practices of the mid-1900s.

Another report published earlier this year by the Urban Institute found poorer African-American neighborhoods in Baltimore received far less investment than their white neighbors, and investment in Baltimore neighborhoods was unevenly split by race, income and geography.

smeehan@baltsun.com

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Baltimore Sun reporter Christina Tkacik contributed to this article.

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