Richard Florida is a co-founder and editor at large of CityLab and a senior editor at The Atlantic. He is a university professor in the University of Toronto’s School of Cities and Rotman School of Management, and a distinguished fellow at New York University’s Schack Institute of Real Estate and visiting fellow at Florida International University.
While some neighborhoods have seen home sale prices skyrocket, others continue to decline.
It’s no secret that New York and San Francisco face a staggering crisis of housing affordability. But not all neighborhoods in these cities have seen their housing prices and rents climb. In fact, each of them is beset with considerable housing divides, which mirror and reinforce their broader economic gulfs. While many neighborhoods have seen median home sale prices increase, gentrification has not spread throughout these cities across the board. Many others have seen sale prices stagnate and, in some cases, even decline.
These housing divides can be seen in a series of maps from Property Shark, an online site that tracks housing sale prices in cities, which show the changes in sale prices across neighborhoods in both San Francisco and New York from 2004 to 2014. The data in these maps track the change in median sales price of residential housing on a per square foot basis.
First let’s take a look Property Shark’s map of San Francisco (you can see the full interactive map here). On the map, the dark red indicates neighborhoods that have seen a 40 percent or more increase in sale prices from 2004 to 2014, while areas in dark grey reflect those that have seen their median home sale prices decline from 5 to 60 percent across the decade.
The dark red is clustered in and around downtown, including the Mission, Dogpatch, and Yerba Buena neighborhoods, where sale prices have increased by nearly 50 percent. Surrounding these neighborhoods is an even broader band of light pink, where median sale prices have increased by just five to 20 percent. But, as the map also shows, there are neighborhoods where home sale prices have fallen, in some cases substantially. And these are not just far-out, hard to get to places. Some of them are adjacent to the neighborhoods that have seen the biggest price gains.
San Francisco’s Bayview neighborhood, for instance, saw an 11 percent decrease in home sale prices, even though the Central Waterfront/Dogpatch neighborhood saw a 43 percent increase. A few neighborhoods over, Lakeside saw a 59 percent decline in sale prices, and nearby Merced Manor saw a 17 percent decrease. Although declining sale prices appear to be concentrated in the southern region of the city, neighborhoods to the north like Alamo Square and Russian Hill have seen decreases as well.
Even more pronounced divides can be seen in a series of maps for New York City. Let’s start with Brooklyn, which has become the literal symbol of gentrification. On the map of Brooklyn below, the darkest green indicates neighborhoods that have seen a more than 100 percent increase in home sale prices from 2004 to 2014, while the darkest red indicates those where prices have declined from 25 to 52 percent.
On the one hand, there have been huge sale price gains in the places that have become synonymous with gentrification: Williamsburg, where prices increased by a staggering 269 percent, and Fort Greene, where prices grew by 126 percent. Perhaps most strikingly, the map seems to foreshadow impending gentrification in East New York, where prices grew by a whopping 320 percent (this spike is likely due to new developments in the area, although the neighborhood is still relatively poor). Also note the large wedge of green from neighborhoods adjacent to Manhattan to the center of Brooklyn.
But dark red also dots the map, as other Brooklyn neighborhoods have seen their home prices fall. Brownsville, a neighborhood contiguous to East New York, saw median prices slip by 27 percent. Red Hook, which is rapidly gentrifying, actually saw its prices fall by 22 percent, but this is likely influenced by the small size of the neighborhood and the fact that there’s little for sale—a single sale could make a huge percentage difference. And, finally, due to the unfortunate aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, prices declined by 30 percent in Gerritsen Beach.
The next map charts the change in home sale prices for Queens. While neighborhoods like Sunnyside, Astoria, and Long Island City have seen sale prices rise considerably over the past decade, huge chunks of the borough are covered in red, indicating substantial price declines.
Not surprisingly, Manhattan has experienced mostly increasing prices across its neighborhoods. But even here, neighborhoods like Morningside Heights, Murray Hill, and the Lower East Side have all seen home sale prices fall.
America’s class divides no longer take the form of affluent suburbs surrounding poor cities. Nor do they conform to a “great inversion” of increasingly rich cities and poor suburbs. Our new geographic divides are increasingly etched into the fabric of our revitalizing cities themselves. Even in America’s two priciest urban centers—the ones that are seen to be ground zero for rampant gentrification and escalating home prices and rents—substantial housing divides persist. In both San Francisco and New York, concentrated disadvantage increasingly lives next door to concentrated advantage—a deep and enduring predicament. How these cities cope with this divide will have an enormous effect on both their politics and their economic futures.Top image: Stelian Popa / Shutterstock.com