Gentrification—a complicated process defined by a neighborhood’s identity shifting with an influx of more affluent residents—is at the forefront of many discussions in the Seattle area as home prices rise and some are priced out of the area altogether.
While it’s hard to apply hard data to gentrification, but a new study by Rentcafe attempts to zero in on the neighborhoods most affected by the process since the year 2000 by looking at increases in median home value, jumps in household income, and changes in the share of residents with a bachelor’s degree or higher.
Among the 20 ZIP codes Rentcafe found to be most affected, only two were on the West Coast: one in Los Angeles, and another in Tacoma’s own 98402.
That ZIP code includes parts of the Hilltop neighborhood, a historically black community that, while it’s undergone noticeable gentrification for quite some time how, had a median income of $15,000 as recently as 2014. The area’s stark class disparity was illustrated recently when a camp of individuals experiencing homelessness cropped up next to an upscale cocktail bar.
It also extends to the waterfront and the Dome District and the edge of the Thea Ross Waterway, where the Chihuly Museum of Glass opened its doors in 2002.
Home prices in this ZIP code have more than doubled in under two decades, rising 103 percent between 2000 and 2016, with median household income rising 83 percent. The biggest jump came in the share of residents with bachelor’s degrees, with a 141 percent increase.
As Rentcafe points out, a rise in household income doesn’t mean all households got a raise; often, it means that new residents are moving in and driving up the average, making neighborhoods increasingly unaffordable for longtime, lower-income residents.
Based on Rentcafe’s numbers alone, the Tacoma ZIP code was the 20th most-impacted by gentrification in the country. At the top of the list: Los Angeles’s 90014, a Downtown ZIP code adjacent to Skid Row.