Let's call 21st century gentrification of "African-American neighborhoods near revived urban centers" what it is: the latest in the cycle of black families losing wealth in America.
In the African-American neighborhoods near downtown Raleigh, the playfully painted doors signal what’s coming. Colored in crimson, in coral, in seafoam, the doors accent newly renovated craftsman cottages and boxy modern homes that have replaced vacant lots.
To longtime residents, the doors mean higher home prices ahead, more investors knocking, more white neighbors.
Here, and in the center of cities across the United States, a kind of demographic change most often associated with gentrifying parts of New York and Washington has been accelerating. White residents are increasingly moving into nonwhite neighborhoods, largely African-American ones.
In America, racial diversity has much more often come to white neighborhoods. Between 1980 and 2000, more than 98 percent of census tracts that grew more diverse did so in that way, as Hispanic, Asian-American and African-American families settled in neighborhoods that were once predominantly white.
But since 2000, according to an analysis of demographic and housing data, the arrival of white residents is now changing nonwhite communities in cities of all sizes, affecting about one in six predominantly African-American census tracts. The pattern, though still modest in scope, is playing out with remarkable consistency across the country — in ways that jolt the mortgage market, the architecture, the value of land itself.
In city after city, a map of racial change shows predominantly minority neighborhoods near downtown growing whiter, while suburban neighborhoods that were once largely white are experiencing an increased share of black, Hispanic and Asian-American residents.
In a country still learning to forge neighborhoods that are racially diverse and durably so, those yellow tracts appear to be on a path that is particularly unstable.
At the start of the 21st century, these neighborhoods were relatively poor, and 80 percent of them were majority African-American. But as revived downtowns attract wealthier residents closer to the center city, recent white home buyers are arriving in these neighborhoods with incomes that are on average twice as high as that of their existing neighbors, and two-thirds higher than existing homeowners. And they are getting a majority of the mortgages.
White families are moving into urban cores because they want "walkable" lifestyles, light rail commutes to work that don't involve cars, and they're displacing black families in order to get that. Meanwhile, black and Hispanic families who have to walk to work because they had no choice are being pushed out to hour-plus long commutes and two-hour bus rides.
It's the suburbs that are becoming more diverse, and white families are moving back into cities in order to get away from that.
Cincinnati is no different. Gentrification in Over-the-Rhine and West End has been going on for over a decade now. OTR is now hip and cool with lofts, a Kroger flagship super supermarket, craft breweries everywhere (enough for a regular neighborhood tour of them), pop-up dining experiences and it's all a stone's throw from Fountain Square and the downtown core (and the relatively new Jack Casino) with the streetcar running through it all. When I first moved here 12 years ago I was told not to go there because of the danger factor and I'm a six foot black guy.
Now? OTR is great. If you come to Cincy, you should really visit.
But it came at a cost.
It cost some way more than others.