18 gentrifying D.C. neighborhoods identified

From Chillum to Petworth to Congress Heights, new research reveals 18 D.C. neighborhoods whose median property value and federal adjusted gross income fell below the citywide average in 2001, and rose above it 10 years later.

In other words, they are gentrifying, or “transitioning” as termed by four experts behind a report recently submitted to the D.C. Tax Revision Commission. Many are not what, or where, you’d think.

The list, in alphabetical order:

  • Anacostia
  • Barry Farms
  • Brentwood
  • Brookland
  • Chillum
  • Columbia Heights
  • Congress Heights
  • Deanwood
  • Eckington
  • Fort Dupont Park
  • Ledroit Park
  • Lily Ponds
  • Marshall Heights
  • Old City I (H Street NE)
  • Petworth
  • Randle Heights
  • 16th Street Heights
  • Trinidad

New residents of these neighborhoods are younger. They are strong earners. They are condo dwellers. They are single. And as they’ve arrived, older residents and married couples have left in droves, according to the research, leaving a vast gap between the have and have-nots.

We use “gentrifying” or “transitioning” to define communities in flux — those that have shifted wealthier or whiter or younger, usually at the expense of longtime, poorer residents. But how do we know what specific neighborhoods are in the throes of gentrification? In many cases, it’s purely perception, often based simply on who’s moving in down the block.

Researchers LaTanya Brown-Robertson of Bowie State University, Daniel Muhammad and Marvin Ward of the D.C. Office of the Chief Financial Officer and Michael Bell of George Washington University take a more scientific tact — a deep dive into demographic, fiscal and economic statistics.

Over the last decade, according to the report, the District experienced a net loss of 15,120 people under the age of 14 or over the age of 65 — 88.7 percent of whom originated from a transitioning neighborhood. At the same time, those 18 neighborhoods gained 26,362 residents ages 15-64, or “working age.”

The number of married income tax filers fell 20.1 percent in transitioning neighborhoods over the study period, while the number of single filers soared by 66.5 percent. Of the 20,451 new individual income filers gained by the transitioning neighborhoods over the study period, 93 percent were single.

There was a 275 percent surge in condominium construction in the 18 listed neighborhoods, a 100 percent increase in the number of large commercial office properties, and a $76.6 million boost to the District’s tax collections “due to the demographic and economic trends that have occurred in the city’s transitioning neighborhoods.”

The burden of these trends falls on the “bottom 80 percent,” said Brown-Robertson, a lifelong D.C. resident. Testifying before the Tax Revision Commission in early June, Brown-Robertson suggested the District may want to offer additional tax deductions for poorer residents in gentrifying neighborhoods.

“It should be more equitable for residents that have basically lived in the city throughout this whole transition, so they could afford it,” she said.

My immediate takeaway from this list: how little race plays a role in gentrification. We know Petworth, Columbia Heights and Trinidad have transitioned over the past decade as a younger, diverse set has moved in. And yes, many of those new residents are white.

But Barry Farms? Marshall Heights? Deanwood? Those east of the river communities were 90-plus percent black in 2000, and they’re 90-plus percent black today. Their gentrification, or “transition,” as the authors write, is not tied to the racial make-up of their new residents, but by their earning power.

The Tax Revision Commission, a panel led by former Mayor Anthony Williams, has accepted nearly two dozen research papers in the last six months as part of its all-encompassing review of the District’s tax code. Its recommendations are scheduled for release in January.

Read the full report on D.C. neighborhoods here.


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