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Study: Gentrification is pushing low-income renters out of New Hanover County

Gentrification brings with it new restaurants, businesses and housing but often pushes out longtime residents.
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Gentrification brings with it new restaurants, businesses and housing but often pushes out longtime residents. Pictured: Fort Greene neighborhood of Brooklyn.

Cape Fear Collective has recently come out with a landmark study on equity in the Cape Fear Region. WHQR’s Kelly Kenoyer brought data analyst Dante Haywood into the studio to talk about one sticky topic: gentrification.

Kelly Kenoyer: I'm curious about this idea of gentrification. It's something that CFC analyzes a lot. Can you define that term for me?

Dante Haywood: Yeah, gentrification — it's a tricky definition. Usually what people mean when they say gentrification, which is always argued, is a displacement of a community that has traditionally lived there for generations, but also there's the effect of race and income as well.

KK: So do you think it impacts renters or homeowners more?

DH: Gentrification, when it comes to renters versus homeowners, there's definitely a starker effect on renters. But we shouldn't ignore the effect on homeowners as well. And quite frankly, we need to understand or work towards putting people who have been renting for generations into their own homes, that is a great way to build familial wealth over time, and if rent is increasing, as we are seeing it happening within this region, something about 50% of renters in our community are housing burdened. And that's a huge challenge.

KK: Your report talks a bit about the Brooklyn Arts District, which is also known as the North Side. That's my neighborhood, and it's a mix of older homes that have traditionally sold for $100,000 or less, and a lot of new homes that can cost $400,000 to $800,000. What's the median household income in that neighborhood? And how does that make it prone to gentrification?

DH: Yeah, again, the median household income, it's really hard to say, because we see this huge stratification, quite frankly, by race, especially in the North Side. And so when we have $900,000 townhomes being sold. It starts to displace communities- communities, which have lived there a long time. And I think, you know, we have a long way to go in making sure that there is affordable housing for the people who have historically lived here. Yeah, $900,000 townhomes aren't serving the community that you're putting them in.

KK: I think one of the most startling visualizations that I saw on that report was it was showing the housing costs by county and New Hanover County is just so far in a way above every other county it's just so much higher. Can you kind of tell me how New Hanover County differs from the surrounding area?

DH: Yeah, New Hanover County, it's strange, right? And other people have said this before where we're, we're somewhat landlocked, we have a river on one end, ocean on the other. And there's only a certain amount of area where we can build homes.

I think traditionally, a lot of the area that we have is single-family homes. But that doesn't serve everyone within the community, especially as home prices are just skyrocketing, as they are even now. And I think the figure that you're referring to within the report, it's likely gone way up from what it looks like in the report that data was from 2019.

So we have to be careful to provide homes for these people for lower-income families and working families. Otherwise, what we tend to see with gentrification is a sprawl where families are pushed out who have lived in their communities for a very long time. They're pushed out, they're priced out, and they go to the surrounding counties, such as Pender County.