The Bulletin

Report claims Virginia Beach and Richmond are the most gentrified cities in the state

By: - March 20, 2019 3:14 pm

Virginia Beach and Richmond are two of the most gentrified large cities in the country, according to a new report from the National Community Reinvestment Coalition.

Virginia Beach had a 17 percent gentrification rate as calculated by the coalition while Richmond had a 16 percent rate. The coalition measured population and income changes in low-income census tracts over at least 10 years.

Washington D.C. had the highest intensity of gentrification in the country, at 40 percent.

“Gentrification is controversial because it affects people at the neighborhood level, it can disrupt the familiar and established ties of a place, creating a disorienting new locale,” the report stated. “For people displaced as the neighborhood becomes unaffordable, this is more than just nostalgia or discomfort with the unfamiliar. Often, they must accept longer commutes and a disruption of the support structures provided by their old neighbors and family.”

Virginia Beach was one of 15 cities in the country with the most neighborhoods gentrified, according to the study. Richmond was among the cities with the highest number of displaced black residents because of gentrification.

In four census tracts in Richmond, the black population fell 45 percent between 1990-2010 while the white population increased 30 percent in the same area. The city’s overall population increased 10 percent over the same time, according to the report.

It didn’t provide a similar analysis for Virginia Beach.

Jesse Van Tol, chief executive of the NCRC, told The Washington Post gentrification can signal economic investment — though it has often come at the expense of culture and community pre-dating the investment.

“I think the loss of these cultural institutions has really changed the identity of neighborhoods in a way that might be unwelcome by the people who have lived there,” Van Tol told The Post.

The report included a description of what gentrification looks like in Richmond’s East End neighborhood.

Shekinah Mitchell, neighborhood partnerships manager of the Virginia Local Initiatives Support Corporation and lifelong resident of the East End, pointed out 60 percent of the city’s public housing is in the neighborhood and a deep socioeconomic divide is emerging.

“Although there is only one East End, there are two very distinct worlds bordering one another, and the border of affluence is shifting further and further north, displacing low- to moderate-income black families with each transitioning block,” Mitchell wrote.

Despite numbers that might suggest the neighborhood is doing well, Mitchell said she’s moved four times in five years, each time with increasing rent and smaller square footage because landlords have raised prices or sold their property.

“In spite of what the aggregate numbers might say, gentrification has not meant improvements and upward mobility for existing residents,” she wrote. “Instead, it has removed and replaced low- to moderate-income black people with wealthier white people.”

“This shift has come to the East End like a racialized wave crashing onto the shores of the neighborhood in currents of physical, cultural and economic displacement. The black community is drowning as we watch our land and culture swallowed up, block by block with no reprieve in sight.”

The National Community Reinvestment Coalition is a 30-year-old association of 600 community-based organizations that promote access to banking, affordable housing, entrepreneurship and jobs for working families.

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Mechelle Hankerson
Mechelle Hankerson

Mechelle, born and raised in Virginia Beach, is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University with a degree in mass communications and a concentration in print journalism. She covered the General Assembly for the university’s Capital News Service and was among 12 student journalists in swing states selected by the Washington Post to cover the 2012 presidential election. For the past five years, she has covered local government, crime, housing, infrastructure and other issues at the Raleigh News & Observer and The Virginian-Pilot, where she most recently covered the state’s biggest city, Virginia Beach. Mechelle was with the Virginia Mercury until January 3rd, 2019.

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