Report identifies Providence neighborhoods experiencing gentrification pressure

OLNEYVILLE, WHICH has had substantial reinvestment in the past decade, is among the areas of Providence identified in a new report as experiencing gentrification, such as increasing rents. / COURTESY ONE NEIGHBORHOOD BUILDERS
OLNEYVILLE, WHICH has had substantial reinvestment in the past decade, is among the areas of Providence identified in a new report as experiencing gentrification, such as increasing rents. / COURTESY ONE NEIGHBORHOOD BUILDERS

PROVIDENCE — The city has several neighborhoods that have experienced gentrification pressure between 2000 and 2015, according to a new study by HousingWorks RI at Roger Williams University. But the pace isn’t so fast that the city can’t take steps to make sure low-income residents are not displaced, the author states.

The case study, written by Fay Strongin, is an adaptation of her thesis for a master’s degree in city planning, originally created for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She studied the U.S. Census tracts in Providence and how they changed between 2000 and 2015.

Among other findings, Strongin reports that the gentrification happening in Providence neighborhoods was less intense than other United States cities with strong real estate markets, such as New York. She identified several aspects of gentrification, including an increase in young adults, share of adults with a college degree, white share, non family share and average household income, as well as a decrease in Hispanic or Latino residents.

The report divided the city’s neighborhoods into three categories.

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She found the “potentially gentrifying” neighborhoods were those that were defined as low-income in 2000 and which experienced a rapid climb in rent costs between that base year and 2015. These neighborhoods included most of the Downtown, Federal Hill, Olneyville, the southern end of Valley and Smith Hill and portions of South Providence, Washington Park, Elmwood and the West End.

Neighborhoods that had high incomes to start with, and remained “high income” were clustered around the East Side, where Brown University is located, and in the northern sections of Mount Pleasant and Elmhurst, where Providence College and Rhode Island College are sited. The city has only eight of 39 Census tracts that fall under this definition, according to the report.

Neighborhoods that were identified as “non-gentrifying,” which had low incomes in 2000 and which had less-than a 33 percent increase in the rental growth, were found on the north and west sides of the city, and included South Elmwood, Reservoir, Silver Lake, Hartford, Manton, Wanskuck and Charles, as well as portions of several other areas.

Because of the relatively slow pace of change, the city has an opportunity to prepare for “development without displacement” in the neighborhoods experiencing the gentrification pressure, the author concluded.

Mary MacDonald is a staff writer for the PBN. Contact her at macdonald@pbn.com.

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