Rising housing costs are re-segregating the Bay Area, study shows

September 19, 2018
By: Public Affairs, UC Berkeley
map of Alameda County showing where 1600 people moved
Dark purple areas of Alameda County show where 1,600 people or more moved.  (Urban Displacement Project map)

New reports from the Urban Displacement Project at UC Berkeley and the California Housing Partnership confirm that rising housing costs between 2000 and 2015 have contributed to displacement of low-income people of color and resulted in new concentrations of poverty and racial segregation in the Bay Area.

Increases in housing prices have intensified racial disparities in access to neighborhoods with better environmental quality, educational resources and economic opportunities, increasingly placing these neighborhoods out of reach for low-income people of color in San Francisco, Alameda and Contra Costa counties.

“Our research provides quantitative evidence of what activists have been saying for years: The housing crisis is contributing to the re-segregation of the Bay Area,” says Miriam Zuk, director of the Urban Displacement Project.

For example, the reports found that low-income black households became increasingly likely to live in high-poverty, segregated neighborhoods between 2000 and 2015. In 2015, 65 percent of San Francisco’s low-income black households lived in high-poverty, segregated neighborhoods—a substantially higher rate than low-income groups of other races. Low-income families living in these types of neighborhoods typically face greater barriers to economic mobility and are more likely to suffer adverse health outcomes.

“These reports provide clear evidence that low-income people of color in the Bay Area suffer the most as housing prices rise and displacement pushes them into higher-poverty, lower-resource neighborhoods where the odds are stacked against them,” says Matt Schwartz, president and CEO of the California Housing Partnership. “We can and must do better.”

Counties and cities in the Bay Area need policies and investments that support housing affordability, stability, and greater access to high-resource neighborhoods for low-income people of color. To be successful, these policies and investments must account for both the historic legacies of racial segregation as well as recent trends in re-segregation documented in these reports.

“As these reports highlight, the housing crisis continues to hit low-income residents of color particularly hard, forcing residents out of their homes and contributing to the resegregation of the Bay Area,” said Fred Blackwell, CEO of the San Francisco Foundation. “We cannot make meaningful progress toward inclusive prosperity in the region without addressing the housing crisis.”

Key findings from the reports:

  • Between 2000 and 2015, as housing prices rose, the City of Richmond, the Bayview in San Francisco and flatlands areas of Oakland and Berkeley lost thousands of low-income black households. Meanwhile, increases in low-income black households during the same period were concentrated in cities and neighborhoods with lower housing prices—such as Antioch and Pittsburg in eastern Contra Costa County, as well parts of Hayward and the unincorporated communities of Ashland and Cherryland.
  • Large increases in the number of low-income people of color living in areas that became newly segregated and high-poverty between 2000 and 2015—such as in the unincorporated communities of Ashland and Cherryland in Alameda County and in cities in East Contra Costa County—are evidence that rising housing costs and migration patterns have contributed to new concentrations of segregation and poverty in the region.
  • Low-income households of color were much more vulnerable than low-income white households to the impact of rapid increases in housing prices. In the Bay Area, a 30 percent tract-level increase in median rent paid between 2000 and 2015 was associated with a 43 percent decrease in low-income households of color and a 7 percent decrease in low-income white households.
  • Low-income households who made any kind of move in 2015—whether they stayed within their county of origin or left it—ended up paying a higher share of their income on rent than those who did not move, a clear indicator of the high cost of displacement.
  • Upon moving, a significant share of low-income people of all races not only left their county of origin but the region altogether. For example, 40 percent of low-income black households in Alameda County who moved in 2015 left the Bay Area, another indication of regional displacement pressures.