Trulia.com is pretty cool. Zillow aint bad either. There’s also cool stuff on REIS and CoStar especially if you’re with an outfit that will pay for access, but as far as free goes, Trulia is one of the best. So that makes it doubly awesome if you’re a real estate nerd on a budget.
One thing Trulia is really good at tracking is listing prices and real-time trends across neighborhoods. As data is power, the more data an entity has, the more cool stuff it can do. The result of putting every neighborhood on the same map is pretty awesome; as rendered, the majority of the nation is some shade of green (~$300,000). However, every city has its obvious pockets of concentrated wealth.
The funny thing about this is the picture it paints about the neighborhoods in which we typically argue about gentrification. In the grand scheme of things, and on the same map as everywhere else, these neighborhoods don’t even register. When a market starts to see median for-sale home values rise from $150,000 to $200,000, while that may be the difference that cripples the middle class’ access to home ownership, it doesn’t really change the map. However, regarding the goal of safe and decent housing, cheap can be your enemy – as housing gets older, maintenance is really a function of housing values. In areas where the market isn’t supporting the cost of good maintenance, it really isn’t helping anyone to fight gentrification.
Pockets of concentrated wealth have obviously escaped the discussion about creating mixed-income communities. These communities are typically not even included in the scope or amongst stakeholders for regional planning. A lot of these pockets of wealth are actually unincorporated or separate enclave suburbs that just operate on a different public-sector platform.
There is an obvious correlation between density and income-diversity. While most pockets of serious wealth are also low-density regions, more dense areas are typically closer to the median, while some of the poorest areas (darkest green) are typically not as dense but still dense. You’ll find most cities’ densest pockets in the mint green ($200-300,000).
I’ll just run through a few examples, with the map at the same zoom level and focused on the pockets of income disparity. This is by no means all, but pretty close to it in the EST and CST.
Atlanta is a surprisingly high-value market. Most everything inside the Perimeter has appreciated, with exception to areas due west of downtown. South and East Atlanta actually appear healthy and marketable. The north burbs, from Smyrna up to Alpharetta and Johns Creek, also feature a vast expanse of $500,000 to $1,000,000 homes, on both sides of Georgia 400.
Austin actually has a lot of income diversity relatively close-in. However, with fewer and fewer pockets of low-income, there are no observable entire ZIPs below $100,000. This also illustrates the extent to which gentrification in Austin is ancient history, with this being the new reality.
Boston’s real estate values are well-known. The southie hoods aren’t all that bad on the whole – with a few pockets in Dorchester and Roxbury that are that bad – but on the whole this may be the highest-value market in the Eastern U.S., as Boston lacks a South Bronx or East NY. To their credit, Boston is one of the most innovative communities when it comes to leveraging value for the greater good; however, the map illustrates the extent to which this is not relevant to nearly all other metros. For instance these land values can easily absorb the development cost of inclusionary zoning. And so they must.
Buffalo exemplifies the complete opposite of the aforementioned metros. This is also one of those cases where overall affordability compress values across the entire market, including at the upper end. You can get a pretty stylish abode in Buffalo for ~$200,000. Which is to say they do exist! Buffalo has an excess of real estate relative to its current population, so as real estate gradually becomes right-sized, housing values will normalize as long as the metro population remains stable. Buffalo is a great investment with a lot of upside if you make well-positioned acquisitions.
Charlotte may be one of the most income-diverse major metros. The strong local economy and productive urban development market have built-up a high-value pocket from downtown (“Uptown”) southward. Large areas of homes below $100,000 exist just on the other side of the tracks.
Chicago is relatively affordable when compared to the other major metros. However, the scale and profile of Chicago – home to many of the nation’s celebrities and corporate elite – have resulted in some very unique pockets of wealth that hug the north lakeshore and pop up in certain enclaves elsewhere like Oak Park and Hinsdale. The balance of Chicago is really quite income diverse, with exception to the North Shore suburbs (Evanston and northward).
Cincinnati is also quite income diverse, with no real trend when it comes to concentrations of wealth. It exists from Milford and Indian Hill to the east, westward to the Clifton neighborhood just north of UC. Wyoming, Blue Ash, some east side pockets like Dry Run, and inner-core hoods like Hyde Park, Mount Adams, and even southern OTR show up in the $500,000+ category. While wealth is scattered throughout the metro, poverty is heavily concentrated on the west side and in Covington.
Cleveland is hot in the national media, but the data shows otherwise. You can almost make out the exact city limits based on dark green / light green, which is the market’s primary gradient (with ZIP medians probably ranging from ~$75,000 to upwards of just $400,000). That said, $400,000 can get you a LOT in Cleveland. The real money is heavily concentrated in the east suburbs. Also to the market’s credit, Cleveland used to be entirely retrograde, but now the central core and greater University Circle legitimately stand alone as bright spots. This is also a market where values have been suppressed by a glut of housing relative to the current population. Northeast Ohio’s sprawl, without population growth, has undercut the value of older vernacular housing.
Columbus is a little bit of Cincy (income diverse with pockets scattered around) combined with a little bit of Cleveland (heavy concentrated wealth north of 270). Also, due to the absurdity of putting all real estate on the same unweighted scale, you can more easily make out differences across Upper Arlington than you can along the High Street corridor (where the light and dark colors meet in the middle). The pockets of wealth on the east side (Bexley) and south side (German Village) bode well for access to opportunity further out in those directions, where people would otherwise be disconnected.
Dallas and Fort Worth are perhaps more interesting to compare to each other than as a whole region against other metros. Dallas is also a completely different animal from Fort Worth, which is more like the aforementioned Ohio metros. Dallas is probably a more developed version of Atlanta, with vast pockets where the median is not just over $1,000,000, but even $3,000,000. The only real concentration of extreme poverty left in Dallas is the Fair Park / “South Dallas” neighborhood which is actually eastern Dallas. Even the south side is showing some strong pockets, and overall a lot of income diversity. Where you don’t see that income diversity – the affluent northern suburbs from DFW up to Collin County. East Plano must really be getting rough if homes are only going for the $200,000s.
Also the below regional map shows why I’m not panning further out for these screenshots, due to Trulia’s rendering glitches:
Detroit thematic maps need not label Eight Mile Road (M 102) – it’s visible from outer space. Downtown, Midtown, and the east riverfront have joined Grosse Pointe as pockets of strength in the inner city. Low values have also now spread into the first few NE suburbs like Eastpointe. There are very distinct differences between Macomb County (NE) and Oakland County (NW). These differences also manifest themselves politically (Macomb County often being credited with electing Reagan and Trump).
Houston has maintained broad affordability despite also having a major wealth bubble (its entire west side). The extreme wealth in Houston is concentrated well enough to leave the rest of the metro mostly unaffected. It’s also interesting how the south and east sides are starting to improve. There’s also very little middle-income on the west side; you’re either in an area that is $500,000 and above, or sub-$100,000 (SW corner of Beltway 8). Alief is the new dystopia, while those older south and east side neighborhoods have seen revitalization. It’s a real question what concentrated poverty will look like so far removed from walkable, transit-accessible economic opportunity.
Kansas City’s wealthier inner-ring neighborhood are split down the middle between Kansas and Missouri. The same is not true for suburban communities, where wealth distinctly favors the Kansas side. You can also see Troost Avenue from outer space, much like Eight Mile Road in Detroit.
Lexington is small, relatively high-income, with few pockets of distinct low-income north of downtown, and distinct pockets of concentrated wealth beyond the ring road in all directions. These are largely horse farms owned by the uber rich.
Louisville, in contrast to Lexington, is more of a real city. Very income diverse on the whole, but with localized distinctions between east and west. Downtown and Old Louisville are also very healthy markets. The Indiana side has failed to attract much investment.
Memphis is another city that is almost entirely low-income. Unlike the northern Rust Belt cities, it’s a real question whether Memphis will pursue smart growth or rightsizing strategies (probably not). Great city though – the downtown secretly has one of the better streetcars, and Mud Island (that $500,000 pocket on the river) is secretly one of America’s largest new-urbanist communities.
In some ways Minneapolis and St. Paul are twins, and in some ways they are opposites. St. Paul has the largest collection of old money neighborhoods; on this map, SW St. Paul looks exactly like other such areas (North Buffalo, East Cincy, etc). Apart from the old money, the new money prefers Minneapolis. Conversely, most of St. Paul proper is depressed, whereas Minneapolis is divided between north and south. And water, of which there is a lot.
Nashville and Memphis used to be flipped. There was a time when Memphis was seen as flashier and more urbane. It’s just plainly evident that Nashville is a different animal now, almost unrecognizable from the city it was before it got hot. The entire region is relatively high-income, which applies to nearly everything west of I-24. In terms of gentrification, forget about East Nashville, now it’s all about north and west Nashville. The relatively high cost of single-family housing and the rent-buy factor is also one ingredient that has fueled Nashville’s supply of new multifamily development, which would simply would not be absorbed in most other markets.
New Orleans, an internationally-relevant historic landmark, is not a cheap city. I would be curious to learn more about quality of life for poor households in New Orleans, as this may be one of the better case studies on gentrification. You’ll remember that when Katrina happened, the subtext of urban poverty and racial disparity was the background for the botched short-term emergency management. While many of those families never moved back, for those that did, can they afford it now? Not a foregone conclusion either way – HANO has done amazing work rebuilding the city’s entire public housing portfolio and better-positioning it near opportunity.
New York City is different from Boston in that it does still have distinct concentrations of low-income and low-values. Also, large portions of Brooklyn and the Bronx don’t even show up for lack of for-sale transactions. Areas like the South Bronx really are 100% multifamily for miles, whereas in gentrifying Brooklyn, for-sale product is gradually spreading from west to east. But not too far east.
Oklahoma City is one of the more income-diverse metros, but it’s also one of the less-sophisticated markets where wealthy households don’t have that many options with where to locate. The answer is north. For everyone else, the answer is everywhere else. Urban core gentrification is also mostly complete between Lincoln and Classen boulevards, where it’s now spreading west toward I-44 and bridging the between downtown and Nichols Hills. Watch these neighborhoods.
Omaha is another one of these markets that don’t have much concentrated poverty or much concentrated wealth. Supposedly Warren Buffet still lives in the same ranch house and drives the same old Lincoln Town Car that he always has. With exception to a few small pockets along the central-west Dodge Street corridor, anyone with serious money lives far out.
Philadelphia may be the city with the largest pocket of poverty right next to the largest pocket of wealth. Interestingly, pretty much all of South Philly is looking good these days. Watch the neighborhoods just north of Spring Garden.
Pittsburgh and Cleveland are kind of the same city, just with different topography and forms of waterfront. Pittsburgh’s poverty is indeed incredibly concentrated in the communities that surround Pittsburgh to the east and southeast. Also this map does not look exactly as you’d expect – the South Hills’ wealthier pockets don’t even register compared to the North Hills, much in the same way that Cleveland’s east burbs really are different than the west burbs.
Providence stands in stark contrast to the Boston metro, less than an hour to the north. While Providence is clearly the most affordable urban market in New England, there is also a lot of value here for what you get. The physical housing stock is not much less sophisticated than in nearby Boston. New multifamily development here primarily takes the form of adaptive reuse of old mills, of which there are still many opportunities. That said, housing affordability is compressing renter households, and inhibiting the rent growth needed to pull off Boston-style adaptive reuse on a larger scale.
Raleigh-Durham continues to resist urban density, which seems to get lost on the national planning establishment that sings its praises. They have UNC, NC State, Duke, and Wake Forest nearby. Yet somehow this hive of innovation, like Silicon Valley, just has opposed more innovative planning. While the markets in Charlotte and many other NC cities favor urban real estate, Raleigh continues to give a value premium to lower-density development.
San Antonio is the most affordable of Texas’ major metros. The city also manifests the economic fate of an immigrant-majority community where people are still overcoming racial, ethnic, economic, and especially language barriers. That said, centrally-located real estate is beginning to build equity for families in those neighborhoods surround El Centro. In contrast, areas to the north are as wealthy as they always have been.
St. Louis, like Cleveland and Cincinnati, is a lot bigger than people realize. I think a lot of the planning establishment became familiar with the disparity between south and north STL in the wake of Ferguson. One difference between STL and other major Midwestern metros is the lack of for-sale transactions in the downtown, which is more heavily multifamily than even a typical downtown (most still have enough for-sale transactions for this map to populate). The central west corridor is very distinct.
Tulsa stands in contrast to OKC, with real concentrations in both wealth and poverty, and a downtown that really hasn’t generated much high-value residential product. Tulsa’s old money – largely households with oil era ties – prefers Midtown, where they have always resided. These neighborhoods are an interesting hodge podge of walkable pockets and large-lot, old-money estates. Since Tulsa’s economy has not grown since the 1980s, the map lacks the housing preferences of more new money consumers. In that way Tulsa is probably more like Louisville than Oklahoma City or Kansas City.