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Bay Area housing prices push low-income minorities farther out

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The rising cost of housing in the Bay Area has dramatically resegregated neighborhoods by race and pushed minority families to the outer edges of the region, a new paper shows.

Researchers at UC Berkeley and the California Housing Partnership studied census tract-level data from 2000 to 2015 in each of the nine Bay Area counties. They found that a 30% increase in median rent corresponded with a 28% decrease in low-income minority households but no significant change in the number of white families.

Historically black neighborhoods — in places like the Bayview, East Oakland and East Palo Alto — lost scores of low-income black families. Often, they moved to outlying cities of the region: Antioch, Fairfield, Vallejo and so forth.

Different racial groups followed different migratory patterns. While the Mission District lost low-income Latino families, for instance, Richmond, East Palo Alto and cities in the North Bay saw increases. San Francisco’s Chinatown and South of Market lost low-income Asian residents, particularly immigrants and seniors, but places like Daly City and Millbrae had gains.

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Across the region, families that moved ended up paying a higher share of their income on rent compared with those that stayed. Their destinations had fewer high-quality schools, grocery stores and other resources.

“As we think about solutions … we can’t just be thinking broadly about the housing crisis. There are magnitudes of difference when we look at race and income,” said Miriam Zuk, director of the Urban Displacement Project at UC Berkeley. “We think of displacement as an outcome of inequality, but it’s actually contributing to inequality.”

The study, funded by the San Francisco Foundation, builds on a report last fall by the same research team that examined San Francisco, Alameda and Contra Costa counties and found similar trends.

“Rising housing prices have effectively reinforced and recreated long-standing patterns of housing segregation, and we can say that with more certainty about the entire region,” said Dan Rinzler, one of the report’s authors. “The housing crisis is affecting all corners of the region. There’s almost nowhere that’s actually affordable to low-income people of color.”

African-Americans remain the most racially segregated group in the Bay Area, with three-quarters of all black residents living in just one-quarter of the region’s census tracts, according to a different paper last year from UC Berkeley.

“Resegregation” does not imply that historical patterns of segregation ever disappeared or that integration took hold and is now moving in reverse, according to the report. Instead, the term is meant to capture “reconfiguration of racial segregation and spatial inequality in the Bay Area.”

“Many of the suburban or exurban places to which low-income people of color moved in recent years have become racially segregated and high-poverty and face serious challenges, including aging infrastructure, a lack of jobs, and insufficient social services to address rising poverty and homelessness,” the paper said.

Policy solutions include stabilizing rents in places at risk of displacement, creating ways for low-income people of color to live in neighborhoods with greater resources and increasing economic opportunities in high-poverty, racially segregated neighborhoods.

Matt Schwartz, president of the California Housing Partnership, said implementation of the new CASA Compact would go a long way toward addressing forces of displacement and resegregation. The package of policy proposals — items like just-cause eviction rules — came out of a task force convened by the Association of Bay Area Governments and Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

“This is a case where the market has multiple failures, and the consequences of those failures are severe for low-income people of color,” Schwartz said. “This is a regional if not state issue, and that’s why the state Legislature needs to get involved.”

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