Despite a downward trend of overall segregation in Greensboro, the number of racially-segregated areas of poverty are increasing according to a recently released report.

According to a recently released housing report by the city, the number of racially segregated areas of poverty in Greensboro has increased since 2010.

The report, titled “Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice,” was released by the city earlier this month as part of a set of reports required to comply with an Obama-era rule for cities that receive funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The exhaustive report spans more than 100 pages long, outlining the city’s current obstacles to fair housing such as segregation, adequate housing, economic stability and lack of accommodations for disabled persons.

According to the city’s Neighborhood Development Department, the report is the first step in launching Housing GSO, a 10-year, affordable-housing plan that is set to be released in spring 2020.

One of the impediments listed in the report is the problem of segregation. Despite a declining trend of segregation in the city overall, there has been an increase in racially and ethnically concentrated areas of poverty, otherwise known as R/ECAP areas, since 2010.

To be classified as one of these areas, the population must have a non-white population of more than 50 percent and a population in poverty of more than 40 percent or a poverty rate that is greater than three times the average of the area.

Currently, there are seven such areas in the city. That’s an increase from five in 2010 and three in 2000, according to Census data and HUD estimates. Despite the fact that one area in southwest Greensboro which was considered highly segregated in 2010 no longer qualified as such in 2017, three new areas in east Greensboro were classified as racially concentrated and in poverty in the most recent findings. According to the report, these areas are mostly made up of black people —around 82 percent — with the next largest racial demographic being non-Hispanic whites.

This graphic from the city’s report shows the seven current concentrated areas compared to the areas that existed in 2010. (file photo)

The report points to two main forces that appear to be contributing to the changes. One is a trend of people already below the poverty line moving to these concentrated areas, presumably for lower costs of living. The other is the movement of more affluent residents in the concentrated areas moving out to locations with access to better jobs and schools, further concentrating the levels of poverty.

The areas marked as being heavily racially segregated and in poverty are clustered in the southeastern and eastern parts of the city. All of the neighborhoods to the southeast are located below Gate City Boulevard and include the neighborhoods of Glenwood, Warnersville, Lincoln Heights and Dudley Heights. The eastern areas start with a chunk of downtown near the farmers market and spreads past English Street to the east and then up into the Glendale Hills neighborhood above Wendover Avenue.

According to a 2018 report by the Urban Institute, “there are large differences in the average exposure to opportunity between people living in [racially concentrated areas of poverty] and those who live outside of [these] tracts.” The differences include rates of unemployment and education level of workers; access to high-performing schools; and access to affordable transportation.

The second difference, access to high-performing schools, measures the performance of fourth grade students on state exams to show which neighborhoods have high-performing elementary schools. The Urban Institute’s report found that on average, communities within the concentrated areas received a score of about 22 while those outside had a score of more than 50. According to SchoolDigger.com, many of the lowest ranking elementary schools in the county are concentrated in the southern and southeastern parts of the city. The website uses data from the National Center for Education Statistics, US Department of Education, the US Census Bureau and state Department of Public Instruction to rank schools based on 2018-19 school year test scores.

Despite having less access to high-performing schools and lower labor market engagement, the report by the Urban Institute shows that communities living in these concentrated areas tend to have better access to affordable transportation. Data from the city’s own report supports the Urban Institutes’ findings. According to the city’s report, black residents paid the lowest in terms of transportation costs, which may be due to greater access to public transit as well as the density of homes in the area.

While the report lists recommendations for investing in segregated communities, it does not outline specifics on how to curb the increase of these increasingly poverty-stricken areas. Rehabilitation programs aimed at upgrading facilities, a focus on preserving “naturally occurring affordable units,” and educating homeowners to ensure that delinquent mortgages are identified earlier are all listed as recommendations in the new report.

A previous recommendation from the city’s 2014 housing report listed the need to create more affordable housing units in areas outside of the affected neighborhoods to prevent further concentration in those areas. Caitlin Bowers, a community development analyst for the city, said the city is still working on that goal.

In November 2017, the city opened Sumner Ridge, a 72-unit affordable housing complex in south Greensboro down Randleman Road just below Interstate 85. A mile and a half northwest, another affordable housing complex called Ryan Ridge opened this past October. Next year, the city plans on opening two more affordable housing complexes, one in northeast Greensboro and another one in south Greensboro near Interstate 85, closer to Sumner Ridge and Ryan Ridge. For now, Bowers said the city is waiting to finish its 5-year and 10-year housing reports to unveil more specific recommendations. The latter report, which will be out sometime in the spring, will involve more community partners, like this most recent report, and will take suggestions from the public in the form of an online survey.

“This is just the beginning stages,” Bowers said. 

To read the full report, visit the city’s website here.

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