Geographic Area: City of San Francisco
Year Published: 2016
Goal: Visualize eviction rates in neighborhoods by demographic and median rent
Datasets: San Francisco Rent Board, census data, Zillow
Complementing Harvard’s Map of the Month series, each week, Map Monday highlights a data visualization that enhances understanding of or helps resolve a critical civic issue.
That dreaded letter in the mailbox after months of struggling to make rent: the eviction notice. In rapidly gentrifying San Francisco, the number of households receiving these dreaded notes is up – and has been for some time. In the wake of the economic downturn of 2008, building in San Francisco stagnated, struggling to keep up with a growing job market. The last five years have seen over 500,000 jobs created in San Francisco, while the housing supply remains limited. The current market rate for a home in the San Francisco metro area hovers around $1.2 million, and is projected to rise to $1.4 million by 2021. The Urban Displacement Project has reported that the influx of higher-educated residents—most transplants in the tech industry—into working-class areas has already transformed over 10 percent of Bay Area neighborhoods, and almost 50 percent are currently experiencing displacement.
The Anti-Eviction Mapping Project, a Bay Area nonprofit that showcases the displacement of residents through graphics, mapping, and other visualizations, recently examined where evictions are most prevalent throughout San Francisco’s neighborhoods and who is most affected.
Through a partnership with CartoDB, the map examines eviction rates per 10,000 households by neighborhood, demographic group, and median rent. Using data from the San Francisco Rent Board, Census data, and median rent estimates from Zillow, the map features displacement trends across 150 demographic categories, such as middle class minority families and high rise urbanites. Using the map, policymakers can target interventions to prevent evictions—whether that be building additional affordable housing or increasing education about and access to existing programs—towards those areas and populations in greatest need.
The map also allows users to visualize the effects of evictions on areas dominated by more specific populations, such as neighborhoods home to high numbers of married white and minority multi-lingual populations with mixed income and education levels—areas with the third most evictions across the city. Unsurprisingly, areas in which wealthy transplants are displacing long-time residents are also characterized by high levels of evictions, particularly in downtown, Haight-Ashbury, the Castro, and the Mission District, which sees 137 evictions per 10,000 households. Prior to the 1990s dot-com bust, these areas were populated predominantly by Hispanic families; however, demographic data points to shifts in to white and higher educated populations. The number of residents in the Mission District without a high school diploma, for example, decreased from 41 percent in 1980 to 17 percent 2003, while the number of residents in the Mission District with a four-year college degree increased from 18 percent 1980 to 52 percent in 2003.
Interestingly, the map also reveals that contrary to popular narratives about gentrification, displacement is certainly not limited to the city’s most socioeconomically vulnerable populations. Rather, over two-thirds of evictions in 2015 are in areas dominated by high rise buildings in densely populated areas (described on the map as “high rise, dense urbanites”). Of course, some of these evictions are likely a result of an influx of these urbanites displacing lower-income, longtime residents. And yet clearly, even some of the city’s relatively affluent residents are unable to afford skyrocketing rents, which are currently averaging over $4,500 for a two-bedroom.
Google “gentrification in” and guess which city pops up first? Searchers now have the opportunity to harness the power of mapping to be able to understand and visualize how, where, and for whom the city is changing most rapidly. Whether housing supply will meet hiring demand for Silicon Valley workers – let alone its less affluent residents – will remain to be seen. Until then, those eviction notices will keep piling up.