Written by S.E. Cupp, CNN
“Think in the first half of this century, and when I look out on the field,” said Andy Koppel, head of the Redevelopment Authority for the historically African-American Woodlawn neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois, “it looks like a dot. There’s nobody out here playing football, and there’s nobody playing basketball.”
An experience of classic racism
The neighborhood is just one of hundreds that is being revitalized, according to programs run by the Center for Black Equity and the Institute for Black American History, which are reaching out to local residents in urban neighborhoods and reviving the area’s culture.
The University of Chicago, where the center’s director is Robert Austin, aims to inspire local activism with programs that involve historians, architects, designers and artists. The project began in 1999 and has since expanded into cities like St. Louis, Baltimore and Detroit.
But for Houston’s Hunters Point neighborhood, a project known as “Self Reliance” provides access to affordable housing through the sale of donated homes to low-income families. With assistance from foundations and local politicians, more than 80 homes have been sold to returning displaced residents.
Land Surveyor Callan will head an effort to preserve Houston’s history. Credit: ©S. E. Cupp
However, even though these programs are helping to revitalize cities, they’re finding that many of their areas are in danger of being erased. “There are lots of cities that have started a transformation that actually puts a whole lot of investments in communities that were previously marginalized,” says Mark Weaver, who oversees urban areas on the Institute’s staff. “But there’s a long way to go.”
Declining number of African-Americans
One such city is Charlotte, North Carolina, where 34% of residents identify as black, but according to U.S. Census data, Black residents represent just 19% of homeowners.
In Cleveland, Ohio, they make up 18% of the population but only 12% of homeowners. Conversely, in New Orleans they constitute 42% of the population but only 24% of homeowners. Meanwhile, in Houston, they make up 71% of the population but 56% of homeowners.
The racial divide is also evident in Cleveland, where 82% of homes were built before 1950, while only 33% of homes in Charlotte were built between 1950 and 1970. In Texas, the process of infilling areas made up of predominantly white homeowners is being slowed by regional growth and a housing boom. But the Texas A&M University-Commerce, which tracks statistics from economic data firm Zillow, shows that in Houston there is a growing shift, but it’s happening at the expense of black residents.
A graphic by Zillow visualizes data from 2013 and 2017 showing that younger generations of blacks are increasingly moving into traditionally white suburbs. Credit: © S. E. Cupp
Across these regions, there is a large discrepancy between the number of households paying mortgages and the number of African-Americans living there. According to a Zillow analysis, between 2013 and 2017, 57% of the areas which grew in size had a higher proportion of homeowners compared to the national averages of 43%.
This new map shows the changes in black neighborhoods within some major U.S. cities. Credit: ©S. E. Cupp
But not all neighborhoods are being left behind.
“The turning point, unfortunately, wasn’t the turn of the century,” Austin explains. “It was really the beginning of the 20th century, because at that point, you have to look at mass migration. A lot of African-Americans do very, very well when they move out to the suburbs, so that’s where a lot of economic development is going.”
In other areas, however, African-Americans are not investing in their communities and leaving the anchor of their neighborhoods to decline. “The starting point for this happens when you have places where there are not living standards of well-being or confidence,” Austin explains. “The catalyst for any kind of change is around that experience.”