The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

What’s happening in the neighborhoods with the wildest gains in home values

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Zip code 11216 in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn has  a spectacular stock of stately brownstones. The buildings — long ago sliced into apartments, but easily restored as grand townhomes again — composed the last major collection of brownstones in the borough that hadn't yet been gentrified going into this housing cycle, beginning in the early part of the last decade.

"So there was a huge feeding frenzy for them," Stephen Smith, a New York writer behind the Market Urbanism blog, told me. The housing looks just like in popular Park Slope, but the neighborhood is a little further out.

Since 2004, single-family home values in the Zip code have risen by 194 percent — they've tripled in barely a decade. That's the single biggest gain of any Zip code among the 300 largest metro areas in the country, according to our new Washington Post analysis of how home values have changed across the U.S. over the bubble, bust and recovery. (The analysis lets you explore what happened in your Zip code, and how the country's housing market has been increasingly divided along lines of race, income and geography.)

Zip code 11216 looks a bit odd in our data: It now has a median single-family home value over $1 million. But the median income according to the most recent five-year American Community Survey data is only about $44,000 — certainly not what you'd need to buy such a place.

This is a hallmark of rapidly changing neighborhoods: steep price gains, relatively lower incomes. This Bed-Stuy neighborhood is also still home to lower-middle-class retired homeowners and renters in rent-stabilized apartments, many of them West Indian and African American. What's happening in the housing market benefits the longtime homeowners (at least as far as their property values go). But this mismatch between runaway housing values and recent demographics doesn't bode well for renters in the long run.

A similar pattern recurs among the other Zip codes with the wildest gains in home value in our data. No. 2, behind Bed-Stuy, is 78702 near downtown Austin. That's another gentrifying neighborhood. It was predominantly Hispanic about a decade ago with aging single-family homes. Now, both condos and new houses are rising there, alongside art studios and good restaurants (thanks to the Austin American-Statesman's Lilly Rockwell for the local knowledge). In our data, single-family home values in the Zip are up 172 percent.

Gentrifying neighborhoods are relatively rare. And the broader trend nationally in our analysis is that Zip codes that had the most expensive homes to start with — not lower-income places — have reaped the biggest gains in the last housing cycle. But where rapid gentrification does exist, those Zip codes are clustered at the very, very top of our list. Home values in the typical American Zip code gained 14 percent from 2004 to 2015. Homes in the most expensive neighborhoods have gained, on average, 21 percent. And then there are these outliers:

Each of those ranks among the very top Zip codes nationally for home-value appreciation in the 300 largest American metro areas. They are all close-in urban neighborhoods that are rapidly changing:

  • 97227 in Portland, around the historically black Albina and Boise-Elliot neighborhoods there that are undergoing redevelopment.
  • 37206 in Nashville, where quaint Craftsman homes on the east side of town now go for $500,000-$600,000.
  • 70119 in New Orleans. Not far from the city's French Quarter, the value of homes here has doubled since 2004.
  • 15224 in Pittsburgh, where the Lawrenceville and Bloomfield areas are attracting new, younger residents.
  • 20002 in Washington, D.C. A small row home in this Zip encompassing part of Capitol Hill and Northeast D.C. is now worth as much as a McMansion in the Virginia exurbs.

My colleagues Jonathan O'Connell and Kathy Orton will have more on these dynamics in the D.C. region, coming in our series next week.