New updated link to Cramer Hill map of Camden Neighborhood Change Study 

Introduction

In collaboration with neighborhood-based organizations in Camden, a research team from the Center for Urban Research and Education (CURE) at Rutgers University in Camden has initiated a project to assess the social and economic impacts of changing real estate markets in Camden neighborhoods.  The findings will be used to propose strategies for maximizing community benefits and reducing or eliminating community disadvantages associated with disinvestment and reinvestment in Camden’s neighborhoods.

Background

During the decade that preceded the bursting of the “housing bubble” in 2008, property values rose steadily in neighborhood real estate markets in a number of older cities. In Philadelphia, neighborhoods bordering the central business district, the Temple University campus in North Philadelphia, and University City in West Philadelphia experienced high levels of housing rehabilitation and infill new construction, accompanied by substantial increases in sales prices and rent levels. The primary factors influencing these changes were the increasing attractiveness of Center City, growing enrollment at academic institutions, and health care professionals’ desire for housing located in close proximity to hospitals.

In Philadelphia, as in other cities that have experience major neighborhood revitalization, concerns have been raised about displacement of existing low-income residents.  Over recent decades, scholars have published studies based primarily on statistical analyses of housing surveys demonstrating that gentrifying neighborhoods reduce the mobility rates of disadvantaged renters (e.g. Freeman, 2006; Freeman & Braconi, 2004; Vigdor, 2002).  That is, sometimes poor people are not displaced from their homes, but remain in gentrifying neighborhoods, reaping the benefits of improvements in neighborhood conditions due to gentrification.  On the other hand, displacement has and does occur when neighborhoods are transformed from working-class to middle- to upper-class through upscale real estate and other attractive investments (e.g. Newman & Wyly, 2005).  Both sides have been argued extensively, and the contentiousness surrounding gentrification and displacement remains.  As such, we hope that our study contributes a tool for studying neighborhood change over time and its effects on gentrification and displacement, thus helping to bridge an empirical gap in the literature.

Substantial public investment undertaken during the first decade of the twenty-first century has stimulated improvements in real estate markets within and adjacent to Camden’s central business district. Homeowner housing has been produced and sold at market rates in the Cooper Grant and Cooper Plaza neighborhoods. The Victor, a 341-unit apartment building adjacent to the waterfront, was completed in 2002 and maintains a high occupancy of market-rate tenants. At the same time, other Camden neighborhoods have continued to experience disinvestment, with housing vacancy and the deterioration of occupied housing unchanged or worsening.

We anticipate that three neighborhoods in the City of Camden will experience improvements over the next few years as a result of significant resource allocations.   Current residents in these changing neighborhoods may either benefit from neighborhood change or experience displacement.

Goals

This project will produce the following outcomes:

  • Document changes in neighborhood real estate markets, by conducting annual property inventories accompanied by an analysis of significant trends;
  •  Disseminate inventory data, including photographic images of individual properties, mapped data, and trend analyses in a readily accessible online format; 
  •  Identify outcomes associated with housing, education, and employment associated with members of selected households that moved into subsidized and market-rate housing in these neighborhoods;
  •  Produce an annually updated report proposing public, institutional, and/or private investment strategies for promoting housing affordability, preventing displacement, and advancing human capital development in order to produce positive economic and social outcomes benefitting all residents of these neighborhoods. 

 This report shall be published by the center both in a printed format as well as online (posted on the project website as a downloadable PDF file).  The printed report will be distributed to our community partners, NGOs, city government, and others who have interest.

Anticipated Impacts

The activities proposed are anticipated to have the following impacts:

  •  Reduce the threat of displacement through use of trend data (by local community organizations and residents) to provide early warning about increasing absentee-investor purchases, increasing rent levels, and a declining supply of rental-assisted housing units.
  • Improve the strategic use of public-sector, institutional, and charitable resources, guided by better information about the impact of neighborhood change on a block level in areas at the “tipping point.”
  • Achieve better integration and coordination of affordable housing and human capital-building initiatives, based on a more complete assessment of combined housing/human service interventions.

Study Area

We selected three neighborhoods in the City of Camden: Cramer Hill, Cooper Lanning, and North Camden’s Waterfront, all of which have received or are about to receive significant resource allocations.  We piloted phase 1 of our study (the real estate and neighborhood asset data collection) in a select area within the Cramer Hill neighborhood (appendix 2) and will subsequently expand phase 1 into the entire Cramer Hill neighborhood as well as the Cooper Lanning and North Waterfront neighborhoods.Interactive Map

http://cure-cncs.camden.rutgers.edu (pilot study map of Cramer Hill)

For the complete interim report of the Camden Neighborhood Change Study, please click Neighborhood Change Study Interim Report July 2013.