A Ward 4 resident protests against gentrification. (Courtesy photo)

Two D.C. zip codes are among the 20 most gentrified neighborhoods in the country, according to new rankings released by rental listing site RentCafe.

The website lists 20001, the District’s Mount Vernon neighborhood, as the second most gentrified in the country. Zip code 20010, Columbia Heights, ranks 18th on the list.

“There’s a lot of things an urban area can and should aspire to excel in — this is not one of them,” said Balazs Szekely of RentCafe.com. “Yet, even if gentrification is not something to strive for, it happens all the more often — and as there are ways to quantify it, we did just that, and a ranking arose. A less-than-glorious elite, if you will.”

According to the Business Dictionary, gentrification is the process of wealthier residents moving to an area, and the changes that occur due to the influx of wealth. As wealthier inhabitants move into an area that is already populated with lower-income residents, the neighborhood begins to change as well. Often this will spark an urban renewal process, which cleans up the town, but often leads to an increase in rent, taxes and other items.

Sometimes this change means that the previous residents can no longer afford to live in that neighborhood, which is why gentrification can sometimes be used in a negative context.

However, for African Americans and other minorities, gentrification connotes something even more sinister.

In writing about gentrification, journalist Michael Harriot highlights that the process often means minority-owned businesses disappear when a neighborhood becomes gentrified to make way for high-volume, corporate stores because small businesses like theirs can’t afford the rent. This eventually leads to the economic disempowerment of black communities because, often, the people who own small businesses live in the community and spend their money at other small businesses, Harriot said.

“The people at the Jamaican restaurant patronize the local dry cleaners,” he said. “They get their hair cut at the local barbershop. They hire neighborhood kids.”

Gentrification ends the recycling of money in minority neighborhoods because the new businesses usually send their money back to corporate headquarters or have owners who don’t live in the neighborhoods of their businesses, Harriot said.

Los Angeles zip code 90014 topped the list with D.C.’s 20001 second. They were followed, in order, by Houston’s 77003; Philadelphia’s 19123; Manhattan’s 10039; Fort Worth, Texas 76102; Brooklyn’s 11211; Philadelphia’s 19146; Brooklyn’s 11222; and Brooklyn’s 11216.

The remainder of the top 20 were St. Louis’s 63103; Los Angeles 90013; Austin, Texas 78702; Brooklyn 11237; Manhattan 10026; Baltimore 21224; Brooklyn 11221; D.C. 20010; Houston 77007; and Tacoma, Washington 98402.

In ranking No. 18, Columbia Heights was noted for its home values rising 146 percent from 2000 to 2016. However, the researchers said the incomes didn’t keep pace with prices, which rose 46 percent over 16 years.

In Mount Vernon, which ranked second, researchers said home values increased by 207 percent between 2000 and 2016. Median household incomes rose by 163 percent during that same period.

Also, the number of bachelor’s degree holders living in Mount Vernon’s 20001 zip code increased by 212 percent and the area ranked No. 1 for the fastest growth in income among the most gentrified zip codes in the United States, rising from $37,000 in 2000 to almost $97,000 in 2016.

“What our top 20 zip codes have in common is that they are central, highly coveted, mostly downtown neighborhoods where development options are limited,” Szekely said.

Stacy M. Brown is a senior writer for The Washington Informer and the senior national correspondent for the Black Press of America. Stacy has more than 25 years of journalism experience and has authored...

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