Neighbors & Economy
Underlying economic factors, such as employment rates and homeownership levels, heavily influence neighborhood health. Obviously, low income and high unemployment can lead to lower homeownership rates and to negligible property upkeep. Income levels also have been shown to influence crime rates. U.S. Department of Justice statistics show that as income drops, the likelihood of becoming a victim of personal crime rises.* Anecdotally, in the field of community revitalization, stories of the decline of a block or neighborhood in conjunction with an increase of criminal activity are common.
Home values serve as a major indicator of neighborhood desirability and health. For many residents, their home is a primary factor in their net worth. A neighborhood's economy can be based upon proximity to and the availability of jobs, though some neighborhoods do well despite being located in inconvenient proximity to job centers. Often, these are neighborhoods with a high quality of life that attract residents to their amenities and characteristics, thereby ensuring a stable tax base. A neighborhood with a mix of incomes may be more desirable than one populated primarily by the poor or solely by affluent residents. For many distressed neighborhoods, gentrification may be more of a mythical fear than a reality. In some cases where sudden change is leading to displacement of older residents or those on fixed income, strategies to retain an economically diversified population must be employed.
Depending on the level of distress, a neighborhood may require interventions to stabilize aspects of its economy, including offerings such as special homebuyer programs, gap financing for housing rehab, new job skills training, and other such initiatives.
Neighborhoods with a struggling economy will share certain characteristics:
- Low homeownership rates.
- High incidences of vacancy and absentee property owners.
- Higher unemployment rates than the surrounding region.
- Lack of employment and business opportunities in the neighborhood and nearby commercial areas.
- Struggling commercial areas adjacent or nearby.
- Low average house prices compared to region at large.
- Lack of partnerships with community programs, schools, churches, BID/Main Street, and city hall.
- Fewer housing options (senior citizen and disabled housing, condominiums, rental for various income levels).
Interventions that can help a neighborhood's economy include:
- Homeownership programs.
- Employment training and mentoring.
- Partnerships with nearby Main Street programs and business organizations.