Priced out, pushed out; Furman study documents how revitalization has impacted Greenville’s Black neighborhoods

Published: Jan. 17, 2023 at 10:49 PM EST
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GREENVILLE, S.C. (FOX Carolina) - The massive growth is fueling change in many Greenville neighborhoods. But a new study from Furman University is getting a closer look at the impacts of those changes.

Furman’s study examines census data, income levels and historic practices, showing how Greenville’s historically black neighborhoods have changed over time. Coming to a conclusion that right now, is a critical time, because if things don’t change, residents will continue to be priced out and pushed out.

“Anyone who has driven through neighborhoods like Southernside, West Greenville, Sterling, Haynie-Sirrine, Nicholtown, knows a lot of changes have taken place,” said Dr. Ken Kolb with Furman University.

Some change isn’t hard to miss, because it’s standing tall. Other changes are woven within each street.

“We just want to be able to provide the opportunity for people who grew up here to be able to stay here,” he said.

Dr.  Kolb is a professor of sociology at Furman. He’s researched food insecurity in Greenville for nearly a decade. In the last year, his team began looking at other data.

“You can see over time that incomes have been rising. But if you divide that data by race, you can see that not all have benefited equally from the revitalization we’ve seen in Greenville” he said.

They found the median White household in Greenville earns 2.8 times that of the median Black household. Which makes competing for housing tough, in an era of rising rent costs. They begin their research by looking at the past.

“If you look at some of the neighborhoods in Greenville, 40 to 50 years ago, Blacks were not allowed to live there or at least to purchase homes there. And so they moved into communities where they were allowed” said Dr. Kolb.

He’s talking about practices like racially restrictive covenants, which prevented certain property from being sold or rented to Black families. So, instead, they settled in what we now know as the Historically Black Neighborhoods, most which are within city limits. However, this study found recently populations in these neighborhoods have changed.

“We’ve been losing Black residents within the city limits every single year for the past 40 years. And we’ve seen an explosive growth in new White residents” he said.

This started 10 years ago when living close to the city became popular again. Vacant lots in Black neighborhoods began to increase in value. Then revitalization efforts like new construction and greenspace also contributed to a rise in property values and rent costs. Eventually leading to Black neighbors being pushed and priced out.

“This is the time where we need to make some tough decisions if we’re really interested in one not only providing affordable housing but also stopping the decline in the number of black residents that has been occurring every single year for the past over a year” said Dr. Kolb.

Furman says the purpose of this study was to provide tools to assist city leaders, community leaders, and residents in their push for policy change. If you’d like to read this study in full visit