Modeling Neighborhood Change to Mitigate Gentrification: A Case Study of Fairfax County, Virginia

Research Paper
Authors:Pristavec, Teja, PV-Biocomplexity InitiativePV-Biocomplexity Initiative Kramer, Brandon, PV-Biocomplexity InitiativeUniversity of Virginia Goldstein, Joshua, PV-Biocomplexity InitiativeUniversity of Virginia Gregory, Michelle , Fairfax CountyVirginia Keller, Sallie, PV-Biocomplexity InitiativeUniversity of Virginia ORCID icon

Gentrification describes the transformation of working-class or vacant areas into middle-class residential or commercial zones through an influx of affluent persons and businesses displacing long-term, vulnerable populations. Local governments often lack resources to detect gentrification emergence and mitigate its negative impacts. We demonstrate how studying gentrification at granular geographies using publicly available data can provide actionable insights to stakeholders seeking to preserve neighborhood diversity and protect at-risk residents. We examine neighborhood change in Fairfax County, VA using US Census Bureau American Community Survey 5-year estimates (2008/12-2014/18). Using three multifactor dimensions to measure gentrification, we classify census tracts into those not vulnerable to gentrification at baseline; vulnerable but not gentrified, and vulnerable and gentrified over time. We employ a spatial generalized linear mixed model to examine property and population factors associated with gentrification and test the effects of a hypothetical housing policy intervention. Results suggest that 61% of Fairfax County tracts were not vulnerable and 39% were vulnerable to gentrification at baseline. Of those vulnerable, 49% did not gentrify over time. The remaining 51% experienced significant socioeconomic and investment change, gentrifying during the period. Median property values, college-educated population, and white population shares were associated with increased gentrification likelihood. Finally, we show that a 10% median property value reduction intervention would result in 26% fewer vulnerable and 50% fewer gentrified areas. We conclude with policy recommendations mitigating gentrification and highlight how public data and modeling could assist local governments with decision-making, maximizing the impact of county resources, and improving neighborhood outcomes.

American Community Survey , Housing policy , Vulnerability , Socio-demographic change
Contributor:Lyman, Kimberly, PV-Biocomplexity InitiativeUniversity of Virginia
Source Citation:

Pristavec T, Kramer B, Goldstein J, Gregory M, Tobin J, Keller, S. (2021). Modeling Neighborhood Change to MiXgate GentrificaXon: A Case Study of Fairfax County, Virginia, Proceedings of the Biocomplexity Institute, Technical Report. TR# 2021-121. University of Virginia.

University of Virginia
Published Date:
Sponsoring Agency:
Fairfax County Virginia

This research was partially sponsored by Fairfax County, VA government under the University of Virginia award number GO12554 and by the University of Virginia Strategic Investment Fund, award number SIF160.