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Displacement Risk

Which communities are at risk of displacement?

As our region's economy has reached new heights in recent years - with high-paying job growth in San Francisco, Silicon Valley and beyond - displacement risk has become an increasingly regional problem. Rising housing costs, combined with a lack of tenant protections, can result in families having to relocate to distant, more affordable communities. While it is not possible to quantify the number of households displaced in a given year, displacement risk helps us identify those communities under pressure, providing a barometer over time for this critical issue.

Updated: february 2019


The Bay Area ranks second among major metros for the share of lower-income residents at risk of displacement


The share of lower-income households at risk of displacement in Santa Clara County has doubled since 2010


of lower-income Bay Area households are at risk of displacement


Regional Performance

While relatively stable in recent years, regional displacement risk has increased substantially since 1990.

Displacement has become a serious regional concern over the past few decades. As recently as 1990, San Francisco was the only Bay Area county with more than 30 percent of its lower-income residents at risk. By 2017, every county had displacement risk levels in this range. Displacement risk is rising not only in increasingly expensive bayside communities, but also in the counties of the North Bay. Once seemingly immune to displacement risk, these counties are now being affected by spillover demand for housing.


The Great Recession coincided with a bump in displacement risk in most Bay Area counties, as low-income homeowners bore the brunt of the negative effects of the mortgage lending crisis. However, in the region's most jobs-dense counties - San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara - the share of lower-income households at risk of displacement actually fell during the Great Recession, as demand for housing subsided and rising housing costs stabilized.

Historical Trend for Displacement Risk

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Local Focus

Neighborhoods at risk of displacement range from urban neighborhoods like San Francisco's Mission District and West Berkeley to suburban communities like East San Mateo and Concord.

Displacement risk has become a regional issue in recent years, through a combination of rising housing prices, scarce affordable housing production, and limited tenant protections in many cities. While urban neighborhoods have long been at risk of displacement via gentrification, the problem can be just as acute in suburban communities such as Concord, El Cerrito, Santa Clara and Santa Rosa. Not surprisingly, cities known for providing affordable options to those displaced - such as Antioch and Vallejo - have relatively few neighborhoods considered at risk, even as they experience rising poverty.


Solano County has the lowest share of lower-income households at risk of displacement at 30%


Over half of lower-income residents in San Francisco are at risk of displacement, the most of all Bay Area counties

Displacement Risk by Neighborhood (2017)

Number of Households at
Risk of Displacement
< 500
500 - 749
750 - 999
1000 - 1500
> 1500

National Context

Fast-growing Texas metros have the lowest displacement risk.

Houston and Dallas have the lowest and second-lowest levels of displacement risk, respectively, among major U.S. metro areas. This speaks not only to their relative affordability - which reduces pressure on lower-income households - but also to the lack of gentrification in these metro areas' traditional lower-income communities. In contrast to metropolitan areas like Philadelphia, Washington or Los Angeles, Texas metro areas have maintained a 20th century-style pattern of outward development, which has resulted in many higher-income earners continuing to prefer locations at the periphery. In contrast, the metro areas with the highest risk of displacement have seen a much greater shift in homebuyer preferences, resulting in more gentrification and heightened pressure for displacement in renewed walkable urban cores.

Metro Comparison for Displacement Risk (2017)

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Sources & Methodology

Methodology Notes

Aligning with the approach used for Plan Bay Area 2040, displacement risk is calculated by comparing the analysis year with the most recent year prior to identify census tracts that are losing lower-income households. Historical data is pulled from U.S. Census datasets and aligned with today's census tract boundaries using crosswalk tables provided by LTDB. Tract data, as well as regional income data, are calculated using 5-year rolling averages for consistency - given that tract data is only available on a 5-year basis. Using household tables by income level, the number of households in each tract falling below the median are summed, which involves summing all brackets below the regional median and then summing a fractional share of the bracket that includes the regional median (assuming a simple linear distribution within that bracket).

Once all tracts in a given county or metro area are synced to today's boundaries, the analysis identifies census tracts of greater than 500 lower-income people (in the prior year) to filter out low-population areas. For those tracts, any net loss between the prior year and the analysis year results in that tract being flagged as being at risk of displacement, and all lower-income households in that tract are flagged. To calculate the share of households at risk, the number of lower-income households living in flagged tracts are summed and divided by the total number of lower-income households living in the larger geography (county or metro). Minor deviations on a year-to-year basis should be taken in context, given that data on the tract level often fluctuates and has a significant margin of error; changes on the county and regional level are more appropriate to consider on an annual basis instead.

Data Sources

U.S. Census Bureau: Decennial Census
via IPUMS National Historical Geographic Information System
Form STF3 (1980-1990)
Form SF3a (2000)

U.S. Census Bureau: Decennial Census
via Longitudinal Tract Database Spatial Structures in the Social Sciences
Brown University
Population Estimates (1980 - 2010)

U.S. Census Bureau: American Community Survey
Form S1901 (2010-2017)
Form B19013 (2010-2017)

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The Vital Signs initiative is led by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG).

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