Measuring Neighborhood Stability
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In their work, students made two types of conclusions—about the effectiveness of the measured characteristics in revealing neighborhood stability and about the stability of particular census tracts in the County. Measured Characteristics: Given that housing sales prices and household incomes are higher than average in Howard County, the typical measures of neighborhood stability are not well-suited to the County. In some measures, for example, between the initial Neighborhood Stability Index and the housing price analysis, the majority of the data did not align. Census tracts identified by the Index as stable were identified as unstable in the housing price analysis. Neighborhood Stability in Howard County: The County’s southwestern section, including Columbia, had the greatest concentration of extreme results: both high and low performing tracts. Its north and west sections were more uniform in their distribution, containing both stable and declining housing prices. Between 2000 and 2010, approximately 80% of Howard County experienced increases in average housing sales prices, with 25 census tracts experiencing increases of more than $100,000. Three census tracts, two located in the north of the County and one south of Columbia, showed increases in average housing sales prices of more than $300,000. Only two census tracts showed a decrease in average housing sales prices, with one of those census tracts experiencing an almost $350,000 decrease in average sales price of homes. The census tracts showing high increases in predicted home sales prices are clustered in the southern part of the County and around Columbia. Two are in the southern part of Columbia in the Owen Brown and Greenleaf areas (census tracts 606707 and 606704). Other census tracts with high increases in prices are west of the Patuxent Parkway and east of Columbia toward Waterloo Park. Roughly half of the County, those census tracts north and west of Columbia, exhibit low to moderate changes in sales prices. Only one census tract (601203), located southeast of Columbia, showed a decrease in sales price. Neighborhoods or census tracts directly within and around Columbia show the least stability, especially those census tracts south of Columbia and along the County’s southern border. Given that this pattern has repeatedly resulted in our analyses, we recommend that the County further assess conditions in these census tracts to verify our findings. Although Columbia is often among the top 10 "Best Places to Live," the highest concentration of tracts at risk of decline are within the boundaries of Columbia. Census tract 6067.04 is the bottom-performing tract, is located in Columbia’s Owen Brown Village area a community with some of the most dated housing stock in Columbia that also has crime issues. There are also several tracts at risk of decline in Columbia’s Long Reach Village area where there are plans to revamp the center, which was declared a blight zone by the Howard County Council. Other tracts at risk of decline are in Clarksville, Laurel and Elkridge. However, with the exception of Clarksville, these areas also consist of stable tracts and those experiencing improvement or upgrade.