A decade of data tells a story of how Charlottesville’s neighborhoods are changing

A aerial view of a boulevard with roofs of buildings

Charlottesville is changing.

Some of it is easy to see, with the constant construction of luxury offices and apartments and the hard-won redevelopment of public and low-income housing communities. Older homes are being renovated anew and new neighbors are arriving every day. 

But many of the changes aren’t as visible as orange detour signs, backhoes or moving trucks.

Over the past decade, the percentage of Black residents has shrunk, even as Charlottesville’s population overall has become slightly more racially and ethnically diverse. Overall, city residents are older and richer than they were. And the city is an increasingly expensive place to live. As new data shows, the rich are getting richer while the poor are getting pushed out.

Using data sets from the U.S. Census, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) Project and the Charlottesville Open Data Portal, we’ve put numbers to some of these harder-to-see — or entirely invisible — shifts.

These data provide a granular look at the city’s shifting demographics as a whole since 2009, and by neighborhood since 2013. Some data go back to 1945.

What these data do not tell are the longer stories of the Monacan Indian Nation, whose people have lived here long before the creation of the city of Charlottesville or the collection of this kind of data.

Nor do the data tell the stories of the enslaved and later freed laborers who quite literally made the city and were sometimes not even considered full people to be counted in the Census, which was first conducted in 1790. (The Descendants of Enslaved Communities at UVA, and the Holsinger Studio Portrait Project, among other initiatives, are telling those stories.)

Over the next few months, Charlottesville Tomorrow will release a series of stories, one about each of Charlottesville’s 19 neighborhoods. The city’s Neighborhood Development Services department uses these 19 planning areas for internal project purposes, and they’ve served as our guide as well.

Through history and a variety of data visualizations, including interactive and animated graphs, the stories will illustrate some of how Charlottesville has changed over the years. We hope that our communities will use the reports to better understand our past and present for the sake of the future. We’re calling this project “Changing Charlottesville.”

The series will also introduce an interactive dashboard so you can explore as much of the data as you’d like, digging into maps with the city’s bike lanes or how much it costs to rent a three-bedroom apartment, for example.

Some of what the data shows is striking to see laid out in graphs and numbers. While neighborhoods like 10th and Page and Ridge Street have seen extraordinary changes in the past decade, others, like Lewis Mountain, have not. Still others, like Fifeville and Belmont, experienced seismic shifts a generation or two ago, and the data show what’s happened since.

We’re sharing this information as the city undergoes a major rezoning effort, one that seeks to increase both density and affordability throughout the city. A new zoning ordinance will alter  what will be possible and where in the future. Here’s a bit about where the rezoning stands now.

Bookmark this page and subscribe to our free emails to get updates as we add neighborhoods and data features to this project.

How we created the Changing Charlottesville dashboard

Each story in the series examines some of what the data show about changes in Charlottesville’s population and housing. The analysis of that data is informed by local history, original reporting by Charlottesville Tomorrow, the newsroom’s story archive, and reporting by area news outlets that have been around longer than we have. (We’ll share a list of sources when we release the full dashboard this fall.) While the stories focus on what is unique to each neighborhood, readers will be able to use interactive tools for self-guided learning and research.

Changing Charlottesville is a collaboration between Charlottesville Tomorrow and graduate students in the University of Virginia’s School of Data Science. Each year, SDS graduate students carry out a capstone project with an organization outside of the university. Organizations suggest a problem that students, who serve as a consulting team, tackle with their data science expertise.

A group of four students, Evan Mitchell, Malvika Kuncham, Xinlun Cheng and Spencer Bozsik, and one faculty advisor, Jonathan Kropko, accepted Charlottesville Tomorrow’s project submission in 2021: a look at housing affordability and changing demographics throughout the city. Over the course of the academic year, from fall to spring 2022, the students researched, cleaned and combined public data sets in order to effectively represent the impacts of the housing crisis through visualizations. Siri Russell, associate dean of diversity, equity and inclusion in the School of Data Science also served as an advisor on the initial project.

Charlottesville Tomorrow reporter Erin O’Hare and Evan Mitchell, have since collaborated on this series of stories, translating and contextualizing the data so that anyone can understand it. The series is edited by Angilee Shah, with data review by Jonathan Kropko, and comes alive with images by Andrew Shurtleff and design work by Ashley Harper.

Here are a few things to know about the people who live in Charlottesville

The population of the city has gone up.

According to demographic data from the U.S. Census, the city’s population increased by nearly 6,000 people from 2009 to 2020, to 47,200 people. (These are the most up-to-date numbers; American Community Survey data from 2021 will not be available until December 2022.)

A graph with the title “Population by Year for Charlottesville, Virginia” shows a purple line moving up an axis for “Population” from under 42k before 2010 to above 47k in 2020.

While most employed people work in education and health care — the University of Virginia is the largest employer in the city — others work retail. Still others self-identify as working in what the Census calls professional fields, such as scientific, management, administrative and waste management services; and in what the Census calls entertainment fields, such as art or food service. Over time, fewer people who live in Charlottesville work in transportation (particularly in public transit) and agriculture.

An animation of a bar chart shows the change in industries of Charlottesville residents over time.

The Census data shows a decline in college-age residents by percentage and population count, despite UVA increasing its enrollment every year. It is unclear why this might be occurring; it could indicate that more UVA students are choosing to live on campus, or it could also be that students are identifying themselves on the Census as residents of their hometowns rather than as residents of Charlottesville, as the Census explains.

Household incomes have gone up.

Charlottesville households are more affluent than they were a decade ago, according to the data.

However, this does not necessarily mean that the income of all long-term residents has risen significantly. As the Pew Research Center noted in 2018, “for most U.S. workers, real wages have barely budged in decades.” The increase in Charlottesville household incomes could also indicate that lower-income and impoverished residents are being priced out of the area as wealthier residents have moved in.

More about wealth

In 2009, about 13% of the city’s population had household incomes of more than $100,000. By 2020, that percentage had climbed to over 30%. Nearly one-third of the city’s households earn more than $100,000 per year, with one-third of those households — nearly one tenth of all city households — report more than $200,000 in income per year.

The data also show a decrease in the percentage of the population making less than $10,000. This could be the result of a few different things, including more jobs in higher-wage sectors, people who make less income moving out of the city, or UVA students (who are often categorized as low-income or no-income, even if their families have wealth) increasingly claiming residency in their hometowns rather than in Charlottesville.

Despite the overall rise in income in the city, there are serious disparities in whose income, and whose wealth, is growing. U.S. Census data from 2020 shows disparities in income by race in Charlottesville. The Census tracks annual household incomes by the race of the primary owner or renter, or householders. The median incomes by race are:

  • $76,015 for white householders;
  • $49,265 for Hispanic or Latino householders;
  • $35,927 for Black householders;
  • $30,587 for American Indian householders; 
  • and $29,313 for Asian householders.

As a result, the rising cost of living, particularly housing affordability, most significantly affects Black and Hispanic/Latino residents in our community, according to a 2020 report by the Charlottesville Low Income Housing Coalition. That report does not specifically mention Asian or American Indian Communities in its analysis.

An animation of a bar chart shows changes in the distribution of household income over time.

Racial and ethnic diversity has increased — slightly.

As Charlottesville’s overall population has increased, it has become more racially and ethnically diverse. But not by much.

By number, there are more people of every race and ethnicity tracked by the Census, except for the Pacific Islander population, whose numbers increased throughout the late 2010s before decreasing by 2020.

By percentage of the population, Asian, Hispanic and Latino, and American Indian residents, as well as people who are bi- or multi-racial, make up slightly larger percentages of Charlottesville’s communities each year. 

In turn, Black and white residents make up slightly smaller percentages of Charlottesville’s population. The percentages of the city’s Black and white residents have fallen by 1.5% and 4%, respectively.

An animation of a bar chart shows changes in the population by race and ethnicity over time.

Home prices are high — and climbing.

Residential sale prices skyrocketed in 2001 and they remain high.

Before that, residential sale prices in Charlottesville had been relatively steady since 1960. 

 screenshot of a Sept. 24 tweet by @everysalecville that reads, “723 VILLAGE RD, sold on 2022-09-22 for $510,000. Zoned R-1, assessed at $366,300. $251 per square foot. Last sold in 2013 for $270,000.”
The @everysalecville bot, created by Josh Carp, tracks home sales using city data. This tweet, on Sept. 24, 2022, shows the sale of a single family home in Johnson Village. Screenshot

The median home sale price graph shows two spikes. One, in April 2008, is concurrent with the bursting of the housing bubble and the failure of subprime mortgages. However, current median home prices in the city still surpass the 2008 peak when adjusting for inflation: $392,000 in 2008 versus $410,000 in December 2021.

The other spike occurs in summer 2021, likely linked to the number of people relocating to Charlottesville to work remote jobs, bringing big city salaries with them, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

What’s more, homes are regularly selling for tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of dollars or more, above their assessed value. The @everysalecville Twitter bot built by resident Josh Carp uses city data to track every residential and commercial property sale in the city, and paints a picture of a hot market. Anecdotally, homebuyers say they’re offering similar amounts over asking price — that is, if they’re able.

A line graph shows residential sales prices rising from about $50,000 in 1950 to above $400,000 after 2020.
Prices have been adjusted for inflation to 2022 dollars. Only sales for properties zoned as residential (urban/suburban) and multifamily are included.

Home prices have continued to rise as the number of homes sold has stagnated.

In addition to a restrictive zoning code that has long limited the types of housing that can be built throughout the city, the lack of housing inventory in the city is likely contributing to the price increases. According to the Charlottesville Area Association of Realtors (CAAR), there were 60 active listings in quarter one of 2021, and even fewer, 36, in quarter one of 2022. Things weren’t much different by 2022’s second quarter, which ended with 52 active listings on the market.

A multi-line graph shows home sales rising from 1950 to about 2008, then falling sharply and rising again to 2020. The graph shows all sales, single family, two family, and multi-family and other types of home sales.

Rents are high and rising, too.

More than half of Charlottesville residents rent their homes, but reliable, accurate data about how much they pay doesn’t exist.

Websites like Redfin, Zillow, Zumper and frequently issue reports about rent prices, but those reports are based on their assessments of their own data — i.e. listings on their own sites — which do not encompass all rentals in the city. 

The U.S. Office of Housing and Urban Development’s Fair Market Rent calculation for the Charlottesville area for 2022 is a calculation of the lower end of rents for standard-quality housing, a number used by the federal government to issue housing vouchers. Fair market rent for a two-bedroom home is $1,264 per month, with studios and one-bedrooms costing more than $1,000 per month. This number is “very high” rent compared to the national average, and more expensive than 95% of other areas in Virginia.

But fair market rent is a calculation, not necessarily the reality.

From 2011 to 2018, Charlottesville rents increased by 42%, from an average of $931 per month to $1,325 per month, according to a report compiled by the Charlottesville Low Income Housing Coalition and released in 2020.