Diversity, poverty down in city


The citys appearance endures constant change. Residential developments saturate Old Town and an outsize high school impresses a college campus panorama.

But another element of its image is also in flux: the citys racial and ethnic diversity.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Alexandrias population became less varied racially and ethnically between 1999 and 2006. The study indicates a small drop in the black and Hispanic population, while the citys white population increased significantly almost 17 percent.

The U.S. Census Bureaus American Community Survey, which is meant to bridge the 10-year gap between national censuses, was presented at the city counsels work session Jan. 22.

The citys goal in the 1990s was to increase residential ownership and decrease rentals, Councilman Rob Krupicka said. At the time, 60 percent of the city was rental, Krupicka said. We are now at about 50-50. That split is better for community stability but it also impacts the affordability of our city for middle income workers.

According to the survey, the average household income in 1999 was $38,092 for blacks, $45,527 for Hispanics and $69,032 for whites, making non-whites more likely to be displaced by high housing prices. As costs in Alexandria have gone up, some residents have moved to more affordable housing options in other parts of the region, Krupicka said. 

Though diversity has decreased, so has poverty. And, according to the census, the average household income has increased for all three groups: Black and Hispanic families enjoyed increases of 18 and 23 percent, respectively, compared with white households 39 percent increase.

The decline in poverty reflects our strong economy and job base which has benefited all segments of the community, Krupicka said. It also reflects the popularity of living in Alexandria, which has helped fuel the rapid increase in the cost of Alexandria housing.

Diversity has long been a staple of the city. Alexandria was recently named one of the 100 best places for young people to live by the Promise Alliance, which stated that the community is marked by diversity, a large immigrant population, and a public school population made up of children from 88 countries who speak 56 distinct languages.