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Surprised To See Tacoma On A List Of 'Most Gentrified' ZIP Codes? These Residents Aren't

"Theater District Light Rail Stop" by Paul Sableman is licensed under CC by 2.0

A swath of Tacoma has made one company's list of the "most gentrified" ZIP codes in the United States.

ZIP code 98402 in downtown Tacoma is ranked number 20 on the list by the apartment search company RentCafé, which used Census data to track spikes in housing income, home prices, and education levels between 2000 and 2016. 

The Tacoma ZIP code saw housing costs rise 103 percent over that period while household income increased 83 percent.

The only other West Coast neighborhood in the top 20 was 90014 in Los Angeles, which topped the list at number one. 

KNKX spoke to people who live and work in 98402, which covers downtown Tacoma's Theater District and Museum District.

Few were surprised to see their neighborhood earn the designation.

Certainly not Cat Melaunie, a teacher and freelance writer who was moving out of her downtown apartment last week due to a rent hike. She was headed to the neighboring Stadium District.

"When I moved into that studio, it was $600," she said. "And two years later, it's $1,000 for me to live there. And that doesn't make any sense. My income didn't go up." 

When Brock Leach opened his downtown bar The Mix a decade ago, it was one of only a couple of businesses on the block. 

Since then, he's seen shops sprout on all sides. But he's also seen some longtime patrons and local artists show up less frequently as they've moved farther away. 

"It's a slow change," he said. "But in 10 years, it's been quite a change."

David Strong, a pastor who runs a local nonprofit, said he would have been surprised to see a Tacoma neighborhood on the list when he first moved to Western Washington in 1994. 

But not after the changes he's seen in recent years. 

"There are more people that I would consider middle class, working middle class, that I know of who are struggling with housing a lot more," he said. "Some folks that I was surprised to learn were sleeping in their cars now." 

Strong has managed to stay downtown, but he's not sure how long that will last.

"I'm probably two more rent hikes that I won't be living here any longer," he said. "And I have a decent income." 

Will James reports on ideology, covering how information spreads, how beliefs form, and how those beliefs interact with the real world.