Starting on May 1, the northern Philadelphia neighborhood of Kensington will begin its first ever restaurant week. An event usually reserved for more affluent neighborhoods, such an event being held in Kensington and its surrounding neighborhoods must mean that this section of north Philadelphia is experiencing a period of revival and renewal.
Since 2007, nine new restaurants have opened up and become successful in the commercial regions of Kensington and its surrounding neighborhoods. Many business owners “under the El” and in other sections of Kensington agree that the region is turning around for the better and have not seen any dramatic effects from the current economic climate. Many residents and business owners attribute this to an increase of interest in the area, and subsequently a rise in population and property value. But the statistics on housing and property value in Kensington, both previous and present, tell a different story.
According to the most recent census data from 2000, the population of Kensington is just under 15,000 people, and this count is down by about seven percent from the previous census data in 1990. Other statistics about Kensington tell us residents are leaving the area. Out of the total amount of properties, houses, and buildings in Kensington (almost 8,000), just under 25 percent of these properties have been abandoned and vacated by their respective owners or residents.
When analyzed, crime statistics can provide a possible answer as to why residents have begun to leave their homes in Kensington. According to 2006 data, over 1,000 serious incidents of crime were reported. This statistic included 163 cases of burglary and 112 cases of aggravated assaults. Residential burglaries totaled 134, and local businesses were not safe either, with almost three dozen cases of robberies and burglaries targeted at commercial businesses.
While these census statistics can only show us the facts for previous years in Kensington, current statistics for housing and property values in the area only help to reinforce the statistics of previous years and suggest that the 2010 census data for Kensington will be for the worse instead of the better.
From January to March 2009 in Kensington, the average listing price for houses in the area was $175,915. However, the median sale price was only $20,000. These numbers are based on the sale of 205 houses in the Kensington area, and they are down from the previous year. In the previous year, the median sale prices for houses in Kensington were double what this year, topping out at $40,000. That’s a 50 percent decrease in just one year.
In the past nine months, 372 houses have been sold in Kensington, and while this may sound like a lot for a neighborhood with a population under 15,000, it is still a decrease from last year. When January through March of 2008 is compared to the current year, sales of houses are down by 34.5 percent. This numbers represent the hard truth about Kensington, despite the optimism of many residents and business owners in the area.
When property values in Kensington are analyzed through a larger scope, the picture doesn’t get any better. Compared to the city of Philadelphia as a whole, the Kensington median sale prices are over $40,000 less. While of course this number can be interpreted in different way because of population factors, when nothing but the amount of decrease in median sales in observed, the disparity becomes clearer. Since 2000, the city of Philadelphia has seen a decrease in median property sales of 26.3 percent, while the neighborhood of Kensington has seen a decrease of 50.0 percent. This means that the rate of decline of property sales in Kensington is nearly double that of the city as a whole. With the decrease of property value and sales prices dropping quickly and dramatically, Kensington and its residents can only expect more decline and decrease in the near future.