Local News

'Somewhere better to live:' Residents upset over gentrification of Durham neighborhood

Posted July 16, 2018 6:51 p.m. EDT
Updated July 16, 2018 11:01 p.m. EDT

— The ongoing battle over the character old homes bring to a neighborhood and the desire for something new was front and center Monday night in Durham.

In the Walltown neighborhood, there is a mix of smaller homes and larger houses worth as much as $500,000. Residents in the area say they are being forced out of the neighborhood, because they can no longer afford to live there.

“The people of this house right here, before they moved in, there were some other people living there because first [the rent] was $1,200, and then they raised it to $1,400, and they said they had to find somewhere better to live,” said resident Myka Walker.

Residents, some of whom have lived in the Walltown neighborhood for decades, say they can no longer afford the high rent prices in the area. With its proximity to Duke University, the neighborhood attracts a mix of college students, millennials and professionals.

Moses Paramour said he rented the same house for 23 years before he was forced to leave.

"They kicked me out and said 'you have to go,'" Paramour said.

Paramour said his rent kept going up before the owners decided they wanted to sell, forcing him to move down the street. The home he lived in for more than two decades was torn down and built back up for another family who could afford it.

A few houses away, Paramour says the rent continues to rise. Neighbors have concerns that, as Durham becomes a hotspot, the problem will only get worse.

Monday night, neighbors met to try to keep Walltown affordable and figure out how to maintain the integrity and the important history of the neighborhood.

"There's a rich culture in the places. Many of them were only places that black folks could live for decades," said resident Jonathan Wilson Hargrove.

The Walltown Neighborhood Association is considering a couple of options, including a planning tool called a neighborhood protection overlay that would put some rules in place for the area.

Monday night, they also considered the possibility of an historical protection overlay, to recognize Walltown as an historical neighborhood and put some protections in place.