Arden Arcade, a patchwork neighborhood of mansions, car lots and aging apartments between north Sacramento and Carmichael, saw the largest one-year jump in poverty of any large place in California, according to newly released U.S. census data.
About one in four residents in Arden Arcade qualifies as poor, an increase of close to 8 percentage points between 2015 and 2016. While the poverty rate in Arden Arcade has fluctuated over time, the recent figures are the highest in at least a decade.
The startling jump in Arden Arcade’s estimated poverty rates – from 19.9 percent in 2015 to 27.7 percent in 2016 – was the largest of any of the nearly 140 California cities and census-designated places covered by Thursday’s release of the U.S. census’s 2016 American Community Survey 1-year report.
The survey has a margin of error of 4.7 percentage points for the Arden Arcade data and an annual sample size of 3.5 million addresses across the United States and Puerto Rico. It is conducted in every county in the nation.
Nationally, the poverty level declined slightly. In Sacramento County as a whole, it remained about the same, with 17 percent of residents falling below the threshold of $12,228 for an individual and $24,563 for a family of four.
The specific causes of rising poverty in the older, unincorporated suburb were not included in the census report. But people who work in the community said the recent influx of thousands of Afghan, Iraqi, Syrian and Russian refugees may be contributing, along with rising rental prices in surrounding areas that may be pushing more low-income renters into Arden Arcade.
Danielle Lawrence, director of nonprofit Mutual Assistance Network, said the population in the area can be “transitory,” and that wealthy areas such as Sierra Oaks often overshadow the problems of less well-known areas.
“It is definitely a neighborhood that has a mix of struggling business and mix of struggling families and a mix of families that are doing well. The problem is there is not an interconnection between all that,” said Lawrence. “I do think that what is happening is that you are seeing a lot of people who are being priced out (of other areas) moving to the neighborhood.”
Many of the roughly 40-43,000 refugees who have come to Sacramento since 1980 have been resettled in the Arden Arcade area in part because housing is relatively affordable there, said Kirt Lewis, director of World Relief, Sacramento’s largest resettlement agency. The neighborhood has likely received the largest percentage of arrivals over the past seven years, Lewis said, noting that last year his agency resettled the majority of new arrivals outside of Arden Arcade.
Median gross rent in 2016 in Arden Arcade was $897, up a little from 2015. It consumed an estimated 36.3 percent of household income, a slight increase from the year before.
That compares to a median gross rent of $1,118 in Sacramento County, which represents an estimated 32.5 percent of household income.
“When refugees initially arrive, all of them are living below the poverty level and on public assistance,” Lewis said.
Assemblyman Ken Cooley, who represents the area, said he believes that while the influx of refugees may be contributing to the poverty numbers, he sees those families pushing to improve their circumstances as they settle into a new country.
“You’ve got families who are ... trying to get their kids on the education train,” said Cooley.
Sacramento County Supervisor Susan Peters, who represents Arden Arcade, was not available for comment on the census report.
In Arden Arcade, the affordable housing prices may be linked to the quality of apartments. The area was largely developed after World War II with housing for those stationed at the nearby McClellan Air Force Base. Over time, scores of inexpensive apartment buildings joined the mix. Some residents say those complexes and an influx of businesses such as liquor and check cashing stores have led to a decline in the neighborhood.
“There has been, we think, some bad zoning allowed in Arden Arcade,” said Carl Dolk, head of community group Advocates for Arden Arcade. “It has created a lot of adverse reactions from neighbors.”
Covering about 18 square miles, with about 106,000 people, the area has 38 of the 180 rental buildings on the county’s problem property registry, according to a Bee investigation. The Arden Arcade complexes have more than 2,000 units, one-third of the county’s most troubled rental housing.
According to the census, about 56 percent of the housing units in Arden Arcade were renter-occupied in 2016 . That’s the highest rate for the Sacramento-region areas covered by Thursday’s report.
That compares to about 53.3 percent of Arden Arcade housing units that were renter-occupied in 2014.
In Sacramento County as a whole, about 45 percent of housing units are renter-occupied, about the same as in 2014.
The Bee’s Philip Reese and Brad Branan contributed to this report.
How the community’s poverty rate and income compared to Sacramento County in 2016:
Household median income
Two or more races
Source: U.S. Census Bureau. All races are non-Hispanic.