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Gentrification in dc


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Confronting ongoing gentrification of our community is a big part of the challenge to promote a better quality of life for all, without displacing long-term residents. The attached pdf is an introduction to Gentrification in DC by Dr. Johanna Bockman, a faculty member of the Sociology and Anthropology Department, George Mason University. Dr. Bockman, who lives in Ward 6, is also a blogger: Sociology in My Neighborhood: DC Ward 6.

According to the Report on State of Human Rights in DC, February 2012 (footnotes omitted):

"According to a 2011 report by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, African-Americans continue to face rampant discrimination in housing and employment in D.C. The report, ―Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing in the District of Columbia,‖ notes that landlords still often refuse to rent to African-Americans and there are only a few subsidized housing units west of Rock Creek Park, a predominantly white area. Some analyses of national housing policies and the process of gentrification have described this process as neoliberal restructuring of our political economy, concluding that these policies are deliberate and driven by the growing political power of the big corporate sector, especially real estate developers. Moreover, racial discrimination in housing has been identified as a component of the process of gentrification. The recent wave of foreclosures has reignited concerns about racial discrimination. Has Gentrification driven ―ethnic cleansing, the displacement of people of color, in DC ? Whether intentional or not, historic and ongoing gentrification has driven out Black residents, particularly middle/working class families, who as a result of housing policies and rising rents, could no longer afford to live in the District. Forty years ago, 71% of D.C. residents were Black, now (2010) only 50.7% are Black (Demographics of Washington, D.C.,,_D.C.). Growing income inequality in the District is consistent with these changes in demographics." This report is an assessment of the human rights record of our local and federal governments since DC self-declared itself as a Human Rights City, on December 10, 2008, the first U.S. city to do so. Our District government and elected officials received Fs for Poverty reduction and income equality and welfare of children.

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Gentrification in dc

  1. 1. Gentrification in DC Johanna Bockman Sociology and Anthropology Department George Mason University Blog: Sociology in My Neighborhood: DC Ward 6 March 2, 2014
  2. 2. DC Data • Population – Today: 646,449; African American = 50.1%; White = 42.9% – 1980: 638,333; African American = 70.3%, White = 26.9% • Income – Today: Median household income in DC = $64,267 • Today: Median household income in US = $53,046 • Today: Median household income in Washington Metro Area = $107,500 This is Area Median Income (AMI), the number used by the DC government to calculate income limits for affordable housing. The artificially high number means that those making up to $32K are considered very low income and thus more people are competing than would if the DC median was used ($19K as very low income). – 1979: Median household income in DC = $16,211 • 1979: Median household income in US = $16,841 • Poverty – Today: Poverty rate = 18.5% (US = 14.9%) – 1979: Poverty rate = 18.6% (US = 12.4%) Census Quick Facts, District of Columbia 2013:; 1980 Census:
  3. 3. Definition of Gentrification • Originally, the replacement of an existing population by a “gentry” (affluent middle-class households). • The replacement of lower-income residents and businesses with higher-income residents and businesses. – Part of a much larger economic, social, and spatial restructuring of the city for a new class, affluent middle-class households. – This restructuring continues racial segregation.
  4. 4. DC Racial Segregation today: A Divided City
  5. 5. Common Gentrification Narratives 1. Gentrification is a new trend. 2. Gentrification is a DC trend. 3. Gentrification is a costless, positive trend. 4. Gentrification is inevitable.
  6. 6. 1. Gentrification isn’t new • First wave: 1950s to 1970s – Broad displacement: Urban renewal in Southwest DC – Individual owner-occupiers and real estate agents in Capitol Hill and Georgetown • Second wave: late 1970s to late 1980s – More corporate, more developers, public-private partnerships – Wealthier professional gentrifiers • Third Wave: mid-1990s-now – Large-scale corporate developers of new buildings. – Wealthier business gentrifiers, including private equity firms buying local businesses.
  7. 7. Gentrification Narratives 1. Gentrification is a new trend. 2. Gentrification is a DC trend. 3. Gentrification is a costless, positive trend. 4. Gentrification is inevitable.
  8. 8. 2. Gentrification is global. • In the 1970s and 1980s, cities experience severe fiscal crisis. – In 1975, NYC almost defaulted. – Federal government reduced funding to cities. • Global urban strategy – Inter-urban competition: Cities compete with each other for the new class and for corporate investments. – Global hierarchy of cities.
  9. 9. Gentrification Narratives 1. Gentrification is a new trend. 2. Gentrification is a DC trend. 3. Gentrification is a costless, positive trend. 4. Gentrification is inevitable.
  10. 10. 3. Gentrification is costly • Individual costs – homelessness – loss of community, mental and physical illness • City-wide costs: a Divided City – Reorganization of city for the wealthy. – Displacement and destruction of communities. – Increased inequality. – Revanchism: vengeful attitude by professional middle class against those who have “taken our city from us”: African Americans, the working class, the poor, recent immigrants, and so on.
  11. 11. Gentrification Narratives 1. Gentrification is a new trend. 2. Gentrification is a DC trend. 3. Gentrification is a costless, positive trend. 4. Gentrification is inevitable.
  12. 12. 4. Gentrification isn’t inevitable • Government has always been involved with gentrification. – Cities as growth machines: elites as boosters for growth, within which city governments seek higher revenues and disregard low-income needs. – Logan and Molotch’s Urban Fortunes: exchange values and speculation privileged over residents’ use values. • Governments, businesses, social movements, and residents have successfully minimized displacement at some times and not others. – Positive examples from the past: Shaw’s MICCO – Today: Empower DC, ONE DC, Displacement Free Zones
  13. 13. Suggested Readings • Fullilove, Mindy. 2004. Root Shock: How Tearing Up City Neighborhoods Hurts America, and What We Can Do About it. One World Books. • Gillette, Howard. 1995. Between Justice & Beauty: Race, Planning, and the Failure of Urban Policy in Washington, D.C. U of Pennsylvania Press. • Logan, John R. and Harvey L. Molotch. 1987. Urban Fortunes: The Political Economy of Place. UC Press. • Marcuse, Peter. 1985. “Gentrification, abandonment and displacement: connections, causes and policy responses,” Journal of Urban and Contemporary Law 28: 195-240. • Sassen, Saskia. 2005. “The Global City: Introducing a New Concept,” Brown Journal of World Affairs 11(2): 27-43. • Shaw, Kate and Libby Porter, eds. 2009. Whose Urban Renaissance? An International Comparison of Urban Regeneration Policies. Routledge. • Slater, Tom. 2011. “Gentrification of the City” or “Gentrification and the Displacement Question.” • Steinberg, Stephen. 2009. “The Myth of Concentrated Poverty.”