United States

The District Has Experienced the Most Intense Gentrification in the Country, Study Says

Washington, D.C.'s neighborhoods have experienced intense gentrification, resulting in the displacement of more than 20,000 African American residents from 2000 to 2013, a study released Tuesday said.

The National Community Reinvestment Coalition's study of that 13-year period found that the District had the highest percentage of gentrifying neighborhoods out of all the cities analyzed.

Washington also experienced the highest "intensity" of gentrification in the country, according to the researchers who examined changing housing markets, population demographics, and levels in income and education in major U.S. cities.

Gentrification is the social and economic process in which economic development, new residents and rising housing costs can drive out longtime neighborhood residents, disrupt pre-existing cultural dynamics and transform communities.

Among the study's key takeaways were that 40 percent of D.C.'s lower-income neighborhoods experienced displacement because of both development and increased housing costs and that 32 percent of Washington's black population was displaced between 1990 and 2010.

The study's authors — Jason Richardson, Bruce Mitchell and Juan Franco — said that black displacement in Washington is especially "notable" and that seven cities, including Washington, accounted for half of the country's gentrification.

They also provided examples of communities that have experienced tremendous demographic transformations.

"In Arlington, Virginia, a large rental community of 3,000 mostly Hispanic immigrants drawn by a robust Washington, D.C., economy is uprooted when the property is sold, bulldozed and replaced by a mix of luxury and affordable apartments, which are neither truly affordable nor plentiful for the former tenants," the authors wrote.

And in D.C.'s Shaw neighborhood, historically Black institutions have been forced to change, like the Lincoln Temple United Church of Christ, which dissolved in 2018 "as its membership drops to just 20 congregants."

The authors also explained that gentrification is controversial because it results in "cultural displacement" when newcomers' social norms replace those of older residents and erase "historically and culturally significant institutions for a community."

"It can disrupt the familiar and established ties of a place, creating a disorienting new locale," the study said. "For people displaced as the neighborhood becomes unaffordable, this is more than just nostalgia or discomfort with the unfamiliar. Often, they must accept longer commutes and a disruption of the support structures provided by their old neighbors and family."

Gentrification has been a long-standing problem for the District, which has seen a population boom in the past decade, though that growth has slowed recently.

Cities like Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia and San Francisco were also included in the NCRC study.

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