MARCH 22, 2019
WASHINGTON, DC – The District is the most gentrified city in the nation in the 21st century, according to a report.
A study from the National Community Reinvestment Coalition has D.C. as the runaway “winner,” with 40 percent of neighborhoods in the city gentrified. San Diego was a distant second with 29 percent, followed by New York City at 24 percent.
The term gentrification refers to the effects of massive levels of new investment in low-income neighborhoods, which raises home values and often forces residents who have lived in a neighborhood all their lives to move out because they can no longer afford to live there.
“We’ve shown, with census and other data, that the influx of new, wealthier people into once struggling neighborhoods also drove out more than 135,000 people from a handful of booming cities,” Jason Richardson, NCRC’s Director of Research and one of the study’s authors, said in a statement. “We’ve also shown that revitalization of struggling neighborhoods is unevenly distributed. The big investments that fuel gentrification and cultural displacement didn’t reach most of the nation’s poorest neighborhoods and rural areas.”
The study specifically singled out the Shaw neighborhood in D.C., a traditionally black community that saw skyrocketing prices in recent decades.
“[This] result[ed] in the cultural displacement of the congregation of the Lincoln Temple United Church of Christ, a staging ground for the 1963 Civil Rights March on Washington,” the study notes. “When incoming residents did not join the congregation, its membership collapsed. By 2018, the regular congregation had shrunk to just 20 families, resulting in the closure of the historic community anchor.”
The study argues that revitalization and investment in communities doesn’t have to result in gentrification if it is done right. Communities can protect low-income residents by offering affordable housing options to those who have lived in a neighborhood for decades, the authors argue.
“Policies like the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) and promotion of affordable housing goals should help diminish the cultural displacement that accompanies gentrification,” Richardson said. “But strong national policies and local action is also essential. NCRC works with local coalitions to help them encourage lending and investments that maintain affordable housing and commercial options for existing residents and businesses. Inclusive zoning rules, tax and rent controls, opportunity zones, split rate taxes and other policies are not exclusive of investment. They create the circumstances for inclusive neighborhood revitalization that preserve the vitality and character of neighborhoods.”