Pages tagged "gentrification"
Long-time Shaw residents are accustomed to being greeted by the sounds of Chuck Brown, Rare Essence, or Mambo Sauce as they pass the intersection of 7th and Florida. Donald Campbell has been playing Go-Go music - the D.C. musical specialty that "just goes and goes, the lovechild of blues, funk, salsa, gospel, and soul" - outside his Metro PCS store there for 25 years now. But earlier this month, passersby found the corner eerily quiet. T-Mobile had ordered Donald to turn off his music after a resident in the new luxury apartment complex across the street complained about the noise. Unsurprisingly, these complaints only applied to the go-go music being played by the Black-owned corner business, and not the pricey new beer garden next door, which also plays music outside, and at later hours.
Our community quickly rallied together to defend the cultural hallmark of the neighborhood. An online petition to bring back the music garnered over 80,000 signatures, while the hashtag #DontMuteDC went viral on social media. A few days later, performers and demonstrators packed the streets surrounding the store, both in defense of Donald Campbell, and in unapologetic celebration of D.C. music and culture.
This attempt at literally silencing local tradition struck many as painfully emblematic of the ongoing gentrification battle in Shaw and the District. At the same time that the city tries to immortalize its roots with murals and plaques to Go-Go artists and neighborhood heritage trails, the real-life Washingtonians who contributed to the birth of the musical movement are being displaced. What is being preserved is the ghost of past culture, rather than current living culture and the people keeping it alive.
This is what We Act Radio co-founder Kymone Freeman refers to when he says, unequivocally, "Gentrification is cultural genocide." The word "gentrification" often serves as a euphemism for what is really going on: displacement. It focuses attention on what is supposedly being "gained" through the change - perhaps luxury condos, coffee shops, yoga studios, organic healthfood stores, organic dog-food stores. In this way, the term distracts from what is being lost - affordable housing; laundromats, barbershops, mom-and-pop restaurants, and all manner of Black-owned businesses; local art, music, traditions, and sense of community.
The irony is that gentrifiers are often very interested in the concept of cultural authenticity - "real" cultural products that bring the excitement of the exotic into "their" adopted neighborhoods. They fetishize the customs and even the perceived "grittiness" of a neighborhood, but do not want to have to deal with any of the actual (likely working-class Black and brown) people whose aesthetics they covet. Therefore, local culture is commodified and packaged as novelty products for gentrifiers to consume, while the lives of long-time residents are de-prioritized. Inevitably, over time culture is watered down until it has been erased entirely or turned into a grotesque, empty caricature of its former self.
Resisting cultural erasure will always be an important component of resisting displacement. The incident at 7th and Florida demonstrates some newcomers' appalling lack of respect for D.C. culture, but it also demonstrates the ferocity of our community when we come together and stand up for each other. The uproar surrounding go-go's removal from the neighborhood made national news, and reached the ears of T-mobile's CEO, who reversed the order. Today, Donald Campbell's music is blasting through Shaw once again.
By Mindy Fullilove
In 2016, Dominic Moulden, Derek Hyra and I launched our IRL project, “Making the Just City: An Examination of Organizing for Equity and Health in Shaw and Orange, NJ,” a neighborhood-level study of gentrification.
For years, we have each been aware of the gentrification of specific neighborhoods in key American cities: Harlem and Bedford-Stuyvesant in New York, Shaw in Washington DC, Downtown in Los Angeles, and Five Points in Denver. In some cities, like Hoboken, NJ, it had been going on long enough that we have seen its slow but inexorable transformation from a factory city to a bedroom community housing financiers who work on Wall Street. In other places gentrification was just beginning and we wondered what might be done to prevent the seemingly inevitable displacement of people and the annihilation of local culture. It was this neighborhood-level view of gentrification that inspired our study.
Soon after we started, however, a slew of reports emerged that made it clear that not only was the process of gentrification was affecting cities everywhere: Boston, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Durham, Charlotte, Atlanta, Miami, New Orleans, Chicago, Oklahoma City, Minneapolis, Houston, San Francisco, Oakland, Seattle, and Portland. In fact, the National Low-Income Housing Coalition 2017 report noted that there was no state in which a person working fulltime at minimum wage could afford a two-bedroom apartment at the fair market rate.
|Barry Farm, SE||Encampment in Houston, TX|
We realized that what we were thinking of as a “neighborhood problem” was, in fact, a national housing crisis, which would require a national solution. At the level of national housing policy, we are in a difficult situation. As noted in the Atlantic in 2017,Federal housing policy transfers lots of money to rich homeowners, a bit less to middle-class homeowners, and practically nothing to poor renters. Half of all poor American families who rent spend more than 50 percent of their income on housing costs. In May, rental income as a share of GDP hit an all-time high.
Meanwhile, in 2015, the federal government spent $71 billion on the MID, and households earning more than $100,000 receive almost 90 percent of the benefits. Since the value of the deduction rises as the cost of one’s mortgage increases, the policy essentially pays upper-middle-class and rich households to buy larger and more expensive homes. At the same time, because national housing policy’s benefits don’t accumulate as much to renters, it makes it harder for poor renters to join the class of homeowners.
At the same time, we know that we are caught in the legacy of McCarthy-era efforts of the real estate lobby to ensure that housing is created only by the “free market,” thus protecting us from the “Communist” influence of public funding for housing. That rhetoric continues to this day, preventing the building of new public housing, and undermining the care of existing public housing stock. Like most scholars, we expected the data to challenge one or more of our hypotheses. Instead, the data have shown us that gentrification is not a neighborhood problem, it is a symptom of the growing national housing crisis. The implications for health are dire.
By Dominic Moulden, Gregory D. Squires, and Aristotle Theresa
When anything goes wrong in a city, policymakers all too often want to move Black people around, asserted Mindy Fullilove, a clinical psychiatrist at the New School, to an audience at a 2015 conference on equitable development in Washington, D.C.
This has certainly been the formula in the District, going back at least to the redevelopment (what we would today call gentrification and serial displacement) of the Georgetown neighborhood in the 1940s, Foggy Bottom in the 1950s, several Capitol Hill and other Northwest D.C. neighborhoods in the 1970s and 1980s, and today in areas ranging from Shaw to H Street NE and even Anacostia. The proposed conversion of Barry Farm to a mixed-income development, resulting in a loss of 400 affordable housing units despite protests from many residents, is just the latest in a long line of initiatives presumably aimed at revitalizing distressed neighborhoods.
But as Chester Hartman, a prominent urban planner and the first executive director of the Poverty & Race Research Action Council, has often asserted, families have the right to stay put. They have the right to remain in the neighborhoods where their families have resided for decades, if not generations, with access to good schools, safe streets, healthy food, and other public services and private amenities that newcomers to these communities anticipate.
This does not deny the realities of racial segregation, poverty, and uneven development that have long plagued neighborhoods in the District and every other major city in the United States. The costs are real. Residents of lower-income communities, and particularly those with high concentrations of nonwhite populations, have shorter life expectancies and reduced access to good schools; they also are exposed to higher crime rates. This is not by accident. In a 2012 national housing discrimination study, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Urban Institute found that white families were told about and shown more homes than African Americans or Latinos, increasing the home search cost for minorities. Steering and exclusionary zoning laws continue to segregate neighborhoods by race and class.
There is new wine in these old bottles. Alleged discrimination on the part of Airbnb, Facebook and other social media—with some homeseekers losing out because of stereotyped ethnic associations with their names and the sound of their voices—has been added to the panoply of traditional discriminatory housing practices.
By Raheem Anthon
As part of the Making The Just City project, Team Shaw, DC and Team Orange, NJ have both been finishing up the last of their interviews with key players within each community. Shaw, which is studying late-stage gentrification, has been studying the effects that gentrification (ie. displacement) has had on residents and business owners in Shaw. Orange, NJ has been focusing on the effects of early stage gentrification (ie. divestment) on their community. Both sets of interviews will be transcribed and analyzed for the purpose of policy work, and also will be archived into the Anacostia Community Museum.
Making The Just City is funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and is led by the Interdisciplinary Research Leadership team: Mindy Fullilove, Dominic Moulden, and Derek Hyra. Each team is paired with two local community organizers: Serita El Amin and Raheem Anthon from Shaw, DC; and Aubrey Murdock and Molly Rose Kaufman from Orange, NJ.
|Making the Just City leaders conduct a focus group in Shaw|
Making The Just City has been meeting two times a year to discuss what occurrences have happened in each groups’ location. Discussions ranged from building developments and new policies that have helped to reallocate funding away from public housing into the hands of developers, to reports about what type of feedback we are getting from the interviewees. Orange has made trips to DC to see the ongoing displacement that has taken place in the 7th Street corridor and were actually able to speak to some Washingtonians about the oppressive conditions of gentrification. One individual actually approached the group, explaining how she has faced harassment from DC police and developers. The Shaw team also made a trip out to Orange to see the ongoing development divestment of the communities. In Orange, the Shaw team learned how a community feels and looks while still connected to its roots. Through both tours each group was able to gain a deeper understanding of what gentrification looks and feels like in its different stages.
The Shaw team has also been meeting with Marisela Gomez, who is one of the coaches for the RWJF IRL team. She is part of Social Health Concepts and Practice, a community health organization that offers the opportunity for individuals, communities, organizations, and institutions to identify and understand the bridge between the health of the individual and society. Within her class, the Shaw team has taken a look at intersectionality and how that plays a role in power dynamics. The Shaw team has also learned that from interpersonal to institutional to structural oppression is how capitalism continues to use these avenues to oppress and exploit the working class. At the end of this training, RWJF is hoping that the Shaw team has a better understanding of how to discuss racial equity.
|IRL Leaders take a learning journey to Portland, OR|
Making The Just City is a study on gentrification and its adverse effects on communities. Gentrification leads to multiple problems, such as displacement and mental and physical illnesses. Both teams have been studying gentrification through the ethnographical method which is conducting interviews, doing on the street observation, and other methods used in what would be considered a routine community immersion study. Our aim is to get as much information from the people truly affected by so-called "urban development" to give a channel to those who have had their voices circumvented by politicians, developers, and others who benefit from having these communities voiceless. We also hope this program will highlight the systemic problems that displacement has on poor communities (majority whom are Black and brown) and place this as a local to national outcry calling for EQUITABLE AND ACCESSIBLE HOUSING FOR ALL!
By Haley Cureton, Interdisciplinary Research Leaders Minneapolis
On June 7-8th, I visited ONE DC to learn about Making the Just City, a research project on gentrification and displacement in Washington, DC and Orange, NJ, led by Dominic Moulden, Mindy Fullilove and Derek Hyra with support from Interdisciplinary Research Leaders (IRL).
A story I heard from a ONE DC member especially struck me on my visit. It was about a family member pressured to move out of her home by developers. She described the overwhelming number of phone calls, notes on the door, and uninvited developers who came knocking and made offers to buy the property claiming that they were giving her a “great offer.” She said the process continued with building intensity. The story struck me because first-- how is that legal? And second-- it took me out of my mind and into my heart very quickly to show me that the issue of gentrification is not abstract, it is immediate, pervasive and deeply personal. The mission of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is to build a culture of health in the US—and the ONE DC member’s story made me think, what does development look like in a culture of health? Definitely not that.
In a culture of health, people have a right to the city where they live. A home is a place to lay down roots, a safe place that is free of outside pressure to move or sell or relocate before a family is ready for any reason. In a culture of health, residents and neighborhoods benefit from development rather than being displaced by it.
The research findings from Making the Just City will be useful to cities around the US dealing with a crisis of affordable housing and questioning how to slow development and address gentrification. Additionally, so will the model of HOW this research project is being co-led by researchers, organizers and community members. It reminds me of a core teaching in eastern philosophy: actions are examples as much as they are actions. Making the Just City is a research project, and it is also an example of the power of research partnerships in addressing shared concerns about the wellbeing of our communities.
Thank you for having me, ONE DC! Peace from IRL in Minneapolis.
The cost of housing has reached frightening levels in the nation's capital. At our July People's Platform, we emphasized the importance of knowing your tenant rights and how to exercise collective power to protect our communities. Three tenant leaders joined us and shared their ongoing fight and wins to preserve affordable housing where they live. The event was held at the ONE DC Black Workers Center, located in Anacostia, with the goal of identifying more tenant leaders living East of the River who want to organize in their building.
|ONE DC members talk about the first steps to forming a tenant association|
During the panel, we heard from three tenant-leaders who have been organizing at their property to protect their right to affordable, safe, and decent housing:
The Hodge on 7th
Ms. Deborah Brown is a tenant leader from the Hodge on 7th, a 55 and older building in Shaw. Residents at the Hodge are dealing with poor property management, safety issues, and property management turnover. They are organizing a tenant association and taking steps to have their demands met by the building owners.
Ms. Paulette Matthews has been living at Barry Farm for almost 22 years and has been fighting, along with other tenants and Empower DC, against the demolition of the public housing property, which would mean the displacement of hundreds of Black families. Barry Farms residents demand redevelopment without displacement and the preservation of truly affordable public housing that meets the needs for large families in Washington, D.C.
Mr. Robert Green is a resident at Congress Heights, where residents have been organizing against slum conditions for over five years. Recently, they have achieved several major victories! 1) Sanford Capital, the slumlord responsible for creating uninhabitable conditions at the property where Mr. Green lives, has been banned from doing business in the District for the next seven years by Attorney General Karl Racine's office after the CH tenants brought Sanford's shady business practices to light. 2) On Friday, July 13, D.C. Superior Court Judge Mott ordered CityPartners to pay $900,000 in repairs to rehabilitate the property. CityPartners (owned by Geoff Griffis) took control of the property from Sanford Capital in a potentially illegitimate transfer in December 2017, which the tenants and the city continue to fight in court. For more info about the ongoing struggle at Congress Heights, visit JusticeFirst.org.
All of the stories shared by Ms. Brown, Ms. Matthews, and Mr. Green had common themes: the critical need for tenants to organize themselves; the importance of knowing your tenant rights and how to exercise collective power; and that the struggle must go beyond our individual needs toward building tenant solidarity not only in our own building, but across properties, the city, and the world!
The People’s Platform is a movement of low-income and working class DC residents of color and people who share our values and vision. We seek to organize, educate, fight for and win truly affordable housing, sustaining work, and wellness for all in DC. Our monthly People's Platform general body is a space where we work towards our goals by prioritizing political education and leadership development in our work.
Our August People's Platform will commemorate Black August by exploring the intersection of mass incarceration and gentrification. We will meet on August 23 at 6:00 PM at the ONE DC Black Workers & Wellness Center, located at 2500 Martin Luther King Jr Ave SE.
By Rasheed Van Putten
It was late October 2017 when the former owner of my building told me that he wanted to sell the building. I immediately expressed interest, and requested that he send the proper paperwork, an Offer of Sale, as required by the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA). Verbally the building owner would agree to send this document, but in deed his true intentions were clear.
The building owner's failure to provide an opportunity for the tenants to purchase the building was apparent and highlighted on February 17, 2018 when he appeared at my doorstep unannounced with a waiver that he wanted me to sign immediately. Of course I refused and took the waiver to ONE DC and Office of the Tenant Advocate. I was advised during free counsels by both organizations not to sign the waiver. After some discussion, both organizations were able to clearly identify that the TOPA process was not yet in motion.
|113 Wayne Place SE|
We soon found out that the building went up for sale in October 2017. An illegal sale of the building had occurred. I was advised to file a formal complaint with the Office of Housing and Community Development (OHCD). After confirming OHCD's mailing address and email address, I used certified mail and email to file my complaint. I received an auto-reply stating someone would follow up with me within 24 hours.
After three days I decided to visit OHCD in-person. I was told that neither of my complaints were received even though we agreed that I had the proper mailing information. The OHCD employee that I spoke to agreed that my TOPA rights were violated, but tried to convince me that the sale of the building was not illegal. She advised me against forming a tenant association and assured me that it was best to file a lawsuit to receive compensation.
Collaboration between local government and housing developers is no secret to most concerned citizens and has even been reported on by news media. This is a conspiracy against the working class Black people in DC, especially those in poverty.
We, the tenants, need ownership of the building at 113 Wayne Place SE to protect ourselves by assuming our God-given right to exercise self-determination. To control of our own affairs is the only way we will build a stronger community. Please support this effort to be an example of economic democracy.
Housing is a human right, so please heed this call for community control over housing and land in Washington, DC and other gentrifying cities!
By Justice First
On Wednesday, June 27th at 10:00AM, Congress Heights tenants and their lawyers will be back in court demanding an end to slum conditions, deceitful deals, gentrification and displacement. Join Justice First and the Alabama Ave/13th Street Tenant Coalition in packing the courtroom! Address: 500 Indiana Ave NW, #518 Click here to RSVP
A major falsehood is being perpetrated by public and private sector supporters of the redevelopment project at Congress Heights: that the reason the District government refuses to use its powers to help a non-profit developer build 200 units of affordable housing there has nothing to do with the direct ties District government leaders have to a development group that wants to build luxury condos and offices in the same space. This lie is pushed despite the clear, deep political, financial, and personal relationships that facilitate exactly this sort of cozy relationship between public and private actors.
The actions of the District reflect that though since the beginning of the development process, the government has claimed it has little to no power to act, it has in fact helped facilitate the private business deal. A combination of continuing old practices and specific contemporary action have directly led to the current impasse, in which a massive affordable housing development is being held up by luxury condo investors.
The District’s actions to facilitate displacement and gentrification at the site start at the very beginning. The Office of Planning (often referred to as “OP”) has to certify that a project meets certain requirements to be presented to the Zoning Commission (often referred to as the “ZC”) for approval. Justice First has argued for years that the process by which the OP proceeds is highly problematic. Frequently, including in this case, it is very clear from the start that developers actually do not meet the requirements. In fact, most applications presented to the ZC take the approach of seeing what requirements they can get away with ignoring without getting caught. Often, the requirements that ‘fall through the cracks,’ as we’d be led to believe, have to do with providing affordable housing options.
In this particular case, often repeated around the District, it was very clear the development team’s proposal did not meet the statutory requirements for affordable housing – something the commission acknowledged right away when Justice First pointed it out at a ZC hearing. This reveals a larger issue: Why does OP not use its authority more broadly? The OP seems to take the position that if a proposal comes within the ballpark of these rules, the ZC can figure out the rest. This means, among other things, that many projects move forward with far less affordable housing than they are supposed to facilitate. The zoning experts on the OP and ZC know what the regulations are, but leave it to community members to point out shortfalls.
So just the process of getting to the ZC is weighted heavily toward developers and facilitates their attempts to do end runs around the actual zoning rules. This is a longtime process at OP and one that makes the Bowser administration, by allowing it to continue, complicit in this structural aspect of gentrification.
Next is the Zoning Commission itself. After a 2014 court case in which the D.C. Court of Appeals took the ZC to task, Washington Business Journal noted “The Zoning Commission has never rejected a PUD application before, and it does have a tendency to adopt applicants’ draft orders nearly word-for-word.” The court's own words in that case directly pertain to a central issue in the Congress Heights dispute: “Although we have not independently verified the precise calculation, we have no reason to doubt the … claim, which the developer does not dispute, that the commission’s order is an approximately 99.9% verbatim adoption of the developer’s proposed order...The commission even adopted almost all of the grammatical and typographical errors in the developer’s proposed order.”
The mayor, of course, appoints the majority of ZC members. If the ZC is pliable and amenable to the needs of developers to the extent that it is actually ridiculed for it in court, it seems fairly clear that the mayors who appoint ZC members must share a great deal of the blame. This is another example of legacy practices making the D.C. government complicit in displacement and gentrification.
More germane to this project has been the saga of 3200 13th St. SE. The building, which sits empty, sits on the same footprint as the other properties even though it is independently owned by the District. The first ask of tenants was that the District government, which has significant legal leverage due to unpaid loans, take control of the property and use their public ownership to help the tenants leverage non-profit developers to create significant affordable housing.
The District, despite admitting its ability to do so in a D.C. Council hearing, refused to do so. Then, after Congress Heights tenants were able to find a non-profit developer and set the stage for a large affordable housing development, tenants and their allies resurrected this demand.
Not only was the District unresponsive; it then secretly took control of the building. Once that move was brought into the open it seemed like the way was clear for tenants to not only exercise their rights to purchase their own buildings, but, with a little help from the District, for the way to be paved for 200 units of affordable housing.
In a public meeting with tenant leaders and Ward 8 Councilmember Trayon White, the director of the District of Columbia Housing and Community Development Agency (DHCD) made it clear that while they have the power to work to promote the broader affordable housing proposal, that they prefered to place the property on the open market for anyone (read: Geoff Griffis & friends) to buy.
The District has the opportunity in this building to create a rare 100 percent affordable housing development - but through inertia; a government structured to facilitate displacement, slums and gentrification; and outright unwillingness to work with anyone other than a luxury condo development group, the District is instead blocking the way.
The real question is whether a web of business people and politicians so intimately connected and dependent upon each other can credibly be seen as not trading on those relationships to obtain the outcome they desire, at the expense of all other possibilities.
By Jourgette Reid-Sillah, Richman Apartments
Almost eight years ago, my family moved to Richman Apartments in Southeast D.C. At the time there was an empty lot across the street where I was told town homes and apartments were going to be built. Keeping in mind as to things that were happening in other parts of the city, I thought having an organized tenants association may be a good idea for Richman Apartments.
The lot is no longer empty. We have town homes and apartments directly across from our forty-one affordable units. New homeowners are settling in. These town homes were sold before they were built. Young families from various backgrounds have introduced themselves and state, “I love my neighborhood.”
Our apartments are well-managed and we have no problems of a major scale that I’m aware with our management company, WC Smith. Our association would be a community building group. Everyone says they think it would be a good idea. The challenge is changing hearts and minds and getting people to step up and understand we have nothing to fear.
I, with the help of ONE DC, (thank you Kelly) have started organizing to get the tenants to elect a board to officially establish our tenant association. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a quorum to vote at our last meeting. Meanwhile, another town home is built. And another new neighbor moves into their home.
Congress Heights is changing rapidly. Starting with the St. Elizabeth’s Project to the restoration of many historic homes along Alabama Ave. Change is here, Richman Apartments. Will You Be Ready?