ULI Washington News

ULI Washington 2016 Trends: Rethinking Gentrification: An Opportunity for All to Share in Economic Success

Stockton Williams briefly introduced each speaker and outlined the topic and the context of the panel by alluding to the trend of well educated higher income individual and families moving back into the City Center and specifically DC, which is unleashing and creating enormous economic benefits and revival of some city neighborhoods and simultaneously also creating pressures related to redevelopment, displacement, and deep seated racial and class based tensions talked broadly under the premise of Gentrification. The topic was discussed with the panel who are involved in the development of several communities experiencing both positive as well as the mixed consequences of redevelopment.

ULI2016-1555Derek Hyra, initiated the conversation by defining Gentrification, previously simply understood – as upper income folks move into lower income areas, which is now broadened to reflect commercial and real estate investments in an area, leading to displacement at times, though not always. He also briefly discussed Gentrification trend in DC versus the Nation and some of its causes and consequences– while the nation has seen Gentrification rate of 9% in the 1990s to 20% creating a back to the city movement with low interest capital available; in the nations capital, there is a wild move from Chocolate City to now being a Cappuccino City where 5% gentrification rates form 90s increased to 52% in the 2000. He stated that Gentrification per se is not bad or good however key is to ensure and create equitable options. In his study of the Shaw community he found that racial and class division and segregation existed on a micro-level living, in the recreation activities, centers, restaurants, churches; a political and cultural disruption by new comers in the local area political representation and their preferences for dog parks etc. dominating, creating resentment in the existing communities not leading to healthy, sustainable mixed income neighborhood underlining the importance of development in a way to reduce displacement, and address issues of race and class tensions so as to achieve equitable gentrification.

ULI2016-1557Adrianne Todman recalled that 50 years ago, DC was considered a white city until the suburban flight, and is now seeing a shift back and perhaps it is a cyclical phenomenon that will repeat again. Adrianne identified how the public agency has been at the forefront of removing blight and being a catalyst for creating mixed income communities while improving housing in the 1990s when it helped in the creation of Barrack Rows, Ellen Wilson and Capper Carlsberg communities which are now the well sought Capital Hill, Navy Yard neighborhoods; and presently sees the agency’s role more as a preserver of affordable housing by building and replacing what it is tearing down. The agency and the city is focusing and seeking ways to assist smaller developments to preserve affordable housing, pushing subsidy into pockets that have been gentrified. Lastly, she indicated that the key is to make the communities feel safe and heard when undertaking redevelopment, recognizing that the community is not against development and its positive effects.

Vicki Davis, took off where Adrianne left, relating how the mothers of violence impacted community commented that they would not have lost their children if they were in a mixed income community. She recognized that though not perfect, DC has been at the forefront of several policy and financing initiates to tackle the fast moving trend of gentrification by utilizing Inclusionary Zoning and Housing Production Trust Fund dollars to maintain an equitable city under enormous pressures. She too emphasized consistent community engagement as a key process in the development process to assess and address real concerns of the community upfront, engaging them as key long-term stakeholder.

Following the brief insight on the topics, the floor was opened to the audience for Q&A and discussions on softening the height restrictions outside the federal downtown area to reduce development pressures; the implications, costs, and challenges of financing mixed income communities, especially for the middle bracket; the need for deeper subsidies to support lower and working class families to afford living in higher costs areas close to transit; and the importance of having a range of income bands, especially middle income bands, and other strategies such as having equal say among owners and renters in a mixed income community to make redeveloped neighborhoods workable cohesive shared communities.

Stockton Williams, Executive Director, ULI Terwilliger Center for Housing
Adrianne Todman, Executive Director, DC Housing Authority
Vicki Davis, President, Urban Atlantic Development; Derek Hyra, Ph. D Associate Professor and Director of the Metropolitan Ploicy center, American University

Recap Written by Vandana Sareen

This panel provided a summary forecast for changes in their panel’s subject in the next decade.  To see the summary, click here.

Click here for an audio recording of the panel.

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