The selective interpretation of DC’s “drop” from 1st to 13th – The National Community Reinvestment Coalition conducted two major studies on gentrification. Released in 2019, the first study looked at data from 2000-2012 and showed that DC had the greatest number of Census tracts to gentrify in the US. The second study showed that only 16.8% of tracts gentrified from 2013-2017. It is important to understand how to interpret this data.
First, comparing the first and second NCRC studies is misleading. Those studies are measuring two different time periods – a twelve-year versus four-year period. Because the second study looked at the period immediately following the first study (2000-2012 v 2013-2017), of course DC was going to fall in the rankings precisely because SO MANY tracts were gentrified and thus these tracts were ineligible to be counted in the second study.
If one does compare, it is important to do so properly. That DC still received a fairly high 13th place in the NCRC ranking is an indication of how our political systems remained hardened and unresponsive to the needs of low and moderate income earners and Black residents for years. 41% of eligible tracts in the first study and 16% in the second study were gentrified. This is a combined 57% of eligible tracts that were gentrified between 2000-2017! We would guess that would make DC the number one gentrifying city in the 21st century. Print that as your next headline. Gentrification continues unabated in DC.
Gentrification is not easing up. We are just seeing “waves”. Part of the current wave involves government-led catalytic projects in places like Southwest. There, Blacks have gone from a majority in Southwest to less than 500 of their population 10 years ago. Whites have increased in Southwest by 2500 despite more than 3500 new units in that area. The Wharf, South Capitol Street revitalization, and Audi Field, much like the Nats Stadium before them, were intended to stimulate development through the use of hundreds of millions of dollars in public subsidies. The District has shown very poor judgment and skills in planning. These hotspots of development and publicly-backed projects assume that low-income, Black families will be collateral damage – either displaced or unable to afford new housing. That is not acceptable. The data show major demographic shifts away from social diversity following these developments.