COMMENTARY BY STEPHANIE SPENCER and JONAY VENEY. PHOTOS BY STEPHANIE SPENCER.
I know of someone who lived on Jay Street who had to relocate because his family couldn’t afford where they lived. His mom lived in this house all of her life, until his father passed away in 2011. They lived in a decent neighborhood. Because of gentrification, their rent became too much each month including utilities and they had to move to another neighborhood. They lived in a 3 story home with 3 bedrooms. These have been hard times for everybody and a lot of low-income blacks have been relocating out of the city to where housing is more affordable.
This story represents the transformation in Washington, DC from predominantly black to a more diverse city through the process of gentrification.
Gentrification is the urban renewal of run down neighborhoods with attractive housing, driving up rents and driving out long time, lower income residents—often ethnic/racial minorities, changing the social character of the neighborhood. Gentrification can hurt some people because it puts them out of a home.
Some minorities have to move to the suburbs because they won’t be able to afford where they live anymore, other minorities will have to live in a homeless shelter, or live with someone they know.
White people are moving into homes in the city. Quite a few white (not all) people are moving into the city because they can afford it and they realize that it is easy and convenient to get around town by using the metro. Metro saves money, rather than buying gas. New businesses are moving in too.
Gentrification is good because it can create diversity. In metropolitan America today, the average white American lives in a neighborhood where more than three quarters of his neighbors (77%) are also white. Seven percent are black, 10% are Latino, and 4% are Asian. That's considerably more diverse than three decades ago, when the average white (metropolitan) American lived in a neighborhood that was 88% white (5% black, 5% Latino, and 1% Asian). Data Source: Brown University
Even though gentrification displaces the low class and brings in the middle class, it makes people want to come because there are restaurants and other attractions that people and tourists might want to see. Some gentrified neighborhoods are near the many museums in DC. Years ago there were just some parts of Washington, DC where people wouldn’t step foot in because of how dangerous it was, but now a lot has changed. Now that parts of the city have been gentrified, it’s appealing to the white people. The black people who are able to stay in their gentrified city can enjoy the effects of Washington, DC.
One my of my mom’s friend owned a clothing business on H street I’m not sure how long she has been there but I remember going to her shop as a younger child. Watching the customers come and leave with big shopping bag looked fun. She was known in the community for having nice clothes and accessories. Earlier this year her shop was closed down. The cost of rent became too much and she could not afford it. She was spending more than she was making. She decided to shut her shop down and move it out of the city. She is a white American. I shared this information because I thought it would be a great example of how gentrification happens everywhere. Mainly black people are affected by it, but it can happen to anyone.
There is affordable and mixed use housing for working low-class people in Washington, DC. Some black people are able of stay in the city because they are either retired with check coming in the mail every two weeks and/or their job’s paycheck is covering their monthly bills. Former Mayor Marion Barry made it possible for low-income folks to live in affordable housing so they wouldn’t have to relocate to somewhere else in the world, where transportation isn’t as easy as it is in DC.
There are many programs for people who have a low-income. They can sign up to find somewhere to live through programs available with the government’s assistance. Public housing is available for people with low-income and disabilities. For the people who have to relocate because of the changes that are being made in their area, and can’t afford to live anywhere else there are other options before becoming homeless. Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) appointed a task force more than a year ago, weeks after the 1,800 attendees of a mayoral citizens summit said affordable housing should be the top priority for city government. In his State of the District address, Gray committed $100 million for affordable housing, and the report is expected to guide his efforts.. Source: Washington Post
In northwest, a white neighbor told a relative of mine to get off his own property because he was black. Since there are a lot of white people moving into the city, they expect to take over. The white neighbor told her black neighbor “Get off that man’s property!” The black neighbor (who had lived there for many years) said, “This is my house, so get off of my property!” That is something that a white neighbor has the nerve to tell someone who is black to leave just because of skin color.
Gentrification renews the distressed areas in the city. Washington, DC has come a long way since 1790 and growth and change in the area is still happening as time goes on. DC was run down for quite a while (since the riots in the ‘60’s). And, since then changes have been made to make the city look more presentable.The world around us continues to grow bigger and stronger. People should really work harder towards living a better life. America’s economy can not wait forever for people to get their lives together. You can choose to move with it or get left behind. It’s not fair that people should have to live a certain lifestyle because of the bad/lazy choices others make. It’s time to step up and make a change.
Life is about progressing and doing better for yourself. There are times when people need a little motivation to do better, this is why gentrification is a good thing. It is time for change! It is time for the people of Washington, DC to live a better life. Gentrification is a good thing because it makes our city city look more attractive. Even though gentrification can hurt some people because it puts them out of a home, it gives the city more allure and makes people want to come.
Stephanie Spencer and Jonay Veney are sophomores at Friendship Collegiate Academy.