Category Archives: Budget cuts

mayor bowser

Affordable Housing: Mayor Announces $500 Million to Offset GOP Bond Cuts

“Like most Americans, we were sleeping last Friday at 2am when Senate Republicans passed what they call the ‘Tax Cuts and Jobs bill,’” said Mayor Bowser, at a press conference in DC this morning.

And like most Americans, the Mayor was not happy. The tax bill would decimate the country’s ability to fund its necessary social services going forward, adding around $1.5 trillion to the federal debt. But most specifically to the work of the Housing Advocacy Team, the bill cuts a key tool for funding affordable housing: private activity bonds created through the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit.

These tax-exempt bonds leverage private investment with public subsidy to create affordable housing. Many affordable homes currently in the works in DC are counting on having access to this financing. But under the version of the bill the Senate passed these bonds would be severely weakened, and under the House’s bill they would disappear entirely.

MANNA, Inc. just finished two apartment rehabs in Brightwood—a total of 60 homes—that wouldn’t have been possible without this program. And there are another 230 homes in MANNA’s pipeline that depend on private activity bond financing.

Those numbers are reflected in the city as a whole, too. Since 2010, 9,000 affordable homes have been produced or preserved thanks to private activity bonds. And it’s exactly the kind of innovative market-led program that Republicans claim to love. $1.3 billion in public funding have produced an additional $650 million in investment from the private market.

bowser press conferenceMayor Bowser at Monday morning’s press conference

The importance of private activity bonds led the Mayor to decide DC couldn’t wait to see what happens before acting. “While we call on Congress to go back to the drawing board on taxes, we are not going to wait to act on housing,” declared Mayor Bowser.

That’s why she announced that DC’s Housing Finance Agency will be issuing $500 million of its own tax-free bonds to preserve most of what the District might lose under the federal bill.

That will allow DC to produce or preserve an additional 4,000 affordable homes—most of which are already in the works. The Mayor noted that as large as this investment is, it doesn’t even meet everything that’s in the current affordable housing pipeline. Getting funds quickly to projects that are furthest along will be crucial for keeping DC’s affordable housing development on track.

But the bond funding also serves as an important statement of what DC stands for—what Mayor Bowser often cites as “DC values.” As Councilmember Anita Bonds (At-large), the chair of the City Council’s housing committee put it, “It is important that in our own way we send a message that we will stand against these cuts.”

With the issuance of these bonds, the District government communicates that providing safe, affordable homes for all remains a top priority.

If only the same could be said of the other government in DC.

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Republicans, Tax Cuts, and the Manufacturing of a Crisis

We have a debt crisis staring us in the face. … The problem we have is spending, not taxes. We’ve got to get our spending under control because that’s the root cause of our problem.
-Paul Ryan, speaking in 2011 on Meet the Press

On its face, the Republican tax plan working its way through Congress is not a direct assault on affordable housing. Yes, it would decimate bond funding for affordable projects. Yes, it would eliminate several tax credits that help build affordable housing. And yes, the very rumor of its existence has caused multi-million dollar holes to appear in affordable housing plans for over a year now.

But still, this does not appear to be an assault on affordable housing in the same way that this summer (and fall’s) campaign to repeal Obamacare was an assault on healthcare.

Bruce Bartlett, a former policy adviser to President Reagan, says that appearance is wrong. In a recent op-ed in the Washington Post, Bartlett says that in the minds of many congressional Republicans, the $1.5 trillion deficit resulting from tax cuts isn’t a defect—it’s a primo feature.

That deficit, caused by their tax breaks to corporations and the wealthy, will allow Republicans to double down on arguments like the one Paul Ryan makes above. “There’s only so much money coming in,” Republican leaders will explain. “The responsible thing to do is cut spending.”

Sound overly cynical? Bartlett knows first-hand that it’s not. It’s the same thing that congressional Republicans did in the 1980s after Reagan’s tax breaks. It’s the same thing that they did again in the 2010s (see: Ryan, Paul), in a crisis caused by the Bush tax breaks. And it’s the same thing Kansas Republicans have been doing for the past half-decade as Governor Sam Brownback works to create a tax-free utopia.

In each of these cases, Republicans passed massive tax cuts, then railed righteously against the resulting unbalanced budgets—demanding that social spending be cut to right the ship.

It’s a part of the “starve the beast” movement (the beast being our government and its social programs), another step along the way to making government small enough to drown in a bathtub.

And we’ve already seen what the Trump Administration’s true priorities are for affordable housing—this year they proposed throwing 200,000 low-income families off of rent vouchers, with a significant portion of those families likely to end up homeless.

Congress balked at those plans, with even many Republicans seeing the cuts as unnecessary and cruel. But that calculus could easily change when the mother of all manufactured crises hits.

If this tax bill goes through and the US is running $1 trillion per year deficits by 2020, Republicans will likely be clamoring again to balance the budget—and discretionary spending on things like affordable housing will be among the first things to go.

“The problem we have,” Paul Ryan will piously remind us, “is spending.”

Who’s Got Housing?

Is housing a privilege or a right?

Regardless of your opinion (it is a right), there is a NEED for housing in DC among those in plain view most easily forgotten–and a program with financial incentives to people who open their door.

How many homeless people are here in DC? 7,473 as of January 2017.

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The District’s New Lease on Life program connects landlords with available units to families currently experiencing homelessness. Landlords receive a partial subsidy from DC, and the family pays the rest of the rent. The families also receive any necessary support services during their one-year lease.

The program has been incredibly successful, with participating landlord Thomas Batmen noting that, “Families exiting homelessness pose no greater risk than any other family applying for a lease.”

Monthly Landlord Outreach meetings organize folks to host meet and greets, establish risk mitigation funds to assuage landlords’ fears of losing money, and propose broader policy changes.

Mayor Muriel Bowser, DC Department of Human Services, DC Interagency Council on Homelessness and CNHED are holding a reception this Friday from 11:00 AM – 12:30 PM to talk about the New Lease on Life program.

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Supportive Housing Could Be First to Go if Medicaid Cuts Pass

Even with a series of recent defections, Republicans are still working to roll back Obamacare. Various versions of their bill have all had a couple things in common—tens of millions would be made uninsured and Medicaid would be slashed dramatically.

Between trying to figure out how many people would die, how many people would lose insurance, and just how much money billionaires would save, there are a lot of pieces of this bill worth investigating. In the turmoil, however, one important component has often been overlooked: housing.

With the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, millions of people across the country gained access to healthcare for the first time. Included in that number (but often forgotten) were many who gained housing or housing stability with the expansion.

Programs like Los Angeles’ Housing for Health program use Medicaid dollars to offer mental health counseling and substance abuse treatment alongside the housing it provides to formerly homeless residents. The two parts work together—patients often can’t keep up with counseling sessions or rehab without the stability of a home, and those who receive housing without supportive services too frequently end up back on the streets.

Supportive housing, which includes a variety of social services that people may need to live outside of an institution, became available to thousands more Americans with Medicaid expansion. These programs offer help to people with disabilities, mental illness, substance abuse issues, and those recovering from homelessness.

Under the Republican plan, however, Medicaid would be rolled back—and not just to pre-Obamacare levels. GOP leadership has pushed to end Medicaid as an entitlement, meaning that states would no longer receive funding based on residents’ needs. Instead, states would get a set amount of money for each resident on Medicaid. It would then be up to the states to decide what to do with that money.

The proposed amount per person is far less than what is needed, and it wouldn’t grow with rising costs. That would create a scenario in which state governments are forced to make more and more painful cuts each year, continually shrinking the number of services they provide to their most vulnerable residents.

And experts have predicted that supportive housing could be among the first services to go.

Disability activists and others have been relentless in organizing opposition to the bill, with actions happening almost every day at the Capitol. On Monday alone, 33 people were arrested in Senate buildings and offices while peacefully sitting in to demand that Republican senators kill the bill–not an atypical day.

Because of these efforts, both the initial Republican bill and a follow-up attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act without a replacement have  failed. Yet activists warn against complacency. As unpopular as the draconian cuts are with the general public, they have broad support among Republican legislators and continued action will likely be necessary to prevent the bill’s revival.

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July 26 DC Rally Against HUD Cuts Part of Week of Action

On Wednesday, July 26, at 11am DC residents will rally at the Capitol with Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).

It’s part of an effort to stop draconian cuts that the Trump Administration has proposed for the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Activists are organizing a National Week of Action under the banner “Our Homes, Our Voices,” and thousands across the country are expected to come out for a series of rallies, teach-ins, HUD site visits, and Congressional meetings.

The Trump Administration has proposed $6 billion in cuts for HUD, which would have devastating and wide-ranging effects. Hundreds of thousands of low-income families would lose their rent vouchers and potentially their homes. Public housing, already in a desperate state of disrepair, would further deteriorate, putting children and families across the country in danger.

In DC, funding for the Home Purchase Assistance Program, the District’s impactful first-time homebuyer assistance, is under threat. 80 percent of HPAP money comes from Community Development Block Grants—a program with bipartisan support that the Trump Administration has proposed eliminating entirely.

Action to oppose these cuts will be crucial, as Congress has so far shown that public involvement (or lack thereof) is the determining factor in its willingness to stand up to the Trump Administration.

You can see the full list of local events here! Be sure to let your enfranchised friends know that they need to call their representatives.

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HAT, Partners Work Against Racial Wealth Gap with Town Hall; Trump Administration Exacerbates It

One-sixteenth.

That’s the average wealth of a black family compared to a white family in America. It’s the result of centuries of racist policy in education, employment, and especially homeownership.

MANNA’s Housing Advocacy Team has long had an explicit focus on closing the racial wealth gap in our communities, and along with our partners at the Coalition for Nonprofit Housing and Economic Development and the Latino Economic Development Center, this past Saturday we hosted a Homeownership Town Hall aimed at connecting low-income families, especially families of color, to homeownership opportunities.

HAT and our partners are proud of the work we do, and we can see the impact that it has in DC. At the same time, however, we realize that there needs to be national progress in order to achieve justice in our country. The Trump Administration, on the other hand, is looking for a massive transfer of wealth from the bottom to the top; one that’s sure to widen America’s racial wealth divide.

The Town Hall

Close to 200 people came on Saturday for a series of workshops, vendor tables, and presenters covering every step of the affordable homebuying and ownership process. Participants learned about how to improve their credit scores, how to connect with organizations like MANNA that can help them find a home, and the wide variety of city programs that can help make affordable homeownership possible.

Current homeowners were able to learn about city property tax laws and legal estate planning, helping to ensure that their homes will be passed on to their children.

MANNA’s Director of Homebuyer Education, TC Caviness, started off the strong lineup of speakers by articulating the extent to which a gap in homeownership holds back wealth building for black families. Even other areas that are typically thought of as wealth builders, like education level, pale in comparison to the impact that homeownership has.

Despite having worked around housing for years, said TC, “I was shocked when I saw these charts.”

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A college education, while important for many, many reasons beyond money, does almost nothing to close the racial wealth gap, explained TC. Homeownership, on the other hand, shrinks that gap by more than a third.

Polly Donaldson, Director of the DC Department of Housing and Community Development, and Councilmember Anita Bonds, Chair of the Council’s housing committee, both spoke about the importance of affordable homeownership for building a city where all residents can thrive.

Councilmember Bonds, reflecting on the positive impact of recent increases to DC’s Home Purchase Assistance Program for first time low- and moderate-income homebuyers, told the crowd, “Next year, I want to increase it again!”

Trump Administration’s Reverse Robin Hood

That was in stark contrast to the ideas that are coming out of the White House. The Trump Administration has released a series of tax cuts for the wealthy that would collectively cost around $6.2 trillion over the next decade.

To pay for them, the President has introduced a budget plan that would drastically cut many programs targeting poor families, among which families of color are disproportionately represented.

Here are a few of his proposed tax and budget cuts, juxtaposed for context.

  • $192 billion cut to food stamps pays for $174 billion giveaway by abolishing the Estate Tax
  • $143 billion in cuts to student loans helps pay for $158 billion lost by repealing a tax on the unearned income of the wealthy (interest, dividends, capital gains, etc.)
  • $40 billion in cuts to EITC and the child tax credit vs. $400 billion lost by abolishing the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT is often the only tax paid by billionaires)

(from Americans for Tax Fairness)

While HAT and others are prepared to continue our push for fair funding in the District, we need help from our national partners and from people all around the country to stop the Trump Administration’s disastrous and immoral plan to take from the poor and give to the rich. We know that the impact of this theft will disproportionately fall on communities of color, causing the racial wealth gap to grow wider and wider.

Looking at our country’s history, it’s certainly not unprecedented. But as MANNA’s work in DC has proven, it’s not inevitable, either.

The GOP Debate at the Ronald Reagan Library

With Cuts, Trump’s HUD Targets Low-Income Families

A leaked copy of the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) upcoming budget request presents a grim picture for the future of affordable housing in America. The draft shows over $6 billion being cut, representing almost 15 percent of HUD’s annual budget. If enacted, experts estimate over 200,000 low-income households will lose their rental support, and thousands more will be prevented from moving to an affordable situation.

What makes these cuts even more perverse is the “reverse Robin Hood” essence of their design. Despite the ubiquitous nature of Republican calls for a reduction in federal debt, the Trump administration currently has plans for massive tax cuts for the very wealthy. Along with an additional $54 billion in military spending—almost double what commanders have requested—the picture is clear. These cuts do not represent budget balancing, but rather budget priorities.

The depth and breadth of these cuts is overwhelming, both nationally and for the District. Below we break down several of the top targets for the chopping block and the functions they fulfill.

Community Development Block Grants

Community Development Block Grants, or CDBG for short, provides flexible money for localities to use in community development. In the District, CDBG money makes up 80 percent of the budget for the Home Purchase Assistance Program (HPAP), DC’s mortgage assistance program for first time homebuyers. As we have written countless times before, HPAP plays a vital role in building homeownership among DC’s low-income families.

CDBG actually has strong bi-partisan support. Republicans like it because it gives money back to local communities to use as they please, a core conservative tenet.

HUD’s proposed budget, however, would cut the program’s $3 billion budget entirely. That would leave cities and states across the country scrambling to cover myriad services that their residents depend on. In many cases, poor families would simply fall through the cracks.

Housing Choice Vouchers

Housing Choice Vouchers act as a sort of backstop for many low-income families. Under the program, households are able to find a rental property on the open market and be guaranteed to never spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing—whatever costs go above this are covered by the voucher.

The HUD proposal would cut $300 million from this program, leaving about 200,000 families without assistance. Sadistically, here the Trump administration looks to take money from veterans for the military—included in this program are housing vouchers targeting formerly homeless veterans.

Public Housing

In 2010, HUD released a report describing the desperate state of public housing in America. Those conditions remain unchanged today. Buildings are crumbling, and the conditions many families live in are deplorable. In that 2010 report, HUD estimated that it would need tens of billions of dollars in additional funding to catch up on overdue maintenance.

Instead, President Trump’s HUD has proposed cutting public housing’s maintenance budget by $1.3 billion, a third of its total value. The proposal also takes $600 million from the operating budget, ensuring that more problems will arise even faster as time goes on.

HOME Investment Partnership Program

Like CDBG, HOME represents a pot of money that localities can use in a variety of ways. DC typically uses its share to fund affordable housing construction, like MANNA’s Willowbrook Condominiums.

Yet again, faced with a nationwide affordable housing crisis and a program that gives local governments control of federal dollars, the Trump administration looks to pull the plug. HOME, like CDBG, would be entirely eliminated. Another billion dollars for affordable housing would be lost.

What to do

The good news is that none of this is final. This proposal represents a draft of what the Trump administration will present to Congress. Marshaling the opposition of lawmakers will be crucial, especially among Republicans who see the positive impact that these locally controlled dollars have in their own districts.

You can help make sure that these cuts don’t happen. Call your representatives and let them know that funding bombs and billionaires over low-income families is unacceptable.

Two more communities preserved – going from market to affordable!

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What does it take to create or preserve affordable housing? What does it take to partner with and improve the quality of life for lower-income families, enhancing the economic diversity of communities all over the city?

These efforts, often spearheaded by the Coalition for Nonprofit Housing and Economic Development (CNHED) and its members, were celebrated during last week’s Community Development Week in D.C. The week of October 11th included events ranging from open houses to ribbon cuttings to groundbreakings, celebrating hundreds of affordable housing units being created or preserved all across the city.

This past Tuesday, to help launch Community Development Week, the Urban Institute published an online database highlighting one type of affordable housing in the District: assisted rentals.

Maintained by NeighborhoodInfo DC and CNHED, the database, called DC Preservation Catalog, contains a map of 39,000 affordable rental units spread out across the city. Along with the map, the catalog also offers property names, locations, and data on the various subsidies that contribute to a property’s affordability. This tool will be infinitely helpful to the DC Preservation Network (DCPN) and others, providing information that housing counseling organizations, legal services providers, affordable housing developers, local and federal agencies can use to assist lower-income renters in preserving their affordable rental housing over the long haul.

Over the past decade, the District has suffered a 50 percent loss in their low-cost housing supply due to a rapid rise in housing costs. The preservation of already existing affordable housing will ensure that lower-income residents will be able to stay in the communities that they have called home to for a long time.

And two more rental communities were added to the Preservation Catalogue last week! On Thursday, October 13th, MANNA hosted a groundbreaking event for the rehab of two rental buildings in Ward 4’s Brightwood neighborhood: 1370 Ft Stevens Dr NW and 734 Longfellow St NW. The event featured guest speakers ranging from tenants, to DC’s Department of Housing and Community Development, city council members, banks, non-profit financiers and more.

Tenants in these buildings worked with the Latino Economic Development Center to exercise their Tenant Opportunity to Purchase rights when their buildings went up for sale. They selected MANNA to rehab their buildings and operate them as an affordable rental into the future. The financing MANNA is using, Low Income Housing Tax Credits, will keep the buildings affordable for residents under 60% of the Area Median Income for 15 years. These time frames are one of the most important things tracked by the Catalogue, allowing entities to keep tabs on when subsidies will expire and start conversations with owners and tenants early to ensure that the buildings will be maintained as affordable into the future.

Maintaining and preserving affordable housing should be one of the city’s top priorities. Councilmembers Todd, Silverman, and White are all committed to affordable housing in the city, but agree that more resources are required, and those resources need to be invested in the right things. As Councilmember Silverman pointed out, she and her peers are committed to affordable housing, “but it’s going to take a lot more time and resources.”

This groundbreaking event proved that it doesn’t take a lone individual to create change in affordable housing, but instead it takes a diverse community. Community organizers, policymakers, banks, District agencies and tenants all play a role. And although all these entities are involved, there is still a great deal left to be done to create more affordable housing.
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Affordable Housing – It Doesn’t Just Happen!

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Over the past couple of weeks alone, the city of Washington has committed $20 million to affordable housing projects across the city.

The Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) says that it has dipped into the city’s Housing Production Trust Fund to fund more than 100 units of affordable housing in Wards 6 and 8.

The 100 plus units will be spread over two apartment buildings. The first apartment is a 93-unit building located a few blocks from the Anacostia Metro Station. The units will be reserved for residents making less than 50 percent of area median income (AMI). The second apartment building is a 12 unit cooperative within walking distance of the Potomac Avenue Metro Station. These units will be reserved for residents making less than 80 percent of AMI.

In Ward 4, the District has committed $13 million to rehabilitate a majority affordable-housing apartment complex in Brightwood Park. The building will be updated top-to-bottom, and 45 units will be reserved for residents earning up to 60 percent of the area median income.

Where did this money for housing come from?

The Housing Production Trust Fund (HPTF) is the District’s largest affordable housing program. The Trust Fund supports the construction, rehabilitation, and acquisition of housing affordable to low- and moderate-income residents.

The HPTF provides grants and loans to affordable housing developers. These funds can be used to acquire, rehabilitate, and build low-cost housing. The Trust Fund assists both homeownership and rental housing. Since 2001, the HPTF has helped build or renovate over 9,000 affordable homes throughout the District.

Since she took office in 2015, Mayor Muriel Bowser has pledged to commit $100 million every year to the Trust Fund. The Housing Production Trust Fund is a great thing, but it is also really important to understand how all this money got there. It was residents, community organizations and others that banned together to create the political will to fund affordable housing at this level. And more is needed.

Let’s take a look at the Housing For All Campaign. The Campaign was launched by the Coalition for Nonprofit Housing and Economic Development (CNHED) and its mission is to call on District officials to invest in housing programs that meet the needs of all District residents. In a matter of four years, the campaign succeeded in bringing the District from massive cuts in affordable housing budgets (a 70% drop to $20 million in HPTF in FY 12) to the level of committed funding we are now seeing.

Rallies are one way to mobilize people into joining your cause. They not only educate people about a certain injustice, but they also encourage people to take action. And you have to be diligent to build support and couple rallies with other kinds of action, both public and behind-the-scenes.

It is amazing to watch the evolution from the Housing For All rally in 2012, when affordable housing budgets were drastically cut, to just this past year. In 2016 the Housing For All Campaign put on its largest rally to date, packing Foundry Methodist Church with over 1000 people and public officials wanting to show support. The message was clear: DC is our home, and everyone in it should have a home.

Several prominent District officials, including Mayor Muriel Bowser, also made an appearance. The city’s mayor continued her commitment to increase investments in a wide variety of affordable housing types. “When we think about the $100 million for affordable housing I know we have to think about it across the entire spectrum. From very very low income housing to middle income housing. We have to think about new housing and we have to think about preserving housing…I consider this among the top things I have to do as Mayor.”

And the rallies for meeting affordable housing need continue. Over this past weekend, a small group of activists planned to gather in front of D.C. General and D.C Jail to press the city for a larger investment of time and resources into affordable housing and anti-poverty strategies. The rally was aimed to get the attention of Mayor Muriel Bowser and other District officials, another seed in the push for making DC a place where all can live, thrive and grow.

 Activism comes in all shapes and sizes; a large organization, or a single person can spearhead it. These actions all build off a one another and we have  to get involved and be strategic to continue building political will to meet the affordable housing needs that still exist. We’ve come a long way, and there is more to go…

What’s your story? Do you believe that everyone should have the right to a roof over his or her head? How are you getting involved? What will you do advance the cause and help create change?

Mount Pleasant On My Mind

mt-pleasant-photoby Max Walker, Fall Advocacy Intern, MANNA

The Mount Pleasant neighborhood, situated in Northwest DC, has been my home for over 21 years. Throughout my time living here, I’ve seen many people come and go. My neighbors have changed countless times, and so too has the scenery.

In 2006, I was a 5th grade student doing a class project on my neighborhood. I was tasked with describing what my neighborhood was like, as well as talking to my neighbors about how they’ve seen or felt the neighborhood change since they’ve lived there. The first person I talked to was Mr. Eddie. Mr. Eddie, one of my favorite neighbors growing up, was an elderly black man who used to sit out on his porch every day. His response to my question was “I’m scared”. He told me that with the rapidly changing neighborhood, he was afraid that he would no longer be able to afford to live in the place he’d called home for the past 30 years. Two years later, Mr. Eddie moved out of the Mount Pleasant neighborhood of Northwest DC.

Also in 2006, The Washington Post published an article titled “Un-pleasant Gentrification”. This article revolved around the ongoing battle between Mount Pleasant’s new residents, and long-time local business owners. Minority storeowners feared being bought out by developers, and restaurant-owners feared that the changing community would lead to lack of business.

Alberto Ferrufino, the owner of Don Juan’s, a popular restaurant in Mount Pleasant, agreed with the neighborhood alliance to make some aesthetic changes to his restaurant in order to cater to newer clientele. He banned live music, and even re-painted the outside from blue and red to a dull gray. Although voluntary agreements, Mr. Ferrufino said that he feared that the neighborhood would want him out should he not agree.

Other minority community members spoke out as well, voicing their concern over their changing neighborhood. In Mount Pleasant, a place that at the time was predominately Hispanic, the Hispanic community seemed to be on the sidelines in issues over their own neighborhood. Arturo Griffiths, a community activist and Panamanian immigrant who had lived in Mount Pleasant for over 40 years, had this to say:  “We built this community in many ways. We are the flavor of this community, and now we are getting kicked out.”

Mount Pleasant was once a cultural hub. The streets were lined with Central American restaurants, bodegas, and family-owned shops and eateries. But over the past ten years, things have been changing.

In an article published by the American Observer in 2016, the authors shine light on just how much the Mount Pleasant neighborhood has changed over the years:

“According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the zip code encompassing Mount Pleasant and Columbia Heights, 20010, is among those across the country that have seen the highest increase in white residents over the last decade, jumping by 24.7 percent.”

Immigrants that were once from El Salvador have turned into immigrants from the Midwestern United States. Families have become younger, whiter, and more affluent. Condos have replaced homeless shelters. Chain coffee shops and restaurants have replaced locally owned businesses.

It is hard to combat gentrification and displacement, but a few of the District’s community leaders got together at the end of the summer to talk about how they would tackle gentrification. An article by Greater Greater Washington brilliantly summed up the panel discussion hosted by the Washington Post and these community leaders.

The conversation boiled down to the government’s role in creating, and combating, the displacement of long-time community residents. The main point was that “better public policy can shape the outcomes of economic gentrification.” The article also highlighted several ways in which the government can have an impact on gentrification:

“Communities are marginalized when they are displaced from their homes, so if housing could be more affordable, the level of displacement would decrease.”

“In an attempt to level the playing field, government needs to be held accountable for ensuring that all residents can afford to live in D.C., while balancing the power of developers and special interest groups.”

As so many people are forced to leave the neighborhood they’ve called home for many years, it is ultimately up to the government to combat the displacement of these people.

At the beginning of the summer, I took a walk around my neighborhood and remembered the conversation I had with Mr. Eddie. To this day, his fears are still relevant. I’ve seen many people just like him succumb to the changing neighborhood and rising rent. I thought about how the people living around me are starting to look less and less familiar. I thought about how confused the neighborhood made me feel. I thought about how my “home” was starting to not feel like home anymore. I thought about how long my family has before they too have to pack up and leave.

This fall, I will be holding these personal experiences close as I explore how organizing and policy, both current and new, can help maintain or recreate some socio-economic diversity in my neighborhood and others.