In the raging tempest that is DC’s housing market, the areas east of the Anacostia River offer a final bastion of affordability. But with prices starting to rise in this area too, more needs to be done to make sure longtime residents can stay.
Wards 7 and 8 have increasingly become a world apart from the rest of the city. While DC as a whole has seen a huge influx of wealth and young, largely white, professionals, east of the river poverty and unemployment rates remain stubbornly high. Education levels languish, and segregation is more pronounced here than anywhere else in the District.
The silver lining for residents is that average home prices in these wards are hundreds of thousands less than on the river’s western bank, leaving a swath of affordability that is about 95% black households. Data suggest that the area has become a last source of refuge for many black families priced out of their longtime homes in other parts of the city.
But with a housing market so far out of control, nowhere in DC is safe for long. Neighborhoods in Wards 7 and 8 saw some of the city’s biggest yearly price increases in 2016, and many are already speculating that there’s more to come in 2017.
This is driven in large part by a huge slate of new developments planned for the area*. While this kind of investment is clearly needed, many residents have legitimate fears about what it will mean for their ability to stay.
One of these developments, the 11th St Bridge Park project, has taken significant steps to ensure that it won’t end up forcing out the people it’s trying to serve. The project is working with MANNA on the development of affordable townhouses near the park, as well as a homebuyer’s club to prepare residents for homeownership.
Also in partnership with the park, the Local Initiatives Support Corp. (LISC) has pledged $50 million for the area to support affordable housing and community development needs. LISC’s website shows the individual projects that money goes to fund: several neighborhood festivals, a local school, and numerous units of affordable housing make up the first tenth of the investment.
The 11th St Bridge Park offers a model that can serve as a launching pad for even more community-oriented projects in the future. Without this kind of commitment, the areas east of the river will soon become just another gentrified section of our overpriced city.
*Hyperlink specifically for Anacostia