Four years, $13 million and dozens of hands: how ‘affordable housing’ gets made in America

Market Watch, May 23, 2019: Four years, $13 million and dozens of hands: how ‘affordable housing’ gets made in America

The story of the tenants of 410 Cedar St. isn’t just the story of one Washington, D.C., building; it’s the story of how America creates “affordable housing” — and why it’s so incredibly hard. Washington, D.C., a planned city from inception, is unique in many ways. In particular, it has made a strong public commitment to helping its residents access housing that’s affordable, and providing tools that support tenants.

However, the gentrification experienced in the nation’s capital in recent years has been among the most intense in the U.S., in its case resulting in the displacement of mostly African American residents from low-income neighborhoods, according to a recent study from the National Community Reinvestment Coalition. “While gentrification increases the value of properties in areas that suffered from prolonged disinvestment, it also results in rising rents, home and property values,” the NCRC noted. “As these rising costs reduce the supply of affordable housing, existing residents, who are often black or Hispanic, are displaced. This prevents them from benefiting from the economic growth and greater availability of services that come with increased investment.”


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Redlining and Neighborhood Health

Before the pandemic devastated minority communities, banks and government officials starved them of capital.

Lower-income and minority neighborhoods that were intentionally cut off from lending and investment decades ago today suffer not only from reduced wealth and greater poverty, but from lower life expectancy and higher prevalence of chronic diseases that are risk factors for poor outcomes from COVID-19, a new study shows.

The new study, from the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) with researchers from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee Joseph J. Zilber School of Public Health and the University of Richmond’s Digital Scholarship Lab, compared 1930’s maps of government-sanctioned lending discrimination zones with current census and public health data.

Table of Content

  • Executive Summary
  • Introduction
  • Redlining, the HOLC Maps and Segregation
  • Segregation, Public Health and COVID-19
  • Methods
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Conclusion and Policy Recommendations
  • Citations
  • Appendix

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