Washington Business Journal, August 16, 2019: Gentrification at work
The Washington region stands among the richest enclaves in the country, with its own Great Falls nestled among the U.S.’s top 10 wealthiest ZIP codes. Four of the country’s 10 most educated ZIP codes lie within our borders, topped only by Cambridge, Massachusetts. And two District ZIP codes house among the highest concentrations of management workers nationwide.
But as wealthy as our region is, we also have ZIP codes where the median household income is below the national median. Ditto for the median home value, despite our famously robust local housing market. In these ZIPs, per-capita incomes are below the national average of $31,786 and fewer than 10% of the adult population has graduate or professional degrees, while less than a third work in management.
Today, pockets of the District have been changing, and changing fast, to bridge that wealth divide. That change, however, has come at a cost.
Enter the concept of gentrification.
That’s when “an influx of investment and changes to the built environment lead to rising home values, family incomes and educational levels of residents,” according to the National Community Reinvestment Coalition. As wealthier residents move in and rental rates rise, that, in turn, can lead to substantial displacement of the area’s original residents, many of whom are African American. Cultural and racial displacement occurs when “minority areas see a rapid decline in their numbers as affluent, white gentrifiers replace the incumbent residents,” said the coalition, a D.C.-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit.