Monday, May 20, 2013

Gentrification in DC

Here is a re-creation of a presentation I gave a couple of weeks ago on Gentrification in DC. The most interesting part of the presentation are the income and race maps, which you can fast forward to in Sections I and II. Main points: 1) Gentrification has changed over time, from its beginnings in the 1950s to today. Today in DC, much gentrification is mobilized by large developers, global investors, and the complete reconstruction of certain parts of town, as opposed to early forms organized by local real estate concerns and local groups of homeowners.

2) Gentrification is overlaid upon already existing racial segregation in DC and elsewhere. Many people don't recognize that racial segregation was a new trend around 1900. Racism has expressed itself in many ways over the course of American history, but racial segregation is relatively new. We see racial segregation and divided cities emerging around the world starting in the 1890s (see Carl Nightingale's tour-de-force Segregation: A Global History of Divided Cities). The maps in this presentation show that DC is very much a divided city.




P.S. Some corrections:
1) I said that 29,000 residents were displaced from Southwest DC during urban renewal in the 1960s. I should have said 23,500 residents were displaced then.

2) I said that the first Home Rule government began in 1974, but the first Home Rule mayor, Walter E. Washington, began his term on January 2, 1975.

3) The sociologist I mention is Kevin Fox Gotham (not Keith as I say in the video). 


  1. This is a very good presentation. Thanks. Some questions about displacement and Arthur Capper: When the Arthur Capper Dwellings were built, they cleared a large area that held the rented homes (aka "slums") of mostly African Americans settled in large extended families, often with unrelated lodgers, unemployed or making low wages as servants, laborers, helpers. Given a quick look at the 1940 census, it appears that in one of the enumeration districts subject to redevelopment for the Arthur Capper project, there would have been over 2,000 people affected, plus maybe another 500 affected in another district. These people wouldn't have had options, and math tells us most couldn't have found homes in the nicer new apartments and town houses with all the SW refugees. Where did the people displaced by Arthur Capper Dwellings go? Do the old Arthur Capper residents ever talk about them and that old community and neighborhood?


  2. Basically in the same area, there were three public housing projects: Carrollsburg (built in 1940-1941 as I understand as the African American public housing), Ellen Wilson (built in 1940-1941 as the white public housing), and Arthur Capper (finished in 1958 as integrated public housing). In the DC Archives, the public housing authority in 1955 reported that there were 439 families in the 250 parcels of land that made up the Arthur Capper land; 163 of 207 who applied for public housing were eligible for public housing. 284 out of 404 went to private housing, which RLA helped rehouse with 50 real estate firms; the RLA claimed to have little difficulty placing them because of vacancies on private market. However, the following month, the public housing authority reported that some families were doubling up with other families or preferred to find their own housing or didn't want to talk about their income and thus didn't apply for public housing.

    DC Archives, National Capital Housing Authority, Minutes of Meeting, February 25, 1955.
    National Capital Housing Authority, Minutes of Meeting, Thursday March 31, 1955.

  3. Some number of Arthur Capper residents came from the land where Arthur Capper stood or very nearby, as well as from Southwest DC displaced by urban renewal there. Many people talk about coming from SW DC. They do talk a lot about the community ties they built with long-time residents around Arthur Capper, but that doesn't totally answer your question.


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