Monday, July 8, 2013

Greenleaf, Potomac Gardens, Barry Farms -- Don't Believe DC Government Promises

In today's Post, the article "D.C. housing initiative languishes" demonstrated that the New Communities Initiative, HOPE VI, and other affordable housing programs do not fulfill mandated legal obligations to public housing residents. I would recommend that those living in Greenleaf Gardens, Potomac Gardens, Barry Farms, and other public housing projects not believe any future promises made to them by the DC government.

Most of those commenting on the article, however, focused on criticizing public housing residents for getting a supposed free ride. In contrast, commenters on a recent NY Times article "Gentrifying into the Shelters" (about how gentrification of Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn was moving large numbers of low-income residents into either homeless shelters or more impoverished areas) realized that gentrification was making all of New York City unaffordable for many residents and had turned Manhattan at least into an "overpriced shopping mall." Maybe DC residents should be more concerned?
  • Considering the fact that affordable housing programs across the United States have not fulfilled their legal obligations not to displace public housing residents, I would argue that the fact that DC public housing residents have been displaced for years is not due to incompentence or to DC's corrupt politicians, but rather it is a systemic problem. City governments are interested in tax revenue and thus in profit-making businesses; affordable housing is just not a priority, unless residents force politicians to make it a priority.
  • Are cities like DC or New York or San Francisco only for the wealthy because they can afford them? The wealthy will always win in competition for housing with moderate and low-income residents. Do you want to live in the city that DC is becoming? Or can you live in the city that DC is becoming? 
  • Many people are calling for a general "Right to the City." Writing about the recent Istanbul protests, journalist Jay Cassano found that protests have been very concerned about the city that that Istanbul is becoming: 
  • "this protest is the latest manifestation of a movement that has been stirring for some time now. The shopping mall is only one component of a plan to entirely redesign Taksim Square into a more car-friendly, tourist-accommodating, and sanitized urban center. Mass protests have also taken place recently to stop the closure of the landmark Emek Cinema..., which is also being converted into (no surprise) a shopping mall."
Maybe DC residents should be similarly concerned? As a former resident of Arthur Capper public housing told me: Arthur Capper “was part of the District of Columbia…like a finger or an arm in the body of the District of Columbia…You just cannot destroy a community and expect the city to thrive and survive." How might we make certain that DC thrives and survives? What might that mean?

In the meantime, here are some ideas about how the DC government can stop displacing our neighbors today.

1 comment:

  1. It is significant that these government actions to support gentrification are illegal. Legally we still live in a democracy, but the demands of the wealthy are becoming ever more incompatible with democracy and the legal institutions that have grown up around it. Making the government behave legally would force it to serve all the people equally rather than just the wealthy.
    Of course nowadays the wealthy can always just get the supreme court to change the law to suit them....


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