Friday, February 25, 2011

Bus Riding in Ward 6

Ward 6 hosts several of the most popular Metrobus routes, including the #1 busiest bus route (90/92/93). From the top 10 busiest bus routes in DC (2010 WMATA Media Guide), I would like to highlight three:

1. 90/92/93 with an average ridership of 13,267 (my favorite bus route)
Runs from Congress Heights/Anacostia Station along 8th and Florida to Adams Morgan/Duke Ellington Bridge

5. 32/36 with an average ridership of 11,943
Runs from Friendship Heights Station along Pennsylvania Ave to Southern Ave/Naylor Rd Station

8. X2 with an average ridership of 11,254
Runs from Minnesota Ave Station along H St NE/NW to Lafayette Sq

Over 13,000 riders a day on the 90/92/93! We also host the busiest Metrorail station: Union Station with 32,745 daily entries. The surprisingly informative 2010 WMATA Media Guide describes some of the major differences between subway and bus passengers. Both share similar distributions of employment and gender. The main differences are the following:

Bus Riders
Subway Riders

No Household Vehicle19%2%

Median Income$68,110$103,800

Below $75,00054%24%



College Degree

Since 19% of bus riders do not have a car in their household (compared with 2% of rail riders), we can see that bus riders tend to be more transit-dependent, though I would guess that certain routes have more transit-dependent riders than others.

On my recent trip on the 90/92/93, I noticed that a lot people got on around N. Capitol St. I asked someone where she was coming from and going to. She said that she was coming from work at one of the hospitals located just to the north, which are Children's Hospital, the VA Medical Center, the National Rehabilitation Hospital, Washington Hospital Center, and Howard University Hospital. She had transferred from another bus and was on her way home over the river. A trip that took her along 8th St/Barracks Row to M St and then a brief hop over the river.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Shock Therapy in Ward 6

Breaking up public housing breaks up social networks. Public housing is often dismantled and then rebuilt in a new form with a new name (like Capper-Carrollsburg becoming Capitol Quarter), in the hopes of dismantling the perceived dangerous or dysfunctional social ties that seem to cause crime, poverty, and other social problems. Yet, sociologists have shown that economic, social, and political success requires social ties, what they call "social capital." Building on the research that has shown that most people get their jobs through personal contacts, Stanford University sociologist Mark Granovetter showed that weak ties, not friends or family but acquaintances or friends of friends, help the majority of people get jobs. Low-income groups, in fact, rely on such social connections much more than those with higher incomes and thus, as John Betancur demonstrated in an article published this month, displacement "can seriously disrupt or destroy their systems of support, exchange and reciprocity or social fabrics." The loss of these networks make it more difficult for the poor to find jobs and childcare, as well as have a public voice.

So, with the indiscriminate destruction of social networks (functional and dysfunctional), those with strong social networks can take advantage of the situation. In Eastern Europe after 1989, many experts called for shock therapy to wipe away the remnants of the past system. While these countries gained democratically, all their economies collapsed. In the wreckage, foreign companies and well-connected individuals (like Russia's oligarchs) could buy companies inexpensively.

There is no question that the residents of public housing were complaining about the state of their housing. Except in the case of the 162 seniors in the senior building and about 25 other families/individuals (of the original 707 families/individuals), the former residents of Capper-Carrollsburg are not benefiting from the major investment being made in the site, after years of neglect. According to Affordable Housing Finance magazine, the redevelopment of Arthur Capper and Carrollsburg as mixed-income housing is using a total of $460 million, combining "12 funding sources to leverage a $36 million HOPE VI grant." The very-low-income residents have been dispersed, diminishing their social capital, and likely remain isolated and in poverty in their new neighborhoods (see the research of Goertz and Chapple). The residents knew that this would happen and tried to stop their displacement from happening, while still asking the city to invest in and improve their community. As I said in a previous post, one could say that the "failure" of public housing was a failure of government, businesses, or other entities to invest in poor areas and the "success" of mixed-income housing was the result of massive investment in these areas.

Who is benefiting from this redevelopment? Who has been allowed to maintain and strengthen their social networks?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Priced out of Public Housing

When you take the 6th St SE exit off of the 295 freeway, you can see the new senior public housing building on the right-hand side of the street (photo on left). At the stop light there, if you look back to the right, you can see a large expanse of new townhouses (photo on right). This area south of the 295 to M St and between 2nd and 7th St SE was the Arthur Capper and Carrollsburg public housing developments. These two developments housed 707 low-income and very-low-income families and seniors. A very interesting fact is that today HUD considers households making up to $82,000 in DC to be low-income because they are increasingly priced out of DC.

With HOPE VI funding, both developments were demolished and redeveloped as a public-private mixed-income project. HOPE VI funding requires the DC Housing Authority to replace each unit of public housing, all 707 units, and thus not eliminate public housing from the site. The new development has many new townhouses. When completed, there will be 323 units. Using the developer's site plan, we see many townhouses starting at $662,000 or more, workforce townhouses with subsidized mortgages for those making $82,800-119,025, and affordable apartments (I was told by the developer that these were for those making around $50,000-60,000).

From the very helpful DCHA, I found out that 339 "public housing" units have been recreated on the Capper-Carrollsburg site, leaving 368 to be constructed. So, who lives in the 339 units? Those allowed in the units have to make a certain percentage of Area Median Income (AMI), which is $103,500 in DC. HUD considers those with up to 80% AMI ($82,000) to be low-income (though DC has tended to stick closer to the 60% threshold).

  • 162 seniors, in the senior building, who can make 0-60% AMI.
  • 138 individuals/families with a working head of household, in 400 M St., who make 40-60% AMI ($41,400-62,100).
  • 39 individuals or families, in Capitol Quarter, who make 0-30% AMI.
  • Total: 339 units.

There are very few units for those who make less than $41,000. From the incredibly informative Housing Policy in the United States 2010 textbook, we know that the average nationwide income for those working as elementary school teachers ($49,781), LPN nurses ($38,941), security guards ($29,401), and cashiers ($19,757) would not allow them to buy a house here or elsewhere. Also, we know that the average hourly wage for those working as LPN nurses ($15.72), security guards ($14.13), janitors ($11.57), and cashiers ($9.50) would not allow them to rent an average 2-bedroom apartment here or elsewhere.

Realizing that even the middle class is becoming priced out of DC, the Federal and DC governments began to set aside "workforce" housing. Yet, those with less than $41,000 incomes are in truly dire straits. The ever expanding market of high-end rentals and houses drives the neglect of middle- and low-income housing demand. Nationwide, the number of public housing units has decreased by 250,000 (18%) from 1991 to 2007 and the number of privately owned federally subsidized units have decreased by over 150,000 since 1997 (Housing Policy, p. 39). According to a 2007 DCHA report, the DC waiting list for public housing has 29,756 individuals/families on it and the DC waiting list for vouchers to rent on the private market has 48,748 individuals/families on it. While there is more and more demand for affordable housing, subsidies are provided to others. Around 7 million low-income renters received federal housing subsidies in 2008. In 2008, 155 million homeowners took mortgage deductions on their federal income taxes. These deductions and other homeowner tax benefits exceeded $171 billion, mostly going to those with incomes over $100,000 (Housing Policy, p. 7). Priced out of public housing in many ways...

The "low-income" category has been defined upward. It is true that the middle-class is being priced out of DC. At the same time, the poor, including the working poor, have been pushed out of such places as Capper-Carrollsburg. Rather than setting up a choice between helping either those making $50,000 or those making $20,000, we should think about how we as taxpayers are helping those who can afford $800,000 townhouses.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Displacing People isn't Going to End Poverty

The Federal and city governments across the country have been moving people out of public housing for decades in the belief that moving them to better neighborhoods will improve their lives. Just last year, Edward Goetz and Karen Chapple evaluated the social science research since 1995 on this topic. What did they find?
  • Families moved from high-poverty areas felt an increased sense of safety and of satisfaction with their new environment. Adults and female youths had mental health benefits, while male youth had adverse effects.
  • These households, however, did not experience benefits in employment, health, or social integration.
  • These families experienced increased social isolation. They had little social interaction with higher-income neighbors.
  • These families also lost the social networks that helped them survive on a daily basis. As John Betancur demonstrated in an article published this month, lower-income groups rely on neighborhood-based fabrics of support "far more than do the higher income" and, thus, displacement "can seriously disrupt or destroy their systems of support, exchange and reciprocity or social fabrics." The loss of these networks make it more difficult to find jobs, childcare, etc.
  • Many of these families ended up in other high-poverty, racially segregated areas due to the lack of affordable housing, lack of housing for the "hard to house" population, discrimination by landlords, and other reasons.
  • Distressingly, many are forced to leave when they, in fact, remained attached to their particular development as their home and community. A study of a project in Portland found that two-thirds of the residents did not want to move and later mourned the loss of their neighbors and their housing development. This is similar to what I discussed in my last posting.
The authors found that "mere mobility is not the answer to problems of chronic joblessness and poverty." Displacement seem to primarily dismantle neighborhoods. What to do about this? Don't displace people. If you want to improve low-income peoples' lives, according to Goertz and Chapple, more effectively manage and maintain public housing, help residents feel more secure (such as through community policing), and provide resources that have a proven track record, such as community development financial institutions and workforce development.

But is trying to reduce poverty really the reason why governments are moving people out of public housing?

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Dynamics of Gentrification

Sociologists have long criticized concentrated urban poverty. In his famous The Truly Disadvantaged and When Work Disappears, Harvard sociologist William Julius Wilson showed the ways that economic forces, including the movement of jobs and middle class residents out of cities, left islands of extreme urban poverty. In his article "American Apartheid," Princeton sociologist Douglas Massey demonstrated that both economic forces and racial discrimination in the housing market concentrate poverty. Sociologists called for the end of concentrated urban poverty and racial segregation.

Policy makers listened to the sociologists, but not necessarily in the way that sociologists intended. American University anthropologist Brett Williams states: "Animated by William Julius Wilson's vision of mixed-income communities, HUD has replaced 134 units of public housing at the abandoned Ellen Wilson Dwellings with the Capitol Hill Townhomes" (see the photo on the right). In 1993, the Hope VI program went into affect nationwide, which funded the demolition of public housing and the redevelopment of new mixed-income housing. In Ward 6, there is Hope VI housing at the site of Ellen Wilson (photo on the right), Arthur Capper (photo on the left), and Carrollsburg, while Temple Courts and Sursum Corda were redeveloped under DC's New Communities Initiative. I don't know if the New Communities Initiative is connected to Hope VI.

When reading reports of the closure of public housing, two things are striking:

1) The DC government again and again does not accept responsibility for the continual lack of investment in public housing, housing that the city itself owned. The DC government, like so many city governments nationwide, did not invest in maintaining or improving public housing. With the decision to demolish the public housing sites, the DC government then finally invested in the area. For example, according to Affordable Housing Finance magazine, the redevelopment of Arthur Capper and Carrollsburg as mixed-income housing (in Ward 6) is using a total of $460 million, combining "12 funding sources to leverage a $36 million HOPE VI grant." One could say that the "failure" of public housing was a failure of government, businesses, or other entities to invest in poor areas and the "success" of mixed-income housing was the result of massive investment in these areas. Why didn't city governments make even a fraction of this investment earlier?

2) The residents of public housing did not passively accept the demolition of their homes. Yes, the public housing units were falling apart within neighborhoods of concentrated poverty. At the same time, the residents knew that they would probably not benefit from the gentrification that would come. The movie Chocolate City documents the protests and lives of former residents from Arthur Capper and Carrollsburg public housing. An Urban Institute report finds that the majority of residents removed from redeveloped public housing sites never return to those communities. While some have found better places to live (for example, those who found housing with rental vouchers moved to neighborhoods where the poverty rate was 16 percentage points lower on average than their previous community), in mixed-income developments "there are simply fewer public housing units on site. Some sites have imposed relatively stringent screening criteria that have excluded some former residents" (Urban Inst. report 2007: 1). The redevelopment has thus helped to displace residents.

Something else is lost beyond the opportunity to live in new housing. While I search for survey data on this, we can witness a sense of loss of community from the many Facebook pages of alumni of now disappeared public housing. The Facebook page for Eastgate Gardens Public Housing (Ward 7), sometimes called "Cinderblock City," states: "the interpersonal relationships that were developed between Eastgate residents still stand just like the cinderblocks that composed of the housing units! This page is is dedicated to those families!" The 345 Facebook members organize an annual reunion and refer to the Eastgate "family" and to Eastgate as "home."

Why has redevelopment and gentrification displaced so many people? Maybe because such redevelopment has only dealt with the symptom of concentrated poverty and not, in the words of UCLA geographer Edward Soja, "underlying spatial structures and structurings of locational advantage and disadvantage." More on that in a future posting.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Map of DC Ward 6 Public Housing

Here is a map of the 14 public housing sites in Ward 6. I got the addresses from the DC Housing Authority and used Google Maps to plot them. I didn't include Lincoln Road (11 R Street NE) because it seems like it was outside Ward 6. You can click on Full Screen to see the entire map or you can download or print it for better viewing. Next task, locate where there used to be public housing!

DC Ward 6 Public Housing

Map of DC Ward 6

One can print this map and then use it to record various things in Ward 6. I'll post an example in a few minutes.

Ward 6 map

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Hine Jr. High Redevelopment Meeting Tonight

The ANC 6B meeting on the Hine Jr. High Redevelopment will take place tonight at 7pm at Brent School (301 North Carolina Avenue SE). From the EMMCA blog, we know that the project has been scaled back substantially. Many of the organizations that were going to be in the new building have now chosen not to, including Shakespeare Theater. Why not completely rethink the building? We are in need of non-luxury housing for the thousands of interns and Library of Congress researchers, who visit Ward 6 every year. We also could use a non-luxury hotel for visiting relatives or other visitors. Thom made some interesting comments on my earlier post:

"For many residents in the neighborhood, the decision by DC Public Schools to give up control of a site that has been a school since Abraham Lincoln was President was a tragic mistake. The Hine site is the historic site where the Wallach School was built in 1864 while the Civil War still raged, to serve all children, black and white, rich and poor alike. In 1922, students and teachers could look out the windows of the Wallach School to watch construction of one of the original Carnegie libraries, the Southeast Library that still sits across the street from this site.

In recent years, however, developers in the neighborhood convinced our local elected officials that this historic school site should be developed commercially, and not serve students any longer.

There is no need for a school to take up all or even most of the site, of course. Retail, office space and residential development of a density compatible with the neighborhood and its many strong transportation links should also be part of the development. But I hope the development will include a substantial DCPS presence when it is completed in 2015 or so. That would send the right message about the high importance residents place on meeting the needs of students on Capitol Hill."

What do you think?