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The Impact of Gentrification on Homelessness in Washington, DC

Thursday, February 20, 2020   (0 Comments)

This month's DEI discussion covered the impact of gentrification, homelessness, and segregation in Washington, DC. We were grateful to have Brook Hill, member leader of ONE DC and associate counsel of Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs lead this important discussion. 


According to the State of the Capital Region in 2019 report on housing growth and affordability, home prices are accelerating at a rate much higher than household income. The home price increase is partially driven by the region having added nearly twice as many people as housing units between 2000 and 2017. Sadly, this trend of home prices rising faster than household income is not new. As the State of the Capitol Region in 2019 reports, “From 1980 to 2017, real median incomes rose by 30 percent while median home values rose by more than 50 percent.” 


Living in the DC area, we are no strangers to construction. However, all the housing development across the region exacerbates the issue of housing affordability. Between 2000 and 2017, approximately half the new housing growth was concentrated in exurban  jurisdictions (jurisdictions that extend beyond DC suburbs), such as Loudoun and Prince William counties. In fact, according to the State of the Capital Region in 2019 report, “Over the last 17 years, exurban locations produced roughly as much new housing as urban and suburban areas combined.” So how does this affect housing affordability? Most of the new housing has been either detached single-family homes or single-family rowhouses, both of which are more expensive to buy or rent than apartments in multifamily buildings, thereby contributing to the rising cost of housing.  

Homeownership is a cornerstone of accumulating wealth that can be passed on to future generations, but many Americans cannot afford to buy a home, and many have experienced institutional barriers that have legally excluded them from homeownership.  Brook walked the DEI Committee through a history of racial discrimination, both government and private discrimination, that restricted housing choice for African Americans. This conversation touched upon the Federal Housing Administration (FHA)’s redlining practices that operated until 1968 followed by the practices of the mortgage industry in general after 1968. This has limited the areas where African Americans can afford to live and carries through to the present day. 

With the cost of housing on the rise in DC, the Black   share of DC’s population has been steadily declining from 70% in 1980 to just 46% today. Furthermore, the black residents who still live in DC face higher levels of poverty and unemployment than any other racial group. Brook notes, “Like direct discrimination has limited the areas where African Americans can choose to live, gentrification also limits where African American can choose to live.”

Additional Resources:

  • State of the Capital Region in 2019: Housing Growth and Affordability Report (Brookings) https://www.brookings.edu/research/state-of-the-capital-region-in-2019-housing-growth-and-affordability/
  • Black Workers Matter: How the District’s History of Exploitation & Discrimination Continues to Harm Black Workers (DC Fiscal Policy Institute) https://www.dcfpi.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Black-Workers-Matter-PDF-5.pdf

The Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee writes a monthly blog covering topics from WGR’s monthly DEI Committee meetings. Meetings are open to all WGR members, view upcoming topics and meetings here. To learn more about WGR’s commitment to Diversity, Equity & Inclusion click here.

This blog is authored by Angela Lee, Manager of Advocacy Outreach and Engagement, Goodwill Industries International.