by Emily Chong
Change to cities, neighborhoods, and communities is inevitable—however, with the latest tide of change, many communities are experiencing gentrification. Gentrification occurs when “communities experience an influx of capital and concomitant goods and services in locales where those resources were previously non-existent or denied.” Usually, gentrification occurs when more affluent people move to or become interested in historically less affluent neighborhoods. Gentrification is a phenomenon subject to much debate—some believe that its effects are purely positive, while others argue that gentrification brings about harmful consequences. I argue the latter and examine the problems that gentrification causes.
Some argue that gentrification is beneficial since the gentrification process creates more development, rapid economic investment, and support of projects related to consumption and entertainment. The incoming population of more affluent residents and people of privilege is directly connected to an increase in resource allocation to schools, stores, and other development. While these effects can be beneficial, the gentrification process becomes detrimental when it forces original residents to leave the neighborhood through exponentially increasing property prices, coercion, or buyouts. If there is no widespread displacement, and the shifts in the neighborhood are carefully planned through with community input and involvement, gentrification can be a good thing for the community, increasing “socioeconomic, racial, and ethnic integration.” However, this is rarely ever the case.
Gentrification usually leads to negative impacts such as forced displacement, a fostering of discriminatory behavior by people in power, and a focus on spaces that exclude low-income individuals and people of color.
by Rob Van Someren Greve
Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers allow beneficiaries to rent a property of their choice from private owners by having federal funds cover most of their rent. They provide access to affordable housing to over two million very low-income households in the United States. Given the steady decline of other federal affordable housing programs, the Voucher program is of vital importance to the goal of “aiding low-income families in obtaining a decent place to live.” For the program to be successful, private landlords must be willing to rent their properties to beneficiaries. Unfortunately, many landlords—especially those whose properties are not located in neighborhoods with high concentrations of poor households—refuse to participate in the program. To combat this unwillingness and help ensure that Voucher recipients are able to find a “decent place to live,” numerous jurisdictions across the country have passed laws that prohibit landlords from discriminating against tenants on the basis of their source of income.
Unsurprisingly, landlords who had been unwilling to rent to Voucher holders prior to the adoption of laws prohibiting source-of-income discrimination have generally not simply acquiesced after these laws were passed. Landlords in various jurisdictions have challenged these laws in court, arguing as follows: while participation in the Housing Choice Voucher program is voluntary, prohibiting source-of-income discrimination de facto forces them to participate; therefore, such laws are in conflict with, and thus preempted by, the federal statute. Courts have, for the most part, not been particularly receptive to this line of argument. Again unsurprisingly, landlords seeking to preserve the ability to reject otherwise eligible tenants seeking to pay with vouchers have focused their efforts elsewhere.
by Lisa M. Thomas, Ph.D.
In this blog post, Staff Editor Lisa Thomas discusses how redevelopment can affect the District’s most vulnerable residents. For more on affordable housing in Washington, D.C., check out Katherine Hannah’s recent Note, Carrying Out the Promise: How Shared Equity Models Can Save Affordable Housing, on WestLaw and Lexis.
Photo by Staff Editor Lisa Thomas
The area around Washington, D.C.’s Convention Center is a model for new development, but it also exemplifies the issues that some of the city’s most vulnerable residents are facing. Cranes appear in all directions, including the six-block area known as Mt. Vernon Triangle. Old and abandoned buildings are quickly being replaced with hotels, luxury apartments, stores, and restaurants. Museum Square, however, stands out as an exception to the new rule; currently, it is Section 8 housing on the corner of K Street NW and 4th Street NW. Many of its residents are Chinese, elderly, low income, and non-English speaking—factors that have disadvantaged them when negotiating to keep their homes. The tenants at Museum Square comprise half of the remaining Chinese population in the neighborhood, just a few blocks north of Chinatown.
In 2013, the owner of the Museum Square apartment building, the Bush Companies, declared that it was not going to renew the Section 8 agreement it had with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which subsidizes the tenants’ rent. In June 2014, Bush informed tenants that they could purchase the building; otherwise, the developer planned to construct two new buildings there—one with fourteen stories of apartments and another with thirteen stories of condominiums. The project would also include four levels of underground parking and 17,000 square feet of retail space. The residents tried to exercise their right to purchase the property, which Bush claimed would cost them $250 million.
by Meha Patel
In recent years, the District of Columbia government has focused homelessness alleviation efforts on its rapid re-housing program. The program provides homeless individuals and families with short-term rental assistance. Individuals pay thirty to forty percent of their income towards their monthly rent, while the rapid-rehousing subsidy pays the remainder. These subsidies aim to provide homeless individuals adequate housing as soon as possible, rather than waiting to provide housing until these individuals have reached certain behavioral benchmarks, for example employment, sobriety, or compliance with mental health counseling. The program adequately understands the difficulty homeless individuals have in achieving stability in other areas of their lives when they are burdened with homelessness, and how housing can be a first step towards this stability and independence.
by David Garcia-Pedrosa
[This piece is in response to the article Police Are Tearing Down One of the Nation’s Largest Homeless Camps, found at http://www.ryot.org/the-jungle-silicon-valley-homeless-camp-police-tear-down/882249 .]
The tearing down of the Silicon Valley homeless encampment is only one example of a nation-wide epidemic of evicting homeless people from their tents and hand-made shelters. The Government’s destruction of these “tent cities” raises many concerns for the homeless. One such concern is homeless persons’ Fourth Amendment right “to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.” The attached article is a step away from affording Fourth Amendment protection to homeless persons in their dwellings.