While restrictive zoning and land-use policies make it tougher for yuppies to move to big cities without moving into a small studio or finding a few roommates, those hardest hit by these regressive regulations are poor, often minority residents of “gentrifying” neighborhoods–areas where newer, nicer buildings are constructed that bring up rents and price out previous residents.
In response to these developments in Washington, D.C., a number of activist organizations in the District have filed a suit against the city, specifically with regard to where and what types of housing are constructed. Writes Katie Arciere in Washington Business Journal,
The lawsuit claims D.C.’s land-use and housing polic[i]es have violated numerous local and federal laws, such as the Fair Housing Act and the D.C. Human Rights Act. It cites four D.C. communities — Barry Farm, Poplar Point, Union Market and Buzzard Point — where generations of African-American residents are being pushed out for new projects aimed at college-educated millennials and members of the “creative class.”
It states that between 2000 and 2010, 39,000 African-Americans have been forced out of the city while the city gained 50,000 white residents.
“It bears repeating, it is under these circumstances that the city is intentionally trying to lighten black neighborhoods and the way they have primarily been doing it is through construction of high density, luxury buildings, that primarily only offer studios and one bedrooms,” the lawsuit filed in April states.
In the amended complaint, the lawsuit concedes that D.C. can choose its land-use policies, but not at disregard of the law.
It’s easy to focus on the visible and blame displacement on the building of new pricey housing. But it’s the failure to allow sufficient density in higher-income neighborhoods that drives displacement–by encouraging gentrification of existing housing in lower-income neighborhoods, and shunting new development to those same areas.
For more on why condemning new housing as “luxury” housing is misguided, read Daniel Herriges’s piece in Greater Greater Washington.
For more on why housing that caters toward yuppies is good for longtime residents, be sure to read Noah Smith’s “yuppie fishtank” blog post.