DAN GANNON FOR THE HOYA Professor Brian McCabe explained the effects of gentrification on D.C.’s demographics and neighborhoods in an event Tuesday.
Professor Brian McCabe explained the effects of gentrification on D.C.’s demographics and neighborhoods in an event Tuesday.

The Georgetown Center for Social Justice Research, Teaching and Service held a workshop on demographics in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday.

The workshop, entitled “Demographics in D.C.” took place in White-Gravenor Hall. Approximately 100 students from various Georgetown organizations attended, including members of D.C. Schools Project, D.C. Reads, the Georgetown University Program on Justice and Peace and the Center for Social Justice Advisory Board for Student Organizations.

Guest speaker professor Brian McCabe from Georgetown’s department of sociology and representatives of One D.C. Quitel Andrews and Clare Cook spoke about changing demographics in Washington, D.C., and the surrounding metropolitan area as well as the gentrification of neighborhoods in D.C.

McCabe began by explaining the demographic shifts in D.C., or more specifically, how the black population is no longer a majority. The city’s population, which today is approximately 600,000 people, greatly declined in the 1980s and 1990s. This decline stemmed from the amendment of the Fair Housing Act in 1988, which granted blacks equal housing rights and allowed them to leave the city and live in the suburbs, following the exodus of the white population to the suburbs in the 1950s.

“In the time you’ve all been in college, the number of black residents in Washington, D.C., has greatly fallen,” McCabe said. “They no longer make up the majority of residents in Washington, D.C., like they once did. These are trends you see in all American cities.”

Student tutors in D.C. Reads and D.C. Schools Project who attended the event work with D.C.’s immigrant community and underprivileged students in Wards 7 and 8 in D.C. McCabe explained that these wards are still primarily black, while Wards 1 and 2 are predominantly white.

“[D.C. is] very far from being a post- racial city,” McCabe said. “D.C. continues to be one of the most segregated cities in the US.”

McCabe presented neighborhood gentrification to the audience by displaying an old image of a market located on 7th and O streets NW. The old supermarket, which was once anterior to an affordable apartment complex, now stands next to a luxury apartment development known as Jefferson MarketPlace. The redevelopment of this building displaced longtime residents, contributing to D.C.’s problems with an excess of high-end housing and a lack of affordable housing.

“Historically, Shaw was the pre-eminent African-American neighborhood in Washington, D.C., and this gentrification raises the questions of what it means to displace the poor or the homeless for these kinds of developments,” McCabe said.

Cook and Andrews, who work with One D.C. to organize neighborhood equity, agreed that affordable housing is becoming increasingly difficult to find in Washington, D.C., as more neighborhoods gentrify. Cook explained that as policies change, demographics and neighborhood cultures change as well. Developers seek to “attract different groups” to existing neighborhoods and grant little power to current residents in these decisions. Cook expressed that although tenants are often given the right to return to live in their buildings after renovation, the new rent is often too expensive for them to afford.

Emily Brown (COL ’17) attended the event and said that she enjoyed learning more about D.C.’s racial culture.

“I attended the event because I work in the CSJ and wanted to learn about issues that impact the communities I work with through D.C. Reads,” Brown said. “It’s important to understand issues like gentrification because it’s something you see in basically every part of the city, and if you’re not aware of it you’ll be unable to understand subtle tensions in the neighborhoods undergoing that kind of change. I need to understand this kind of larger social justice issue in order to understand the Ward 7 neighborhoods we work with.”

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *