D.C. Housing Boom Exacerbates Problem of Gentrification

D.C. is second only to New York in the number of multimillion-dollar homes. (Courtesy photo)
D.C. is second only to New York in the number of multimillion-dollar homes. (Courtesy photo)

Washington, D.C., had the second-highest number of home sales over $1 million in the past three years, surpassed on the East Coast only by New York City.

PropertyShark, a real estate website that provides in-depth data for approximately 90 million properties in the District, New York City, Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay area, and other major U.S. markets, compared D.C. to other cities with a population exceeding 300,000.

The site noted that the District closed 2,279 multimillion-dollar sales over the past three years, second to New York’s more than 31,000 multimillion-dollar sales. Now, forecasters are suggesting that such high-priced sales will continue to boom in the District in 2018.

ATTOM Data Solutions, a property data provider, which bases its assessment on loan activity and other indicators from the third quarter of 2017, recently released its “Pre-Mover Housing Index,” where an index number of 100 places a city above the nation average and indicates that an above-average ratio of homes will sell within 90 days.

D.C., among the top five cities, had an index of 196 or higher.

But despite the uptick, there remains underlying negativity over gentrification, said Kent Forrester, a real estate broker in the city.

“It’s simply great to be a homeowner in Washington, D.C., and even greater if you have a multimillion-dollar property,” Forrester said. “I suppose that if you can afford a $1 million home, it works for you. If that’s not in your stratosphere, than you may have to look outside of the District.

Dr. Omekongo Dibinga, who graduated from Georgetown University in 1999, said he could hardly recognize some neighborhoods when he returned to D.C. four years later.

“I have seen the effects of gentrification firsthand,” Dibinga said. “Places like 14th Street were already in the process of turning into expensive condos and Southeast was slowly starting to change. In the areas where my wife and I now own businesses, it’s nearly impossible for the average Southeast resident to move into.”

Early last year, Bobbie Fisher, a District resident, told The Informer that she lived “under racism” in a luxury condominium community.

Fisher didn’t name the community that she’s lived in for more than 11 years and noted that she’s an African-American and unit owner in good standing.

“I purchased my condo unit in 2005,” she said. “I am never late, delinquent in payment of my condo fees and I don’t own pets. I maintain a beautifully clean and decorated unit but the problem is that I am outspoken against racism at my building and the Association Board is comprised of seven white members.”

Fisher said two white couples moved into her building and recently immersed themselves into the board, which has a $2 million budget. Immediately, she said, they increased condo fees from two percent to 10 percent.

“During February, Black History Month, the white board fired two African-American men — one who served 15 years, the other 35 years — and I am appalled by what’s happening here,” Fisher said, adding that she’s filed a formal complaint with the government.

Gentrification fast became an ugly word in the District and in many places around the country. Lifelong residents — mostly African-Americans and other minorities — have been priced out and sold out.

And when the pillars of once-proud neighborhoods are forced to leave, the mom and pop shops that have catered to their needs for decades — if not centuries — also have found themselves no longer useful for a newer and very different neighborhood makeup.

“In the areas where my wife and I own businesses, it’s nearly impossible for the average Southeast resident to move to,” said Dibinga, a professor of Cross Cultural Communication at American University who owns three District area yoga studios with his wife. “The Northeast area called Ivy City where we have one our businesses have vacant lots that are over $500,000.”

Much culture and diversity is lost when people are forced out by gentrification, said Calvin Warren, an assistant professor of American Studies at the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences at George Washington University in Northwest.

“Black small-business owners might lose property or are forced to sell because of increased rents or competition from big chains moving into the area,” Warren said. “This is also a loss of black wealth. If this process continues, I think it will be harmful to most African-Americans who are unable to buy property in these areas.”


About Stacy Brown 439 Articles
I’ve worked for the Daily News of Los Angeles, the L.A. Times, Gannet and the Times-Tribune and have contributed to the Pocono Record, the New York Post and the New York Times. Television news opportunities have included: NBC, MSNBC, Scarborough Country, the Abrams Report, Today, Good Morning America, NBC Nightly News, Imus in the Morning and Anderson Cooper 360. Radio programs like the Wendy Williams Experience, Tom Joyner Morning Show and the Howard Stern Show have also provided me the chance to share my views.

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