The Jan. 10 lead story, “Suite Deal,” raised some compelling arguments for welcoming the current influx of high-income individuals into the city. It cannot be denied that affluent residents contribute much-needed revenue to the city treasury’s coffers. Indeed, their tax contributions may, in fact, be the best way for the District of Columbia to climb out of its current fiscal deficit and continue its evolution into a city that is attractive to, and accommodating of, residents of all incomes and lifestyles.
Yet economic prosperity must lead to growth that benefits all who make this city their home, not just the wealthy. Secure and affordable housing is the foundation of economic self-sufficiency for individuals and their families. We applaud the efforts under way by the mayor and several D.C. councilmembers, as well as organizations such as the Coalition for Nonprofit Housing and Economic Development, the Local Initiatives Support Corp., and neighborhood community-development corporations to bring together stakeholders across the city to work together in developing and implementing a comprehensive housing strategy for the District of Columbia—one that enables our city to revitalize and grow for all of its residents.
The D.C. Public Housing Authority and the Department of Housing and Community Development offer a number of programs, including Hope VI and the Housing Production Trust Fund, dedicated in part to increasing affordable housing and economic opportunities for the city’s neediest residents. DC Agenda, a nonprofit civic organization, launched its citywide Equitable Development Initiative last year to counteract the negative impacts of gentrification, such as displacement of low-income residents from neighborhoods where their families and social services are centered, in part by enhancing economic opportunities for low-income residents in their own neighborhoods. Efforts are under way, including one by Manna Community Development Corporation in Shaw, to establish and develop community participation and discourse around new real-estate developments, empowering longtime residents to have a voice in shaping the destiny of their neighborhoods.
As our nation’s capital, Washington should be an example of best practices and policies that other cities can emulate for social and economic vitality. If we do not do more, and trends continue, where will our city and our region be in 2010?