Despite all his talk about bringing economic development east of the river, Councilmember Marion Barry is planning to introduce legislation tomorrow that would actually forbid new apartment buildings in his ward. It’s a very short bill, stating simply: “No District of Columbia government agency shall issue any permit for the construction of any apartment buildings in Ward 8,” unless they’re already underway.
So… why cut apartment buildings, arguably the biggest growth sector in the U.S. construction industry, out of the housing plan for a depressed area?
According to Barry, it’s all about encouraging homeownership, which stands at only 24 percent of residents in Ward 8. Instead of developing apartment buildings, he wants to get all the boarded-up houses renovated and occupied, with city-subsidized home loans to help people buy them. Because it’s homeowners, not renters, who help improve the area.
“Renters, by their very nature, don’t keep up their neighborhoods like homeowners would,” Barry tells me. “Renters will allow drug dealers in the neighborhood. It’s a fact. It’s a doggone fact.”
And he’s not buying all this Richard Florida bullshit about flexibility in housing being the key to economic progress.
“The American dream is to own a home. And black people have not gotten the American dream as much as they need to,” Barry says. “Somebody can rent for 20 years, and has no equity in their unit at all.”
“I’ve thought about this,” Barry finishes. “It’s not a kneejerk reaction.”