Johanna Bockman is a sociologist and curator of the blog Sociology in My Neighborhood: DC Ward Six. She has been working with Grassroots DC and the Potomac Gardens Community on the production of the documentary Potomac Gardens Inside and Out (which you’ll soon hear more about on this site and beyond). Below is a post from her site of particular relevance to DC’s public housing communities and anyone interested in increasing the amount of affordable housing in the District of Columbia.
My Gentrification Talk & Video
By Johanna Bockman
Last week, I gave the annual presidential address to the DC Sociological Society about gentrification in DC. You can view a video of my address below. I start with a bit of history about the DC Sociological Society, which has its own connections to gentrification in DC. I then define gentrification, show some historical trends and maps, and discuss four myths/narratives about gentrification.
The fabulous discussion afterwards covered a wide range of topics, but there were two that I found particularly interesting.
First, we talked about looking beyond the economic motivations behind gentrification to its political motivations. What are the political motivations behind gentrification? How is DC as a whole threatened by gentrification? As discussed in the talk, one former resident of the Arthur Capper public housing project told me: “It [Arthur Capper] was part of the District of Columbia…like a finger or an arm in the body of the District of Columbia…You just cannot destroy a community and expect the city to thrive and survive.” His comment was surprising to me at the time. What is the nature of this District he is talking about? How is it being destroyed?
Second, we talked about renters. Many amazing community organizers in DC are working to increase low-income home ownership, especially through limited-equity cooperatives. I argued that we should also work to support renters, including by maintaining and expanding public housing, because about 41% of DC residents are renters and those in low-income jobs can barely afford to pay rent, let alone to buy a place. What would have to change in DC and nationwide to create a good environment for renters, especially low- and very-low-income renters? How might we create a positive “renter nation“?