For Us, By Us Community Revitalization
Tips from the “We Are Anacostia” Community Marketing Campaign
By Catherine Buell, published at Greater Greater Washington (October 30, 2018)
My hometown of Washington D.C. is often cited as a city that recently rebounded from hard times to boast a now-booming and pricey real estate market with a hip-quality of life for its residents. Yet, for my neighbors and I, our story was one of disappointment and frustration as we repeatedly witnessed the hippest economic development efforts skip over our section of the city – even as the rest of D.C. was building its truly amazing ‘success story’ narrative.
We lived in Historic Anacostia, located east of the Anacostia River, in the Ward 8 section of Washington D.C. Historic Anacostia was an area that had suffered from years of under and disinvestment, with only one grocery store to serve the over 70,000 residents living in the area – a reality that is all too familiar in low-income
communities. In a city with an average wage of close to $120,000 per year, Ward 8’s median income ranges between $25,000 and $40,000 per year. Many of the residents were and are either unemployed or underemployed.
Cities Can Help Existing Residents Vulnerable to Displacement
Catherine Buell breaks down the latest anti-displacement tools and policies.
When I moved from Washington, D.C., to Atlanta, I thought I’d escaped the struggle facing many of the friends and neighbors I’d left behind—the realization they were priced out of neighborhoods that had once provided modest homes for working families. When I arrived in Atlanta, I was surprised to find the same trend.
As recently as 20 years ago, Atlanta was heralded as the affordable southern metropolis, attracting transplants who’d grown tired of high rent for tiny spaces with no yards. Some were drawn to large new homes in suburban communities that cost a fraction of the price they’d pay elsewhere (like D.C.). Others flocked to the tree-lined streets of Atlanta’s revitalizing urban neighborhoods—cultural meccas like the Old Fourth Ward, where the average three-bedroom home cost under $143,900. These urban communities were underserved at the time, seen by some as remnants of a golden era long past. Twenty years later, an average three-bedroom home in Old Fourth Ward is valued at over $630,000.
Through the cycles of urban flight, blight, revitalization, and gentrification, there have always been longstanding residents who’ve taken pride in calling urban communities home. It hurts when your once economically underserved inner-city neighborhood is now the hip place to live—with great amenities, multiple transportation options, and a now-vibrant job market—but you can’t afford the rent. Continue reading here.