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January 23, 2014 / Christian Clansky

Rethinking the effects of gentrification

The longstanding criticism of gentrification is that it drives out low-income residents, many of whom have deep roots in the changing communities. In our region, particularly in the District, gentrification is dynamically reshaping the landscape and is a constant topic of discussion.

But what if gentrification isn’t actually the disruptive, inequitable force that its critics charge it to be? A new study out of Columbia University found some very interesting results (NPR, 1/23):

“To my surprise,” [study author Lance] Freeman says, “it seemed to suggest that people in neighborhoods classified as gentrifying were moving less frequently.”

Freeman’s work found that low-income residents were no more likely to move out of their homes when a neighborhood gentrifies than when it doesn’t.

He says higher costs can push out renters, especially those who are elderly, disabled or without rent-stabilized apartments. But he also found that a lot of renters actually stay — especially if new parks, safer streets and better schools are paired with a job opportunity right down the block.

OPPORTUNITY | On the subject of dispelled notions, another study out of Harvard considers the state of economic mobility in America. It’s common to hear that this generation is the first in American history that will be worse off than the previous one. That might not be true though – but that’s not necessarily good news either (WaPo, 1/23):

The paper suggests that “it is not true that mobility itself is getting lower,” said Lawrence F. Katz, a Harvard economist and mobility scholar who was not one of the paper’s authors but has reviewed the findings. “What’s really changed is the consequences of it. Because there’s so much inequality, people born near the bottom tend to stay near the bottom, and that’s much more consequential than it was 50 years ago.”

FOOD | As Congress gets ready to ax billions of dollars in food stamp benefits, food banks are scrambling to prepare for the consequent increase in demand. The New York Times looks at the problem at a national level, but includes a look at programs in our region. (NYT, 1/21)

GIVING | How much did charitable giving change in 2013? Well, it depends on who you ask. Two major studies, both claiming to be statistically accurate (and better than the other), came up with different results. (Chronicle, 1/17)

YOUTH | A quick fact from City Paper – why youth in the District’s Summer Youth Employment Program make less than minimum wage. (CP, 1/23)

EVENT | Next Thursday, our friends at the Nonprofit Roundtable are hosting a special release event for their new report, Beyond Charity: The Untapped Market of Prince George’s County Nonprofits. The event will feature a panel discussion titled “Doing Well and Doing Good,” which will be led by County Executive Rusher Baker. [More info and registration.]

Related: This will be a good event. As we reported in the fall, the gears are really moving for impactful partnerships between philanthropy, nonprofits, and the county. (Daily, Sept. 2013)

WEATHER | Jason Samenow, chief meteorologist for the Capital Weather Gang, is not amused by how our region is reacting to this week’s snow. For example, Fairfax County closed its schools today and Samenow is incredulous. As he puts it (WaPo, 1/23):

I don’t care if you’re driving a smart car or a limousine, driving on an inch of compacted snow is totally doable…Closing schools for three straight days is a huge inconvenience for working families who have take leave or spend considerable funds on child care.

His point speaks to a larger one about emergency preparedness. If we are ready to throw in the towel for just a few inches of snow, how can we possibly be prepared to deal with a real emergency?

LOCAL | This isn’t really local, more like universal. But since everyone in our region has a smartphone, here’s a fun study of what happens when we text and walk. (Atlantic, 1/23) Basically, it’s a modern version of this.


The date is 1-2-3! In honor of that progression, here’s a fun song from The Beatles that you probably don’t know – All Together Now. Beware, it’s catchy!

4 Comments

  1. Billie Tyler / Jan 23 2014 3:20 pm

    Gentrification is NEVER a boon! Can’t believe you entertained this article. What are your thoughts on genocide? It’s the same thing.

    • Christian Clansky / Jan 23 2014 5:21 pm

      Thanks for the comment. The article was trending on Twitter and since it mentioned gentrification in the District, it seemed like a good thing to share with our community.

      Obviously gentrification has a big impact on urban planning, smart growth, affordable housing, and many other areas that impact our social sector. It would be good news if, as the Columbia study explored, gentrification isn’t as strong of a negative force as it is currently perceived to be.

  2. Douglas Stewart / Jan 23 2014 5:08 pm

    Looking at how Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William school districts respond to snow events compared to DC, Arlington and Alexandria, you start to see another hidden cost of poor land use decisions. School transportation in the former is dependent on buses and cars, and the school closings tend to last much longer and be much more sensitive to small storms than in the urban districts.

    • Christian Clansky / Jan 23 2014 5:16 pm

      Interesting point. Is this a trend you’ve noticed changing in recent years? Any hope for improvements?

      At some point, probably in the not-too-distant future, we’ll get another 20″+ inch storm. What happens to the Virginia counties then?

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