Be careful of what you wish for….

The citizens of Wards 8 & 7 have sent a message that they want the good that has been happening to the rest of the city to come to them. Well I got a question for them, do they REALLY want what has happened and is happening to Shaw, LeDroit, Eckington, and other north of the river neighborhoods to happen to them? I know they want the good, but what of the bad? What of the growing pains?

The growing pains I’m thinking about is gentrification. I think the citizens of Ward 8 are mistaken to believe the development/gentrification genie that has been working it’s magic in NW parts of DC can be controlled. Never, ever, underestimate the power of market forces. If an area is made attractive enough for enough urban pioneers with the financial power to jack up housing prices, private developers will get wind of it, fix up some places and start a snowball effect that will only help homeowners planning to sell. Twenty one percent of Ward 8’s homes are owner occupied. Would the 79% of renters be able to ride the higher rents and deal with owners cashing in on better prices? I think some would, but there are plenty who would not.

The solution I have heard floated around is to have developers build affordable housing, or set aside units for low and moderate income families. Listening to what has been going on with Arlington, VA it seems easier said than done. Then there are the developers who work on a smaller scale, one house at a time or a small number of units, who have little incentive to sell at lower prices.

Maybe if the real estate values weren’t so crazy and there wasn’t this housing pressure that forces people to live all the way out in BFE not-even Northern Virginia gentrification wouldn’t be an issue. But then again, it is the crazy housing pressures and gentrification that is making places like Shaw more attractive.