The changing Shaw neighborhood was used as an example to discuss race, class, and gentrification in D.C. at the District of Columbia Housing Authority's fifth Speakers Series event.

Derek Hyra, an associate professor at American University, led a discussion entitled, “Getting Mixed-Income Right” about the social tensions embedded in race, class, and gentrification in D.C. Hyra has studied and written about the subjects extensively. His third book, “Race, Class, and Politics in the Cappuccino City,” focuses in on the dramatic changes in D.C.’s Shaw neighborhood – and was recently the featured book in DCHA’s Better Together book club.

The redevelopment dynamic across the country, he said, was the ‘gilded ghetto,’ where historically impoverished areas usually filled with people of color are now changing after 50 years. Hyra noted that displacement and mobility rates are higher in these areas throughout the 50 years, but more recently, young millennials have also been moving into these areas.

“My book looks at whether those who stay [in these areas] have improved lives,” he said.

In D.C. in the 1990s, low-income census tracts had a five percent gentrification rate, he said. In the 2000s, that rate had increased to nearly 50 percent. In Shaw, the African-American population was 80 percent of the neighborhood. But in 2010, it was just 30 percent African-American and 53 percent Caucasian.

“People are living alongside each other, but people aren’t living with each other,” Hyra said.

In order to prevent these microsegregations within neighborhoods, Hyra suggests that residential displacement should be prevented as much as possible in redevelopments. He said political and cultural changes to the neighborhood should be minimized by creating an appointed seat on local neighborhood advisory boards for a long-term resident, for example. His third point was that areas where his first two suggestions could be discussed safely, named “third spaces,” should be created so everyone will feel welcome.

Hyra encouraged DCHA employees to “think beyond the bricks and mortar” in order to “think about social dynamics” when refurbishing and redeveloping our communities to ensure we are helping our customers and their neighbors to the fullest.

Previous Speakers Series guest speakers included DCHA Chief Development Officer Kimberly Black King and journalists Erinn Whack, Emily Badger, and David Alpert. 

Derek Hyra, an associate professor at American University
Last modified: 8/16/2017 3:00:29 PM