The boom­ing

Av­er­age white house­hold net worth is $284,000, vs. $3,500 for blacks

The Washington Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY PERRY STEIN perry.stein@wash­

D.C. econ­omy is leav­ing long­time black res­i­dents be­hind, a study found.

The boom­ing and in­creas­ingly dy­namic D.C. econ­omy is leav­ing the city’s long­time black res­i­dents be­hind, ac­cord­ing to a study re­leased Thurs­day that ex­am­ines African Amer­i­can em­ploy­ment, pop­u­la­tion and hous­ing trends in the na­tion’s cap­i­tal.

The Ge­orge­town Univer­sity re­port, which culled data from sev­eral re­cent stud­ies, found that more than half of all new jobs in the District between 2010 and 2020 will re­quire at least a bach­e­lor’s de­gree, although only 12.3 per­cent of black res­i­dents in 2014 had grad­u­ated from col­lege. It noted the av­er­age white house­hold in the re­gion has a net worth of $284,000, while the as­sets of the av­er­age black house­hold are just $3,500.

“It’s not a pretty pic­ture,” D.C. Coun­cil Chair­man Phil Men­del­son (D) said be­fore the find­ings were pre­sented to city lead­ers and res­i­dents.

Ac­cord­ing to the re­port, the me­dian an­nual in­come for white D.C. fam­i­lies is $120,000, while it is $41,000 for black house­holds. Between 2007 and 2014, the me­dian house­hold in­come in the District in­creased by about $10,000 but re­mained flat for black house­holds.

While strik­ing, the find­ings largely mir­ror those of other re­cent stud­ies. As the city be­comes wealth­ier, younger and more af­flu­ent res­i­dents are mov­ing in, rais­ing hous­ing prices and push­ing long­time black res­i­dents out of the city. In 2015, the pop­u­la­tion of black res­i­dents in the District — which gar­nered the nick­name “Choco­late City” — dipped be­low 50 per­cent for the first time in 60 years.

The Ge­orge­town re­port traces the in­equities in the District to­day to dis­crim­i­na­tory prac­tices that once kept black res­i­dents out of the econ­omy. It also pro­vides rec­om­men­da­tions for the city to help strive for greater equal­ity.

“One of the con­tri­bu­tions of this re­port is how much it puts in one place both the his­tory of the city and redlin­ing and school seg­re­ga­tion, and con­nect­ing it to how those im­pacts play out to­day,” said Ed Lazere, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the D.C. Fis­cal Pol­icy In­sti­tute, whose work is ex­ten­sively cited in the study. “That half of all black house­holds in D.C. have as­sets of $3,500 or less — that’s vir­tu­ally noth­ing, and it’s prob­a­bly a re­flec­tion that hous­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion years ago kept them from own­ing homes.”

The re­port in­di­cates that one of many rea­sons black Wash­ing­to­ni­ans are be­ing left be­hind is that af­ter the dev­as­tat­ing 1968 ri­ots, many busi­nesses opted to move to the sub­urbs. It also notes that black res­i­dents were of­ten “red­lined,” the prac­tice of banks and loan­ing in­sti­tu­tions re­fus­ing to lend to busi­ness own­ers in com­mu­ni­ties with large mi­nor­ity pop­u­la­tions.

“As­pir­ing black busi­ness­peo­ple were un­able to fill the vac­uum sim­ply be­cause they could not se­cure a line of credit to open and main­tain small busi­nesses, stores, dry clean­ers, restau­rants and other out­lets,” the re­port states.

The re­port rec­om­mends that the D.C. Cham­ber of Com­merce and city agen­cies cre­ate a data­base of mi­nor­ity busi­nesses that would “out­line op­por­tu­ni­ties and pro­ce­dures for small-busi­ness loans and train­ing aids.” Lo­cal uni­ver­si­ties, the re­port says, should of­fer cour­ses in the “how­tos of mi­nor­ity busi­ness de­vel­op­ment.”

Mau­rice Jack­son, a Ge­orge­town his­tory pro­fes­sor and chair­man of the city’s Com­mis­sion on African Amer­i­can Af­fairs, stressed the need to in­vest in ed­u­ca­tion and train­ing pro­grams so D.C. res­i­dents have the skills needed to meet mod­ern job de­mands. Jack­son, the re­port’s lead au­thor, also sug­gested that the city in­vest in ap­pren­tice­ship and job pro­grams for res­i­dents re­turn­ing to so­ci­ety af­ter serv­ing jail time.

Coun­cil mem­ber Vin­cent C. Gray (D-Ward 7) said that as mayor, he in­vested in vo­ca­tional and ca­reer pro­grams in high schools that fo­cused on IT, hos­pi­tal­ity and other trades.

“Why those cur­ric­ula?” he asked. “Be­cause that’s where the jobs are. That’s where they’re emerg­ing.”

The re­port also traces the his­tory and ef­fects of gen­tri­fi­ca­tion, not­ing that it has led to a dearth of af­ford­able hous­ing. There are 43,000 D.C. res­i­dents who qual­ify as “ex­tremely low-in­come,” which means a fam­ily of four mak­ing less than $32,000 a year. (Ninety-one per­cent of “ex­tremely low-in­come” fam­i­lies are African Amer­i­can.)

Be­gin­ning in the 1950s, wealthy and mid­dle-in­come fam­i­lies started flee­ing cities, in­clud­ing the District, for sub­urbs and largely left poor peo­ple by them­selves in city cen­ters.

“This sub­ur­ban­iza­tion led to eco­nomic down­turn within sev­eral ma­jor cities, such as At­lanta, Chicago and Wash­ing­ton, cre­at­ing fis­cal crises due to shrink­ing tax bases,” ac­cord­ing to the re­port. “To al­le­vi­ate this prob­lem, many city gov­ern­ments pur­sued poli­cies to at­tract new in­vest­ments in the city, bring in wealth­ier res­i­dents to in­crease tax­able in­come and hous­ing sales, re­vi­tal­ize re­tail ac­tiv­ity and raise sales tax rev­enue.”

Now that wealth­ier res­i­dents have moved back to cities, rent in­creases have left long­time res­i­dents un­able to af­ford their homes. The re­port rec­om­mends build­ing more af­ford­able hous­ing in newly ex­pen­sive neigh­bor­hoods such as Columbia Heights and NoMa. And, it says, the city should in­ter­vene be­fore poorer neigh­bor­hoods be­come un­af­ford­able for long­time res­i­dents.

“In th­ese com­mu­ni­ties, poli­cies should of­fer a path to even­tual home­own­er­ship, en­abling in­di­vid­u­als to even­tu­ally pur­chase a unit at an af­ford­able price,” the re­port states. “Rent-to-own hous­ing is ben­e­fi­cial be­cause it cre­ates per­sonal eq­uity for in­di­vid­u­als and helps lift res­i­dents from poverty.”

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