Proposals for Displacement-Free Development in D.C.

Cities have to prioritize displacement as a policy issue if they want to achieve inclusive growth, writes David Whitehead.

2 minute read

July 17, 2017, 7:00 AM PDT

By Elana Eden


Glynnis Jones / Shutterstock

As pro-growth and anti-gentrification advocates clash in cities across the U.S., Greater Greater Washington contributor David Whitehead suggests that one way to bridge the divide is by addressing the displacement caused by new development.

"The goals of redeveloping affordable homes, building more homes overall, and maintaining a clear path for original residents to return do not have to be at odds," he writes. If combined with tenant protections and preservation efforts, he argues, growth and redevelopment can be managed in a way that "does not pit the needs of our burgeoning population and the needs of more vulnerable residents against one another."

D.C.'s Comprehensive Plan—not uniquely—doesn't define any policy tools or funding mechanisms aimed at preventing displacement. To fill that gap, Whitehead lays out the principles behind a policy package proposed by the GGW team.

The package suggests new policy tools to preempt a few of the ways that new developments can directly cause displacement. Recommendations include requiring one-to-one replacement of affordable units in new developments, as well as build-first policies, in which existing apartments are not demolished until their replacements are ready. Funding proposals include:

…allowing zoning flexibility to build a taller building, using some of the profit generated from those extra units to subsidize in-house lower-cost units. That might mean expanding voucher programs like DC’s Low Rent Subsidy Program (LRSP), to help meet the gap between what families can afford and what it costs to build a low-cost home.

For more perspectives and debate on these ideas, look no further than the comments.

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