Monday, July 27, 2015

A Three-Point Plan For Ending "Diversity Segregation"

True Reformer Building
U Street/ShawWashington D.C.
Hello Everyone:

Gentrification seems to be one of this blog's ongoing topics.  The good, the bad, and the in between.  Recently, Derek Hyra wrote an insightful opinion piece for Next City titled, "3 Things Cities and HUD Can Do to Stop Gentrification That Segregates."  HUD, in this case is the Housing and Urban Development department, led by Secretary Julian Castro.  The segregation in this case is "diversity segregation." It is not just Washington D.C., the focus of the op-ed article, that is feeling the effect of this type of segregation.  Racial and economic segregation, due to gentrification effects all major cities.  In his op-ed, Mr. Hyra addresses the lack of racial and economic diversity that seems come with gentrification, what cities and HUD can do to mitigate this type of segregation.

U Street/Shaw and Credenza Communities
Washington D.C.
Derek Hyra begins his op-ed article by summarizing his Washington D.C. fieldwork and what he identified as the problems,

For more than five years, I have conducted fieldwork in Washington D.C.'s redeveloping Shaw/U Street neighborhood.  In the last decade, the community has become incredibly diverse both racially and economically.  However, Shaw's subsidized housing residents rarely interact with the community's more affluent newcomers.  Moreover, longtime residents are seeing virtually all of their political power transferring to people who are new to the neighborhood.

Even though Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser and Secretary Castro recently highlighted this neighborhood as an example of a successful mixed-income community-partially credited to its viable affordable housing supply-Mr Hyra feels that the Mayor and Secretary overlooked the fact how this contributed to creating a fully inclusive community.  He writes, "The wheels of social integration must be more thoroughly greased to achieve better harmony and equity across and class divides."  How are the wheels greased? Let us forge ahead.

Mixed-use buildings
U Street/Shaw and Credenza Communities
Washington D.C,
Derek Hyra believes, what he calls, "diversity segregation" to be the primary challenge in flourishing mixed  income, mixed race neighborhoods.  Mr. Hyra defines this challenge,

In diversity segregation, racially and economically disparate people live next to each other, but not alongside each other.  So-called 'diverse' communities often remaining internally segregated because meaningful interactions across income and class have failed to materialize. As long as such divides exist, the benefits of mixed-incomes communities won't be equitably felt.

Derek Hyra does not make clear what he means by meaningful interactions.  Are we talking about something beyond interactions in public spaces?

Map of Greater Shaw-U Street
Washington D.C.
Political and economic exclusion within gentrifying (or already gentrified) neighborhoods is being deeply felt.  For example, long time residents of the Shaw community, who have remained during the gentrification process, have also experienced political and cultural displacement as newer, more affluent residents make their presence felt in civic and institutional organization leadership positions.  This gives the new residents a platform to pus through their specific community priorities, which sometimes differs from the priorities of existing residents.  This shift in the balance of power can lead to resentments.  As businesses catering to the more affluent come in and take over former mom-and-pop storefronts, the feeling of being unwelcome in their own community is accentuated among long term residents.  In essence, long term residents feel like strangers in their own community and are more likely to move elsewhere, regardless of housing pressure.

Arts District U Street-Shaw
Washington D.C.
Photograph by Kathryn Smith
Derek Hyra suggests, "City and federal official must go beyond affordable housing efforts and stimulate meaningful social interactions among new and long-terms residents to a weave a new social fabric of integration in these vibrant, transitioning neighborhoods."  While Mr. Hyra suggests implementing policies, intended to bring people across the racial and economic divide together, blogger is not entirely sure that legislating inclusiveness is the best approach. Yours truly prefers more natural encounters between individuals from diverse backgrounds. Recently yours truly blogged about public transit as the great equalizer as an example of how to bring diverse peoples together.  Another approach is a more aggressive strategy to keep established small businesses in the community.  The uniqueness of a commercial and retail experience is a definite appeal to more affluent newcomers seeking some sort of "experience."

Ben's Chili Bowl
U Street-Shaw
Washington D.C.
 Nevertheless, Mr. Hyra makes the following suggestions:

First, neutral "third spaces" such as libraries, community centers, schools, restaurants and other gathering places, that represent diverse neighborhood interests and preferences should be created with the goal of facilitating social interaction across race and class.

Second, although funding has been recently cut for HUD's Community Development Block Grant and Home Program, a proportion of the remaining funds should be earmarked for local bridging organizing with social programming that connects diverse populations.

Lastly, HUD and the Department of Treasury should mandate future mixed-income developments, such as ones support by the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, have low-income representation on resident governing councils.

These are good suggestions for fostering more diverse political representation in gentrified neighborhoods.  However, as for creating neutral third spaces such libraries and community centers, blogger thinks that this point is based on the assumption that they do not already exist within the community.  Blogger believes that Derek Hyra has some good ideas for mitigating racial and economic segregation in gentrified communities which can be applied to other communities, across the United States.  Let us see what happens next.

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