City Desk

Ward 5 Voter: Buildings Without Kids Are Racist!

Is Building Condos Racist?

The Ward 5 special election, in Tim Craig's telling in this morning's Post, is turning into the same thing virtually every recent D.C. election has become: a referendum on the city's changing demographics. And I'm sympathetic to most of the concerns longtime residents raise in Craig's story: development only arrives when wealthy, white residents do, and it's clustered around specific parts of the ward (or city); the institutions of power in the District lately seem to be more responsive to new residents and their desires than to people who've been here longer; everything's getting too expensive, and jobs that pay enough to afford the new houses are too hard to find.

Plus, some of the younger, newer Ward 5 residents quoted in the story sound like insensitive buffoons—take Dan Monlux, 35, who moved to the ward two years ago, and says of the new construction: "I think, culturally, it’s a good thing." Which raises awkward questions about whether what was in the area before was, culturally, a bad thing, and why. When new arrivals to D.C. think like that, it only makes the tension over gentrification and development worse.

At the same time, though, the point made by a man quoted at the top of the story about all the new construction is just as silly:

“You can’t raise kids in a condo,” Anthony Davis, 53, said as he looked toward the development from the steps of a rowhouse that his family has owned since 1964. “The message is obvious. They don’t want us here. It’s not even subliminal racism. It’s obvious racism.”

You can't raise kids in a condo? Several of my friends are raising kids in condos all over the District, and in other cities around the country; my own memories are a little fuzzy on this point, but I spent several formative months as a baby living in either a condo or a rented apartment in Arlington. Besides, Craig doesn't say whether Davis even has kids. (For that matter, he doesn't say what race Davis is, or what race anyone else in the piece is.)

But let's accept the questionable notion that it takes a single-family home to raise a child. Still, how is development that's not kid-friendly "obvious racism?" In 2009, the last year for which stats are available, the Census Bureau reported that nearly 26 percent of all babies born in the District were non-Hispanic whites; yes, 52 percent of babies born here were non-Hispanic blacks, but regardless, it's not like parents come in only one color here.

That years of rapid demographic shifts in the District has gotten the city to the point where the construction of a condo is considered obviously racist, for more or less illogical reasons, isn't really a surprise. But it's still troubling. The legitimate fears and worries about how D.C. is changing come from serious enough problems; adding on undercurrents that no public policy can possibly address makes the issue even harder to deal with. Whoever wins in Ward 5 will join the rest of the D.C. Council at a time when nearly everything the local government does touches on gentrification and development in some way. We wish 'em all good luck—they'll need it.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

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  • Riggs Parker

    I'm a little skeptical about WaPo reporting. I wonder if there was more said in between the statement regarding raising kids in condos and the statement about obvious racism. In other words, were they related thoughts or was the person speaking just kind of jumping around and the reporter decided to make the connection for the rest of us for some reason.

  • The Java Master

    Kids in condos or apartment buildings? They are noisy and disruptive because they are--well, kids! Having said that, I agree that there should be adults-only buildings permitted everywhere, even in Ward 5, without someone playing the race card. That is just more Chocolate City Bullshit.

  • Pingback: News about DC Family Life issue #1 » Joy Makin' Mamas of DC

  • ModerateonHousing

    wait what?

    "development only arrives when wealthy"

    New, unsubsidized housing is costly to build, and the shortage of sites for development aggravates that. market reality.

    " white residents do"

    There are affluent asians and, yes, blacks, who move into the new buildings.

    "and it's clustered around specific parts of the ward (or city);"

    amazingly there is more demand for living in some places than others.

    "the institutions of power in the District lately seem to be more responsive to new residents and their desires than to people who've been here longer;"

    Cause they spend more money on bike lanes than on healthcare, housing, employment services, schools - yeah, right.

    "jobs that pay enough to afford the new houses are too hard to find."

    Cause local govts have power over national economic trends


    And no, that building is NOT all adult, Im sure. and yes, lots of kids grow up in apartments. And not only is not everyone with a kid black, but not everyone who is childless is white.

  • shawchica

    And actually there are adult only buildings with age requirements currently and being built for low income current dc residents in ward 5.

  • ModerateonHousing

    Im pretty sure the WaPo article was referring to the new market rate projects in Eckington/NoMa (none of which are adult only, AFAIK) not to low income senior housing.

  • SEis4ME

    Hmmm, good article Mike.

    I look at the post's reporting many times as I do national polling. Have a particular angle in mind, provide the appropriate lead-in, and ultimately get the answer you were looking for...usually resulting in some ridiculous statement by a resident...such as Davis.

  • Remote

    Is that really true Shaw Chica?

  • LOL

    it is. Most people just come out and call it SENIOR housing.

  • DCHeretic

    I'm increasingly suspicious about the Post's continuous harping on the racial angle as it pertains to gentrification. Where are the articles about the middle and upper middle class African Americans who have moved into these new housing developments? I moved into one of the developments referenced in the Post article and many of my neighbors are African American. These African American neighbors have college degrees (even Ivy League!) and well paying jobs and yet they are seemingly invisible to the Post. How about an article about new residents and long-term residents getting along well together, as happens frequently and is perhaps even the norm? How about an article exploring reasons why wealthy African Americans have chosen to live in the suburbs rather than DC? The Post needs to stop its race baiting and yellow journalism.