Housing Complex

Barry Farm and Congress Heights Gentrifying? Not Quite.

Police intervened in a recent contentious meeting over the fate of Barry Farm, one of D.C.'s not-so-gentrifying neighborhoods.

The Washington Business Journal reported yesterday on a new study of 18 "gentrifying" neighborhoods—areas "whose median property value and federal adjusted gross income fell below the citywide average in 2001, and rose above it 10 years later." The paper writes, "Many are not what, or where, you’d think."

No, they're not. Columbia Heights? Petworth? Sure, I'll believe it. But Barry Farm? Congress Heights? The former is a public housing complex with a median household income of $18,500 as of 2011; the latter comprises much of the poorest ZIP code in the city and is the poorest Metro station area in D.C. Something seemed wrong.

So let's take a look at the wording of the actual study, by LaTanya Brown-Robertson of Bowie State University, Daniel Muhammad and Marvin Ward of the D.C. Office of the Chief Financial Officer, and Michael Bell of George Washington University:

The method employed the following criteria:
1. In 2001, if the neighborhood has a median property and federal adjusted gross income values below the respective citywide medians.
2. And from this subset of neighborhoods, identify which of these grew faster (in median property and income values) than the relative income and home values in the city.

This appears to indicate that these 18 neighborhoods didn't necessarily rise above the median property values and income levels, but rather saw their property values and income levels rise faster than the citywide average. I spoke with Muhammad, and he confirmed my interpretation. This means that Barry Farm residents, for instance, saw their fortunes rise faster over the period from 2001 to 2011 than the median Washingtonian, but from a very low baseline—the neighborhood is, by any measure, still poorer than the city average.

The study itself does not use the word "gentrifying," and for good reason: Most of the neighborhoods on this list simply don't meet the standard definitions of "gentrifying." They're enjoying higher incomes and property values—but they're a long way from the displacement, racial inversion, retail and construction booms, and skyrocketing prices of the truly gentrifying parts of the city.

Update 2 p.m.: The Washington Business Journal's Michael Neibauer corrects his earlier error but still maintains these neighborhoods are gentrifying. We'll have to agree to disagree. What do you think?

Photo by Aaron Wiener

  • SEis4ME

    Thank you Aaron Weiner for taking the time to actually READ what the report said than focusing on the mistitled headline.

    Like you, I sat here wondering how in the heck does Barry Farm make the cut when virtually nothing about the n'hood has improved? What new amenities? To what part of Barry Farms are these new, young black people moving?

    Thank you AW for stating the obvious!

  • Tom M.

    I was also puzzling how Anacostia could possibly have an income figure above the average for WDC. Growth rates are LARGEST for areas with LOWEST incomes over a decade -- often/usually. So the methods seems more than a bit flawed.

  • SEis4ME

    @Tom, hidden behind the curtain is the obvious. Gentrification has become such a dirty word that everybody tries to free it from the "white people" attachment. So we end up with "studies" like the one linked to here.

    And here here on the puzzling Anacostia aspect

  • Mr.Remember

    Your neighborhood is gentrified when George and Whizzy Jefferson move-in and Florida and James Evans move-out.

  • Mr.Remember

    This is like when their candidate doesn't win, it is a low voter turn-out.

  • AWalkerInTheCity

    eh? an increase in incomes, combined with a shift to younger and single in EOTR neighborhoods IS interesting, even if the folks moving in are not "gentry".

  • werq

    "low voter turnout" is a loaded expression?

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  • michelle jones

    When you steal from the poor you will suffer likewise.
    The new breed in DC is trash and filth.

  • Dria

    As a resident in the urban area of DC, it is without a doubt GENTRIFICATION and DISPLACEMENT in those 18 listed areas. Just because those areas are not yet gentrified in does not mean the process and planning for the displacing of the majority black residents has already begun! Cause it has!

  • Petworthy

    Don't know about that, Daria. The family I "displaced" in Petworth made about 100k profit on what they paid for the same house.

  • Cap City Records Panhandler

    Good work.

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