D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray had one message for a group of ministers representing churches from around the metropolitan area when he met with them Dec. 16: He hears them and other residents like them when they talk about how the city’s gentrification and burgeoning economy leave them fearful that many Blacks will be locked out of their city.
In a meeting at Trinidad Baptist Church in Northeast, ministers from the Missionary Baptist Ministers’ Conference of Washington, D.C. and Vicinity aired their concerns about the District’s economy, transportation services, education and skyrocketing housing prices and the effect of each on the area’s Black citizens with Gray.
He told them he wants to ensure that the District remains affordable for all of its residents.
“As we grow, as we develop, we also become a more expensive city,” Gray (D) said. “The last thing we want to have happen is people who have helped to pay their dues, helped to develop the city to where it is today, get to a point where they feel like they cannot live here anymore.”
Gray was invited by the ministers to provide a snapshot of the state of the District and to share his vision for the city for the upcoming year, according to the Rev. Donald K. Sadler, president of the conference and pastor of New Morning Star Baptist Church in Northeast Washington. The conference invites various people from religious, civil and political arenas to speak, Sadler said.
Gray talked about affordable housing, jobs, education and increasing the minimum wage—issues of concern to the city’s Black residents.
The ministers told Gray that many of their members worry that rising housing costs will lock them and their children out of home ownership; that rising property taxes will leave elderly residents unable to stay in the homes they have owned for decades. They worry that development and the changing demographic will squeeze them out of their hometown.
Gray said the changing demographics are not excluding African-Americans from attaining top-paying jobs. He said his plan to pump $187 million into affordable housing will ensure the city remains diverse. In his weekly radio address on Nov. 24, Gray discussed “the District’s unprecedented investment of more than $187 million in affordable housing.”
Gray offered to work with a group of the ministers and the District Department of Transportation to look into the impact the street cars, which will roll next year, will have on Black communities.
“I know that our religious community has been one of those that have made those investments to try to keep people in the city,” he said.