By Brianna McAdoo, AFRO Staff, [email protected]

Housing and poverty gaps in the District of Columbia remain imperative topics discussed by local Black residents as little seems to be done policy-wise about the issues. This past Wednesday the Urban Institute released an interactive tool addressed to residents and policy-makers on how to improve equity in District neighborhoods as we continue to see gentrification and poverty affect the community.

The Urban Institute is a think tank that conducts policy research. They are dedicated to solutions that expand protections for workers, strengthen the social safety net, provide various training programs, financial services and equal access to commercial credit for small businesses.


Caption: The Urban Institute identified inequities in D.C. and ways to close gaps between wards and inherently race, such as in the graph above which touches on gentrification.

The tool features many indicators that touch upon important issues such as living wage, family income, education, mortality, prenatal care, access to grocery stores, homeownership, violent crime, unemployment, and commute time.  In addition, the tool shows the city’s inequities and what it would take to close the gaps.

For instance, according to the Urban Institute, 82 percent of the people living in the nation’s capital live above the poverty line, yet 63 percent of Ward 8 residents live below the poverty threshold. Ward 8 is 90 percent Black, thus adversely affecting Black residents primarily.  The Institute found more than 6,000 people in Ward 8, including 2,100 children, would need to be lifted above the poverty threshold in order to match the area in general.

In addition, the tool identified inequities in education between wards.  22 percent of Ward 7 residents (11,031) possess post-secondary degrees, which is far lower than the city-wide average of 53 percent. In closing this gap, over 18,000 people would have to obtain a post-secondary degree.

The tool identified the lack of affordable housing in the area as well. Only 10 percent of the homes sold in the District last year were listed at a price affordable for the average minority family income (averaging about $68,000 per year).  Further, in 2017, only three percent of the houses sold in the Union Station, Stanton Park, Kingman Park, Lincoln Park, and Capitol Hill neighborhoods were listed at affordable prices for families of color.

The Urban Institute’s tools release coincides with new regulations announced by Mayor Muriel Bowser that will preserve affordable housing for District residents, based off the District Opportunity to Purchase Act. Bowser spoke on the new regulations saying, “DOPA is a crucial affordable housing preservation tool, but without regulations to make it enforceable, the law had no teeth. When I came into office, I committed to changing that….After a ten-year wait, we will finally be able to use DOPA to preserve more affordable housing units for Washingtonians, and will be aggressively identifying properties beginning in the new year.”

The Urban Institute is anticipating the tool to be used by community members, public officials, service providers, funders, leaders and nonprofits to gain a quantitative understanding of what more needs to be done to achieve equity.

For more information about accessing the Urban Institute’s new tool visit  https://apps.urban.org/features/dc-equity-indicators/.