Steve Sailer observes that the fancy new NPR headquarters near Capitol Hill has managed to displace longtime residents of the crime-infested neighborhood. Now that NPR employees can go to work without having to be quite as afraid of being robbed by a poor black person, some are shocked that Washington DC’s promise to neighborhood residents didn’t pan out. From the Washington Post:
Instead, New Communities has shown how hard it is to make affordable housing work in the modern American city and how easy it was to let a program that was the centerpiece of the District’s affordable-housing efforts unravel.
“We just never seemed like a priority,” said Dews-Hall, 65, a round-faced hairdresser who neighbors called “Miss Mary.” “Why did anyone believe them?”
The city, spurred to action after the killing of a teenage girl, had pledged to marshal hundreds of millions of dollars in public and private investment for the neighborhood. More than 1,000 apartments would be built. No existing unit would be torn down until a replacement was constructed.
And when New Communities was complete, the people who had lived in the neighborhood — in Temple Courts, Sursum Corda, Golden Rule and other buildings — would find themselves in new apartments, with new neighbors but in a place that still felt like home.
Didn’t happen. More from the Post:
Dews-Hall’s former home is now a parking lot. Spaces go for $8 a day, in a Zip code that is gaining white people at a rate faster than any other place in the city. This spring, NPR moved in across the street. The city bestowed $40 million worth of tax abatements and froze property taxes for 20 years to keep the media organization in the city.
Some residents who lived in the neighborhood found themselves in suburban Maryland. Most moved from one concentrated pocket of poverty to another, east of the Anacostia River.
Dews-Hall, who has weak knees, is resigned to climb three flights of steps to her apartment in Southeast Washington, near Good Hope Road. The floor in her one-bedroom is crowded with toys and dolls for her 28 great-grandchildren to play with when they visit.
I bet that family’s story tells a story about chronic poverty in DC. Anyway, I can’t say that I much blame Dews-Hall for feeling cheated, nor can I blame the city for wanting to revitalize a decrepit, crime-ridden neighborhood with people who don’t live the kinds of lives that result in poverty and 28 great-grandchildren by the age of 65, and which likely accounts for the fact that the neighborhood was a slum. I bet there never was much intention to build new housing for neighborhood residents, because the masterminds rightly figured that the violent, dysfunctional character of the neighborhood would not change simply because new buildings went up in place of old crappy ones. But they couldn’t say that publicly, and maybe they couldn’t even admit it to themselves, because that would mean having to face something they weren’t prepared to face.
Sailer draws a lesson from this story:
Have you ever noticed that every single thing in America — Washington D.C. housing, Harvard, Augusta National, Goldman Sachs, Teach for America, or whatever — runs on the basis of selectionism? The people with the power pick the new people they want to have around and don’t pick the people they don’t want around. The only exception to this pattern is immigration policy, where, as we all know, it would be unconscionable for citizens to have a say in who gets to become citizens.