Gentrification and displacement are important topics in the D.C. region, not only because these are important equity issues, but are also crucial to the success of the business community. As you note in this article, “Gentrification at Work,” which ran Aug. 16, displacement is a major concern, especially in Washington, D.C., which has the highest percentage of gentrified living areas than anywhere else in the country. You also argue that the easiest solution to this issue is producing more housing, but to address this challenge a comprehensive and wide range of efforts across the public and private sectors is necessary. The Washington Housing Initiative (WHI) is one such effort.
WHI — which is comprised of the Impact Pool and the nonprofit Washington Housing Conservancy — seeks to preserve and sustain affordable workforce housing by building communities and preventing displacement. Our goal is to contribute to vibrant, mixed-income neighborhoods across the city where working professionals, such as teachers, firefighters and nurses, can live and thrive. This is a communitywide initiative that includes business leaders with expertise in real estate and social impact who are stepping up and investing their time and money to make this effort a success. We have created a unique business model to use social impact capital and tax benefits to compete with traditional buyers to acquire buildings in communities that will face displacement pressures in the near future. Once these properties are acquired, we plan to commit to preserving long-term throughout the Washington region. WHI is focused on filling the gap for D.C.-area residents in high-impact communities where government subsidies drop off and where the market isn’t producing enough housing.
The challenge of creating housing affordability at a large scale is significant and will take an all-hands-on-deck approach. We are proud to be a part of a group that is taking action and contributing to a solution.
CEO and president, Horning Brothers;
Board chair, Washington Housing Conservancy