The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

D.C.’s poorer residents are increasingly concentrated east of the Anacostia

A view of a building on the corner of Pierce Street NE in the NoMa neighborhood. (Evy Mages/For The Washington Post)
Placeholder while article actions load

Twenty-three percent of D.C.’s 179 neighborhoods are considered economically challenged, with a vast majority of those neighborhoods located east of the Anacostia River, according to an Urban Institute study released Tuesday.

The study considered economically challenged neighborhoods to be those in which the unemployment rate, share of residents with less than a high school diploma and percentage of households headed by a single mother exceed the citywide average by at least 20 percent. Of the 28 classified as economically challenged both in 2000 and 2010, only six are located west of the river. That’s a much higher concentration of poor neighborhoods east of the river — in Wards 7 and 8 — than in decades prior.

[After 50 years, a D.C. store will close ‘due to gentrification’]

The Urban Institute looked at neighborhood statistics between 2006 and 2010, meaning some of the data might be dated because of rapid changes in the city.

Still, it’s worth noting that in 1990, just 60 percent of economically challenged neighborhoods were east of the river. Two of the main clusters of economically challenged neighborhoods west of the river were the 14th Street corridor in Northwest and the area around Nationals Park along the waterfront in Southeast and Southwest. Both of these neighborhoods are now teeming with luxury condos and high-end restaurants.

Unsurprisingly, the Urban Institute found that wealth distribution in D.C. is not only spread unequally along geographic lines, but also along racial ones. D.C.’s median income increased between 2008 and 2013 at a faster rate than the rest of the nation, while the city’s unemployment rate was higher than the nation’s — suggesting that not everyone has been benefiting from greater wealth in D.C.

For instance, in 2010, 38 percent of black residents between the ages of 16 to 24 were unemployed, compared to just 5 percent of white residents.

As evident by the often-discussed dramatic changes along 14th Street NW and Navy Yard, many of D.C.’s neighborhoods have been transformed by recent commercial development. But, the study notes, many areas of the city are still under-served. Wards 7 and 8 only contain about one-half or one-third the number establishments — businesses, nonprofits and government entities — as other wards.

Now, according to the Urban Institute, the city has to figure out a way to promote policies in these neighborhoods in a way that spurs development, but doesn’t drive longtime residents out with high housing costs. The institute provides recommendations for the mayor, including expanding programs to help longtime residents in poorer neighborhoods purchase their homes in hopes of preventing future displacement.

[D.C. Council raises alarms over Mayor Bowser’s budget]

Read the Urban Institute’s full findings and recommendations here.

D.C.’s mom-and-pop shops disappearing at a faster rate than the nation
It costs a lot to live near Nats Park
Columbus to D.C. residents: Move here because it’s cheaper