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Where Residents Point the Blame for Affordable Housing Problem in D.C.

The old Alexander Crummell School in the Ivy City neighborhood of Washington, D.C. (Photo by AgnosticPreachersKid)

The top culprit to blame for the lack of affordable housing in the U.S. capital, according to wealthy residents of Washington, D.C.: the wealthy. That’s according to a new poll conducted by The Washington Post.

The poll found 78 percent of those who moved to Washington, D.C., in the past 15 years with annual incomes of at least $150,000 say that new high-income residents are a major reason for the shortage of affordable housing in the city. Tied for second in the blame game: the city government catering to developers and insufficient city spending on affordable housing, with 64 percent each saying it is a reason for the affordable housing shortage.

“As an African-American, it’s been painful to watch the exit of other African-Americans,” one D.C.-raised resident told the Post.

Just over half of African-American residents surveyed say redevelopment has benefited people like them, compared with nearly 9 in 10 whites, the poll also found. The poll was conducted June 15-18 among a random sample of 901 adults living in the District, reached on mobile and landline phones.

One contentious example from last year encapsulates a lot of the tensions and perceptions laid out in The Washington Post poll: the city’s RFP process to redevelop the site of the former Alexander Crummell School in D.C.’s Ivy City neighborhood, a historic landmark for the city’s black community. The city received three proposals for the site redevelopment, including one from a partnership that included Empower DC, a community organizing group that has been fighting to preserve the historic site for years alongside residents in the neighborhood.

Empower DC’s plan reflects years of working with residents to figure out what to do with the site that would meet their needs. The city awarded the site to a partnership of luxury real estate developers. According to DCist, the decision was due to the fact that theirs was the only proposal that met the city’s stipulation that the city retain ownership of the land.