Navy Yard residents worry about affordable living and new lifestyle

As rent prices continue to increase, residents in Navy Yard are concerned their housing will become too costly to sustain.

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In the last five years, a newly built Nationals baseball stadium, a host of new eateries and the renovation of the Wharf, a local seafood market, has remade Washington’s Navy Yard neighborhood.

Some say the changes are for the better but others in the gentrifying neighborhood are concerned because they fear their lifestyle will become too costly to sustain.

The unseen costs of gentrification have already been felt by residents who say that rapidly rising rent costs have driven people out of the neighborhood.

And, as a half dozen more high-rise apartment complexes are scheduled to open in the next year, more longtime residents say they may have to consider moving elsewhere.

“It seems like they are trying to move us out of D.C.,” said Joyce Jenkins, 65, who has lived in her Navy Yard townhouse for 18 years.

Rent increases for one and two-bedroom apartments

The cost of living in Washington continues to grow as an influx of people move from the suburbs of Maryland and Virginia seek new homes, according to a study by Zumper, an apartment rental website.

A study by the group listed Washington as the city with the fourth highest cost of rent.

Credit: Zumper.com

Rent prices for a one bedroom apartments have climbed by 3.6% to $2,280. Costs for two bedroom apartments have increased by 2.5 percent to $3,230, according to Zumper.

Credit: Zumper Research Data. From the September report: “The Zumper National Rent Report analysis rental data from over 1 million active listings across the United States. Data is aggregated on a monthly basis to calculate median asking rents for the top 100 metro areas by population, providing a comprehensive view of the current state of the market. The report is based on all data available in the month prior to publication.”

Gentrification in Navy Yard

Several organizations and residents have expressed their concerns about the swift changes.

Eric Tars, an attorney with the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, said that as neighborhoods attract more upper middle-class residents, lower income and homeless people may be seen as out-of-place with the community.

“Communities begin to gentrify and increase efforts to exclude people who detract from the new vibrant to the neighborhood,” Tars said.

Residents are being forced out of homes due to higher costs of living and evictions while homeless people are being pushed out of view, he added.

Homeless people are left with no place to live, sometimes forced into jail or other neighborhoods. They live on the street because they feel they have no other choice.

Communities begin to gentrify and increase efforts to exclude people who detract from the new vibrant to the neighborhood.

In order to combat this, more subsidized housing, inclusionary zoning and community land trusts are needed to ensure permanent housing for homeless in the District, Tars said.

The city has taken steps to solve homelessness.

Mayor Muriel Bowser decided to close D.C. General Hospital, which previously served as the district’s largest family shelter for seven years and housed more than 250 families.

The hospital will be replaced with six short-term family housing facilities across the city, along with apartments for families and one women’s shelter.

But still more work needs to be done or the chronic problems of homelessness in the District will continue, said Michael Ferrell, executive director of the Coalition for the Homeless.

“Gentrification is not a black and white issue,” Ferrell said.

Community perspective about gentrification in Navy Yard

Jenkins, the resident who has lived in Navy Yard for 18 years, said she has no plans on moving.

“Gentrification doesn’t bother me, I am going to stay where I am at, unless they tell me to move and find a better place for me to live,” she said.

 If you don’t have money, you are not going to be able to get in this neighborhood.

Lyndell Scott, who has lived in the neighborhood for more than two decades, said that people will be priced-out as development continues.

“This neighborhood is catering to people who have money and it is not inclusive to everyone. If you don’t have money, you are not going to be able to get in this neighborhood,” Scott said.

Other residents have expressed concerns about homeless people being displaced as the neighborhood gentrifies. Homeless people living in an encampment under a nearby underpass were forced to move, two residents said.

Resident Tyrone Mosby, 46, has lived in D.C. for 25 years, said the city needs to keep those who are struggling in mind.

“Homeless people are being moved around a lot. There are not many places for homeless people to go. People are fighting for spaces.”

People are fighting for spaces.

Residents said there were pros and cons to the gentrification in Navy Yard.

Cons of gentrification in Navy Yard area

(according to residents interviewed in Navy Yard)

  • No available gas stations
  • No places for homeless people to live
  • Overcrowding and limited parking
  • Higher cost of living
  • Increase in population

Pros of gentrification in Navy Yard area

(according to residents interviewed in Navy Yard)

  • New restaurants, hotels and a produce market
  • Close to the metro station and a walkable community
  • New social activities such as the Music Arts Festival and new Arena Stage offerings
  • Safer environment
  • Renovation of The Wharf, the local seafood market
  • Construction of new soccer stadium

Residents, including said Diana Wallace, 73, enjoy the new changes and say the community is improving.

“I enjoy seeing the neighborhood grow and have new entertainment and places to go,” she said. “We need new people and new life here.”

About La'shawn Donelson 2 Articles
Multimedia Journalist. Native Washingtonian. Hope College Alumna. American University '18.

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