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Addressing the Housing Affordability Crisis in the District of Columbia: An Analysis of the New Communities Initiative

Authors: Christopher Hart*, George Washington University
Topics: Urban Geography, United States
Keywords: urban geography, affordable housing, mixed-income housing, housing
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Gentrification is an ongoing process in the District of Columbia. As gentrification has progressed, it has created a housing affordability crisis in the District. The District government has taken various approaches to addressing the crisis, including inclusionary zoning laws, tenants’ rights laws, and initiatives aimed at increasing housing supply. The District has also taken advantage of federal dollars through programs like HOPE VI and the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program. The New Communities Initiative (NCI) is one District program that has sought to address housing affordability for extremely low-income households. Though ongoing, NCI requires a close examination to determine if it is meeting its stated goal of replacing distressed public housing with vibrant mixed-income communities. This study addresses this research question from a geographical perspective using mixed methods, including primary and secondary document review and semi-structured interviews.

The study examines the success of NCI in achieving its stated goal of replacing distressed public housing with vibrant, mixed-income communities and considers the following research questions:
1. How closely has NCI adhered to its core principles of one-for-one replacement, opportunity to return, mixed-income housing, and build first?
2. Has NCI been successful in avoiding the pitfalls of its predecessor program, HOPE VI?
3. What political or social factors have supported and/or hindered NCI’s progress?
4. How has the public-private partnership model impacted the direction of the program?
5. How has the spatial structure of the NCI neighborhoods changed and how have existing communities been affected by these changes?

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