“Inequality” For Sale Homeownership in D.C, the racial wealth gap increases.


By Stokely Lewis, Student at Richard Wright PCS for Journalism and Media Arts

Housing is a greater part of the cause of inequality in Washington, D.C. and affects many low to middle income citizens. Day by day, it’s becoming more expensive to live in our region. Today, Washington D.C. stands as one of the top 10 most expensive, major US city in the United States according to CBS Money Watch. The price of a two bedroom apartment is nearly triple the national average, costing on average $1990 across the D.C. metro area. The income of an average worker greatly affects their choices of housing. In a city that is steadily growing in new residences, the income of an average worker doesn’t keep pace with the cost.

According to a D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute analysis of data from the U.S Census Bureau’s 2012 American Community Survey, D.C. ranked 4th highest in income inequality. The richest 5 percent of Washingtonians make 54 times what the poorest 20 percent make. The top five percent of earners make an average of $531,769, the highest in America; the bottom quintile earns an average of just $9,900. Housing and income inequality vary depending on your social status.

“Minimum wage doesn’t equal the cost of living,” Jordan Young, a junior from Richard Wright Public Charter School said. “I think it’s unfair because you have to work two to three jobs to afford a one bedroom apartment in D.C. I believe it’s based on racial economics.”

The disparity between new arrivals and long-time residents is nothing new. Over the years the differences have grown starker from a majority black-city, to a more than 50% gentrified metropolis. Yet, not everybody defines housing inequality as a race issue.

“I think housing inequality is people not able to afford housing because of their credit, job, or financial state and it affects anyone who works for minimum wage,” Sabryn McDonald, a junior from Richard Wright Public Charter School said. “I really don’t think there is any way to stop it and with minimum wage, you can’t even afford a 1 bedroom apartment, not to mention the cost of food or clothes.”

Whether it’s a race problem, or not, the lack of household wealth compounds overtime. Kids coming from families with low income take on more debt to pay for things like college, instead of saving for long-term things like housing.

“The wealth gap is so deeply rooted in our communities,” Victoria Lewis, an editor at ABC, said. “It’s here and it’s not going away anytime soon. It’s a widespread problem and it needs to be addressed.”

So what will contribute to the effort of closing the gap? Gene Nemby, a reporter from NPR, says “Urging blacks and other minorities to own homes will spur wealth creation. Housing policies have been a major driver for the inequality, as people of color were cut off from many of the avenues that helped create America’s burgeoning middle class in the 20th century.”

As this wealth gap continues to be a fixture of racial life in the Nation’s Capital, its consequences are likely to become more prevalent as the wealth and racial makeup of the former “Chocolate City” continue to change.


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