The question of whether gentrification is a positive or negative force in a community often dominates development discussions in D.C. But new and old research in sociology and urban planning paints city neighborhoods as more complex microcosms than these polarizing debates indicate. With the help of researchers who have looked closely at how cities evolve at the neighborhood level, we consider local development in a new light, asking what kind of neighborhood dynamics help create strong communities and how they can be achieved.

Guests

  • Esther Watts Director, Program Quality and Learning, CARE Ethiopia
  • Lance Freeman Associate Professor of Urban Planning, Columbia University
  • Zachary Neal Assistant Professor of Sociology & Global Urban Studies, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Psychology, Michigan State University
  • Peter Tatian Senior Research Associate, the Urban Institute's Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center

Transcript

  • 12:08:31

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. What was once a liquor store is now a wine bar. Those old boarded up houses are now luxury condos, and the mom and pop shop that used to be on the corner just became a chain grocery store. Over the last decade, hyper active development has transformed Washington's neighborhoods, adding the term gentrification to every D.C. resident's vocabulary.

  • 12:09:18

    MR. KOJO NNAMDITurns out, it's not that simple. Research, both new and old, suggests that there may be a far more complex set of forces at play in our urban neighborhoods than the typical gentrification paradigm would lead us to believe, calling into question who benefits from redevelopment. And leading us to reconsider what makes a neighborhood more than just a group of residents and turns it into a harmonious community. Three experts who have closely examined neighborhood dynamics, locally and nationally, now join me to discuss this.

  • 12:09:50

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIIn studio with me is Peter Tatian. He is a Senior Research Associate at the Urban Institute's Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center. Peter, good to see you again.

  • 12:10:00

    MR. PETER TATIANThank you, Kojo. Great to be here.

  • 12:10:02

    NNAMDIJoining us from studios at Michigan State University is Zachary Neal. He's a Professor of Sociology and Global Urban Studies, also a Professor of Psychology at Michigan State University. Zachary Neal, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:10:16

    MR. ZACHARY NEALHi, Kojo. Thanks for having me.

  • 12:10:18

    NNAMDIAnd joining us by phone from New York is Lance Freeman. He's a Professor of Urban Planning at Columbia University, and author of the book titled, "There Goes the Hood: Views of Gentrification From the Ground Up." Lance Freeman, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:10:33

    MR. LANCE FREEMANThanks for having me, Kojo.

  • 12:10:35

    NNAMDIWe're inviting calls at 800-433-8850. What do you think it takes to create a sense of community in a neighborhood? Peter, as development moves through neighborhoods in this city, down 14th Street, up the Green Line toward Petworth along H Street Northeast, we can see very clearly the physical effects of these neighborhoods changing. But to what extent has the social fabric of D.C. neighborhoods changed with the new development?

  • 12:11:04

    TATIANWell, you're absolutely right, Kojo, and actually, the very first time I was on your show was back in 2006. And Kojo, in your community, where we are All Souls Unitarian Church in Mt. Pleasant in Columbia Heights, talking about this very subject about how things were changing. And everyone at the time was very concerned about that, or observing it, but I don't think, even then, we knew the extent to which the change was going to be continuing. Since then, we've had a housing bubble burst, a foreclosure crisis and a federal government shutdown, but the D.C. economic engine just keeps churning. So, we are seeing lots of changes, and those changes are -- seem to be here to stay.

  • 12:11:47

    NNAMDICommunities come about organically, and they often sprout among people who share roots in a neighborhood. As so many of Washington's neighborhoods undergo significant change, what do you think it takes to create a sense of community among residents, new and old?

  • 12:12:03

    TATIANWell, it's a big challenge. I think it's easy to build things and easy to put in the new shops and so forth, build new housing. But then, when people come together and start mixing in these communities, that's where the real challenge is, in terms of creating community. I think it takes time and it also takes some effort on the part of local leaders to foster those conversations. Because the new residents are going to have different points of view from the people who've been there for a while, but at the end of the day, I think many people want the same kinds of things.

  • 12:12:35

    TATIANThey want safer neighborhoods, they want better choices for schools and places to shop. And other kinds of services, so there's a lot of common ground, but it needs to be nurtured.

  • 12:12:46

    NNAMDIOne of those conversations is taking place right here, right now, and you can join it by calling 800-433-8850. Do you find your neighborhood has a strong sense of community? Why do you think that is or why don't you think that is? 800-433-8850. You can send email to kojo@wamu.org or shoot us a tweet @kojoshow. Zachary Neal, in your work as a Sociology Professor, you have focused a lot on social networks, and you recently examined these networks at the level of neighborhoods. What do you think are some of the defining characteristics of a community?

  • 12:13:21

    NEALWell, that's a good question. So, when we're interested in social networks and sense of community, we're trying to understand, what do the characteristics of those social networks look like that give neighborhood residents that feeling of belonging? That sense that everyone knows your name, that you're on the same page with your neighbors. And we often focus on those patterns of social networks where one's friends know one another, where you know your neighbors and your neighbors know each other.

  • 12:13:51

    NEALWhat sometimes gets described as dense or closely knit social networks in neighborhoods. And what we've been particularly interested in is how those patterns of social networks, those types of relationships that give neighborhoods a sense of community, are related to processes and patterns like residential segregation.

  • 12:14:11

    NNAMDID.C. is more racially diverse today than it has been in decades. Once, mostly black, its population is now representative of all ethnicities, including many new white residents. Yet, your most recent research shows that increased diversity can actually hurt a sense of community among residents. Can you explain why that is?

  • 12:14:31

    NEALThat's absolutely right. We tend to see a negative relationship between diversity and sense of community. Consistently, every time we see a neighborhood that is residentially integrated, that's residentially diverse, we see neighborhoods that tend to have less sense of community, less of a feeling that the residents belong and know one another. And in the converse case, in neighborhoods that are relatively residentially segregated, we tend to see a much stronger sense of community, more of these dense, tightly knit social networks.

  • 12:15:05

    NEALAnd in the research I'm working on now, I'm trying to understand what might be driving that pattern. And we think it has to do with the processes that guide when people become friends with one another. We've been looking at two different, very basic processes. The first is homophily, or the notion that birds of a feather flock together, that people with similar demographic backgrounds, similar interests, tend to form relationships with one another. The second process we're looking at is the role of proximity, that nearby people have more opportunities to run into one another, and more opportunities to form relationships.

  • 12:15:43

    NEALAnd what we've found, in our research, is that any time relationships form, guided by these two processes, homophily and proximity, we see this relationship, that segregated neighborhoods have a strong sense of community, and integrated neighborhoods have less sense of community.

  • 12:16:00

    NNAMDIThat research sounds like unwelcome news for a lot of urban planners who see the ideal neighborhood as both diversive and socially cohesive. What do you think this might mean for officials, say like here in Washington, D.C., and planners who are working to create communities that bring together both old residents and new residents, especially when they're from different cultural or socio-economic backgrounds?

  • 12:16:23

    NEALWell, I suppose that's really the million dollar question, and it's what motivated this line of research. We frequently hear from urban planners, from policy makers, from neighborhood residents that the ideal, the gold standard is to have integrated, diverse neighborhoods that also have a strong sense of community. And in decades of research, that's a very difficult sort of thing to find out there in the world. And we wanted to find out why that might be. Now, the results we found might be sobering, but it might start asking us to ask a new question, to reframe the debate.

  • 12:17:00

    NEALAnd start to think about whether there's a balancing point, whether in some cases, residential integration is worthwhile at maybe the expense of somewhat lesser sense of community. And vice versa. And so it asks us, maybe the goal is not to maximize both diversity and sense of community, but to find an appropriate balance for each community.

  • 12:17:22

    NNAMDIZachary Neal is a Professor of Sociology and Global Urban Studies. Also a Professor Psychology at Michigan State University. He joins us from studios at Michigan State. Peter Tatian is in our Washington studio. He is Senior Research Associate at the Urban Institute's Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center. Joining us by phone from New York is Lance Freeman. He's a Professor of Urban Planning at Columbia University, author of the book, "There Goes the Hood: Views of Gentrification From the Ground Up."

  • 12:17:52

    NNAMDILance, you're one of the first researchers to actually interview long time residents about their experiences, as they watch development gentrify their neighborhoods. You looked at two neighborhoods in New York, Harlem and Clinton Hill. What did you take away from those interviews? Were you surprised at all by how residents felt about the development happening around them?

  • 12:18:13

    FREEMANYeah, that's a great -- that's a good question. I was surprised, to some extent. I think overall, if I had to summarize the general finding, it would be one of ambivalence and viewing gentrification as a double edged sword. And the reason for that is that Harlem, and to a lesser extent, Clinton Hill, are neighborhoods in New York that had experienced a dramatic amount of disinvestment over several decades, starting after World War II. Harlem, for example, had lost about two thirds of its population between 1950 and 1980.

  • 12:18:52

    FREEMANSo, you had a lot of abandoned buildings. There was not that much in the way of retail. Every day conveniences that we might take for granted, like being able to go to a grocery store and shop, a lot of those things were missing in Harlem, say for example, in the 1970s and 1980s. And so with gentrification, you started to see more stores, for example, opening up. Different types of stores opening up. Full scale grocery stores. And those were some of the things that people could appreciate, because, you know, having to get on a bus just to go shopping is a major inconvenience.

  • 12:19:29

    FREEMANSo, people could appreciate things like that. Yet, at the same time, a lot of residents were fearful of what this meant for the future. In particular, would they be able to stay in the community? Would they find themselves being pushed out of the community? And even those who, perhaps, felt confident that they could stay, whether because they owned their own home or perhaps they lived in a subsidized housing unit, they still might feel like the neighborhood was being taken away from them, that changes were being made but not so much for their benefit but for the benefit of people who are now just coming into the neighborhood.

  • 12:20:12

    FREEMANAnd that created a lot of resentment. The -- among the people I spoke to are feeling that the changes, such as the opening of new stores, for example, were being done for the benefit of them, that is people who are just moving into the neighborhood as opposed to the long-term residents.

  • 12:20:31

    FREEMANAnd if you combine that -- these feeling, you know, with the legacy of racial discrimination in America, particularly how it manifested itself at the neighborhood level, I think that also goes a long way in explaining a lot of the cynicisms that people had. People living in these communities, some of them could remember urban renewal. They could remember when it was very difficult for a person to get a conventional loan from a bank to purchase a home in these neighborhoods.

  • 12:21:06

    FREEMANThey can remember when doors would refuse to open in these neighborhoods. And so, there's a great deal of cynicism about why the changes are now taking place.

  • 12:21:18

    NNAMDIHow did that cynicism affect the longtime residents feelings about whether or not there could be developed a new sense of community in their neighborhoods?

  • 12:21:31

    FREEMANWell, I think it depends, you know. I mean, some people are, you know, more proactive, more engaged, more actively engaged in the community. And they would become involved in community organizations and organizing activities to make sure that their interests are, you know, that they're able to voice their interests, that they can either welcome or work with the new people coming into the community. So it's kind of depends, others, you know, would be perhaps more passive.

  • 12:22:05

    FREEMANAnd although they're cynical, they might not necessarily be inclined to become actively engaged in the community. So it really depends on the persons, their predisposition. Are they the type of person to become actively engaged in the community? Or are they more passive? And, of course, that can change, a community can be organized. People can be encouraged to participate in local activities.

  • 12:22:32

    FREEMANSo I think it really depends, at least, you know, in the research right here I saw some people who are very actively engaged in the community. They might have been very cynical or fearful of what was happening. And that cynicism and fear is in part what motivated them to become active in the community.

  • 12:22:50

    NNAMDIRemember, we're inviting your calls at 800-433-8850. What effect do you think new development has on communities? How do you think it's affected our sense of community here in Washington? 800-433-8850. You can send email to kojo@wamu.org. Peter Tatian, gentrification, as it's usually understood means, new faces showing up in the neighborhood, usually from a different background than the original residents.

  • 12:23:19

    NNAMDIAnd Washington has definitely seen some new residents move in. How do you think the interests of D.C.'s older residents compare to the interests of those who may be newer on the block, if you will?

  • 12:23:31

    TATIANWell, again, I think there's a mix of interest that sometimes overlap and sometimes are -- might be oppose to each other. So, I mean, anecdotally, we know a lot of the newer residents are very happy with some of the new economic development that's going on, new restaurants, new bars, new places to go out at night. The new residents of D.C. tend to be younger, single, professional people, you know, who for them that population is really the kind of things they're looking for.

  • 12:24:06

    TATIANOlder residents may not value those things as much. They may be more interested in having, you know, safe neighborhoods with good quality schools where their kids can go, where they can, you know, shop for groceries easily, where they can find goods that are affordable to them. So there can be, you know, a tension there, friction there because of those different interests.

  • 12:24:32

    NNAMDIZachary, you brought up the term earlier, homophily, people's tendency to associate with those people who are just like them. When you talk about diversity, however, you don't only mean racial diversity. There are range of different factors that can bring us together or draw us apart. So what kinds of values, what kinds of interest, do you think, people have to share in order to create this element in community building, Zachary?

  • 12:24:57

    NEALWell, I think it's a very open question and it has a lot of diverse answers. Certainly most of the time when we're thinking about gentrification, we have in mind neighborhood change on dimensions of often income and very often associated with that, race. But we can imagine neighborhoods changing their composition based perhaps on religious affiliation or ethnicity or age or even something like occupation.

  • 12:25:23

    NEALAnd changes along these dimensions, we may not think of them under the rubric of gentrification, but we can imagine the sorts of changes that neighborhoods might go through as a population changes from one relatively homogenous group to another relatively homogenous group on all sorts of important social dimensions. And what we're really focused on -- what we're finding that it doesn't really matter what the characteristic is as long as the community members, the neighborhood residents themselves attach some importance to that characteristic.

  • 12:25:54

    NNAMDIOn to the telephones. Here is Patty in Washington, D.C. Patty, you're on the air. Go ahead please.

  • 12:26:01

    PATTYHi, can you hear me?

  • 12:26:02

    NNAMDIYes, we can.

  • 12:26:03

    PATTYGreat. I was just saying -- thinking that I know from my experience what really brought me together with people in my community was my children, whether they shared the same daycare facility or they were in the same class or they were on the same sports team. I tended to affiliate and socialize with other parents. So I think the concerns for D.C. and all the new development is you have a lot of young professionals coming in that are not necessarily having children right away.

  • 12:26:32

    PATTYAnd then you have the older D.C. residents, so you kind of miss that generation, at least where I felt -- I felt a lot of social connections. But I do think the younger generation -- very altruistic in that if we could capture their willingness to volunteer and serve in their community and really channel their energy that, you know, we could probably overcome a lot of the concerns that might happen or the resentment that might fester because of all the changes that are happening to the status-quo.

  • 12:27:09

    NNAMDIPeter Tatian, the role of children in forming community. I know in my own experience here in Washington, that was formed among the kids on the block with whom my kids played. I got to know them, then I got to know their parents. And that's how we kind of developed a sense of community.

  • 12:27:24

    TATIANSure. And the same was for me growing up. I think that that is a very important element. And the extent to which the new residents are having children -- actually we do see that many of the new residents now are starting to start families and have children that are now in the school system. And so I think that, you know, having kids together in the schools is one way that those connections can start to be built among parents who may have come from different places or have different experiences growing up.

  • 12:27:58

    TATIANBut, you know, I think it is still a challenge to try to make those connections work well. I think to build those relationships and have it, you know, be a productive and socially beneficial relationship.

  • 12:28:12

    NNAMDIGot to take a short break. When we come back, we will be continuing this conversation. But this is the period of our winter membership campaign. So if you have called, stay on the line. We will get to your calls. We'll be asking you to make a different kind of call shortly, but then we'll be coming back to this conversation about neighborhood dynamics and our sense of community. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

  • 12:37:17

    NNAMDIWelcome back to our conversation on neighborhood dynamics and our sense of community. We're talking with Zachary Neal. He is a professor of sociology on global urban studies and also a professor of psychology at Michigan State University. Peter Tatian is a senior research associate at the Urban Institute's Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center. And Lance Freeman is a professor of urban planning at Columbia University.

  • 12:37:41

    NNAMDIHe is author of the book, "There Goes the Hood: Years of Gentrification from the Ground Up." Lance, I know you have to leave shortly, so my next question is going to be for you. It's preceded by this email we got from Erika who writes, "My experience is anecdotal, but I've lived in gentrifying neighborhoods, upscale neighborhoods and just plain the hood. I grew up in an urban renewal apartment building in Manhattan that looked like the U.N."

  • 12:38:04

    NNAMDI"Now that the building has become upscale, only the old-time residents socialize with one another and know each other by name. The newer, more affluent residents have displaced residents who, in many cases, were harassed into leaving by a management that had a strong financial interest in getting market rate tenants." My question to you now, Lance Freeman, is that longtime Harlem and Clinton Hill residents you found there had a widespread fear of displacement?

  • 12:38:34

    NNAMDIThey felt new development would force old residents out of the community. Why do you think this feeling of being pushed out is so common? Well, I guess at one level, according to Erika, because it happens, Lance.

  • 12:38:48

    FREEMANRight, right. I think particularly in New York, New York has rent regulation. And what happens when someone moves out of the unit, the landlord can deregulate the apartment and charge a market rent. So that gives the landlord an incentive to try to push people out. And it sounds like that's what happened in the case of this particular caller. And in talking to people in doing my interviews, they also report anecdotally cases where they knew people who the landlord harassed them or what have you.

  • 12:39:21

    FREEMANSo that certainly is a problem related to the way a regulation is implemented in New York City that the landlord, when the markets rate -- when the starts heating up, the landlords have an incentive to try to raise the rent and to try to get long-term residents to move out. And that's why I said, you know, if someone lived in a gentrifying neighborhood, if they're a homeowner or let's say lived in public housing or some other type of housing where their tenure is protected, they might over the long term might be able to stay for a while.

  • 12:39:56

    FREEMANBut for other people, they're going to be much more vulnerable, either they might find themselves having to move or they're going to have to pay much more in rent since some people can afford that. And so, understandably people are fearful of that. You know, particularly if they're on fixed income or they're not upwardly mobile. That puts them in a very vulnerable position.

  • 12:40:17

    NNAMDILance Freeman, thank you so much for joining us.

  • 12:40:19

    FREEMANOkay. Thanks for having me. Thank you.

  • 12:40:20

    NNAMDILance Freeman is a professor of urban planning at Columbia University and author of the book, "There Goes the Hood: Views of Gentrification From the Ground Up." Peter Tatian, here in Washington the demographic makeup of certain neighborhoods has changed. It's apparent in the latest census data. If people are not being pushed out, then why are they leaving?

  • 12:40:39

    TATIANWell, the truth is that people leave and come into cities like Washington all the time. And that's always the way it's been. I think what's different in this dynamic is who's coming in to replace the people who are leaving? So in the past, you know, we actually, over the past 50 years, Washington lost a lot of population, a lot of people left, particularly African American population left in large numbers over the past four decades.

  • 12:41:09

    TATIANAnd what's changed about it in the past 10 years is that now young white people are coming into the city in larger numbers and staying. And so if you're on the ground in Columbia Heights or Shaw or some neighborhood like that, and you're seeing that change, it's very easy to feel like you're being displaced because people like you are less visible in that neighborhood.

  • 12:41:32

    NNAMDIZachary, considering the research that you have done looking at the connection between a neighborhood's makeup and its sense of community, how would you expect to see the sense of community change through this process of shifting demographics, where a new group of people begins to replace the neighborhood's original residents?

  • 12:41:51

    NEALWell, I think we can think of this process of gentrification as a kind of transition. Frequently, the neighborhoods begin with a relatively homogenous, stable group of long-term residents. And we might expect to see a strong sense of community. And as Lance mentioned just a moment ago, as residents become displaced by newcomers they may see erosion in that sense of community.

  • 12:42:16

    NEALAnd we have a neighborhood that's in transition, but potentially more diverse, as you have some longtime residents and some newcomers. And as this process of gentrification advances and culminates, in some cases the neighborhood may shift over to being homogenous, but filled with an entirely new category, perhaps affluent or younger or childless residents.

  • 12:42:37

    NEALAnd a new kind of sense of community may develop among those new residents. The problem is, in many cases, the handful of longtime residents that do stay behind may feel like their neighborhood or their sense of community has been taken away from them, that they don't belong any more. And so one of the messages that the research I'm working on is trying to ask is how can we rebuild that sense of community, preserve sense of community for both longtime and new-coming residents alike, as neighborhoods go through these inevitable transitions.

  • 12:43:11

    NNAMDIOnto the telephones. Here now is Timothy, in Silver Spring, Md. Timothy, your turn.

  • 12:43:20

    TIMOTHYHello, Kojo. Thank you for taking my call.

  • 12:43:23

    NNAMDIYou're welcome.

  • 12:43:25

    TIMOTHYI think the churches have the organization and the infrastructure for outreach. And they need to lead the way in building community if it's to be sustainable. Because the future generations will inherit the legacy we leave behind. Otherwise, they'll inherit our debts and the consequences of half-baked schemes.

  • 12:43:47

    NNAMDIYou raise a fascinating question, Timothy, for both Peter and Zachary. For some people, community can revolve around a place like a church, as Timothy mentioned, school or recreational center. Are there other forms of social glue like these kinds of neighborhood facilities that could create community among diverse groups of people? Keeping in mind that in Washington, as in much of the nation, 11:00 a.m. Sunday tends to be the most segregated hour in the country.

  • 12:44:17

    TATIANWell, I think that's right. And I think that you have, again, people coming from lots of different places around the country and around the world moving to Washington, D.C. So very different upbringings, religious traditions. So trying it's -- to bridge those gaps may be very difficult. I think there are more cultural or more community-based activities that might be more fruitful for trying to foster interaction among people.

  • 12:44:53

    NNAMDIZachary, do you get a sense that even though neighborhoods are changing, that whether older residents will join incoming residents in communal places like cafes or community centers?

  • 12:45:07

    NEALAbsolutely. You know I think it's interesting that both callers to the show so far have brought up different varieties of community or neighborhood public spaces. The first caller mentions schools and the sort of catalyzing role of kids. And then the second caller brought up the issue of churches, but we can also think, you know, more broadly about the role of libraries or community centers or even public parks.

  • 12:45:32

    NEALAnd this is certainly something that I'm seeing and exploring more in my work, is the role of these wide variety of public spaces in neighborhoods that might be able to undo this otherwise disjoint between diversity and sense of community. I think it's particularly powerful in this case because sense of community is a funny thing.

  • 12:45:56

    NEALIt's what economists might call a public good. Certainly children might play this catalyzing role, but you might wonder, well, what about the neighborhood residents that don't have children? And what we see is that children and parents often gathering around schools or other child-focused neighborhood activities can generate a sense of community, create a strong community. And as a sort of byproduct, an indirect effect, even the residents that don't have children benefit from this stronger sense of community, even if they weren't directly participating in the activities that created it in the first place.

  • 12:46:33

    NNAMDIOnto the telephones again. Here is Cimi, in Fairfax, Va. Cimi, your turn.

  • 12:46:39

    CIMIHello.

  • 12:46:39

    NNAMDIHi, Cimi.

  • 12:46:41

    CIMIHello. Can you hear me okay?

  • 12:46:44

    NNAMDIYes, we do.

  • 12:46:45

    CIMIOkay, okay. Yes. I wanted to mention that, you know, when -- I have lived in the Washington metropolitan area for 45 years. And so I've gone through all the changes. And one question that I don't really hear is diversity where economics clash. And what has happened in D.C. -- yes. I mean the percent of whites has increased since I was here in the '60s. And, you know, the percent of blacks has gone down.

  • 12:47:17

    CIMIThat could be good or bad, but the class issue is what pushes a lot of the minorities out of the city. Like Mount Pleasant area, you know, when I used to live there it was a (unintelligible) who is in Spanish. And now all of it has become, you know, middle class and upper middle class white people.

  • 12:47:40

    CIMISo it is the economics of it that's important. It's not as if you're getting working class poor people from West Virginia to come here to the city. So the class is important and it pushes the old residents out. They happen to be minorities, but they were poorer people and the government industry continuously, for the last several administrations, has supported developers and has not implemented any policy to make sure that there's moderate and cheap housing for these people.

  • 12:48:17

    NNAMDIAffordable…

  • 12:48:17

    CIMISo the people have been pushed out, you know, people who used to live in the city have to go far away suburb and also lose their job.

  • 12:48:27

    NNAMDICimi, allow me to start with Peter Tatian. And then I'll go to Zachary Neal. Class differences, economic differences of -- since the beginning of gentrification as we know it, have always been at the heart, but the fact that it takes on racial aspects or cultural aspects in certain places, not withstanding, it's the economic differences and the inability of government to provide the kind of -- what Cimi is saying -- affordable housing that allows older residents to remain that's the problem in many ways.

  • 12:48:58

    TATIANAbsolutely. I mean the economic differences are at the heart of it. And for many of these issues, race and other things, as you said, gets intertwined with that and sometimes it's hard to disentangle them. But I think one of the things that we haven't talked about is choice, as a factor in this. So do people have the ability to choose to live in different kinds of neighborhoods? We've talked about whether diverse neighborhoods may be better or worse than segregated neighborhoods, but the fact is in many cases there's a large part of the population that doesn't really have much of a choice. They have to live in a particular neighborhood because their economic situation dictates that.

  • 12:49:35

    TATIANAnd so creating more affordable housing throughout the city is an important component of giving people the opportunity to choose. If people make a free choice that they want to live in a community with more people who resemble them in certain ways, then that's fine. As long as that's a choice that they're able to make. And I do want to say, I mean, the caller said that she doesn't think that D.C. is doing anything about this. I do have to take a different opinion. I think that D.C. has actually done quite a bit to try to create more affordable housing throughout the city. But the fact is the challenge is very big. And there's a lot more that needs to be done.

  • 12:50:14

    NNAMDIAnd, Zachary, your study shows that a neighborhood couldn't be both diversive and cohesive, but what if expanded that? Looking at diversity at the citywide level, could one create a city that had strong communities and was demographically diverse? It's certainly what they tried to do here in communities like Reston, Va. and Columbia, Md.

  • 12:50:35

    NEALAbsolutely. I think we see that in cities like Washington, but we see it in cities all across the country and really all across the world. We see pockets of homogeny, pockets of segregation, neighborhoods that have a unique, maybe even long-standing historical character, abutting right up against neighborhoods that have their own unique character and history. And so while at the neighborhood level, the community level, we might see patterns of segregation, when we take a step back and look at the city level or the metropolitan level we may see a great level of diversity. What we start seeing is cities formed out of something like a patchwork of neighborhoods.

  • 12:51:15

    NEALAnd so it gives us a way to have a level of sort of functional segregation at the neighborhood level, so that individuals can live in communities where they feel comfortable with their neighbors. They feel like they know one another and they get along. But they can still live in an urban environment that's diverse and that has all of the sort of amenities and openness that that sort of an environment might offer.

  • 12:51:36

    NNAMDIZachary Neal is professor of sociology and global urban studies and also adjunct professor of psychology at Michigan State University. Zachary Neal, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:51:45

    NEALThank you very much for having me.

  • 12:51:46

    NNAMDIPeter Tatian is senior research associate at the Urban Institute's Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center. Peter Tatian, thank you for you joining us.

  • 12:51:54

    TATIANThank you, Kojo. Always a pleasure.

  • 12:51:56

    NNAMDIAnd thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

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