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Do Black Lives Matter Enough for Whites to Support Affordable Housing?


I am consistently amused walking around the east side of Providence, by far the richest part of the city, where whites in large houses have Black Lives Matter signs up and where you know damn well they are sending their kids to private, mostly white schools. If Black Lives actually matter to whites, are they going to do anything about it more than putting up a sign? Like, say, allowing Black people to live in affordable housing near them?

In an affluent, mostly White neighborhood in Northwest Washington, a volunteer task force wants to atone for the racist policies that forced Black residents from the community a century ago.

At another group’s Zoom meeting, the moderatortalked of rewriting zoning policies to crack the “invisible walls” that have excluded Black people from the neighborhood. The agenda, the moderator said, was to determine “what we can do to turn the tide against racism.”

The nationwide focus on racial equity — intensified by the coronavirus pandemic and the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody — has trickled down to the realm of the local zoning board. Advocates in D.C. are invoking the need to correct past wrongs as they demand subsidized housing in affluent neighborhoods where low-cost apartments have always been scarce.

Northwest Washington, eh? I wonder how whites are going to react:

As in the past, talk of altering D.C. vistas is triggering opposition from preservationists and fierce debate on neighborhood listservs. Business leaders and developers say additional requirements for below-market units would discourage post-pandemic projects.

And a chorus of voices — left-leaning activists among them — say Bowser’s plan would add mainly to the city’s stock of luxury housing, while doing little for the poor.

Ah yes, of course, the combination of “preservationists,” which are my special form of historical conservatives with left anti-housing activists. Great… But still:

But there is also conspicuous support for the Democratic mayor’s proposed changes, as was evident during a recent community meeting in Cleveland Park, home to multimillion-dollar houses and a sleepy commercial strip that would be primed for 90-foot towers under the plan.

“We should be welcoming everyone,” Sauleh Siddiqui, a professor and a newly elected advisory neighborhood commissioner, said before voting for a resolution that passed supporting the changes. “I fear if we don’t make space for everyone, there’s really no way we can say we’re going to be an inclusive and diverse community.”

Another proponent of the zoning changes, Rabbi Aaron Alexander of Adas Israel Congregation in Cleveland Park, recently urged congregants to place their desire for social justice above concerns about traffic congestion and overcrowding.

Color me extremely skeptical that any low-income housing will actually go up in northwest Washington. After all, Black Lives Matter is super easy to embrace if you aren’t asked to do anything but put up a sign. Anything more than that though and, I mean, what about my property values or what about the schools that little Maddie and Connor attend?

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