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Nonprofits and the Gentrification of D.C.'s Neighborhoods

By Thai Phi Le

June 11, 2016

The D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center is leading an effort to explore how gentrification in the District of Columbia is affecting nonprofit organizations serving the city's neighborhoods.

Joining forces with the Urban Institute and Compass, which provides free consulting and strategic planning services to nonprofits, the Pro Bono Center surveyed area organizations to assess their current situation against the backdrop of a rapidly transforming city, and to devise strategies to help them carry out their mission.

The next step comes on Monday, June 13, when the Pro Bono Center hosts the workshop "Impact of Gentrification on D.C.-Area Nonprofits," featuring speakers from local organizations such as DC Central Kitchen, N Street Village, and Carpenter's Shelter who will discuss transforming business models to help nonprofits to stay in their current locations. There also will be a panel on what organizations need to consider when they decide to relocate. Courtney Snowden, D.C.'s deputy mayor for greater economic opportunity, is scheduled to attend.

The Pro Bono Center's goal is to bring together Bar members, nonprofit technical service providers, and other professionals to assist nonprofits as they begin analyzing how to deal with the impact of gentrification on their organizations.

Gentrification is nothing new, but the rapid growth of cities like D.C., London, and San Francisco is. According to a 2012 report by the DC Fiscal Policy Institute, rent has risen more than 50 percent since 2000 while the number of low-cost rental units in the city has dropped by more than half. A 2015 study by the D.C. Office of the Chief Financial Officer also showed that low-income residents are moving out of the city faster than their rich neighbors. 

Gentrification also is taking a toll on nonprofits, forcing them to reshape their business models as demographics change. One nonprofit in Columbia Heights had to expand its hours to accommodate clients who have been displaced from the neighborhood and could only visit after work hours. Another needed to shift its target audience, primarily Spanish-speaking residents and their families, to include younger, English-speaking singles. Others must consider relocating due to skyrocketing rents.

"Impact of Gentrification on D.C.-Area Nonprofits" takes place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the D.C. Bar Conference Center, 1101 K Street NW.

Learn how the changing face of D.C.'s communities are affecting our local nonprofits and the people they serve. Read Community of Hope's story.