Region Forward Blog

The Morning Measure: The challenge of preserving community and embracing development

Dec 9, 2010


Maintaining a sense of community in light of new investment and lots of new residents can be tricky. In most instances where a neighborhood is severely blighted by high crime poor education appalling housing and inadequate access to health care it can be argued that a functioning community does not exist. In such cases it’s easy to see how investment aimed at improving these indicators will be beneficial for the neighborhood’s current residents as long adequate safeguards are put in place to ensure that they can afford to stay in the improved community and benefit from the investment.

However in other cases well-functioning communities do exist in neighborhoods that happen to consist primarily of low-income households. In such instances investment aimed at improving the housing stock may very well have a negative impact on the current residents by pricing them out of their community. Given most of metro Washington’s very high cost of living this can also happen here in middle-income neighborhoods that face a wave of new development.

In a couple of paragraphs that’s a quick summation of the dilemma of gentrification. Arriving at the right balance is tricky for planners and public officials. Gleaming new development is enticing and in many cases a good thing for communities. However the long-term impact on the neighborhood population must be taken into account. As new development is taking shape in Wheaton Tysons Corner and Gaithersburg we hope that the RF target aimed at ensuring the availability of affordable housing is taken into account as decisions are made.

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