One civil rights attorney is suing Washington D.C. for housing and urban renewal policies that could displace longtime black residents in favor of younger white renters, according to the DCist. Aristotle Theresa claims the city’s new policies are discriminatory and facilitate the further gentrification of black neighborhoods in the city.
Theresa is representing three native D.C. residents and CARE, a local community group, in the suit. The lawsuit claims that both Adrian Fenty and Vincent Gray’s mayoral administrations invested in attracting “creative” workers that would displace low and middle-class black families due to the rising housing costs that come with rising demand. These new workers are mostly comprised of young white millennials in fields like journalism, technology, art, and science.
“The city is intentionally trying to lighten black neighborhoods, and the way they have primarily been doing it is through construction of high density, luxury buildings, that primarily only offer studios and one bedrooms,” the suit reads.
Theresa is seeking more than $1 billion in damages for her clients. D.C. has yet to respond to the claim.
As the DCist reports, these housing policies were inspired by the work of urban theorist Richard Florida, who claimed in his 2002 book The Rise of the Creative Class that these young “creatives” are the key to a “successful city economy.” Apparently, these workers have very specific, disruptive housing preferences that would displace locals thanks to a demand for high rises and other hip city living situations.
“Creatives prefer indigenous street level culture—a teeming blend of cafes and sidewalk musicians and small galleries and bistros, where it is hard to draw the line between performers and spectators,” Florida once wrote.
Theresa claims the pursuit of this concept by several mayoral administrations is responsible for the discrimination against longtime black residents and the black community at large. It’s unclear if this suit will get very far in court, but if so it could set a huge precedent for how other major cities such as New York City, Austin, Los Angeles, and more, deal with the displacement of its minorities.