Serving Communities That Have Been Impacted By Racist Housing Policies

February 23, 2021
by Maggie Klefstad, Director of Development at Rebuilding Together DC-Alexandria

Lisa is a Washington, D.C. native. She was born and raised in Southeast, D.C. and has lived there her entire life. In the mid the 70s, Lisa moved into the home where she currently lives. She recalls many fond memories growing up in her home, where she was raised by her aunt and grandmother. As her aunt and grandmother aged, Lisa was able to care for them in the home they knew and loved. Today, Lisa is hoping she can age in place in the same home, where she has spent nearly 50 years of her life. 

Lisa, like so many others in her community, loves where she lives and the history her neighborhood holds. However, her community was one of many across the country that was impacted by racist housing policies and a history of unfair treatment towards Black residents.

In the 1950s, Southeast D.C. was predominantly white and it wasn’t until major gentrification took place in Southwest D.C. that the Black population was largely forced to move east of the river. Following this, the area was neglected by local government and several military bases and factories were shut down, reducing job access and employment opportunities in the area.

While lawmakers and policies neglected the area, the residential community didn’t, and it became a rallying point for many. Local Black businessmen started “I Love Anacostia Day” in 1978. Residents filed lawsuits against the city, alleging the racial divide in D.C. was willfully created by city officials. Though the area still faces these challenges, the community is as strong as ever and continues to find solace and pride in their homes.

Wanting to continue living safely in the home she loves, Lisa reached out to Rebuilding Together D.C. • Alexandria when she could no longer keep up with home maintenance. Not only was she physically unable to complete repairs, but she was on a fixed, limited income. To ensure Lisa could stay in her home safely, Rebuilding Together D.C. • Alexandria partnered with local contractors to repair the HVAC system, fix and replace outlets and make other small repairs around her home. 

Since receiving the repairs Lisa feels “a lot safer now and there aren’t any fire hazards,” and she said, it’s a godsend that you guys are able to help.” Aging in place is important to Lisa, as it is to many seniors in our community. Being able to age in place often means superior mental and physical health and creates a higher quality of life. Thanks to our supporters and volunteers, we were able to provide these life changing critical repairs for Lisa, who can now continue to safely live in the home she loves as long as she can. 

Rebuilding Together is committed to serving predominantly Black communities across the country and working with community leaders, representatives and other organizations to revitalize areas that have been impacted by racist policies. 

During Black History Month, we want to recognize some of the prominent Black leaders in housing who are making history. Learn more from the National Housing Conference here