“Missing Middle” Is Just Another Name For Gentrification

I’m running for Arlington County Board on November 8, and I think the County is misrepresenting the benefits of Missing Middle upzoning.

For example, the County and real estate consultant McGuirewoods claim that upzoning will redress generations of redlining by diversifying neighborhoods with people of color. The local NAACP, which recently endorsed Missing Middle, has actually bought this hype. Yet the County’s own data indicate that upzoning of residential neighborhoods off Columbia Pike has had the opposite effect.

The “Columbia Pike Commercial Market Study” commissioned by the County in 2019, reported that after adoption of the Columbia Pike Form Based code in 2003, which allowed densification along the Pike there was a change in demographics. It cited Census Bureau statistics to show that the percent of whites moving into the Pike area had increased significantly and the percent of Hispanics moving into the Pike area had decreased (p. 54).

The County maintains that this demographic shift does not signify the displacement of people of color, because the Hispanic population actually increased modestly even though its overall share of the population dropped precipitously.

What it does signify is that upzoning does not benefit the average minority resident, whose household income is far less than that required to buy into the gentrified housing along the Pike.

Worse still upzoning does not benefit those on fixed or moderate incomes who are forced to sell their homes, because they cannot afford the rising tax assessments that accompany an inflated real estate market.

If redlining locked minorities out of fashionable neighborhoods of the past, gentrification drives them out of upscale neighborhoods of the future. Bottom line. Missing Middle is just another name for gentrification.

If elected I am going to insist that the Board provide the public with an honest assessment of Missing Middle and its likely impacts on population demographics, schools, streets, congestion, runoff and tree canopy. I will also:

  • Seek immediate tax relief for residents and businesses.
  • Save our parks, streams and tree canopy and stop clearcutting wooded areas on public property.
  • Say YES to real social justice reforms and NO to symbolic gestures.

As an 18-year Westover resident, long-time civic activist and former member of the Transportation Commission, I have both the experience and independence to promote these reforms.

If you share my agenda, then:

  • Spread the word about my candidacy.
  • Donate and/or volunteer.
  • Pick up a “Clement for County Board” yard sign.
  • Help make the “Arlington Way” more than an empty phrase.