The urban landscape of Washington D.C. is in flux. Municipal policy has consistently delivered displacement by design by prioritizing the interests of white developers at the expense of black and brown communities. However, at the same time there is a viral intolerance building up within the city, asserting not just a right to stay in one’s house as it, but a right to make a home. My research revolves around one central question: in the wake of rapidly increasing rates of homelessness and expulsion, what alternative ways to design the city and generate home are taken up by communities in their fight against displacement?
Drawing on interviews I did with members of EmpowerDC (an anti-displacement NGO) as well as my own experience volunteering with them, I found there is radical potential for the city to plan itself, rather than be planned by. In the wake of a disastrous response to COVID-19 both federally and locally, EmpowerDC expanded mutual aid projects to provide hot meals, groceries, fresh greens, hand sanitizer, masks, and flowers to anyone who needs it—no questions asked. At a time where access to these resources can be a matter of life or death, how can these events be seen as a practice of home-making, of democratic planning by, for, and of the city? As I have found, these communities have forged more than material networks for survival. They also exhibit a way of relating to one another that cuts back at the profit-over-people rationale driving displacement in the nation’s capital, creating a sense of home amidst and against the threat of displacement.