D.C.'s racial makeup changes as African-Americans leave

(Image by user Elvertbarnes via Flickr)

Gregory Gilbert, moved to Bowie, Md., two years ago as part of the exodus.

"Late at night you hear shooting and people flying up and down the street,” he said. "We wanted a safer place for my family.”

The former police official moved from a rough neighborhood of Southeast D.C.

"We wanted to move deeper in D.C., but we couldn’t find a house in our price range,” Gilbert said.

African-Americans used to affectionately call D.C. “chocolate city”, but now Blacks are increasingly moving out of the District into the neighboring areas.

Between 2000 and 2010, D.C.’s population increased, but while the percentage of African-American residents continued a downward trend.

"The number of African-American resident has plummeted over the past decade,” said Ed Lazere, whose Fiscal Policy Institute analyzed census data.

Lazere’s analysis found that since 2000, a third of the black population left some areas of central D.C.

"We think that's likely because they're forced to either other parts of the city out of the city as housing costs keep going up and up,” Lazere said.

Affluent Whites are finding the city more attractive and are moving into what used to be lower-income and dangerous neighborhoods.

In some parts like the Shaw neighborhood in Northwest, it's hard to find a block without construction. Old townhouses are being renovated, sometimes three our more in one block.

Newcomers include Ari Wilder, who moved two years ago from Silver Spring, Md., to be close to his job.

"It's the best location for me personally. There's a dog park right across the street and my dog gets to run around there,” Wilder said. "The Metro's right there and we have a lot of new restaurants and bars."

But there's some resentment against the gentrification of neighborhoods like Shaw.

"They are surrounding us. In fact they want us out of there,” claims African school owner Senzengakulu Zulu. He is trying to raise half a million to renovate his place and says the new neighbors are constantly sending building inspectors on him.

There are calls for the city to step in to keep neighborhoods diverse.

How has your neighborhood changed in the past decade? Tell us in the comments.