Potomac Gardens: Inside and Out is a community-driven documentary project that explores the changing demographics of the neighborhood surrounding the Potomac Gardens Public Housing Complex and the divide between the low-income residents of Potomac Gardens and their more affluent neighbors.
Potomac Gardens is a public housing complex just thirteen blocks southeast of the United States Capitol. The property is bordered by G Street SE to the North, I Street SE to the South, and 12th and 13th Streets SE to the east and west.
Developers marketing the condominiums and townhouses that surround the complex call the neighborhood Hill East. Like much of the District of Columbia, this neighborhood has become increasingly wealthy. A two-bedroom apartment commonly rents for $1500-$2000 per month. Because public housing is limited to low-income families and individuals, the community within Potomac Gardens remains poor by definition.
We live in a society where the biggest and most consistent divide between peoples is economic status. Beyond having their groceries bags by them, buying beer from them at National Stadium, allowing them to serve their kids lunch at school or clean the offices they work in, etc., Washington, DC residents who live outside of public housing complexes like Potomac Gardens, are unlikely to interact with public housing residents. The most Hill East residents know about or think they know about Potomac Gardens comes from the news. Unfortunately, if the news is your only source, then you might conclude that the residents of Potomac Gardens and the residents of the Hill East neighborhood surrounding the complex only ever encounter each other as perpetrators and victims of crime.
The bad reputation of DC’s public housing complexes has contributed to their demise. Despite an ever-increasing need for affordable housing–over 45,000 DC residents qualify for public housing–District government has demolished complexes like Potomac Gardens at an alarming rate. In the last ten years, the number of apartments available to those who qualify has been reduced by fifty-percent. Today, the National Capitol Housing Authority, the agency that oversees DC’s public housing, has only 8,000 units on its books.
If the city decided to turn Potomac Gardens over to for-profit developers bent on destroying it, how many Hill East residents outside of the property itself would object? Certainly, if the hype surrounding Potomac Gardens were accurate then such drastic measures might be understandable. If the hype surrounding Potomac Gardens is not accurate, then what should be done?
By the time this documentary project is complete, we hope to be able to present a holistic representation of Potomac Gardens and the Hill East neighborhood.