Monday, November 03, 2014

[REPOST] Would YOU live here? Why Ward 8 needs market rate rental units ASAP.

An Onyx on First apartment in Navy Yard
In light of today's news re: the Mayor's agent's ruling regarding the Big K Project I thought I would repost this blog entry from October 2013 regarding the state of "market rate" rental housing in Ward 8. Considering all of the new income-restricted rental housing developments planned for Ward 8 what type of housing is really needed for our ward to succeed? In a ward that desperately needs residents with disposable income to support new retail and jobs -- where are they supposed to live? 

Yesterday I wrote two editorials addressing how raising the income levels east of the river is essential in improving the economic development we want to see in our communities. Right now the focus tends to be on building more "affordable" and subsidized and/or transitional housing east of the river (and thus keeping the economic base depressed). The reality is that what is desperately needed here is market rate rental housing with enough amenities and conveniences to attract those higher incomes that are flocking to our neighbors to the west.

The reason Ward 8 isn't getting any of the new development projects coming to Navy Yard? We don't currently have the density and the higher salaries to sway a developer or chain to invest here. DC and well-intentioned nonprofits keep importing poverty into our neighborhoods but not the businesses, jobs, and amenities we need to balance it out. We are never going to be a vibrant community if we do not put a pause on poverty pimping and let economic development catch up.

Flats Atlas on H Street
Amenities include: on site gym, basketball court,
swimming pool, game room, garage, bike concierge, just
to name a few
That got me to thinking, if I was a middle to high income single professional looking for rental housing east of the river, "where would I go?" Seriously, what do rental options look like over here and would they have the type of amenities, services, and transportation options that would would woo me from other neighborhood hot spots like Navy Yard, H Street, and Shaw? (FYI - All places I have seriously considered moving for my sabbatical, if I were to be honest, I'm tired of going without)

To be honest, I already know the answer to this but I decided to take a stab at this anyway so consider this an experiment in fact vs. myth.

I decided to look at this as someone who was not familiar with Ward 8, a single professional woman with a dog looking for rental housing. Someone with a car but who would like the idea of being close to public transportation and amenities such as a grocery store, dining options, a dry cleaners, a dog park, and some entertainment options. Someone who has seen The Onyx on First in Navy Yard (studios start at the upper $1600's), Flats at Atlas on H Street (studios start at $1500), and the 7th Flats in Shaw (studios start at $1850) and was impressed with their properties and was looking for something similar in Ward 8.

The way I (and most apartment hunters) would go about it would be to do a search online. I decided to start with www.apartmentguide.com and searched everything in the 20032 zip code.

I am posting the results below and frame my commentary as someone who was not familiar with Ward 8. Please keep in mind I am not writing this as myself now but as someone who was not familiar with Ward 8 and was looking at housing options --- if you happen to live in these apartments please do not be offended by my comments. I am just being honest and trying to get us to look through the eyes of someone else who had seen market rate and high end apartments in other parts of the city. People are making these judgements every day and they are deciding not to live here and like it or not, that is impacting our community negatively. Ask yourself, "how do we in Ward 8 stack up?"





Enclave Park
118 Galveston Street SW

Rents: From $850/month for an efficiency up to $1870/month for a 5 bedroom/2 bathroom apartment

Comments: While the apartment in the photos look clean and is staged well there is no getting around it -- this is an older building without the "bells and whistles" I saw in the other apartments. No stainless steel appliances, the kitchen is outdated, and it doesn't have the "modern" feel I am looking for. No washer and dryer in unit. On the upside it does have a pool and allows pets (breed restricted). However as a single person I am really looking for a building with other single professionals and this seems like much more of a family building - there is a playground in the courtyard and at up to five bedrooms there seems like a lot of potential for noise. Also, according to the map attached to the listing I don't see any other amenities nearby and there isn't a metro stop in walking distance.

Verdict: Take a pass.

Royal Courts and Savannah Heights
3719 4th Street, SE

Rents: From $1080/month for a 1 bedroom up to $1475 fir a 3 bedroom/2 bathroom apartment.

Comments: This looks like a newer development. The grounds look well-maintained, there is parking, the units themselves look roomy yet...this seems very much like a suburban complex, not really the "urban" living I was looking for. Again, this seems like a place for families, the playground was a dead giveaway. And while this building does have a nice looking community room it really doesn't have the "bells and whistles" and other amenities I saw in the other properties like an on site gym, a bike room, a pool, etc.

Verdict: Despite the positives this isn't really what I was looking for.  Also this is an "income restricted" property and my salary takes me over the cap. Must keep looking.

Wingate Apartment Homes
4660 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave SE

Rents: From $933 for a 1 bedroom up to $1300 for a two bedroom/2 bathroom.

Comments: One of the best staged listings I have seen of all the apartments I have looked at during this search. The apartments seem roomy and airy and the staging has that modern feel yet...there is something about the scale of this building and the surrounding buildings that is a little intimidating. It seems too big -- also the exterior of the building is clearly outdated. Also, for something of this size it would have been great to see retail on the bottom floor. There is a swimming pool and a pet park but again no washer and dryer in the unit -- not a complete deal breaker though. The building is pet friendly. But according to the listing the closest metro is Anacostia and that is 10 minutes away. I get home late at night and that is not a walk I would be comfortable doing and to be honest I don't think I could walk that in 10 minutes -- that seems to be a 10 minute drive or bus ride. Last but not least this seems like another family building -- another playground in the courtyard.

Verdict: Not a bad place but again not what I am looking for. It doesn't stack up to what I saw at the H Street Flat and the rent for an efficiency there is not that much lower to allow for the lack of the amenities in this building, even with a bigger space. Also, it is near the Maryland border. I was really looking for something closer to the city and with nearby amenities. According to the map attached to the listing I don't see a grocery store, restaurant, or entertainment space in walking distance.

Eagles Crossing
116 B Irvington Street SW

Rents: $700/month for a studio up to $1180/month for a 3 bedroom/2 bathroom.

Comments:  Not bad looking, just another suburban looking complex though. The finishes in the kitchen are not particularly nice.  No "flash" and again no real amenities in walking distance. No gym in building or any of the other perks I saw at west of the river complexes.

Verdict: No pets allowed so this is not an option.

Meadowbrook Run
3647 6th Street SE

Rents: From $825 for a 1 bedroom/1 bathroom up to $1180 for a 3 bedroom/1 bathroom unit.

Comments: At this point I have real estate fatigue. Thank goodness this is the last listing in the search results!  From the photos it is clear this is not what I am looking for. The units look outdated, the finishes sub par, and I am confused at why there appears to be a classroom (maybe it is a community room???) listed in the gallery. The units are staged like a retirement home -- so maybe this is a retirement home???

Verdict: This is not it for me. Also the "Call for Policy" under the "Special Features" section was a huge red flag. This must be either income or age restricted or something else like it.




End of Experiment
 Of course this was just a fictional story, an exercise in the reality of rental options in the 20032 zip code. Ward 8 isn't for everyone, and I still believe that if you are looking to own an affordable home there are a lot of options here to do that. The problem is that not everyone is ready to own and the demographic that we need -- middle income singles in their 20's and 30's are looking for rental options. Rental options with the amenities we don't have to compete.

So I have to ask, with what we have available in rental stock (and from the looks of it the rents are pretty low) and with what we need (higher incomes), "why on God's green earth is there a rush to build even more affordable and  subsidized housing?" Particularly in spaces (like around metro stops) where we could finally attract some higher incomes? In order to compete with other neighborhoods to get even a sliver of the market share of middle income professionals we can't expect them to make the move to Ward 8 when we have no place for them to move. I can't seem to find one single apartment unit in all of Ward 8 (and I suspect Ward 7 too)  that could compete with what is currently being offered across the bridge - why is there no push to create that here? I am not saying transform Congress Heights into the next Navy Yard or Georgetown but there should at least be a single building over here that can act as a catalyst for some retail and businesses that would lead to jobs for our residents. We can't keep insourcing poverty and exporting jobs and expecting to have a vibrant community.

I am not a real estate professional, or a developer, or a housing advocate but I am someone with good sense and it seems to me that the narrative that Ward 8 needs more affordable housing is not true.  In fact that is the last thing we need (that and group homes, transitional facilities, and homeless shelters). What Ward 8 needs are better options for all -- and that includes people with a higher income who may want to move here and bring jobs and businesses with them.

We have to change the narrative because our community is suffering because of it. We can not continue to allow well-meaning (but misguided) social service nonprofits to dictate the commercial and residential real estate market east of the river. I understand that DC government has ceaded control but it is time to get it back and if they aren't ready to step up I implore my fellow residents to stand up, cause a scene, and put their foot down! This poverty pimping can not continue! With every one step up on the economic development ladder we take we can't allow us to be pushed back three more.  Now THAT is a roundtable discussion I would be interested in participating in. 




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14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Very interesting post. Hopefully, the powers that be will start to listen to more voices like yours than to those who advocate more of the same. Keep up the good fight.

Anonymous said...

EXACTLY!

Show me one other neighborhood that would have as its metro anchor a social service project of this size?

None. Why is it okay to do it over here?

Calvin H. Gurley said...

"...improving the economic development we want to see in our communities.."

You are forgetting the children.

Secondly, every community should not have to be an H Street Corridor, 14th & Columbia-Tivoli Theatre Corridor, Verizon Center or Georgetown. Perhaps, you need to see about relocating there if that's the environment you desire.

I lived in Ward 6, now Ward 8, right after college graduation. I am the former President of the Fairlawn Civic Association and a former first Vice President of the Anacostia Orange Hats Neighborhood Patrol.

Let's try improving the lives of the residents of the community and insert family values first before a grand gentrification scheme is implemented. Ask the store owners to invest in improving their store fronts and not take all their profits to their homes in Virginia. Ask those same store owners to make an investment in our children’s recreation and after school studies.


Ever been to Jamaica? Nice island, but many neighborhoods are shabby and run down. However, the children are well educated and look like well mannered in their school uniforms – in those shabby towns. The short; improve the life style of the residents and our children and the businesses will come. Make an investment in the people.

Calvin H. Gurley

April said...

I am a proud Ward 8 resident, and long time renter. I have 3 degrees and have a "good government job", but I'm a single mom and I'm being rapidly priced out of the neighborhood I love with all of my heart, Anacostia and EOR in general. I am by no means an exception. Even rent controlled buildings charge market rate in units once a tenant moves. I think people would be incredibly surprised to see the actual numbers of "market" rate units vs subsidized units in Ward 8. With 50,000 people still on the waiting list for Section 8 (no new applications being accepted) we'd be pressed to label that a factor. Then I challenge folks to find out what percentage of those folks in subsidized/ low-income housing are elderly and disabled vs the stereotypical non-working moms and her kids. The elderly in DC are the people who lose the most in anti-low income housing campaign. There are only about 2 or 3 buildings for seniors in DC, they are full with ridiculous waiting lists. I was able to get through college as a single mom because I was able to utilize section 8. I couldn't have done so at the time without it, others in "low-income" units are in the same boat. Affordable housing is a term thrown around that most folks do not actually understand. Affordable housing simply means housing people can afford, without choosing between rent and food. EVERYONE needs affordable housing. Just ask all the young professionals unable to keep their condos when the market crashed. That is to say it is not the same income or rental amount for everyone. It is in no way related to subsidized, low-income or public housing and it frustrates me when folks lump them together. It speaks volumes about real and perceived issues of class and economics in general. Income should not drive our decisions about who we do and do not "need" or want in our communities. Pretty soon we'll get exactly what you're are asking for, and and it will be too expensive for all of us, and people like us who want to move here. Once the floodgates open, they do not close.

Anonymous said...

I am a proud Ward 8 resident, and long time renter. I have 3 degrees and have a "good government job", but I'm a single mom and I'm being rapidly priced out of the neighborhood I love with all of my heart, Anacostia and EOR in general. I am by no means an exception. Even rent controlled buildings charge market rate in units once a tenant moves. I think people would be incredibly surprised to see the actual numbers of "market" rate units vs subsidized units in Ward 8. With 50,000 people still on the waiting list for Section 8 (no new applications being accepted) we'd be pressed to label that a factor. Then I challenge folks to find out what percentage of those folks in subsidized/ low-income housing are elderly and disabled vs the stereotypical non-working moms and her kids. The elderly in DC are the people who lose the most in anti-low income housing campaign. There are only about 2 or 3 buildings for seniors in DC, they are full with ridiculous waiting lists. I was able to get through college as a single mom because I was able to utilize section 8. I couldn't have done so at the time without it, others in "low-income" units are in the same boat. Affordable housing is a term thrown around that most folks do not actually understand. Affordable housing simply means housing people can afford, without choosing between rent and food. EVERYONE needs affordable housing. Just ask all the young professionals unable to keep their condos when the market crashed. That is to say it is not the same income or rental amount for everyone. It is in no way related to subsidized, low-income or public housing and it frustrates me when folks lump them together. It speaks volumes about real and perceived issues of class and economics in general. Income should not drive our decisions about who we do and do not "need" or want in our communities. Pretty soon we'll get exactly what you're are asking for, and and it will be too expensive for all of us, and people like us who want to move here. Once the floodgates open, they do not close.

The Advoc8te said...

April -- thanks for your comments.

I have a question. You say you are a "long time renter" and you want to stay EotR. I am curious, why are you not a homeowner? I'm not saying that to be funny I am trying to understand why someone would not own and thus get the stability of homeownership (and the financial benefits) of owning a home.

Lastly I think there are more than 3 senior housing centers in DC -- I can think of 3 in Ward 8 alone.

SilentWarrior said...

Interesting. Five bedroom apts? That's primitive in a city--just rent a house already. Better yet buy, with interest rates at an all time low (but poised to go up soon) and all the programs DC has to get folks into homeownership, why not? Forbes continually places DC in the top ten worst cities to be a renter, not just because of the high rent, but because of the huge gap in mortgage vs rent (owners are paying much less in mortgage for the same condo/house as renters). I can vouch for that, while doing my DC home search I was renting for a year $2150.00 2br, now I own a three br house $825.00 newly renovated. Lastly, the flood gates will likely open, long term ward 8 residents should not get caught up in the scramble, now seems the best time to secure our stake through homeownership. Rising property taxes are easier to manage than rising rents, believe me--been there, done that too.

ward8newbie said...

Calvin,

How exactly are you going to ask the store owners to invest in improving their store fronts and not take all their profits to their homes in Virginia?
Till there is no competition they'll take all there profits to their mentions in in VA and big SUVs.
Only completion can make them do so.
And with the current demographic and luck of services I don't see it happening.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the post overall and believe that market rate projects should be a priority, but one of the commenter’s said it right, until you improve the lives of the people flashy buildings are just an illusion. Not sure how that is done, but the poverty won't just disappear. Look at the Salvation Army building on MLK, it was a nice piece of modern architecture at one point and now it's street level entrances are run down. The issue with EOTR Anacostia is unemployment , and the lack of interests to change that, unstable family structures, and generational government dependence. EOTH Anacostia as it stands today physically looks better than most of America of similar income levels ( Ride through Pennsylvania it’s like watching Back to The Future in 3D). Some of these communities haven't seen redevelopment in decades but the school systems, family structures, and fiscal priorities are in order. Most people in SE should just try driving around the Country and you'll see that a lot of communities' best amenity is a WaWa Stop and Go, however, their kids excel in school, little dependence on the Gov't for assistance, and families raise their children. Those are the issues of east of the river. That is where the focus needs to be but it’s just my opinion. Every neighborhood has to serve a purpose and its residents. ( i.e. Georgetown has Rich people with Rich People Retail, and Rich People Problems) it’s retail and planning serves its residents. The goal in my opinion is that you relocate as your life situation changes to live the life you want and where you want, because every neighborhood in DC can't be Georgetown. If you want to lay roots in a poor community you just have to be patient, the amenities will come when the time is right. But you have to allow for the people around you to either be pushed away or transition to where you are in life.

Anonymous said...

I certainly haven't been able to find any safe, healthy, affordable housing in ward 8 or 7. I too have 3 degrees and am currently on disability. A lot of the places you listed are neither safe or healthy, and most have waiting lists for affordable units. There definitely is a need.

DC Area Homebuyer Advocate said...

There is a program in DC for Section 8 Voucher holders to use their voucher to purchase a home.I work as a processor at a title company and I have seen it done but it does take dedication and work.

DC Area Homebuyer Advocate said...

There is a program where renters can use their Section 8 voucher to purchase a home. Its is a longer process since you deal with the government but I have seen it done before while working as a processor working at a title company.

Anonymous said...

I have lived in the Walter Washington Estates for 15 years. I own my townhome. I have free parking and I have not experienced any crime. I do not need Starbucks or Whole Foods. I drive 5 to 10 miles at most to a good supermarket, Yes they are in VA and MD but I am ok with that. I have 2 subways within 1 mile of my home. I think that people have to make a choice. If you want the amenities west of the river and you can afford the crazy prices move. If you want better, we can invest in ourselves and our communities. Organize to develop a strategic plan and then meet with city officials to begin the process. It will take some time but it will be time well spent.

Anonymous said...

I was interested in a rental at Sheridan Station so I put my name on the waiting list for a three bedroom. I called their office and found out I was close to the top of the list. Proceeded to get excited about moving and then realize that these new townhomes for rent might have income restrictions. A household of three can not make more than 58K. I make more than that by my lonesome, does not include my husband income. I don't know why I even bothered. I was looking forward to giving Anacostia a shot.