Friday, June 20, 2014

DC Millennials are being 'priced out' of DC but aren't moving east of the river where rents are cheaper

For the sake of this post The Advoc8te will be highlighting two Washington Post articles. The first article from June 16, 2014 highlights the challenges faced by "Millennials" (translation: young professionals) as they run out of affordable housing options in DC. The second article is from October 2013 and highlights the highest concentrations of millennials by neighborhood. Despite cheap rents and quick access to downtown, millennials aren't moving to Congress Heights. The Advoc8te has the distinct feeling that we are talking about two different District of Columbias. Millennials are definetly flocking to DC but look where in DC they are flocking.  There is a world of difference (and rental opportunities) between Columbia Heights and Congress Heights -- it seems that more than a river divides us.

At the risk of oversimplifying the situation imagine what could happen if:

  1. More "millennials" (and their incomes) moved east of the river. Wards 7 and 8 could really use more residents with disposable income to support more (and better) retail, dining, and employment options in these historically underserved communities. I can imagine why more millennials aren't renting east of the river but imagine if they did. .........................................................................................................................................................
  2. More "affordable" rental housing concentrated west of the river. East of the river already has the lowest rents in the city and the highest numbers of concentrated poverty in the city. Why in the world are new affordable housing units being built east of the river? Of the $187 million dollars being invested in new affordable housing rental units over $100 million of that is coming east of the river. Wouldn't it make more sense to invest "affordable" housing in neighborhoods where the average rent is $2,500+ for a one bedroom? Wouldn't it make more sense to allow low-income families to live closer to jobs, retail, and services?................................................................................................
  3. East of the river was considered a viable option and not just an option of last resort. A vibrant and economically diverse east of the river with JOBS and RETAIL and AMENTIES = a stronger DC. Right now it feels like when people talk about DC they are really talking about wards 1 - 6. 

June 16, 2014

Millennials consider leaving Washington as the city becomes more costly

“I hate to say it, but the facts show that the D.C. market is for people who are single and relatively affluent,” said Grant Montgomery, senior vice president and director of apartment practice at Delta Associates, a real estate research group. “But looking at prices, you [still] have to wonder how do they make it work? . . . It’s a sacrifice.” 
The most recent city data show that while the median age of those moving into the District is about 26, the median age of those migrating out is 29. Of the 59,000 people who left the District in 2012, about 44 percent ranged from 20 to 34 years old. Those leaving were likely to be college-educated and have an income above $50,000. 
Meanwhile, in a recent survey from Virginia Tech of nearly 500 college-educated D.C. residents younger than 34, about 70 percent reported some desire to stay in the city in the next five years. But most of them had some concern that they wouldn’t be able to find an affordable home in a location they desired.

Yet, according to a Washington Post article from October 2013 we see where Millennials are living -- or more specifically where they aren't living.

How many millennials live in each D.C. neighborhood?



Anonymous said...

I read the Post article and I am not surprised that the "millenials" ie, yuppies are not coming East of the Rive. By the way we do not need them to validate our existence. We should be able to receive the same services w/o having someone else come in. these same millenials will be moving to the burbs anyway when they have kids

The Advoc8te said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Advoc8te said... where in the post did I mention the need to "validate our existence."

The issue is not emotional (or even prideful) it is practical. Retailers look at the numbers -- specifically density and income. Without a mathematical justification to invest in a neighborhood, retailers (and their much needed jobs) do not invest. Retailers and businesses locate in areas where they know people have the income to support them. Hence, Ward 8 has 70,000 residents and only one grocery store. Congress Heights doesn't need to be the next Columbia Heights but we do need some income diversity if we want some quality neighborhood goods and services and the local jobs they could provide.

East of the river is a great place to live. There is affordable homes for purchase, the lowest rents in the city, wonderful green spaces, and some of the nicest neighbors you can ask for. However, if we want to stop leaving east of the river for just about everything we are going to have to accept that we are going to have to boost our medium income -- either by importing some higher incomes or raising the incomes of current residence although the answer probably lies somewhere with a mixture of the two. Not to say that Millennials (or whatever we will be calling them next year) are the silver bullet but in an area of the city that could use more single professionals with higher incomes (and no children to worry about sending to underperfoming schools) they could have a positive impact on our economy. All of the "up and coming" neighborhoods know this -- which is why developers are moving at breakneck speed to build housing for these folks. Unfortunately we aren't seeing any new plans to create new rental properties in Ward 8 that don't have an income restriction. It's frustrating, the very thing we need is being restricted because most (if not all) of our large scale rental projects are funded with low-income tax credits.

BTW - An exclusion mentality isn't doing anyone east of the river any favors. We could use all the help, JOBS, and community advocates we can get.

Mari said...

Did you catch today's paper's "Local Opinions" letter from a P.G. County Council person? It's basically "come to College Park (or thereabouts), we're cool."
Yes, these things are myopic seeing cool DC as only Wards 1-6 (& only the cool part of 5&6, not all of 5&6).
To anon, it's not about city services, but that helps too. It's about a whole host of things provided by private entities, such as businesses, artists, non-profits (a yoga studio can be a non-profit) and residents. I didn't think my own neighborhood was 'cool' until there were some 'nice' sit down restaurants to walk to showed up or there was something to walk to. Parts of Ward 8 have assets that in time could make it a destination, but the path there is strewn with screaming trolls and meanies who like to wallow in the area's depression.

Anonymous said...

There are a number of HBCU grads that move to the area and find themselves priced out of the area. It is also hard to find apartments EOTR because a large majority are income restricted. I think HBCU alums are a population that DC should look at attracting EOTR, but the only way to do so is to build more apartments for people with median income.

Anthony Gualtieri said...

Having read these articles before reading this post, I wanted to add a few things to the discussion. First, I want to say thank you for the calm, reasoned yet passionate response, Advoc8te. Second, Anonymous, Millenial and Yuppie are not synonyms. Third, HBCU grads or any person out of college generally makes enough to live in an affordable housing unit given how high the median income is DC.
2013 Washington DC Metropolitan Area Median Income (AMI) = $107,300
Related to the above, obviously people die waiting for affordable housing.
And the issue about political activism and Millenials etc must NOT be lost on the Advoc8te because she is engaged. This is a much longer discussion in and of itself about conflicting priorities.
Finally, I am glad you noted the use of LITC. You have posted here before, and members of the community go back and forth at ANC meetings, the web, and all places in between, about the placement of new affordable dwelling units in Ward 8. Inclusionary Zoning was hailed by Harriet Tregoning, now at HUD, as a modernization of DC housing policy. I interviewed her about it in 2006 before it was a adopted. Not to be negative, but you have posted here about PUDs. Build a hotel in the urban core and the urban periphery gets the required low-income units. Just saying, these are all extremely complicated issues. Ask Ta-Nehisi Coates...but really, who doesn't get the concept of racial discrimination. Anyway, just dropping by to catch up on your blog. You rock :)

Anonymous said...

As a Realotr, from my perspective, part of the issue is that millenial's don't tend to have patience. The people that bought in the emerging areas of Ward's 1-6 in the last decade, had the patience, commitment & drive to wait for & work toward a change, including but not limited to being a DIY'er. I've sold a ton of property to people with that mindset. The same could be said for those of us that bought in Ward 7 & 8 but it seems, our progress has been forgotten or at best grinds @ a snails pace.

We're becoming a "give it to me now" society. No one waits for anything any more, which is unfortunate because there is a lot of beauty & hidden gems EofR. It's sad to see the city trend backwards, to the Haves and Have Nots. Economic, social, racial & financial diversity is needed across the entire city, not just a portion. We could all benefit if a greater effort were put forth to deversify.

Unknown said...

Well to be fair I do think some millennials are moving EOTR. I imagine most are afam, though Anacostia seems to have a more diverse population.

I just rented my Congress Heights house to 3 millennial, one of whom is Asian. And my Deanwood house is rented by millennials also. So I do think EOTR is on the radar of that group, if only primarily due to price and by "being in the city" (I've heard this repeatedly from prospective tenants moving from MD).

Dizzy said...

I should probably lead off by stating that I agree with pretty much everything you've written, Nikki. Your point about the need for market-rate apartment construction EOTR is particularly important. I suspect that at the moment, the market-rate price probably wouldn't be too different from the low income set-aside rates.

Anyway, a few points:

First, I think we need to distinguish between two main types of Millenials/yuppies/whathaveyou.

The first are the single, educated, upwardly mobile young professionals - sometimes paired as DINKs, sometimes not. This cohort generally privileges location and amenities. In addition, they are able to devote more of their income toward housing due to lack of kids and/or because they're willing to live with roommates.

From an EOTR perspective, the difficulty with drawing this group is that it finds the amenities of interest in this area to be lacking. The walkability, nightlife, transit connectivity, etc. lag behind many other areas. To this, you add the perception (or, in some cases, reality) of higher crime.

On top of that, you have the "Birds of a Feather Flock Together" point you illustrated. On one hand, most white people (and that's who makes up the majority of the Millenial/yuppie set we're talking about) have little to no experience with being a minority and sticking out because of their race. Many find it unsettling, uncomfortable, etc. Black people, Hispanics, Asians, etc. typically have much more experience with being a minority, for obvious reasons.

That's the more sympathetic group. Obviously, you have some who simply don't want to live in a 'black area' - don't particularly want to draw this group of folks anyway.

On the other hand, many of the more left-leaning Millenials who value diversity and want to live in integrated/mixed-income areas are nonetheless hesitant to be "urban pioneers" aka gentrifiers. I've always thought that there's a bit of paternalism in this attitude ('Black people are powerless to resist the force of a handful of white hipsters moving in!'), but I understand that it is a complicated and fraught topic. It is true that because this first group has more of their income to devote to housing, it tends to drive housing prices up even higher than normal, which poses particular problems for those with children.

The other group are Millenials who are already making plans with an eye toward children. This group also includes DINKs, as well as those who already have children. The schools ARE a huge issue for this group, as well as the general safety perception issue - people tend to become much more fearful, protective, risk-averse, etc. when their kids enter the equation. This all discourages the potential purchasers, fixer-uppers, putting-down-roots folks.

Unfortunately, having diagnosed all those issues, I don't have a lot of 'solutions.' Anonymous and Anthony are surely right to mention HBCU grads - and college education/upwardly mobile blacks more generally - as a group that can bring more income diversity to the area without opening up some of the conflicts/wounds of gentrification. It would also probably not lead to the rapid rise in prices we've seen elsewhere.

St. E's also seems like a good opportunity to try to add market-rate housing in the area, although Lord only knows what kind of progress will happen with that megaproject.

Dizzy said...

More generally, I think some of the fear of gentrification in EOTR is misplaced - Wards 7 & 8 aren't going to turn into U Street and Columbia Heights overnight. Heck, U Street and Columbia Heights didn't turn into what they are now overnight! The rates of actual housing ownership are also likely much higher EOTR, given the much higher proportion of SFH vs. apartments.

Nonetheless, obviously it is a concern, and politicians who are sensitive to charges that they've been allowing - or even encouraging - gentrification and displacement of lower-income people over the past decade+ don't want to be seen as promoting the same EOTR.

i heart newcomb said...

Millennial here! I agree with Unknown. Millennials are moving in. Being in DC is very attractive. Little/no commute is also extremely attractive. And, of course, the affordability, compared to the rest of DC, is what seals the deal. Barhopping and other “millennial” amenities become secondary concerns…. Oh wait, no that’s right! Now I can afford extracurricular activities because I am not spending half my income on an overpriced lackluster one-bedroom apartment, but I digress.

I also agree millennials aren’t moving into EOTR with the same gusto as they are to other parts of DC. Part of the problem is the housing stock. Congress Heights has unbelievably cute houses, brick houses and colonial houses, and Anacostia has beautiful row houses. BUT millennials aren't necessarily looking to buy. They are more likely than not looking to rent. And, as everyone has already pointed out, there is very little to rent without income caps here.

I advocate buying here to all my coworkers, but they aren’t acquainted with the neighborhood, and the bad reputation persists. I’ve been meaning to throw a housewarming party to show off my house and the neighborhood… two years after moving in. But other than having a friend, who already lives here, there’s no way to familiarize yourself with Congress Heights without committing to a mortgage. Few are willing to make that jump. There’s little that would bring a millennial here other than the affordable housing stock. No/little rentals, and no restaurants, bars, coffee shops or retail that would bring us here otherwise.

Ultimately, the price of the house (mortgage for my beautiful 4 bedroom house is $500 less than what we used to pay in rent for a 1br apartment in Navy Yard!) and the proximity to my work and DC were what convinced us to make the jump. We talk about all the time how buying in Congress Heights was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. I know that sounds hyperbolic, but it’s true. We love our neighbors, our non-existent commute, and the very affordable mortgage. Now about those schools…

i heart newcomb said...

Millennial here again. :)

I just started a neighborhood blog. Just because I'm always raving about Congress Heights. I feel like I need additional outlets to share my love for Congress Heights. I was inspired by CHOTR to start my own.

If anyone wants to check it out, go to:

Anonymous said...

Failure by leadership to move SE forward.

1) ST. E's might not get off the ground
2) The only gym Spirit shut down after 1 year
3) The only place to shop for fresh organic food shut down
4) Schools, There is no way that I would send my kids to a public school in ward 7 or 8

People have tried to build things in SE but it can't take root. I'd rather pay more money and live in a place where we don't have to cross and fingers and hope. The leadership is on board for growth.

I have a friend who lives in SE but opened a business in Hyattsville because she got more support form the local government. She wanted to do it in SE but it wouldn't have paid off for her.

Until wards 7 & 8 get leadership that young people can trust, then we won't see anyone moving over here.

Anonymous said...

So are we honestly not going to speak about the crime? And/or the turning of the head that the police do in Ward 7/8? Loitering is the norm. Gun fire is the norm. Lord music playing and profanity...the norm. Yet the police do absolutely nothing. You want Millennials let start with just the basic. Bought one of the first townhouse built by WC Smith in SE and we are still trying to just get to sleep before 1AM. The low-income apartments on 22nd St is why so many are regretting buying ELEVEN YEARS AGO. We, the home owners, always state that WC Smith (now Apartment Owner) will always choose a guaranteed welfare (housing income) over the safety and/concerns of those who own/rent near their property. Its a shame because as it had been repeatedly state you can't be the location and my townhouse neighbors are the best! We've united trying to deal with the chaotic "mess" WCS and 7D tolerates from those who contribute to the negative of EoTR. Do not understand why law breakers, regardless how minor, aren't arrested EoTR. On U St or H St there is no tolerance for law breakers!

Tired of the daily ignorance.