Friday, August 08, 2014

? of the Day: Does DC have an 'affordable housing problem' or an 'affordable (and trendy) housing problem'?

Playing "Devil's Advoc8te" ;)  I did a cursory search on Apartments.com for rental units in D.C. that were priced under $1200/month. 

The results?
14 DC apartment complexes with units under $1200/month -- all located east of Anacostia river.


The Advoc8te doesn't doubt there is an affordable housing crunch in popular neighborhoods like Shaw, Dupont Circle, U Street, and Chinatown (and they could use more affordable housing). But there is also a significant amount of "affordable" rental housing stock located east of the Anacostia river.  In fact, one could argue there is no "high end" rental properties located east of the river. Most (if not all) of the rental properties in Wards 7 and 8 have income cap restrictions so working class and low-income people should be able to qualify. 

So keeping that in mind, The Advoc8te has to ask, "Does DC have an affordable housing problem or a lack of affordable housing in trendy neighborhoods?" Neighborhoods high in demand that are close to jobs, amenities, and transportation?

I have to follow that question up with a few others. 

What could happen if Ward 7 and Ward 8 were seriously considered as places to live? 
Would investment, jobs, and amenities follow those new renters east of the river?
Would rents west of the river stop skyrocketing if there was less demand for the same space?


















10 comments:

Rachel Reilly Carroll said...

What are the vacancy rates on these properties; how many units are available to those seeking affordable housing? Affordable housing is not just affordable because it is listed at a certain price point. It is affordable when the person renting is paying 30% or less of their total income on housing costs. So wages are a big factor in what can be described as affordable, and one third of residents in the region are classified as low-income. The recent Urban Institute study on housing insecurity showed that an additional 22,000 units are needed in DC to make sure that extremely low income residents have a home that is affordable based on their wages (less than $32,000/year for a family of 4). These options need to be available in all 8 wards.

Brian said...

Yes, affordability is all relative but I think the blogger was referencing the complaint by middle to upper-middle income earners that there is a lack of affordable options in the city, with rent for a studio up to $3,000 a month in some places. This is certainly true, and it's also true that what is meant is that there is a lack of affordable housing options in the places that middle and upple-middle income earners want to live. Unfortunately these days people tend to want to live near others of a similar socioeconomic status, and these middle-income earners can't afford to live near other middle income earners because the, "The rent is too damn high!" This is a sad trend in American life that we are self-sorting (read segreagating) ourselves by socioeconomic status, political affiliation, and race. To say that "the rent is too high in DC," for middle-income and middle-upper income earners is really to say that "I don't want to live near the people that live in the neighborhoods that I can afford." With a series of mayors that refuses to interfere with the free market, DC will be further segregated by socioecomics, and businesses will keep moving into neighborhoods like H St. and Logan Circle and pass up the opportunity to operate east of the river (generally speaking).

Rachel Reilly Carroll said...

Well if that is the point of the blog, it should explicitly say that. As an affordable housing practioner, I see families struggle every day because they are paying more than 50 percent of their income on housing. It is dangerous to suggest that we do not have an affordability problem when there are so many struggling to afford to live in the city.

Anonymous said...

Affordability crises

1. For the young middle and upper middle class. People move back to the city because they want a walkable lifestyle that they cannot find in the suburbs. If they are going to move to places that lack such walkability, because A. There are few desired amenities within a mile walk B. Because the area closest to metro is designed in a ped hostile way C because of the reality and perception of crime - why would they pick it over the suburbs. You can call that racism or classism as much you want, but that won't lead to EOTR being an affordable alt for this group. Also as soon as some particular place DOES become an affordable alt, it will tend to be rise in rent to the point it is not anymore. Making a place like HA more walkable and with more amenities will help a BIT with this affordability crisis, but as long as there are too few metro served areas, and too little density allowed at each one, the crisis will be there
2. Affordability for the poor and working class. Well you can address that EOTR, if you can politically get EOTR to accept a heap more such housing. Not sure there is the will for that. And not sure what the total capacity EOTR is - esp if we want to keep density close to metro stations.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the Advoc8te that DC has an affordable problem in the trendy part of town. If you look at the bulk of LIHTC properties (where rents are restricted to 30-60% AMI) are being built they are all east of the river. Yet, there are no luxury apartments being built in the same area; only west of the river. When people complain that there's not enough affordable housing they're usually only looking in the cool hip neighborhoods. No, if you want to live in the U Street corridor then you're going to run into a lack of affordable housing. But if you're willing to live by the Minnesota Avenue metro there is a really nice affordable project coming on line. It's all relative.

The Advoc8te said...

@Rachel Reilly Carroll
"Well if that is the point of the blog, it should explicitly say that."


EXHIBIT A: The blog post title:
? of the Day: Does DC have an 'affordable housing problem' or an 'affordable (and trendy) housing problem'?

EXHIBIT B: PARAGRAPH 2
The Advoc8te doesn't doubt there is an affordable housing crunch in popular neighborhoods like Shaw, Dupont Circle, U Street, and Chinatown (and they could use more affordable housing). But there is also a significant amount of "affordable" rental housing stock located east of the Anacostia river. In fact, one could argue there is no "high end" rental properties located east of the river. Most (if not all) of the rental properties in Wards 7 and 8 have income cap restrictions so working class and low-income people should be able to qualify.

EXHIBIT C: PARAGRAPH 3
So keeping that in mind, The Advoc8te has to ask, "Does DC have an affordable housing problem or a lack of affordable housing in trendy neighborhoods?" Neighborhoods high in demand that are close to jobs, amenities, and transportation?

Mari said...

Some people do seriously consider Wards 7 & 8, just not a majority of people moving into the DC metro area. There are some undervalued neighborhoods on the other side of the river and areas ripe for change but it may be small glacial change.
From what I observed in living in a less popular section of Shaw for over a decade, it helps to have a lot of people who believe in the possibilities to invest in the neighborhood. These may just be a bunch of people who buy up and fix up homes to live in them (as opposed to fly-by-night flippers) then maybe one or two entrepreneurs to open up a small coffee shop or other business catering to residents (be they renters or homeowners) with the disposable income to spend. Those businesses in turn may be able to hire a handful of people, but from my observations, not a lot of employees come from the immediate neighborhood. Some places start out trying locals, but then as time passes, locals get replaced with people from out of town or other parts of the city. Private and public amenities like better parks and libraries (public) and restaurants and gyms (private) follow the money and organized and involved citizenry who’ve achieved a critical mass.
Last question, yes. I call this the early to mid 1990s. Even I didn’t want to live here, so I didn’t. I lived in MD and VA until I figured DC was worth investing my little bit of money in. Some places get to be Brooklyn and some places get to be the Bronx.

MarkNearRFK said...

I believe that we do have an affordable housing problem in DC but a very large part of the problem as it is discussed elsewhere focuses on trendy areas without doing the research that the Advoc8te has done. I lived in affordable Naylor Gardens for 26 years, 6 renting, then buying. Part of me says "Good riddance" to closed-minded people who write off an area without personal familiarity with it. Let them pay the price for their racism or classism.

Amanda said...

This post makes a great point. I focus on affordable housing quite a bit and am embarrassed to say it took me until quite recently to realize that there IS a lot of AH across the river, that the "affordability crisis" discussion really ignores that part of the city.

But as to Mari's point re: what makes a neighborhood change, invoking Brooklyn vs the Bronx--in fact, I've read that the reason Brooklyn gentrified and the Bronx didn't was b/c Brooklyn's housing stock is way, way nicer. So regarding the question of what it would take for EOR to change, I don't think it's just a gradual process that will get there eventually. If there isn't interesting housing stock there for folks to invest in and feel ownership of, the area will take way longer.

Anonymous said...

I can say as someone who has only recently come to know Congress Heights that as far as I'm concerned it offers a lot more in terms of affordable housing than where I currently live (NoVA). In fact, I hope to purchase a home there in the near future....I'm not deterred by the lack of infrastructure, or 'differences' between Congress Heights' residents socioeconomic status and my own. I expect more people who are being priced out of the suburbs and trendy neighbors to see the same potential I do in the area.