Greater Greater Washington

An alien notion: 800,000 DC residents

Over 800,000 people lived within the boundaries of the District of Columbia back in 1950. How did all of these people fit, with fewer and smaller buildings than today?


Photo by Jesse Means on Flickr.

The 1951 sci-fi classic "The Day the Earth Stood Still" inadvertently shows us how. Klaatu, a level-headed extra-terrestrial emissary, escapes captivity at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He wanders down Georgia Avenue, away from not-yet-nuclear-weapon-free Takoma Park, and attempts to disappear into everyday DC.

To do so, Klaatu checks into a boarding house at 14th and Harvard in Columbia Heights. Each room houses one or two people, and as such there's scant privacy to be had: everyone overhears everything.

This is convenient for Klaatu, who knows little of Earthlings' simple ways, but probably annoying for the Earthlings. Conditions like these were common in DC homes at the time.

The 1950 census found 14.1% of the District's 224,142 occupied housing units to be "overcrowded" (with over 1 person per room). By 2011, that figure had fallen by 2/3, to 4.7%, similar to the 5.3% of homes in 1950 that were extremely overcrowded (more than 1.5 occupants per room).

This crowding meant that on average, every apartment and house in DC had one more person living inside: households were 50.2% larger! In 1950, 3.2 people occupied each dwelling unit. In 2007-2011, the number of persons per household had fallen to 2.13, so the city's population still fell to 617,996. That decline would have been much steeper had the city not built 74,760 new housing units: the city's population would have plunged to 477,422, and the nation's capital would be less populous than Fresno.

Household size shrank nationwide as families changed. In 1960, married couples with children outnumbered single-person households almost three to one. In 2010, singles easily outnumbered nuclear families nationwide, and by 5.57 to one in DC.

As DC. gets reacquainted with the notion of population growth and begins to plan for a much larger population within the same boundaries, we'll have to have a realistic conversation about household sizes and housing production. A change of just 0.09 persons per household means the difference between planning for 103,860 or 140,515 additional housing units,1 or a total of 35% to 47% more units.

That amounts to 2,000-3,000 additional units per square mile of land, after subtracting the 10.5 square miles of parks and 7 square miles of water from DC's 68 square miles.

Klaatu, unfamiliar with our contentious Earth politics and "impatient with stupidity," might propose to build a platform of 5-unit-per-acre suburbia above the existing city, or require every second or third home to be subdivided, or return to 1950s household sizes and require every home to take in one boarder (not necessarily extra-terrestrials). But since Klaatu is no longer with us, we will instead have to figure out more complicated ways of infilling a built-up city.

We've obviously figured it out before; after all, DC has added an Alexandria's worth of housing units to its existing housing stock since 1950, plus plenty of offices, museums, hospitals, parking garages, and the like.


1615 M. Image from Google Maps.
A lot of that change has happened around places like 1615 M Street NW, the address where a 1954 radio version of "The Day the Earth Stood Still" placed Klaatu's boarding house. Today, 1615 M is a 9-story Class A office building that brackets the historic Magruder and Sumner schools.

The area above K but below Massachusetts was a high-density mixed residential area in the 1950s, what Park & Burgess would've known as "the zone in transition," but today the height-constrained central business district has spread north to Massachusetts Avenue. Yet in fact many foreign visitors still board on that block, at the Jefferson Hotel and the University of California's Washington Center.

Unlike in the movie, there is no way that Klaatu can make DC's growth "Stand Still," and so the built fabric of many other DC neighborhoods will have to change in the near future. Thankfully, neither is there a grumpy Gort (pictured above) parked on the Ellipse, who will destroy the earth with laser-beam eyes if we don't all just get along.

A version of this article was previously posted at west north.

1 Based on this 2006 Urban Institute/Fannie Mae Foundation report by Margery Austin Turner forecasting 100,000 new residents, a target that the Sustainable DC Plan recently raised to 250,000.
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Payton Chung, LEED AP ND, CNUa, sees the promises and perils of planning every day as a resident of Southwest Washington. He first addressed a city council about smart growth in 1996, accidentally authored Chicago's inclusionary housing law, blogs at west north, and is editor-at-large for Streetsblog

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Klaatu barada nikto.

by Patricia Neal on Jul 18, 2013 10:20 am • linkreport

I swear, JUST LAST NIGHT I was thinking about how GGW should do a story on how DC used to fit more people into the city with, presumably, more space. Cosmic that I opened this up today.

by aust1nz on Jul 18, 2013 10:29 am • linkreport

Terrific article. It's refreshing to read a sensible article about growth that isn't filled with petty, juvenile snipes at government officials.

by Ron on Jul 18, 2013 10:29 am • linkreport

Remember that lifestyle changes and rising affluence have changed the footprint of growth. You mention larger families and boarders (esp. during the WWII era). However, by today's standards, a connected family home where 5 or 6 kids were raised is considered too small (and requiring a big addition) by a couple with a child. Young singles don't want to live with parents, they expect their own place. Car ownership is less common. A large family would have been lucky to have a car; today they might have multiple vehicles, even in DC. Singles who may use transit to commute may own cars for night or weekend use.

So the point is, it's not so simple to say that in the 1940s DC had 800,000 people and we can grow easily to that number again without much impact. People today just come with more expectations of stuff -- housing units that are not shared, larger homes and apartments, cars, etc., all of which has an impact. Dealing with (and even facilitating)
growth while mitigating adverse impacts as much as possible, is the challenge for today's planners.

by Lloyd on Jul 18, 2013 10:31 am • linkreport

If you ever visit the Tenement Museum in New York, you will be astonished how many people could live in a relatively building or fairly modest size. Living standards have risen hugely, and with them the per square foot per person requirements.

by Crickey7 on Jul 18, 2013 10:36 am • linkreport

Lloyd,

I don't see it as a call to do what it takes to bump up to 800k. I think it is useful to point out that when people think that the city/neighborhood will be overwhelmed (traffic, sewers, schools, etc.) that the city once hosted more people on less sophisticated infrastructure.

by drumz on Jul 18, 2013 10:37 am • linkreport

"Not In My Neighborhood," an excellent book on the history of residential segregation in Baltimore, discusses this too. Baltimore's population has dropped from more than 900,000 in 1950 to about 620,000 today. But the book points out that the African-American areas of the city were terribly overcrowded, as lots of blacks migrated to the city looking for work and the areas they were allowed to live in where restricted. When legal housing segregation collapsed, there was a certain hollowing out of the black area (a look at Baltimore's vacant housing stock will confirm this) but much of what happened was that blacks left their overcrowded neighborhoods and moved into previously white areas, where they lived at more comfortable densities.

by jfruh on Jul 18, 2013 10:41 am • linkreport

I grew up in a family of four in a 3BR 1 bath apartment. We were lucky, my brother and I each had our own rooms. My friends in the building included kids in a family of four in a 2BR unit, and a family of 5 in a 3BR unit. This was a middle class building with an elevator, in a middle class neighborhood.

Today many middle class people seem to expect one bedroom per kid, plus at least one den/office. A family of four must have 4BR. Upper middle class status requires the guest room and office be seperate, and may include needs not only for a family room seperate from the living room, but even a room for the kids to keep their lego constructions.

Clearly people choosing the conveniences and amenities of urban living will not go to those extremes, but they probably won't want the level of density per room/sg ft of housing that was common in cities in the 1950's. Not while they have the option of cheaper housing in autocentric suburbs instead. Singles may be more willing to fit into smaller spaces, but even for them there are some parallel trends. While DC can and should offer smaller housing including microunits and ADU's as options, lets not fool ourselves into thinking that 800k can be reached without substantial new construction. Which is, of course, abundantly possible via many different strategies.

by ExNYer on Jul 18, 2013 10:42 am • linkreport

"the city once hosted more people on less sophisticated infrastructure."

You might be surprised just how much of it is still the same infrastructure...

by ArchStanton on Jul 18, 2013 10:43 am • linkreport

^There were a lot more streetcars back then.

by drumz on Jul 18, 2013 10:48 am • linkreport

I grew up in a 1000sq ft house with my parents and grandfather. We had plenty of space and privacy. Americans have become gluttonous and environmentally wasteful in all things, including housing.

Unfortunately, just as with oil, only higher costs will promote conversation. Nothing else seems to work in America.

With apts now at $4 sp ft people are finally downsizing.

But a chief culprit is zoning which only allows 2 units in R4.

by Tom Coumaris on Jul 18, 2013 10:57 am • linkreport

I'm not sure the argument that Americans demand more space/stuff will hold true in the coming decades. I think we're already seeing a shift in how much space people desire...especially among millennials and retired boomers.

by thump on Jul 18, 2013 11:19 am • linkreport

"Unlike in the movie, there is no way that Klaatu can make DC's growth "Stand Still,"

Well, I don't know about that. DC's population fell on a yearly basis for 52 years, only having added population for 11. While I am not saying DC's best days are behind, I think it is incredibly short sighted to say growth won't stand still.

And while I understand that household size has fallen, I think the condo-ization of what used to be single family homes makes up for that in larget part.

How many thousands of row homes in NW DC, homes that used to house "a" family, have been carved up into 3,4,5 individual housing units. A row home that used to house a family of 4 or 5, now houses 4 condos, each with one or two (if not more) people living there.

On the construction side, the District has built 29,000 new housing units in the past 12 years, more than enough to accommodate every last one of the 58,000 people who have moved to the District during that period, with a few thousand in spare (persons per household in the District is 2.13). And DC has large tracts of land that were zoned/ used for other uses in the 1950's, NOMA, Walter Reed, Navy Yard. Thousands of housing units have been, or are about to be added to these three areas, none of which had any housing in the 50's. I think DC can easily add enough housing to accomodate the ~800K resident threshold without having to do anything out of the ordinary.

by Arkie on Jul 18, 2013 11:21 am • linkreport

There are some funny parts in DTWSS, like when the police radio announces the cab Klaatu is in is going "west on Conn. Ave" and they drive past the Lincoln Memorial when they are traveling from Columbia Heights to Dupont Circle.

by Ebert on Jul 18, 2013 11:34 am • linkreport

I think there really is only one solution to smaller househoulds that want more space. Build up. Even without substantial change to height limits (and I do think that would be a good thing) zoning can be updated in many areas to allow many ~5-10 story buildings where there are 3-4 story rowhouses or apartment buildings. Just the simple act of changing the zoning could provide a relatively easy solution.

by Alan B. on Jul 18, 2013 11:43 am • linkreport

The takeaway from this article is that you can fit more people into the District if we're willing to drop the standard of living back to an early 1950's level (at least in terms of housing).

Which is true, I guess, but hardly the optimal solution.

by Potowmack on Jul 18, 2013 12:01 pm • linkreport

@ Tom Coumaris:I grew up in a 1000sq ft house with my parents and grandfather. We had plenty of space and privacy.

I wonder if other foreigners/aliens/immigrants can comment, but my view is that American houses are enormously wasteful with space. My biggest pet-peeve is the idea that every bed room needs a separate bathroom. Why build a separate room for max 45 minutes of activity per day? Many of the modern (almost) McMansions waste enormous amounts of space on entry hallway, both horizontally and vertically. And worse, American barely use their front door as they always come in through the garage or back! To close of there are all the formal dining rooms that are so formal they're only used once a decade when the whole family comes over for Christmas, while the rest of the year you just eat in the kitchen or the living room, watching tv.

by Jasper on Jul 18, 2013 12:01 pm • linkreport

We can also increase density in some rowhouse and other neighborhoods by allowing larger apartment buildings on the corners - this is how lots of the pre-1958 dense 'hoods in DC are.

by MLD on Jul 18, 2013 12:03 pm • linkreport

While I agree with all the above, the total sq footage is nearly irrelevant (outside of resource consumption, which isn't really part of this discussion)compared to the lot size /foot print. A 2,700 sq ft 3 story house is functionally the same as a 900 sq ft one story bungalow.

by Alan B. on Jul 18, 2013 12:05 pm • linkreport

Just the simple act of changing the zoning could provide a relatively easy solution.

A solution in search of a problem. Until all the vacant lots and abandoned buildings in DC are utilized, talk of replacing 3-4 story buildings with 5-10 story ones is premature.

by Alan Y. on Jul 18, 2013 12:06 pm • linkreport

The takeaway from this article is that you can fit more people into the District if we're willing to drop the standard of living back to an early 1950's level (at least in terms of housing).

Not at all. We can do things like change zoning to allow for micro apts (still with private baths/kitchens), remove parking requirements that take up space, change zoning that allow more than 2 units to fit in a row house. We can build taller (with or without a height limit), we can allow Accessory Dwelling Units by right.

by drumz on Jul 18, 2013 12:07 pm • linkreport

I wonder if other foreigners/aliens/immigrants can comment, but my view is that American houses are enormously wasteful with space.

I think that's pretty subjective. The average size of a home in the US is expected to be about 2150 by 2105. That doesn't strike me as particularly excessive, and it's shrunk a few hundred square feet since 2007.

by Potowmack on Jul 18, 2013 12:09 pm • linkreport

Until all the vacant lots and abandoned buildings in DC are utilized, talk of replacing 3-4 story buildings with 5-10 story ones is premature.

Their are myriad conditions that lead to vacant lots/underused buildings. It's folly to then make other development conditional on the sometimes arbitrary/seemingly irrational actions by other landowners.

by drumz on Jul 18, 2013 12:11 pm • linkreport

A solution in search of a problem. Until all the vacant lots and abandoned buildings in DC are utilized, talk of replacing 3-4 story buildings with 5-10 story ones is premature.

That is an incredibly short-sighted statement. Location is one of the most important factors. A 3 story building adjacent to say a metro station is a really inefficient use of space. An abandoned lot off Rhode Island Ave on the MD border probably doesnt have nearly the same redevelopment potential. Furthermore, there is no reason that both can't be part of the solution.

I can't help but think it is a knee jerk red-herring reaction to the idea of adding height, rather than an actual objective analysis.

by Alan B. on Jul 18, 2013 12:15 pm • linkreport

@ Alan B. "While I agree with all the above, the total sq footage is nearly irrelevant (outside of resource consumption, which isn't really part of this discussion)compared to the lot size /foot print. A 2,700 sq ft 3 story house is functionally the same as a 900 sq ft one story bungalow."

It certainly isn't the same in terms of canopy preservation. Let the McMansions face Gort's wrath I say.

by Chris S. on Jul 18, 2013 12:17 pm • linkreport

I think Alan Y may have been reading the rezoning as calling for blocks of existing 3 story rowhomes to be torn down and rebuilt. Not rezoning on vacant lots, industrial properties, etc.

I would expect considerable resistance to rezoning that allows increases in density on existing rowhouse blocks even when they are not in existing historic districts. Perhaps even if its only for corner houses.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 18, 2013 12:18 pm • linkreport

I can't help but think it is a knee jerk red-herring reaction to the idea of adding height, rather than an actual objective analysis.

Reservation 19.
The pepco plant.

Enormous properties that currently lie fallow, right on the metro. In both cases the DC government has bungled the redevelopment.

There are others...

by goldfish on Jul 18, 2013 12:19 pm • linkreport

Enormous properties that currently lie fallow, right on the metro. In both cases the DC government has bungled the redevelopment.

True, that's why we shouldn't make other people's attempts to build something somewhere else contingent on the competence of DC gov't or whoever.

by drumz on Jul 18, 2013 12:24 pm • linkreport

Canopies are pretty irrelevant. Very few buildings are going to to have trees that reach overtop of the property, it's too much liability. Mt. P is all 2/3/ story buildings and it has one of the best canopies in the city.

I am calling for rezoning of existing blocks of low buildings near Metro stations. But even so that would merely let the market work. No one in their right mind is going to call for people to be forcefully evicted. If the owners want to stay nothing will happen. It's absurd that we are artificially underusing those properties and not even letting the people that own them offer them up for more efficient use.

by Alan B. on Jul 18, 2013 12:25 pm • linkreport

Add: besides being on the Metro, both properties front the river! It doesn't get any better than that.

To suggest that DC is "built out" is just not correct.

by goldfish on Jul 18, 2013 12:25 pm • linkreport

goldfish, where are the others in the NW or downtown where many people want to live? What the DC government does with the pepco site is relevant to the neighbors but not really to me. There is no reason to artificially zone lots of transit accessible places for 3 story buildings. There is no reason to preclude redevelopment of other parts of the city just because one particular project isnt going well.

by Alan B. on Jul 18, 2013 12:31 pm • linkreport

The takeaway from this article is that you can fit more people into the District if we're willing to drop the standard of living back to an early 1950's level

Not at all (seconded). The initial impetus for looking up the 1950 statistics was to provide more context around Height Act arguments like this.

The takeaway: yes, it's true that DC once fit many more people within its boundaries. That's because a lot of them were living uncomfortably and with poor sanitation. To have 800K Washingtonians today will require a lot of new buildings. Some seem to want Klaatu to make The World Stand Still and freeze the city's built environment in the present day, but that's not at all realistic if we want to have a thriving, sustainable city, as opposed to a second-rate Fresno.

by Payton on Jul 18, 2013 12:32 pm • linkreport

Alan B: Upper NW is doing fine adding housing. If you want to live there, all you have to do is pay for it.

There is no reason to make changes in the zoning to accommodate more population, as there is just tons of available properties to develop by right in the existing code.

by goldfish on Jul 18, 2013 12:35 pm • linkreport

There is no reason to make changes in the zoning to accommodate more population, as there is just tons of available properties to develop by right in the existing code.

Because that ignores demand, regulatory barriers, and the fact that you can't develop property you don't own.

by drumz on Jul 18, 2013 12:37 pm • linkreport

There's a law in Fairfax County (not sure if we have it in DC) that opposite-sex siblings above a certain age can't share a bedroom. This drives families to seek out larger accommodations even if they can't comfortably afford them. I know this because my MIL is renting out her 2-bedroom basement apartment illegally to a family with a boy and a girl that can't afford the 3 bedrooms required by law.

by SE DC on Jul 18, 2013 12:38 pm • linkreport

Alan B

If you accept that there is SOME nonzero negative externality for taller building on smaller properties nearby, it makes sense to accept that cost where the benefit is greatest - and you get more benefit replacing say a one story shopping center lot with a ten story building, than replacing a 3 story rowhouse with a ten story building. Plus of course not upzoning the shopping center means it might get built at 8 stories instead of 10, thus foregoing a future opportunity - while keeping an existing 3 story building at 3, leaves open revisiting the matter in the future.

Your proposal might bear looking at at some point. But opposition to it does not imply preventing all densification efforts until every vacant lot is utilized. There are many opportunities to densify on properties that are not vacant, but are not blocks of rowhouses - commercial properties, old subsidized housing complexes, etc.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 18, 2013 12:38 pm • linkreport

There is no reason to make changes in the zoning to accommodate more population, as there is just tons of available properties to develop by right in the existing code.

My point exactly. Nothing "kneejerk" about it.

by Alan Y. on Jul 18, 2013 12:38 pm • linkreport

@Jasper

@ Tom Coumaris:I grew up in a 1000sq ft house with my parents and grandfather. We had plenty of space and privacy.

I wonder if other foreigners/aliens/immigrants can comment, but my view is that American houses are enormously wasteful with space.

To some extent, yes, although I've found that it is much more true in suburbia/exurbia that in more urban areas. It is also much more true of newer construction. In terms of comparisons to other countries, I think the size and availability of space plays a major role. In terms of comparisons to the industrialized world, I think it's clear that the US had both much more space to build SFHs and also greater demand for new construction of this sort. The post-war baby boom in the U.S. looked much different than in Europe or Japan, where you both had to do a lot of reconstruction and were, in some cases, making up for massive loses in population.

There definitely is a normative function as well, though. When I was a kid in Russia, I spent some time living in the same apartment as my grandmother, and during other times I lived with my aunt/uncle and their two boys. My wife, an American, is horrified at the idea of ever living in the same house as her parents, or mine, and sees this as a broadly applicable rule - the older generation should either have their own place or be in a home, never cohabitating with their adult children. Likewise, the idea of three boys (we're talking ages 10, 8, and 6 and younger) sharing a room and a king-sized bed sounds to her like borderline child abuse. Needless to say, my stories of my mother growing up in a communal apartment in the 1960s USSR do nothing to convince her that any sort of living arrangement other than the American norm is anything other than Second/Third World neosavagery.

by Dizzy on Jul 18, 2013 12:41 pm • linkreport

I'm surprised this analysis doesn't take into account the clearances of what must have been some of the densest parts of the city during urban renewal. Old SW must have skewed the density and average overcrowding figures for the city as a whole. (Not to invalidate any of the arguments here; it just seem to me that taking 1950 as the starting point and not accounting for urban renewal in what followed leaves a huge historical hole in the analysis.)

by Shepherd Parker on Jul 18, 2013 12:42 pm • linkreport

drumz: demand goes where supply is.

I sense that what (some) people are saying is, I want to live in the nice part of town in upper NW, and I won't consider less tony areas in NE, despite the fact that I can afford the latter but not the former. Let's change the zoning to rescue me!

Sorry, no dice.

by goldfish on Jul 18, 2013 12:43 pm • linkreport

"the older generation should either have their own place or be in a home, never cohabitating with their adult children."

i dont dispute thats a common view, but its a loss for both the old folks (so much loneliness) and the grandkids (so many in the care of strangers)

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 18, 2013 12:44 pm • linkreport

"you can't develop property you don't own"

What? What does this even mean in context of this discussion?

by Suze O. on Jul 18, 2013 12:45 pm • linkreport

demand goes where supply is.

But why restrict the supply. Besides people have myriad reasons to move where they want to move. NW is also closer to a lot of jobs than other places in NE. Or it could be access to a school, or safety. I don't think "tony-ness" plays as much a role nearly as much as people think it does.

by drumz on Jul 18, 2013 12:47 pm • linkreport

The standard European solution is much smaller units in four-story walk-up buildings and dividing historic homes into multiple units.

In DC the solution is to keep historic homes at 2 units max (which causes enormous waste when family units are now so small) and build mid-rises on the commercial streets and corners to increase density.

I like the European result better from a visual perspective than our "bookend" tall buildings and pop-up roof lines. And they achieve much greater density than our method does.

by Tom Coumaris on Jul 18, 2013 12:48 pm • linkreport

"I sense that what (some) people are saying is, I want to live in the nice part of town in upper NW, and I won't consider less tony areas in NE, despite the fact that I can afford the latter but not the former. Let's change the zoning to rescue me!"

just like for some its "I bought in a beautiful place close in when things were cheap, and my house is worth several times what I bought it for, and I don't want anything that might reduce its value towards, oh, 2X what I paid for it"

In either case we should be looking not at motivations, but at policy implications.

If housing in so called tony areas (for many folks, its just a matter of safety) remains well, well, over historic prices and prices in comparable metros, then yes, some folks will go off to Woodbridge or wherever. Some will go off to suburban WUPs. And some will end up adding, directly or indirectly, to the demand for sprawl. All those have different implications for A. Folks displaced by gentrification B. DC coffers C. the planet.

Sorry, no dice.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 18, 2013 12:49 pm • linkreport

Suze O,

Let's say I own a property that I'd like to add space to and rent out the new units. Why should that desire be squashed simply because there is a vacant lot somewhere else, owned by someone else that somehow automatically means there is no need for my property to be redeveloped?

by drumz on Jul 18, 2013 12:49 pm • linkreport

Oh come on, can you just give up the pretense for a second that any two lots of the same size have the same value. A vacant lot in Anacostia doesn't have the same redevelopment potential as say a block of two story row homes by the Petworth Metro.

The vast majority of the city is zoned R3/4/5 which is matter of right only for row housing or less dense to 3 stories. The vast majority of sites that already allow it have been redeveloped.

Tons of homes in this city are right next to apartment buildings. There is one down the street from me. I have experience zero negative externatlities. The house closest to it has a thriving canopy so it seems to be surviving proximity to a tall building.

I don't understand why there is so much fear of being next to tall buildings, but somehow it's ok to actually live inside them?!

by Alan B. on Jul 18, 2013 12:52 pm • linkreport

"The standard European solution is much smaller units in four-story walk-up buildings and dividing historic homes into multiple units. "

I thought most dense euro cities had building taller than four stories. Heck NYC and Boston have lots of 5 story rowhouses. I thought London did too (and Paris of course is mostly not rowhouses at all)

DC simply doesnt have many 5 story rowhouses. In fact I think it has a lot more 3 story ones than 4 story ones. So subdividing the 4 story ones further probably won't get you to the pop levels discussed above.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 18, 2013 12:52 pm • linkreport

@goldfish: No, not really. OP has done some work to quantify the ultimate development potential of all the vacant land and the big soft sites (see slides 17-25). The total comes to only 60,000 units on vacant lots, DCHA sites, and major soft sites, far below the 140,000 units that may be necessary as population grows (and household size reaches what might be its ultimate lowest level).

Granted, there are a few infill strategies and opportunities that they didn't quantify in there, but I don't see those generating 90,000 units. Buzzard Point, Pepco on Benning, and accessory dwellings yield a few thousand units. Even (@Alan Y.) widespread demolition along transit corridors doesn't quite get there: Toronto expects to line its new LRT network with mid-rises, generating ~1,000 units per mile of buildable frontage. Yet Toronto plans/planned* 81 miles of separate-ROW LRT mostly past strip malls, whereas DC's plan is for just 37 miles of lower-capacity mixed-traffic streetcar running through many built-out or unbuildable areas.

Anyhow, all of this would be better wrapped into a future paper/article.

* "Transit City" is on-again, off-again, I can't quite keep track

by Payton on Jul 18, 2013 12:54 pm • linkreport

goldfish, I have an apartment. I don't need zoning changed to accomodate me. In fact, you seem to be the one with the absurd fixation on people living where you want them to live.

by Alan B. on Jul 18, 2013 12:56 pm • linkreport

"I have experience zero negative externatlities. "

That's your personal preference. Clearly many others have different preferences.

I'm not sure of the best way to quantify the lost psychic value to the folks who own properties on an upzoned block. but there has to be a middle ground between "the existing density is sacrosanct" and "I don't care about your preferences, FU"

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 18, 2013 12:56 pm • linkreport

But why restrict the supply. Besides people have myriad reasons to move where they want to move. NW is also closer to a lot of jobs than other places in NE. Or it could be access to a school, or safety. I don't think "tony-ness" plays as much a role nearly as much as people think it does.

Well, we could do away with *ALL* zoning, like Houston I hear...

Um, zoning is place to preserve property values, among other reasons. So your proposal will run against the interests of the current homeowners in NW. Chances of your success are unlikely.

BTW, I disagree that job centers are closer to NW than NE. Schools and "safety" is whole 'nother discussion...

'Tony' is a euphemism for SWPL.

by goldfish on Jul 18, 2013 12:56 pm • linkreport

Well it's good to know that white people's preferences are invalid in your esteemed opinion. Very inclusive of you.

by Alan B. on Jul 18, 2013 1:01 pm • linkreport

payton - that 60,000 is under current zoning

you could upzone the soft sites only and get more units that way. As you say under the current height limit, or an increased height limit.

that is a change that would add more units, while leaving existing rowhouse blocks intact.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 18, 2013 1:01 pm • linkreport

Given how many native dc residents don't like the idea of being sent beyond the anacostia in place of where they used to live, in places like Truxton circle, I dont think the preference for NW is confined to whites (even where we use an expansive definition of whites that includes asians and college educated blacks and hispanics)

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 18, 2013 1:04 pm • linkreport

Let's say I own a property that I'd like to add space to and rent out the new units. Why should that desire be squashed simply because there is a vacant lot somewhere else, owned by someone else that somehow automatically means there is no need for my property to be redeveloped?

Maybe because your neighbors bought their places precisely because the neighborhood consisted of, and was zoned for, 3-4 story buildings, not 5-10.

Maybe because that vacant lot somewhere else is in an area that would love to have some redevelopment, and it would serve the city well to direct that redevelopment to an area that wants it as opposed to concentrating it in an area that doesn't.

Planning and zoning is for making the most of our built environment, not maximizing the profit potential for individual landowners.

by Suze O. on Jul 18, 2013 1:04 pm • linkreport

A. Stuff is rezoned (even in NW!) all the time. This isn't exactly unprecedented.

B. Houston has plenty of land use restrictions, they just don't use the magical word, zoning. Anyway, that's a strawman because we're not discussing an elimination of zoning. If anything the houston model would give people resistant to development more control over height and such.

http://www.houstontx.gov/planning/DevelopRegs/dev_regs_links.html

C. Think what you want about job centers, I'm not trying to prove anything about that but instead point out that substituting "tony-ness" for "swpl" is still a straw-man because people's reasons for moving somewhere are usually much more rational and banal.

by drumz on Jul 18, 2013 1:05 pm • linkreport

Honestly, if you are psychically disturbed by the presence of anything other than a single family home on your block, you probably don't belong in a city.

by Alan B. on Jul 18, 2013 1:05 pm • linkreport

This is a well worn drum. We artificially restrict the supply of housing and act shocked that prices are so high.

If we have any aspirations of continued growth, the height limits need to be modified. It's quite ridiculous to ask young families to pay such a large chunk of their income just for housing; without young families, the city is going to die anyway.

by microT on Jul 18, 2013 1:06 pm • linkreport

While generally there are a myrid of conditions that result in vacant lots, there is really only one reason in the District that led to vacant lots. The 50 year urban flight to the suburbs that robbed DC of 35% of its population, the 35% with the highest disposable income that left large swaths of the District as relatively unwanted no man lands.

That doesn't change the fact that there are lots of empty / underutilized lots in the District ripe for redevelopment that has nothing to do with a height limit, and they are all right at metro stops.

Southern Avenue has literally 70-80 of acres of tree covered, non parkland surround the station. Congressional Heights and Anacostia, the next two up the line are also enormously underutilized, an issue that is slowly being fixed via gentrification that was largely concentrated elesewhere in the city.

RFK will be redeveloped in the next decade, as soon as the United find another stadium. The 190 acre RFK site currently has ~80 acres of parking lot right next to the metro.

Rhode Island Metro has about ten acres of unused warehouses to the south west, and similar issues surround the Brookland metro, which has just recently been "on fire" development wise. Fort Totten is a joke in terms of TOD. There is 12 acres of grass lots at SDakota and Riggs and another ~40 acres of trees that border the station that are outside the Fort Totten Park.

The Florida Ave Market is 40 acres of barely used warehouses. Galludet is partnering with a couple developers to bring nearly 1,000 residential units to the area as well as a bunch of retail and office, sometime in the next decade.

The District owns 40 acres of surface lots servicing three low rise district agency buildings bordered by North Capital and First, New York and K street and the New York Avenue Metro Stop they are planning on moving and consolidating to one site by 2020.

These are great examples of metro centric opportunities that when the market supports it, will redevelop. It doesn't even touch the existing low density uses near more established metros (Van Ness, Tenley), or along existing commerical avenues like Georgia Ave.

Point is, DC has a lot of unused grass / parking lots adjacent to downtown metro stops that make for tempting development oppotunities once the time is right, that would add thousands of housing units and that have nothing to do with a height limit.

@Payton,

Those numbers from OP don't include the 28,000 housing units already in the pipeline, so lets call it 88,000 housing units that are identified, or on OP's possibility radar. At 2.13 people per houshold, that accomodates 187,000 new people. Evn if the District continued to add its recession high 1,200 people per month (14K per year, which is wholly unrealistic), that means there is already easy housing identified for 14 solid years of unprecidented population growth.

by Arkie on Jul 18, 2013 1:06 pm • linkreport

Planning and zoning is for making the most of our built environment, not maximizing the profit potential for individual landowners.

These are not mutually exclusive goals, however.

by Alex B. on Jul 18, 2013 1:08 pm • linkreport

It doesn't matter that there is plenty of develop-able land in DC. Location certainly matters to the real estate industry. Obviously you have developers thinking, 'just think of the margins I could make if I could just build 10-15 story buildings in Georgetown and next to the Cleveland Park Metro.' All that needs to be done is relax the historic district restrictions and increase the height limit.

by Lloyd on Jul 18, 2013 1:08 pm • linkreport

Alan B - there are few areas in the suburbs that have neighborhoods of 3 and 4 story rowhomes on grids. Thats an urban form much more than a suburban one. At least around here.

Also Im using psychic in the economic sense - utility, whatever. Not indicating anything psychiatric.

But if no one has such preferences, than I suspect a petition by all homeowners on a block for an upzoning would be achievable in many areas, and would carry some weight.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 18, 2013 1:09 pm • linkreport

No, zoning is in place to protect health and safety. That's all that it's legally allowed to do.

Telling anyone who moves to the city that they MUST move onto a vacant lot on the other side of town from their job. And woah, you've never noticed the yawning chasm between east and west in this region? MoCo has 50% more jobs than P.G. NoVa has 50% more than suburban Maryland.

by Payton on Jul 18, 2013 1:10 pm • linkreport

Added Housing: Is the 74+K housing figure added since 1950 net? How much housing was lost to make, e.g. the convention center on 9th St NW, DC295, the Whitehurst, the Washington Hospital Center campus, other tear down programs since 1950?

by Tina on Jul 18, 2013 1:10 pm • linkreport

Planning and zoning is for making the most of our built environment, not maximizing the profit potential for individual landowners.

I think it's possible to do both. Especially since while developers and land owners profit, we all benefit from an increased housing supply which makes the city more affordable.

And sure, Neighbors have expectations and we have zoning to prevent the worst excesses but at the same time if we're going to be a society that believes in property rights then we should expect people to use them every once in a while. That said, the conditions that lead to vacant lots in other parts of the city are so numerous that its seems foolish to try and have a cohesive policy that that would actually work.

by drumz on Jul 18, 2013 1:10 pm • linkreport

@Arkie: look more closely at the 2005 date and the maps. A fair number of the 60K identified there are already built or under construction or else part of that 28K pipeline, including the key hotspots of NoMa, Mount Vernon Triangle, Near SE, Wharf, McMillan, etc.

by Payton on Jul 18, 2013 1:13 pm • linkreport

@Tina: Yes, the 74K is net of demolition. Just under 300K households were counted in 2010.

by Payton on Jul 18, 2013 1:14 pm • linkreport

"That doesn't change the fact that there are lots of empty / underutilized lots in the District ripe for redevelopment that has nothing to do with a height limit, and they are all right at metro stops"

A. its not that the lots are vacant due to the height limit. Its that they could hold more units with upzoning (including possibly relaxing the height limit).

B. Is 2.13 realistic for the units currently being built? Lots of them are studios, most of the rest are 1 bedrooms, often quite small. the 2 BRs are often small compared to historic sizes of 2BR units. There are a few 2br+den and 3BR but not many.

C. building out vacant and esp soft properties EOTR will almost certainly be accompanied by their rise in SES. That will mean displacement of poor and working class people living in market rate housing in such areas. Thats a cost to the "just redevelop EOTR" concept

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 18, 2013 1:15 pm • linkreport

Evn if the District continued to add its recession high 1,200 people per month (14K per year, which is wholly unrealistic), that means there is already easy housing identified for 14 solid years of unprecidented population growth.

What's unrealistic about it? The demand keeping pace with that growth, or the supply allowing that growth to happen?

And it's certainly not unprecedented: DC's population in 1930 was 488k. In 1940 it was 690k. In 1950, 800k+.

by Alex B. on Jul 18, 2013 1:16 pm • linkreport

"No, zoning is in place to protect health and safety. That's all that it's legally allowed to do. "

Cite? because otherwise I dont see how suburban zones for 1/4 acre SFHs that dont allow 1/5 acre lots, zoning for larger lots than that, lot line regulation, etc, are allowed. Do you mean thats the law in the District in particular?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 18, 2013 1:17 pm • linkreport

I like the dual thought that says if you can't afford what's already built then wait until you make more money but if the plan to make that money is to buy and sell buildings then that is capitalism gone amok

by drumz on Jul 18, 2013 1:18 pm • linkreport

What I'm hearing a lot of is "Northwest is built out, let everyone else move across the river." If this were a sentiment that was genuinely spoken by Ward 7 & Ward 8 residents, I'd consider that to be constructive dialogue. However, somehow I doubt that.

@Arkie: and RFK is flood-prone federal parkland. Not exactly prime real estate.

by Payton on Jul 18, 2013 1:19 pm • linkreport

@AWalker: "the power of a locality to regulate the use of land through zoning and other regulations arises from the locality’s police power, which is a residual power, intrinsic in the sovereign, to protect the public health, safety and welfare." - The Albemarle County Land Use Law Handbook (it's really good; my land use law class used as a textbook in parallel with a casebook)

by Payton on Jul 18, 2013 1:22 pm • linkreport

@ Dizzy:My wife, an American, is horrified at the idea

I recognize that. And I am from a place that was much better of than Russia in the 60s.

That said, I agree that none of our parents will live with us. Period.

by Jasper on Jul 18, 2013 1:24 pm • linkreport

@AWITC
i dont dispute thats a common view, but its a loss for both the old folks (so much loneliness) and the grandkids (so many in the care of strangers)

I think this is circular and self-reinforcing, insofar as many American parents' philosophy boils down to "not screwing up in the ways that my parents did," because their parents did much more of the actual childrearing than is the case in other countries, where there is more multi-generational cohabitation and more of a "it takes a village" mentality.

There's a law in Fairfax County (not sure if we have it in DC) that opposite-sex siblings above a certain age can't share a bedroom. This drives families to seek out larger accommodations even if they can't comfortably afford them.

This is a critical example of a different in norms across different places. Such laws are not in existence in many countries and cultures, obviously.

by Dizzy on Jul 18, 2013 1:26 pm • linkreport

payton - IANAL, but given the nature of suburban zoning, I can only assume that the courts have either accepted that welfare means something beyond health and safety, or they have interpretated health and safety broadly enough to include things like 1/3 acre zones, limits on the height and build of SFHs, etc that are transparently about aesthetics and other aspects of living.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 18, 2013 1:26 pm • linkreport

Rents are at a historical high. If anything the only logical conclusion is that there is probably tremendous unmet demand for housing in the city so there is no reason to conclude that growth will slow down. I'm certainly in favor of redevelopment near metro stations but there is no reason that has to be an either or choice.

On top of that the city needs commercial and industrial sites too, merely classifying them all as future residential properties is unrealistic. Where is DC going to locate their new consolidated district offices then? Isn't that going to need a large parcel? Commercial is arguably overbuilt but anywhere you put in new residential there is likely to be some retail/office footage as well.

Finally, re: height and zoning let's not forget that there has been non-stop interference by various groups to force developers to scale back development to below their allowable density/height. I'm not sure its realistic that any of these big lots will automatically built to maximum coverage.

by Alan B. on Jul 18, 2013 1:29 pm • linkreport

Paris has a height limit of six stories, even in the downtown center. The four-story walk-up flat is the staple of most European cities and how they achieve such density, not taller buildings.

My block is a good example. We're limited to 2 units per house in R-4. The houses are 2500-4000 sq ft. originally they housed large families and by the 40's several were rooming houses or 3-4 units. They were renovated beginning in the early 70's back into single family homes, usually for single people or a couple.

Increased density is taken care of by an 8-story luxury 125-unit on the corner.

But the houses are now slowly being renovated (again) into the maximum 2-units allowed (we have 6 of those duplexes on the block now). 1410 S, the last one sold was made into 2 units of about 1300 and 1600 sq ft that sold for $1.1M and $1.5M I think. Both units are lived in now by single persons.

Most houses in the block are 1980's renovations of about 3000 sq feet lived in by single people or couples that sell for just under $1M. (Only 4 even have basement apts).

While new rental apts here can get $4 sq ft easily, the comparable price cannot be had for units in the block because zoning limits require them to actually be much larger than what customers will pay for footage.

If zoning even allowed 3 units, their size would be smaller and price a little less. Zoning of 4 units would even be better and would double the de-facto legal density of the 75 houses in the block.

Protecting the ability of single persons to get comparative bargains on 3000 or 4000 sq ft units in downtown neighborhoods through zoning is bad. Depending on the mid-rises on the commercial corners to provide greater density won't achieve what we want.

by Tom Coumaris on Jul 18, 2013 1:29 pm • linkreport

@ Alan B. "Canopies are pretty irrelevant. Very few buildings are going to to have trees that reach overtop of the property, it's too much liability."

Irrelevant? Doesn't seem like a very green perspective. And trees reaching over houses are quite common in NW. Less so in the rest of the city where tree density is lower.

by Chris S. on Jul 18, 2013 1:30 pm • linkreport

@Payton,

Then why has the city spent so much money drawing up redevelopment plans adding millions of sq/ft of residential/retail/office to the parcel?

by Arkie on Jul 18, 2013 1:32 pm • linkreport

Tom C

I dont think rezoning those houses to allow 3, or even 4 units, is a bad idea.

I just question whether there are enough such blocks to reach european style densities. Paris, as you say allows 6 story buildings, and has lots and lots of them. And DC while it has some areas with 4 story rowhomes - has very large areas with only 2 story rowhomes. I guess they could all "pop up" to 4 stories, but is that really more desirable than building 8 story (or taller) buildings on commercial corridors?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 18, 2013 1:35 pm • linkreport

@Arkie: You're probably thinking of Hill East. Only 20 of the 190 acres at RFK are developable.

by Payton on Jul 18, 2013 1:37 pm • linkreport

When DC had a population of 800,000, not everyone lived in NW around transit nodes. To think that would have to be the case for the city to reach such a population again is silly. Thirty years ago, few middle-class people wanted to live east of 14th St, but development went in that direction precisely because the areas west of there couldn't be torn down and redeveloped. Instead of making it easier for current "hot" areas to build up, public policy should be encouraging more areas of the city to become popular.

by Klaatu's Son on Jul 18, 2013 1:38 pm • linkreport

"Thirty years ago, few middle-class people wanted to live east of 14th St, but development went in that direction "

And the result was that those areas changed dramatically in their class and racial composition. I'm not saying that was a bad thing, but its certainly come with a cost in disrupted communities and lives.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 18, 2013 1:45 pm • linkreport

the result was that those areas changed dramatically

And you think that wouldn't have been the case had areas west of 14th been densified instead?

by Klaatu's Son on Jul 18, 2013 1:51 pm • linkreport

Instead of making it easier for current "hot" areas to build up, public policy should be encouraging more areas of the city to become popular.
Why not both?

by drumz on Jul 18, 2013 1:53 pm • linkreport

I'd like to know, if DC were developed to its full potential under its existing zoning, how many people it could hold assuming the household size remains the same?

I'll bet it is a lot, like 1.5-2M, but I have no way to get at this number.

by goldfish on Jul 18, 2013 1:58 pm • linkreport

Why not both?

Because developer have no incentive to go to the less popular areas until they have squeezed every available dollar out of the currently popular areas.

by Suze O. on Jul 18, 2013 2:00 pm • linkreport

"And you think that wouldn't have been the case had areas west of 14th been densified instead?"

certainly not racial changes no.

SES changes? I guess. neighborhoods that have lots of wealthy townhouse owners, some older middle class townhouse owners, some of each of those being families, would now have them mixing more with single yuppies.

Thats different from poor and working class african americans being (often, if not always) priced out by rising rents and needing to relocate EOTR or to the suburbs (and where not priced out, leaving as their neighbors, community institutions, etc leave).

Im more inclined to think the affluent folks in the townhouses can deal with some slightly more or slightly less affluent yuppie neighbors in 8 story buildings, with lees difficulty adapting than the poor african americans.

Again, Im not saying gentrification shouldnt happen. I AM saying is that if the changes in the already affluent neighborhoods have costs, so does gentrifying currenly nonaffluent areas.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 18, 2013 2:04 pm • linkreport

"Because developer have no incentive to go to the less popular areas until they have squeezed every available dollar out of the currently popular areas."

but there is already some development happening EOTR (not to mention in "transitional" areas like Brentwood, Hill East, Trinidad, etc)

Different folks have different tastes. And of course different modes of transport, different work locations, etc.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 18, 2013 2:05 pm • linkreport

goldfish, I've long had the same question...what does "DC 1 million" look like? Is there a number that DC urban planners are looking at? I think this would be an interesting post--scenarios for a livable DC at populations of, say, 800K, 1 mil, 1.2 mil. If younger generations continue their preference for density, these may not be pie in the sky figures.

by Brooklander on Jul 18, 2013 2:06 pm • linkreport

"Because developer have no incentive to go to the less popular areas until they have squeezed every available dollar out of the currently popular areas."

how odd that someone who seems to see developers as greedy, also is in the "if you can't afford it, go make more money" school" Its like Drumz said, capitalism is good when it says "dont take nuthin from the govt, if you can't afford housing, go make money" but firms actually trying to make money, in the market place, are bad.

by UrbanTurfReader on Jul 18, 2013 2:08 pm • linkreport

Because developer have no incentive to go to the less popular areas until they have squeezed every available dollar out of the currently popular areas.

Are you so sure of that? In much more unregulated markets we still see development spread outward. Maybe there is a difference in rate of growth but its not as if once they invented the elevator people stopped moving away from downtown. We have growth all over the city (and region!) apparently we're not at that point you describe.

by drumz on Jul 18, 2013 2:13 pm • linkreport

how odd that someone who seems to see developers as greedy, also is in the "if you can't afford it, go make more money" school"

Project much? Where did I say anything about "go make more money"?

There's a world of difference between individuals maximizing their economic potential and developers changing the very fabric of a neighborhood.

by Suze O. on Jul 18, 2013 2:31 pm • linkreport

There's a world of difference between individuals maximizing their economic potential and developers changing the very fabric of a neighborhood.

I take it you are of the "development is something that happens where I don't live" school?

by Alan B. on Jul 18, 2013 2:33 pm • linkreport

apparently we're not at that point you describe.

Nor are we at the "DC is all but built-out under current zoning" that some posters seem to be implying.

by Suze O. on Jul 18, 2013 2:34 pm • linkreport

I take it you are of the "development is something that happens where I don't live" school?

I take it you are of the "let's make unfounded assumptions" school?

by Suze O. on Jul 18, 2013 2:35 pm • linkreport

Walker- Those "commercial corridors" run through residential areas. I have an over-priced 8-story soviet block building towering over me across the alley and from no place on my block does it not look weirdly out of place. 6 stories would have been 100 times more attractive. And my block is typical of much of DC as far as zoning being R-4. If we could have an additional 150 units in each such block it would provide much more density than these few aberrations do.

And, as I've mentioned before, 6 stories is much more environmentally friendly and lower cost than 8. Not to mention only taking 9 months to 1 year to build a frame and block building rather than the over 2-year disruption these 8's cause. And 8's have to have an underground support structure (always a garage), pumping out thousands of gallons of underground water for free in DC.

Environmentalist in Paris are in a pitched battle against the proposal to allow high rises in outer parts of the city for these very reasons. High-rises have to have elevators which are very environmentally destructive, have to be concrete which is much more destructive a building method, Air conditioning is from units on the roof which is a wasteful way to heat and cool units on lower floors. Neighborhood construction disruption goes on for years.

In DC small conversions of existing stock is done by small contractors and architects while the high rises are done by huge corporations.

That's why my preference is for increasing density in existing buildings before going to the environmentally destructive tall buildings.

by Tom Coumaris on Jul 18, 2013 2:36 pm • linkreport

No one said DC is built out. What I postulated was specifically that some areas are zoned well under demand/utility. It's silly to me that places a block away from metro stations and 2 miles away have the same zoning.

by Alan B. on Jul 18, 2013 2:37 pm • linkreport

Suze O

Thats rhetoric. Greed is bad, but the rights of those who "have maximized their economic potential" are sacrosanct.

Either the market outsome is right and just or it isn't. If you can accept that there are market failures that justify interventions like zoning, why can't you see that there are market failures that justify compassion for those who have had difficulty saving due to life circumstances?

You got no compassion for others whose circumstances you don't even know - don't expect others to shed tears over "the fabric" of your precious neighborhood.

by UrbanTurfReader on Jul 18, 2013 2:37 pm • linkreport

@Payton: What I'm hearing a lot of is "Northwest is built out, let everyone else move across the river." If this were a sentiment that was genuinely spoken by Ward 7 & Ward 8 residents, I'd consider that to be constructive dialogue.

The decision where to live is made by each person individually; there is no directive from on high telling people to move EotR. In upper NW, space costs like 3-4x of that EotR. Of course each person will weigh things differently, but the difference in cost (among other considerations) will *encourage* where the new development will occur.

Take a critical look at the buildings in upper NW, like Wisconsin Avenue around Tenley for example. There are tons of infill and tear-down opportunities, but this is where the local opposition to new projects is the most formidable in the city. Consider the fight over redevelopment of Giant, for example. This also drives up the price, of course.

So it may be that EotR is just less willing or able to fight.

by goldfish on Jul 18, 2013 2:43 pm • linkreport

"Walker- Those "commercial corridors" run through residential areas."

that kind of makes sense though - the commerce in them adds to the desirability of those areas - I believe you also said developments like that increase the rents you can charge in your units.

" I have an over-priced 8-story soviet block building "

Could you be so kind as to tell me the address? I dont know many recent buildings in DC that look anything like the Soviet block buildings.

"Not to mention only taking 9 months to 1 year to build a frame and block building rather than the over 2-year disruption these 8's cause. And 8's have to have an underground support structure (always a garage), pumping out thousands of gallons of underground water for free in DC."

Don't new 6 story buildings also have garages?

"Environmentalist in Paris are in a pitched battle against the proposal to allow high rises in outer parts of the city for these very reasons. High-rises have to have elevators which are very environmentally destructive, have to be concrete which is much more destructive a building method, Air conditioning is from units on the roof which is a wasteful way to heat and cool units on lower floors. Neighborhood construction disruption goes on for years."

Are any new 6 story buildings built in DC without elevators?

Though it strikes me, that many of those costs (like the garage, for example) are fixed without regard to height, once you get to 8 stories. It would be better to have a few 10 or 15 story buildings, instead of so many 8 story buildings

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 18, 2013 2:44 pm • linkreport

High-rises have to have elevators which are very environmentally destructive

Explain.

by drumz on Jul 18, 2013 2:44 pm • linkreport

Another excellent example of the DC over-population is the 1943 Oscar-winning comedy "The More the Merrier" which uses the war-time housing shortage as its jumping-off place. This was a well-known problem in those days - I noticed it mentioned in several movies made durign the war - but this is one that uses the shortage as a primary plot point.

The movie takes place in a boarding house at (IIRC) 1708 D St, NW, where two men, desperate for a place, talk a woman into sharing her room... and madcap misadventure ensues!

It also includes a comical intoduction to Washington, listing its old-fashioned charms, ("...Living is pleasant and leisurely... for it is a city of formality and custom. Manners and courtesy are responsible for the well-ordered conduct of its daily affairs...") while the accompanying video shows the very different, very unpleasant, reality of the day.

There's also a fair bit of footage actually shot on location in DC, which was not as common in movies back then.
See it!

by DC2009 on Jul 18, 2013 2:44 pm • linkreport

"The decision where to live is made by each person individually; there is no directive from on high telling people to move EotR. In upper NW, space costs like 3-4x of that EotR. Of course each person will weigh things differently, but the difference in cost (among other considerations) will *encourage* where the new development will occur.

Take a critical look at the buildings in upper NW, like Wisconsin Avenue around Tenley for example. There are tons of infill and tear-down opportunities, but this is where the local opposition to new projects is the most formidable in the city. Consider the fight over redevelopment of Giant, for example. This also drives up the price, of course.

So it may be that EotR is just less willing or able to fight."

and there just may be voters and others with influence, who will listen to this debate, and take the impact on W7 and W8 into account when deciding whether or not to sympathize with opposition to development in W3 - or W6.

In fact some of those voters just might be W3 residents themselves. Im told there are a few W3 residents who consider themselves supporters of "social justice"

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 18, 2013 2:47 pm • linkreport

Nor are we at the "DC is all but built-out under current zoning" that some posters seem to be implying.

I don't think that's been implied. Even if it has, I'm still taking the pluralistic approach of changing the zoning and developing empty lots.

There's a world of difference between individuals maximizing their economic potential and developers changing the very fabric of a neighborhood

That's a value judgment. I'd be interested in hearing examples of people who would've bought somewhere but then pulled out once they found out a slightlty larger residential building was being built down the street. And surely there net increase of desirability for the neighborhood since more people have had the chance to move in. That's something that raises property values not lower them.

It also assumes that a neighbhorhood doesn't have to change if it doesn't want to. I don't think that's really possible and that it'll happen regardless of the built form.

by drumz on Jul 18, 2013 2:49 pm • linkreport

You got no compassion for others whose circumstances you don't even know - don't expect others to shed tears over "the fabric" of your precious neighborhood.

Yet you expect existing neighborhoods to cater to your desire not to live in what you think is a ghetto just because you've made life choices that won't allow you to live in the neighborhood as it currently exists. Boo hoo.

by Suze O. on Jul 18, 2013 2:55 pm • linkreport

neighborhood as it currently exists

This is true, the neighborhood I live was never built. It spontaneously appeared out of the ground in its current form.

by drumz on Jul 18, 2013 2:59 pm • linkreport

I expect the city to zone for its own broader interests, which include the desire to get more tax revenue by increasing density. And yes, to zone to accommodate the needs of would be buyers and renters, as well as the profits of landowners wanting to develop there land. I expect some selfish, greedy neighbors to fight that, and I expect them to use rhetoric that paints developers as greedy to get their way. And to use rhetoric aimed at people who just want to pay a free market price for freely produced housing, without artificial supply constraints as "people who made bad life choices" Life choices you don't know and can't imagine. I also expect some people to hear the rhetoric of entitlement and snobbishness, and the hypocrisy, from those who want to keep their precious neighborhoods free of those who made "bad life choices".

I had not expected you to display so nakedly that your motivation is to keep certain people out.

by UrbanTurfReader on Jul 18, 2013 3:02 pm • linkreport

And surely there net increase of desirability for the neighborhood since more people have had the chance to move in.

This too is a "value judgment". More and more density does to necessarily equal more and more desirability.

I'd be interested in hearing examples of people who would've bought somewhere but then pulled out once they found out a slightlty larger residential building was being built down the street.

Dicto simpliciter. This isn't what is being said.

by Suze O. on Jul 18, 2013 3:05 pm • linkreport

"Yet you expect existing neighborhoods to cater to your desire not to live in what you think is a ghetto "

You expect black people to get pushed to PG county, from the neighborhoods they grew up in, from communities they value, in order to keep some entrepreneur from building a few apartments over a supermarket in your neighborhood. Your lack of compassion is not aimed only at middle class people whose lives have been different from yours - even less understandably, its aimed at the poor.

by UrbanTurfReader on Jul 18, 2013 3:06 pm • linkreport

I had not expected you to display so nakedly that your motivation is to keep certain people out.

LOL. Can't come up with any valid arguments, eh?

by Suze O. on Jul 18, 2013 3:06 pm • linkreport

If you don't like references to motive, or ad hominems of any kind, you might try to reframe your arguments to exclude the phrase "greedy developers" "squeezed every dollar" and similar.

He who lives by class war rhetoric, dies by class war rhetoric.

by UrbanTurfReader on Jul 18, 2013 3:16 pm • linkreport

[This comment has been deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by Suze O. on Jul 18, 2013 3:17 pm • linkreport

If you can't understand the way real estate markets work, the necessary role of profit maximizing developers, the environmental impacts of limiting density, and the rights of market participants who do not live in a place but are willing to pay (the market price, not the artificially elevated price) o move there, and the way decisions in one location impact others, including how limits on density in NW DC lead to gentrification and its costs elsewhere, perhaps you should go back to your Ward 3 listserve where your pearl clutching will be better appreciated.

by UrbanTurfReader on Jul 18, 2013 3:22 pm • linkreport

More and more density does to necessarily equal more and more desirability.

The argument is that denser buildings drive down property values. A.that hasn't happened B. the amount of people turned off by the neighborhood now can be offset by the people who now have the chance to add to the net pop. of the neighborhood.

People's concerns usually come down to housing values. That may not be you specifically in this case but its often expressed. That said, I'm having a hard time thinking of a time when a new building was built in a popular neighborhood and that somehow made the neighborhood less desireable which led to a lower sale price. The neighborhood may change but it doesn't mean it became less desireable.

by drumz on Jul 18, 2013 3:24 pm • linkreport

Urban Turf, I have a feeling arguing the "compassion" line with some people is like trying to explain it to them in a foreign language they don't speak.

by Alan B. on Jul 18, 2013 3:31 pm • linkreport

So is there a breaking point where density becomes so great that the relationship with desirability (however you want to define it) becomes inverse? Sure, but point out where in DC that's happened or has seriously threatened to.

by drumz on Jul 18, 2013 3:31 pm • linkreport

drumz haven't you heard? Property values in Manhattan are crashing through the floor as they add more and more high rises. Soon it will be so full of people no one will want to live there.

by Alan B. on Jul 18, 2013 3:33 pm • linkreport

point out where in DC that's happened or has seriously threatened to.

I don't think that is the point. Concentrating increased development in places that very often don't want it when there are untold number of sites in other parts of the city that would love to have it probably makes more sense, rather than changing current zoning laws at this point in time.

by Alan Y. on Jul 18, 2013 3:40 pm • linkreport

Again, the zoning is already changing in DC. And stuff is being built all over the place. Both can apparently happen at the same time and can be mutually beneficial.

by drumz on Jul 18, 2013 3:42 pm • linkreport

"Concentrating increased development in places that very often don't want it when there are untold number of sites in other parts of the city that would love to have it probably makes more sense, rather than changing current zoning laws at this point in time."

sites dont want or not want development. people do. And I seriously doubt that most people in Ward 7 or 8 would welcome the kinds of changes that would occur if DC attemped to use them as relief valves for all market demand, and to not make reasonable accommmodations to increas density in NW. One can only look at the reaction to the changes in U street, in H Street NE, etc. To the meaning that words like gentrification and displacement have in DC's discourse.

And by the same token not everyone in NW - even in W3 - objects to new development, to upzoning, etc.

And yes, the city has an interest in maximizing tax revenue, which will happen much more if they let development happen where the market "wants" it.

by UrbanTurfReader on Jul 18, 2013 3:46 pm • linkreport

arguing the "compassion" line with some people is like trying to explain it to them in a foreign language they don't speak.

Yeah, 'cause we all know real estate developers first priority is compassion.

by Suze O. on Jul 18, 2013 3:46 pm • linkreport

Did you forget to account for military personal stationed within DC? The post war period had many soldiers and barracks that are no longer here or fully utilized. I think your statistics overstate the number of residential households.

by name on Jul 18, 2013 3:49 pm • linkreport

And I seriously doubt that most people in Ward 7 or 8 would welcome the kinds of changes that would occur if DC attemped to use them as relief valves for all market demand, and to not make reasonable accommmodations to increas density in NW.

Why not? NW is already the densest quadrant. Why shouldn't less dense areas with Metro lines serve as "relief valves" for market demand?

by Alan Y. on Jul 18, 2013 3:51 pm • linkreport

NW is also by far the largest quadrant due to the nature of DCs address system. It's not an accurate guage by any means.

And the less dense areas near metro *are* relieving some pressure. You could increase it some more but you're never going to fully do it because the population is growing overall.

by drumz on Jul 18, 2013 3:55 pm • linkreport

Suze O

"It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest"

by UrbanTurfReader on Jul 18, 2013 3:55 pm • linkreport

Alan

1. Because NW is where people want to live, which is why you need zoning to stop them
2. Because gentrification EOTR has human costs - which are probably at least as great as the costs to "neighborhood fabric" from development elsewhere.

by UrbanTurfReader on Jul 18, 2013 3:56 pm • linkreport

And personally, I don't care about compassion. I also don't care about a principled commitment to property rights or the profit motive. I care about DC being one of the most unaffordable cities in the country. The best solution I've seen to solving that is to let people build housing to meet demand. Again, since the pop. is growing overall must happen all over the city and can't be contained to one area. Especially if we seek to mitigate the harmful effects of sprawl in other areas.

by drumz on Jul 18, 2013 3:57 pm • linkreport

to clarify: I believe in being compassionate. I'm not saying that its a good debate tactic for either side because saying you're compassionate while the other side isn't betrays the ideal itself.

by drumz on Jul 18, 2013 3:59 pm • linkreport

Suze

Developers may not be compassionate, particularly. But they are not making their case based on moral superiority, but rather on economics. Those who attack changes, because of the "greed of developers" bear a burden to be compassionate, since they have introduced this element into the equation.

Again accept greed, OR be compassionate to those who have less than you for whatever reason. The needle you are trying to thread, of denying the morality of the housing market, while affirming the morality of the labor market, is too narrow for truth to pass through.

by UrbanTurfReader on Jul 18, 2013 4:01 pm • linkreport

Alan Y,

Unless you agree that turning NW into Manhattan while encouraging the other three quadrants to fester as low-rise slums, you are a racist.

by Ronjovi on Jul 18, 2013 4:02 pm • linkreport

"I care about DC being one of the most unaffordable cities in the country. "

Mr Drumz, the counter to that is "If only you were hard working and frugal like myself you COULD afford where I live , because after all I do" The argument is wrapped in sneering moral judgement from the beginning. I don't think the issue is avoidable by resort to technical considerations. Better to call it what it is and confront it directly.

by UrbanTurfReader on Jul 18, 2013 4:04 pm • linkreport

drumz haven't you heard? Rents in Manhattan are crashing through the floor as they add more and more high rises. Soon it will be so full of people rents will be dirt cheap.

by Suze O. on Jul 18, 2013 4:04 pm • linkreport

PS: We should padlock the doors of the Cleveland Park metro station until that shopping center gets rebuilt with more density. Fight :P

by microT on Jul 18, 2013 4:05 pm • linkreport

@UrbanTurfReader:

1. Because NW is where people want to live, which is why you need zoning to stop them

People want to live WOTR (not just in NW by any means).

2. Because gentrification EOTR has human costs - which are probably at least as great as the costs to "neighborhood fabric" from development elsewhere.

I'm curious what your solution is. Gentrification is coming EOTR the only question is whether it'll take the form of $800k single-family homes, or mixed-use.

by oboe on Jul 18, 2013 4:05 pm • linkreport

Ronjovi

Do you think there is sufficient demand to turn NW into Manhattan? I think thats unrealistic.

And wanting to gentrify all of the rest of DC to preserve NW just as it is, is to judge the experience of being evicted from a house whose rent you can no longer pay, in SE, as less important than having to deal with more difficult parking in NW. Whether that is racist could be argued either way, I suppose. I would say its more classist than racist.

by UrbanTurfReader on Jul 18, 2013 4:06 pm • linkreport

Mr Oboe

1. I am aware of the changes to parts of the other quadrants. I am using NW as shorthand for the areas that are already affluent, and are resistant to change

2. My suggested solution is to upzone selected parcels in the already affluent areas. This would not stop gentrification EOTR, but it would likely slow it. And, I would suggest, that pace of gentrification matters, in terms of disruption.

by UrbanTurfReader on Jul 18, 2013 4:09 pm • linkreport

UTR,

There is value to that. I just was trying to stay on the focus of "how do we add people to the city?" without getting bogged down in arguing who's position is more moral. But what you said is valid as well.

SuzeO,
I don't understand. Is that what's happening? That runs contrary to everything I've heard. I don't get what joke you're trying to make.

by drumz on Jul 18, 2013 4:09 pm • linkreport

She was referring to my post which was in reference to her post about density undermining the desirability of a neighborhood. I guess she was misatributing it to you?

by Alan B. on Jul 18, 2013 4:17 pm • linkreport

Yeah I saw your comment, maybe its a confusion of desireability at large vs. the individual. Many people don't want to live in Manhattan. That doesn't mean its density is a signal of that.

by drumz on Jul 18, 2013 4:21 pm • linkreport

NW is also by far the largest quadrant due to the nature of DCs address system. It's not an accurate guage by any means.

Density is persons per square mile, so you are right that the size of quadrant isn't relevant. Not sure why you bring it up.

It is however, like I stated, the densest:
http://www.city-data.com/zipmaps/Washington-District-of-Columbia.html

Be that as it may, I never said all new development should occur outside of NW, that was an inference made by another commenter.

by Alan Y. on Jul 18, 2013 4:22 pm • linkreport

I see your point but I'd still argue that the sheer geographic size of NW compared to the other quadrants makes it hard to make any sort of meaningful comparison.

But the argument that people have made is "there's empty (or not) land over there, go build there not here" and that ignores a whole host of factors. I'm now not sure what point you were making but the fact of a place already being dense isn't an argument against new density.

by drumz on Jul 18, 2013 4:29 pm • linkreport

drumz- Elevator manufacturer Schindler itself admits that elevators take up to 15% of a building's energy use:

http://www.schindler.com/content/nz/internet/en/mobility-solutions/products/elevators/_jcr_content/rightPar/downloadlist/downloadList/56_1371006083020.download.asset.56_1371006083020/VDI%20Brochure.pdf

Generally Green parties in Europe, especially Paris, are vocal opponents of high rises as the energy used in their construction will never be re-covered in any benefits of density.

by Tom Coumaris on Jul 18, 2013 4:31 pm • linkreport

Tom C,

Interesting, I'm not opposed to the building of true walk ups like you talk about (since so many already exist) but I don't know what DC specifically requires.

by drumz on Jul 18, 2013 4:35 pm • linkreport

I guess she was misatributing it to you?

No, i was riffing on your statement directed at me that building taller won't make property values fall (a position I never took, btw) by pointing out that building taller won't necessarily make rents go down either.

by Suze O. on Jul 18, 2013 4:35 pm • linkreport

@MicroT--

Bit of history. The proposed razing of 'that shopping center' to which you refer ("VanNessification" was the term at the time) was the catalyst for creation of the the Cleveland Park historic district. The structure is either a landmark or a listed contributing element. So, as a practical matter, it's not going away.

by Sally on Jul 18, 2013 4:37 pm • linkreport

Tom C

but then again Green parties in europe have succeeded in shutting down the german nuclear power industry, resulting in increased fossil fuel usage, and hence higher GHGs, so I am not sure I trust their analysis.

and then theres this

http://www.sustainablebusiness.com/index.cfm/go/news.display/id/24739

seems rather more viable than the solar powered automobile.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 18, 2013 4:46 pm • linkreport

Suze,

You're ignoring "Ceteris Paribus". There are many factors that make manhattan expensive. These factors combined are greater than the supply that can be added to the island and that's what keeps prices high. (the same happens here in DC).

by drumz on Jul 18, 2013 4:46 pm • linkreport

And indeed its even been reported that an large increase in the supply of apartments has lowered rents in DC somewhat (mostly in Class A buildings but that's also mostly what's being built).

by drumz on Jul 18, 2013 4:53 pm • linkreport

I'm not ignoring anything. Just trying to lighten the mood a bit.

by Suze O. on Jul 18, 2013 4:53 pm • linkreport

Sorry, my mood is pretty light already. But people make that argument in earnest all the time.

by drumz on Jul 18, 2013 4:58 pm • linkreport

I've seen a lot of hooey thrown around to justify density and removing the height limit (enviro-urbanism, more tax revenue, saving corn fields in MoCo, etc.) And, of course, only the dumbest developer nowadays would ever call a project anything other than "smart growth." But calling for upzoning in Tenleytown or Chevy Chase DC in the name of "social justice" takes spinning to a breathtaking new level. "Gentrification" happens when people, sensing a real estate value opportunity, move into a neighborhood perceived as challenging and are willing to brave risks like crime, poor schools, social ills, minimal services, limited retail, etc. for a period of time. High end, expensive condos above Best Buy or the Palisades Safeway (or for that matter, near Logan Circle today) are not substitutes for housing opportunities in newly gentrifying areas. They are marketed to a different set of buyers by developers who are looking for low-risk, higher margin projects. Such development may be desirable for a different set of reasons, but let's not call it "social justice." Makes me want to choke on my low-fat, soy milk kale-infused chai smoothie.

by Alf on Jul 18, 2013 4:58 pm • linkreport

@Drumz,

Can you stop using ""Ceteris Paribus" in every thread, every day? [Deleted for violating the comment policy.] It is a little forced when you use it every day, no?

by Meme on Jul 18, 2013 5:19 pm • linkreport

Mr Alf

if that is the case, then the claims advanced that development at metro stops EOTR are a substitute for new units in Tenleytown or Chevy Chase are false. If that is the case, then where to the people who WOULD have gone to Tenleytown or CC end up? Either in high density areas in the inner suburbs, or further out. If the former, thats probably equivalent environmentally, but is a loss to DC tax revenues. If the latter, than it is a loss both in terms of DC tax revenues and environmentally. However I do beleive that real estate markets are linked and that Ms O is not entirely mistaken in that limiting density in places like Tenleytown does result in more development in places like Anacostia. However I also believe that the development of high rises in places like the Anacostia Metro station, is both enabled by, and speeds up, gentrification of existing housing there. Therefore, Mr Alf, all those arguments - tax revenues, the environment, and social justice have elements of truth.

Its certainly sillier to explain the social justice benefits of development in places like Tenleytown, than it is to for people who live in million dollar houses and who sneer at the undeserving who don't make the "right life choices" to complain about the greed of developers.

Oh, and there are LOTS of developments athat are not called smart growth by their developers. They are, however, located in Charles County, in Prince William County, in Loudoun County, etc. Sprawl is real, Mr Alf. People are going to live somewhere.

by UrbanTurfReader on Jul 18, 2013 5:26 pm • linkreport

walker- If solar-powered elevators work I'd change my mind on that aspect of new buildings. But so far we're talking good old American energy hogs in DC.

by Tom Coumaris on Jul 18, 2013 5:29 pm • linkreport

Im curious as to the analysis done by the folks in Paris - everything Ive read suggests that Manhattan, for example has one of the lowest rates of energy usage per person in the country. And while Manhattan does have a lot of walkups, I'm quite sure the majority live in elevator buildings. Often with old and inefficient elevators, I would wager. That would suggest that the energy benefits of density exceed the costs of elevators. Of course Manhattan has smaller units, relatively speaking. And I agree with your proposal for smaller units in existing houses. I suspect the opposition to that comes more from your own neighbors than from developers.

I am also sympathetic to the idea of using existing houses before building new. But a new six story building is still new, and still uses new materials, etc. I am not convinced that the benefits of wood frame vs concrete, offset the disadvantages of fewer units in the central parts of the city pushing more people to more auto centric areas (where they are also likely to live in larger more energy intensive units)

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 18, 2013 5:38 pm • linkreport

@UrbanTurfReader: I find that suggesting that we should "upzone Tenleytown to save the folks EotR from the hell of gentrification" to indeed be disingenuous. And then to claim that the residents of Tenleytown will rush in to support this effort, out of "social justice," runs counter to the well-documented, very tough local opposition to real estate projects in this neighborhood.

But the mental gymnastics to make such arguments are wonder to behold.

by goldfish on Jul 18, 2013 5:40 pm • linkreport

You standard traction elevator uses hardly any power. It consumes more power per day to keep the lights on inside the cab than it does to run it up and down. Gravity is doing most of the work.

All the big elevator companies have power consumption calculators on their website.

by Elevator on Jul 18, 2013 5:52 pm • linkreport

@name: The number of residential households and the persons per household were reported by the 1950 and 2010 censuses. Soldiers in barracks are counted as living in "group quarters," not "households," and do not impact any of the statistics cited except for the overall population counts.

by Payton on Jul 18, 2013 6:04 pm • linkreport

I saw on the news tonight a development called Metrotowns at Parkside in NE Washington next to a metro station that finished its first phase of construction. They were mentioning the prices, which I thought sounded too good to be true, and figured there had to be a catch. So I go to the website, and see that the prices range from the upper 200's to low to mid 300's, for brand new townhomes with granite countertops, hardwood floors, and stainless steel, energy star appliances.

Then looking a little more, I see that you can only buy one if your household income is 40 to 100 percent of the area median. So for the democrats out there that want to make everything fair, how is that fair. So because me and my wife have a combined HHI of more than the area median, we can't buy a brand new place like that, and are stuck living in a small apartment that's definitely not as nice. Yet a household that doesn't make as much can buy one of these things at a price that is a lot less than if it was market rate. It's not like most of the people in this town with a HHI over the median are millionaires, and that paying 2 bills a month for rent in a small apartment is peanuts.

Yet policies like these play favorites and make housing even more scarce for households that do ok but aren't low income or rich. This town is going in the direction you're either going to have to be rich to afford it or low income to get these maximum income places, with no in between, and it will be more divided than it is now. Or we can go back to living like in the '50's with unrelated people living in one room.

by Nickyp on Jul 18, 2013 8:54 pm • linkreport

In any fluid market there are places that rise and fall. Gentrification get's the most attention but large sections of lower Montgomery county have gone from middle class to working class etc. with incredible densities (families living in the basement and attic etc. I've been priced out of several central neighborhoods, but since I don't belong to a recognizably coherent group, I'm sure no one will rise to defend my ability to live close in, but that's ok since I've always thought that's the way things go.

In that spirit, they ought to up-zone just about every location around the city rather than talk about what quadrant or side of the river should be the focus. As quickly as things are changing socially, DC will be a lot more mixed in the next 100 years. We should focus our energies more on providing a 21st century transit network worthy of a great city like London or New York, minus the skyscrapers of course, since resiliance will be a lot more important in the future.

by Thayer-D on Jul 19, 2013 7:30 am • linkreport

@UrbanTurfReader

My suggested solution is to upzone selected parcels in the already affluent areas. This would not stop gentrification EOTR, but it would likely slow it. And, I would suggest, that pace of gentrification matters, in terms of disruption.

That might help, but I'm not sure the people who are gentrifying EOTR are in the same market as the folks buying a 3 br condo in already affluent areas.

If you're looking to buy EOTR it's because you can get a 4 BR SFH 2.5 miles from the Capitol building for $250k. As the gentrification "terminator" continues to move closer to EOTR, speculators are going to make the same bets on EOTR that they made on "Hill East" in the 00s.

http://www.zillow.com/homedetails/1608-V-St-SE-Washington-DC-20020/525143_zpid/

by oboe on Jul 25, 2013 9:26 am • linkreport

@Nickyp:

I see that you can only buy one if your household income is 40 to 100 percent of the area median. So for the democrats out there that want to make everything fair, how is that fair.

Let's start from the premise that DC should provide some sort of housing subsidy to the extremely poor residents. You could argue for or against this, but it's a pretty mainstream position (public housing, elderly housing, Section 8, etc...).

Having made that policy decision, in a rapidly gentrifying city, there is a tendency towards total bifurcation of income. We see this increasingly in DC. The only people who can live here are the upper middle-class and wealthy, and the very, very poor.

So...DC has an interest in subsidizing housing for working-class residents (i.e. workforce housing). The reason we do this is that economic diversity is a good thing, and contributes to the health of the DC economy. We've got plenty of poor people in DC. We've got plenty of people who make the AMI or above. But there's a "gap" between those to socioeconomic classes.

At least that's the theory behind the affordable housing programs. Whether that's "fair" or not is above my paygrade.

by oboe on Jul 25, 2013 9:33 am • linkreport

@Nickyp:

This town is going in the direction you're either going to have to be rich to afford it or low income to get these maximum income places

If by "low income" you mean "40 to 100 percent of area mean income" as required by the affordable housing development in question, I'm not sure I follow you.

That seems like the very definition of "in between".

by oboe on Jul 25, 2013 9:36 am • linkreport

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