Greater Greater Washington

Will DC's future include the poor?

Sunday's Washington Post Magazine asks the question, "What kind of city does DC want to be?" Unfortunately, it doesn't get at a core issue that is determining what kind of city the District is: the question of who is able to live and flourish there.


Photo by CNHED on Flickr.

Through a series of articles, the magazine considers the issues surrounding how DC is built, connected, and moved. The articles talk about the history of divestment and decay in the District. Starting in the 1970's, DC faced falling population, loss of retail, and rising crime.

As the magazine highlights, DC is clearly at a turning point: retail is returning to downtown, over 1,000 people are moving into DC every month, and people who are homeless are no longer highly visible downtown. What it misses is how the changes that have happened over the last decade have made DC a more difficult place to be poor.

For tens of thousands who lived through the bad times in DC, the good times are not looking much better. DC is one of the most difficult places to afford rent in the nation, so for many long-time residents, DC's boom means having to leave.

Since 2010, DC has lost half of its low-cost housing and the cost of homeownership has risen steeply. At the same time, services for homeless and low income people have been pushed out of easy-to-access areas like Franklin Shelter, and moved to cheaper, far-flung areas. The shelter and its legacy in serving people who are homeless, some of whom still congregate at Franklin Park, was not even mentioned in the article about the park's current and future use.

As the cost of housing rises, it is crucial that the District focus as much on making housing available to all as it does on transportation, green spaces, and retail. Talking about the District without raising the issue of where people will live is to forget that DC's pupusas, half-smokes, and jumbo slices are made by people who also want to live where they work and are vital to the District's success.

The kind of city DC will be rests on a core unexplored question: will we be the kind of city that keeps low income residents in the city, or will become a city solely for those who can afford to pay for it?

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Elizabeth Falcon is the campaign organizer for the Coalition for Nonprofit Housing and Economic Development (CNHED), an association of affordable housing developers, community organizations, government agencies and more in DC. She writes about how policies affect affordable housing at the Housing For All blog. 

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will we be the kind of city that keeps low income residents in the city, or will become a city solely for those who can afford to pay for it?

Before getting too alarmed about the decline in the number of poor people in DC, it's worth pointing out that DC still has a disproportionate share of the region's poor. If poor people are more equally distributed among the jurisdictions, that's not necessarily a bad thing or unfair.

What it misses is how the changes that have happened over the last decade have made DC a more difficult place to be poor.

DC is still the easiest place to be poor in the region. Probably by a pretty wide margin.

by Falls Church on Sep 16, 2013 2:03 pm • linkreport

To answer the last question, I don't see the trajectory of DC's development turning away from the latter.

by Fitz on Sep 16, 2013 2:04 pm • linkreport

I don't know that the question is 'unexplored'. The answer is already available: redevelopment always serves the affluent. Poor folks are moving out / being priced out of the desirable in-town neighborhoods. It should be an existential question for the Smart Growth set, but most people are more interested in the new craft beer spot.

What's the solution then? Increase inclusionary affordable units? To what? 40% of total units? 50%?

by renegade09 on Sep 16, 2013 2:13 pm • linkreport

I think an equally important question is, Will all DC residents ever have a shot at the incredible professional opportunities the city offers outsiders?

Being a place where low income residents can remain isn't particularly aspirational (although it's a great middle-term goal). Why can't DC be a place where more native Washingtonians work their way out of low-income into the middle class? Why should all of the good opportunities go to the 1,000 residents who have to relocate? I want us to aspire to be a city where you can make jumbo slices, live in an affordable apartment, go to a great community college, take advantage of the world-class education DC has to offer but at an affordable price, and then move on from slinging pizza into an actual career.

by Question4You on Sep 16, 2013 2:20 pm • linkreport

Answers from the "smart growth set" (though not all who support growth agree on every issue) include A. IZ and related programs to create guaranteed affordable housing (without segregating the poor) B. Increasing the supply of market rate housing (by easing such restrictions as FAR limits, Height Limits, unreasonable applications of historic preservation, and limits on accessoary units) in order to both directly create more affordable units and to reduce the filtering down of middle class households that displaces the poor C. Improving transit and other transportation options, so that more places are accessible.

And of course all of these need to be pursued in the suburbs as well as in DC. Note the resistance to Residential Studio Units in Fairfax County (and to Medicaid expansion in Va) As Falls Church noted above, DC is still better for the poor than most places around the region. To restrict this to DC alone is an artificial limitation - I am not saying that to excuse DC from the need to deal with the issue, but to suggest that to deal with it strategically, it needs to be viewed regionally.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 16, 2013 2:22 pm • linkreport

"Why can't DC be a place where more native Washingtonians work their way out of low-income into the middle class? "

AFAICT many do. But they tend to move to the suburbs when they do so.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 16, 2013 2:23 pm • linkreport

This is a very important issue, but I agree with Falls Church - DC shouldn't shoulder the burden alone, and avoiding concentration of poverty in one area is the best strategy. I'd love to see a post comparing beltway jurisdictions in this respect. My guess is that we could all do more, but DC is doing more than most.

As a sidenote, better-paying jobs for those who aren't able to go to college would enable more people to pay their own way instead of relying on social services. Makes me wonder why on earth we're welcoming employers like Walmart to the area...

by Eponymous on Sep 16, 2013 2:32 pm • linkreport

This misses a critical fact in urban government finance that has to be addressed. There must be a balance. Rich "gentrifiers" are absolutely necessary for the city to exist, because without rich people to pay property taxes, income taxes, sales taxes, liquor taxes, and all the other taxes and fees, the city has no money to spend on subsidized housing, on food stamps, on low-cost healthcare, on subsidized child care, or anything else.

Everybody loves to beat up on the wealthy newcomers (and my personal favorite - lump in the people who came here poor 20 years ago and have worked their way up the socioeconomic ladder - they get criticized just as much) but the truth of it is it's the fact that we now have more rich people and fewer poor people that we are able to exist as a city at all.

For what happens when the people with money (aka choices about where to live) decide NOT to live in a specific municipality but instead move just outside of it, please see DC circa 1985 or Detroit circa this afternoon.

by ShawGuy on Sep 16, 2013 2:33 pm • linkreport

AWalkerInTheCity - my original comment probably wasn't worded very well. I know plenty of native Washingtonians make good and many more aren't low-income to begin with. There's something incongruous, though, with the city seeing an influx of 1,000 people every month while simultaneously some wards have above-the-national-average poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, educational attainment, etc. It's the same in most metro areas, I'm sure, but I think the difference is particularly stark in DC, probably because, overall, the job market here has performed so well...

by Question4You on Sep 16, 2013 2:41 pm • linkreport

@AWITC
The 'increasing supply' story-- I understand the logic, but this is a pretty tough argument to make. Just how much has supply increased in DC in the last 20 years? How many tens of thousands of new units have been built? And yet, DC is much less affordable now than it was before. I understand that rental rates appear to have plateau-ed recently, but that is likely as much due to sequestration as increased supply. Increasing supply appears to decrease affordability in DC, not increase it.

This is something of a paradox because all things being equal, increased supply should reduce prices. But all things are not equal. As more people move to the city, they support even more good stuff, and make the city even more desirable, further driving up prices. This is a success of Smart Growth, but it doesn't help those of moderate incomes who are priced out. In DC, increased density is not working for the poor. (In Silver Spring, things might arguably be different. But the post is about DC.)

by renegade09 on Sep 16, 2013 2:41 pm • linkreport

I think it's a mix of housing and transportation. While living where you work is a nice goal most people don't. But if you can get from your home to your job and vice versa reliable in less thatn ~45 minutes that is reasonable to my mind. If you look at say 2 bedroom apartments on craigslist under $1000 there are quite a few in the district or just outside of it. Education and employability is of course the other big question mark. I don't think you can really separate any of them out completely.

by BTA on Sep 16, 2013 2:42 pm • linkreport

@renegade09: I think you presented the answer to the "paradox." Do you think that demand has remained constant in that period? If not, why do you think changes in supply have driven changes in prices?

DC prices fell before the boom not because of supply increases, but because demand for housing in most of DC decreased significantly. Why is it hard to believe that demand has shot up since, to the extent that small increases in supply haven't been enough to absorb that additional demand and prevent huge price increases?

by Gray on Sep 16, 2013 2:51 pm • linkreport

I don't know if I've ever come across any good answer for these ontological questions. The city (any city) was and will never have one identity.

Much better to tackle problems as they come up. That way you solve problems and avoid hand wringing about the meaning of it all.

by drumz on Sep 16, 2013 2:56 pm • linkreport

"Increasing supply appears to decrease affordability in DC, not increase it.
This is something of a paradox because all things being equal, increased supply should reduce prices. But all things are not equal. As more people move to the city, they support even more good stuff, and make the city even more desirable, further driving up prices."

I do not believe that greater DC has large numbers of people living on trust funds. I beleive demand for housing does not come amenities, it comes from jobs. Which are mostly independent of housing policy. (its possible amenities draw affluent folks into DC who might otherwise live in the suburbs, but in that case more housing will be available in the suburbs). The reason that supply has not had a greater impact on price is because of demand. Had we not had that supply, the price situation would be worse, and taking away constraints on supply is still an important tool to impact price (if you wish to address it by decreasing employment, that could work too - good luck with that).

I realize some people do not agree with the above logic. Can we agree to disagree on that? Its not that "the smart growth set" has not addressed the problem (and again note, increasing supply is only ONE of the tools popular with smart growthers), its that they do so on the basis of beliefs that some others do not share. I don't think rehashing the argument about whether supply impacts prices will really advance the discussion.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 16, 2013 2:57 pm • linkreport

" (In Silver Spring, things might arguably be different. But the post is about DC.)"

A. As I said above, housing the poor needs to be addressed regionally. The political boundaries are arbitrary
B. Limiting density even further will only make DC even more of a wealthy enclave. for all the claims about density and amenities, in fact gentrification in DC (as in most cities) has normally gone ahead of densification.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 16, 2013 3:00 pm • linkreport

I don't think we can discount that inequality has increased in the city as well which affects housing prices. Assuming supply and demand are kept equal, housing prices will probably go up if the mean income rises. But what happens if the median income doesnt go up as much ie inequality is increasing? I guess you end up with more people that find housing less affordable.

And that is basically what has happened in the country over the past ~50 years. Which is why I personally think raising the minimum wage is an absolutely critical measure to tackle poverty.

It's funny that one thing that surbanization has going for it is that it eased pressure off urban housing markets which is why these issues are starting to crop up more and more now that the trend is reversing.

by BTA on Sep 16, 2013 3:11 pm • linkreport

This misses a critical fact in urban government finance that has to be addressed. There must be a balance. Rich "gentrifiers" are absolutely necessary for the city to exist, because without rich people to pay property taxes, income taxes, sales taxes, liquor taxes, and all the other taxes and fees, the city has no money to spend on subsidized housing, on food stamps, on low-cost healthcare, on subsidized child care, or anything else.

The flip side of it is, DC government officials are generally happy to see poor residents move out of the District (they'll never admit it, but it's true). Low income people use more government services per capita and pay less into the treasury than the people replacing them. As a goverment official, your job gets easier as the demographics shift and you don't have to worry as much about how you're going to pay for social services.

Sure, there are some government efforts to maintain affordable housing and the like in the District, but it's pretty clear where the District is going in terms of who will live here 10 years from now.

by Potowmack on Sep 16, 2013 3:17 pm • linkreport

I understand the logic, but this is a pretty tough argument to make. Just how much has supply increased in DC in the last 20 years? How many tens of thousands of new units have been built? And yet, DC is much less affordable now than it was before.

This isn't asking the right question. You can't ask just if supply has increased, you must ask if it has increased enough relative to demand. And I would argue that no, it has not.

As more people move to the city, they support even more good stuff, and make the city even more desirable, further driving up prices.

I think you miss one key step: greater amenities increases demand, not prices. That increased demand (without the appropriate supply response) is what drives up prices.

Either way, we have demand pressures. Either way, a prerequisite of any planning strategy is that we must grow.

Increasing the allowed density of development won't be a panacea to keep things as they are, but limiting development and density sure as hell won't stop change.

There's also the matter of confusion of scales. Neighborhoods change, but the macro-level perspective is quite clear.

by Alex B. on Sep 16, 2013 3:17 pm • linkreport

@AWITC
I think discussing the effect of new housing is extremely relevant. If the effect of adding that new housing is to drive long-term residents out of the city, then that really ought to impact on policy. Poorer residents must be considered.

When we talk of 'housing the poor regionally', that must not be code for 'uprooting the poor and relocating them to a really crappy development two bus-rides out of town, miles away from where they grew up and where their friends and family ties are'.

I'm only interested in solutions. I tend to think that 30% affordable units in new buildings would be a start.

by renegade09 on Sep 16, 2013 3:22 pm • linkreport

@AlexB
I agree that supply has not kept pace with demand. I just don't know where the cycle ends. Increased density tends to create places that are more fun to live. This increases demand more, fueling a cycle where supply can never keep pace with demand. What's worse is that affluent people are much better at NIMBYism. Developers can displace poor 'blighted' neighborhoods, but once yuppies move in, they will successfully oppose new development with lawyers, guns and money. (OK, maybe not gun.). The circus then moves on to the next neighborhood, displacing disenfranchised poor people there.

by renegade09 on Sep 16, 2013 3:29 pm • linkreport

"AWITC
I think discussing the effect of new housing is extremely relevant. If the effect of adding that new housing is to drive long-term residents out of the city, then that really ought to impact on policy."

But that isnt the effect of new housing. and we have been over that so many times. Like I said, you can agree to disagree. Its not fair to say "the smart growth set" has ignored the issue, just because they do not agree with you.

"When we talk of 'housing the poor regionally', that must not be code for 'uprooting the poor and relocating them to a really crappy development two bus-rides out of town,"

They are being uprooted by gentrification anyway. IF we build enough new density to pull more middle class folks from Class B units, to Class A units, we will create MORE opportunities for the working class than would otherwise exist. Those opportunities may be in MoCo or Alexandria rather than in DC, but they will be less crappy, and more accessible, than what the poor are being force to now.

As for 30% IZ, if that results in very few new units being built, that would mean very little new affordable units. Now if you combined 30% IZ with really massive density bonuses .....

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 16, 2013 3:32 pm • linkreport

You have the homestead act, you have IZ, you have more traditional public housing areas of te city. You have the city spending thousands a day housing people in hotels and such

There is a lot DC is doing to help people who need help housing. Increasing supply is another way. It's working as well.

by drumz on Sep 16, 2013 3:32 pm • linkreport

"Increased density tends to create places that are more fun to live. This increases demand more,"

where do these fun seekers come from? Where would they live otherwise?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 16, 2013 3:33 pm • linkreport

The WaPo articles seem to be specifically about the transformation of downtown DC, which includes more commercial than residential buildings by definition. I personally think that it's great that more people are living in this area now, and it doesn't bother me that rents are ridiculously high in these brand new luxury buildings because it means that people with that kind of money are not competing with me for rentals in neighborhoods further from downtown (i.e. increased demand for housing in the city has driven all rents up in the last 10-15 years). I sympathize with the author's broader point about affordability, but it drives me crazy when people hold up luxury condos near downtown as an example of how the city's housing has become unaffordable.

by grumpy on Sep 16, 2013 3:36 pm • linkreport

I just don't know where the cycle ends. Increased density tends to create places that are more fun to live. This increases demand more, fueling a cycle where supply can never keep pace with demand.

The answer lies in making that development easier. Things like removing parking minimums helps a great deal. Adding more transit lines to increase the area with access to rapid transit is another way to increase the effective supply, for example.

We also need to be wary of collateral damage. You propose 30% of new units being affordable; this will produce a large number of subsidized units, but it will do so at great cost to market-rate units. Driving up the cost of market-rate construction is not a good idea, since that means that only luxury developments will pencil out for developers while the middle-class market segment goes unbuilt.

This isn't to say we should abandon IZ or similar programs, but we need to be very aware of those costs and the implications they have for the broader costs of development.

We also need some help from the region. At the macro scale, it's quite clear that the regions that build a lot of housing have managed to keep housing costs down (Chicago, Houston, among others), and the District can only do so much by themselves.

by Alex B. on Sep 16, 2013 3:38 pm • linkreport

I'm always tired of hearing people whine and whine "what about affordable housing? What about poor people?" When I first moved to DC, I had to count my nickels and dimes on Metro (and even alter my schedule to go off-peak) because that's what I could afford. I got by, I worked hard, and I've been able to advance my career. Through hard work and saving, I was able to buy my place near H Street and couldn't be happier. What kind of city do I want DC to be? I want it to be filled with hard working people who take care of their business and aren't looking for the next handout. I didn't ask for a handout or assistance; I got by using my determination and hard work. For all the people constantly whining about needing a hand out, please leave. If you're an adult stuck making minimum wage and have several mouths to feed, I'm guessing somewhere in the past you could have made better decisions.

by J20002 on Sep 16, 2013 3:38 pm • linkreport

Before getting too alarmed about the decline in the number of poor people in DC, it's worth pointing out that DC still has a disproportionate share of the region's poor. If poor people are more equally distributed among the jurisdictions, that's not necessarily a bad thing or unfair.

Absolutely.

I don't know if I've ever come across any good answer for these ontological questions. The city (any city) was and will never have one identity. Much better to tackle problems as they come up. That way you solve problems and avoid hand wringing about the meaning of it all.

Absolutely +2.

When we talk of 'housing the poor regionally', that must not be code for 'uprooting the poor and relocating them to a really crappy development two bus-rides out of town, miles away from where they grew up and where their friends and family ties are'.

That's been a cornerstone of suburban housing policy for decades, and a large part of the reason the first statement quoted above is true. It's unlikely that surrounding counties are going to start writing DC checks to cover their fair share of caring for the region's poor, so the only thing left is to force the suburbs to take care of actual people, who live in their jurisdictions. This is going to sound insensitive, and perhaps it is, but if you're on the dole, you don't get to be picky about the location.

by dcd on Sep 16, 2013 3:48 pm • linkreport

The poor? DC's future doesn't include federal employees with families. The poor...are you kidding me?

by Redline SOS on Sep 16, 2013 3:49 pm • linkreport

@AWITC
where do these fun seekers come from? Where would they live otherwise?

They come from the 'burbs. DC has 25-35 years of white flight to make up for. Crassly put, white infill has replaced white flight. Displacement has replaced disinvestment.

by renegade09 on Sep 16, 2013 3:49 pm • linkreport

Burbs from other cities then as te suburbs around DC are growing very fast as well

by drumz on Sep 16, 2013 3:57 pm • linkreport

@AlexB
We also need to be wary of collateral damage. You propose 30% of new units being affordable; this will produce a large number of subsidized units, but it will do so at great cost to market-rate units.

I disagree. Units would get more expensive, but that is only because you would be pricing in the cost of the current negative externality (i.e. displacing DC's working poor). To ignore that negative externality is to pretend that there is no problem with displacement of the poor. (To be fair, some of the more ruthless commenters have already expressed that opinion.)

Supply will never match demand in DC because of political considerations...We can't build towers everywhere or even in most places. If supply can't match demand, then regulation is the only way to preserve social diversity.

by renegade09 on Sep 16, 2013 3:58 pm • linkreport

"They come from the 'burbs. DC has 25-35 years of white flight to make up for. Crassly put, white infill has replaced white flight. Displacement has replaced disinvestment."

In which case the new density in DC is lowering demand from what it would otherwise be in the suburbs, and making them more affordable - not only for people from DC, but for the suburban poor. If what you say is true, restricting density in DC would aggravate the regional affordable housing problem. (note it is not up to DC alone to deal with the creation of more market rate units in the region - note that GGW has had many articles about the creating of market rate TOD in places like MoCo, PG, Alexandria, Arlington, and Fairfax)

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 16, 2013 4:01 pm • linkreport

"Units would get more expensive, but that is only because you would be pricing in the cost of the current negative externality (i.e. displacing DC's working poor). "

density does not displace the poor. gentrification does. gentrification came BEFORE densification in Logan Circle, in Columbia Heights, in Capitol Hill, in Old Town Alexandria, as well as in many other parts of other cities.

Ergo, displacing the poor is not an externality of densification. IZ is one way to address the displacement caused by gentrification (note not all movement from gentrifing areas is displacement - some people would leave anyway - and many who leave such areas are lower middle class, not poor)

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 16, 2013 4:05 pm • linkreport

I disagree. Units would get more expensive, but that is only because you would be pricing in the cost of the current negative externality (i.e. displacing DC's working poor). To ignore that negative externality is to pretend that there is no problem with displacement of the poor. (To be fair, some of the more ruthless commenters have already expressed that opinion.)

Who said the alternative was to ignore the problem? And likewise, why is it that the only way to price in that externality is by increasing the cost of new housing?

Supply will never match demand in DC because of political considerations...We can't build towers everywhere or even in most places. If supply can't match demand, then regulation is the only way to preserve social diversity.

Even if we accept that premise, my arugment is that the specific kind of regulation you're proposing isn't without major costs.

There are other ways to create subsidized affordable housing other than just IZ.

And we don't need "towers everywhere" at all (though they probably wouldn't hurt, and there's a strong case to allow towers in many places). Small changes that would be imperceptible to the city's physical environment (like accessory dwelling units) can have a big impact. Likewise, modest changes like by-right walk-up infill apartment buildings in many neighborhoods would be a big plus.

by Alex B. on Sep 16, 2013 4:06 pm • linkreport

I believe that the usual GGW consensus on matters of this nature is to let market forces work. If there is demand for more affordable housing, developers will build it.

by Chris S. on Sep 16, 2013 4:19 pm • linkreport

I believe that the usual GGW consensus on matters of this nature is to let market forces work. If there is demand for more affordable housing, developers will build it.

First, you must define 'affordable housing.'

If you mean housing for the truly poor, then that kind of housing will require a subsidy of some kind.

However, if you're talking about housing for the middle class, then the market can indeed provide more and better options than we have right now.

Commenter Bossi tweeted this once: "I make too much money for affordable housing, but not enough for unaffordable housing."

by Alex B. on Sep 16, 2013 4:22 pm • linkreport

chris s

there is no GGW consensus. Some people who post or comment here think removing constraints on supply is enough, while many people who post or comment here strongly support programs like IZ (in Arlington and Alexandria as well as in DC) or even directly subsidized housing, as well as more market rate housing. And of course those are not the only ways to address it - as has been mentioned above, programs that address the income side of poverty are important as well, and improving transit can mean more housing away from the expensive center is more accessible to employment (as well as enabling the provision of more housing.)

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 16, 2013 4:25 pm • linkreport

I'm surprised that nobody has brought up two enormous forces restricting supply and therefore driving up the cost of housing:

- The height limit

- In many areas (especially those served by transit like Capitol Hill) historic preservation.

This is a classic case of an unpalatable trade-off (at least for some, I would be happy to see both abolished).

But I really wish that those who moan about lack of affordable housing one moment and then scream to protect the height limits and make historic preservation even more onerous the next would acknowledge that their goals are...perhaps in conflict.

JPH

by JPH on Sep 16, 2013 4:40 pm • linkreport

It also depends on what you mean when you say "the poor." There is situational poverty that might be overcome reasonably with a little help, generational poverty which implies a serious deficit of life skills needed to succeed, and mental/physicall illness/disability which can all but preclude many people from acheiving much more than day to day subsistence.

I suspect the first group does reasonably well in the long term at finding adequate housing, but the other two pose many more questions than just affordability.

by BTA on Sep 16, 2013 4:45 pm • linkreport

@AlexB
Even if we accept that premise, my arugment is that the specific kind of regulation you're proposing isn't without major costs.

There are major costs with the status quo too, in terms of displacement. If you think that displacement is a problem (I tend to agree with the OP that it is), then propose a solution.

Who said the alternative was to ignore the problem?

Nobody. But I'm not hearing any other serious solutions to maintaining a socially diverse DC. Transit and new development in the suburbs accepts the reality of displacement. Increasing supply to the extent where it might make a difference is utopian, as political constraints will limit supply increases of the needed magnitude.

There are other ways to create subsidized affordable housing other than just IZ.

I'm listening. Is this going to be something realistic?

by renegade09 on Sep 16, 2013 4:49 pm • linkreport

JPH,

I see it more as either or and personally I'd much rather see the height limit go away than abolish historic districts. Perhaps we should put a moratorium on establishing new historic districts at this point, but I appreciate the existing ones. On the other hand height is especially useful near transit so if anything we should develop new transit districts where more height is encouraged.

by BTA on Sep 16, 2013 4:52 pm • linkreport

"Increasing supply to the extent where it might make a difference is utopian, as political constraints will limit supply increases of the needed magnitude."

To the extent it is utopian, its because some considerable block of people do not accept that increasing supply will impact price. Therefore, changing that view, is part of changing what is possible. And I might add, that proposals to expand IZ face obstacles just as great.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 16, 2013 4:58 pm • linkreport

Nobody. But I'm not hearing any other serious solutions to maintaining a socially diverse DC. Transit and new development in the suburbs accepts the reality of displacement. Increasing supply to the extent where it might make a difference is utopian, as political constraints will limit supply increases of the needed magnitude.

A few things:

Isn't relying on IZ to stop displacement equally utopian?

"Stopping displacement" and "maintaining a socially diverse DC" are not the same thing. There is always some baseline level of churn in any city; there's lots of evidence that gentrification doesn't displace many people, but rather changes who moves in as the regular rate of churn happens over time.

Yes, more transit and more TOD (not necessarily in the suburbs, mind you - in the city, too) 'accepts' some level of growth (which I will re-frame from your use of 'displacement') - and that's precisely the point! Why dismiss this? Part of the problem is in dealing with the pressures of growth, and simply ignoring that pressure won't solve the problem.

I'm listening. Is this going to be something realistic?

Depends on what you define as realistic.

I'd upzone a great deal of the city, allow more by-right development. Eliminate costly barriers to new housing such as on-site parking requirements. Allow more 'soft density' via ADUs and other provisions for small units.

Keep IZ in place, but give options for either creating units or paying into a trust fund. If we need more subsidy to pay for new subsidized units, finance it through tax revenue rather than putting all the cost on new development. Focus affordable housing options on programs that can preserve affordability over the long term, but without some of the administrative headaches of IZ - such as limited equity co-ops, etc. This can help to preserve more affordable housing in place rather than trying to inefficiently force it into new construction.

Just some ideas.

by Alex B. on Sep 16, 2013 5:11 pm • linkreport

What do we consider poor that needs to be explained first and for all. ? Are we talking about a person who makes 10.000, 15.000, 20.000, 30.000 or 40.000 a year

Are we talking about does not work at all or works but does not earn much money ?

Everybody has there own definition of what is considered poor or middle class so states about the poor need to be accompanied with income amounts.

A multimillionaire considers everyone below them poor and the same for people making 50,000 and those below them and so fourth.

------------------------

JPH

The height limit wont due a god damn thing about affordable housing unless affordable housing is anything under $2000.

You could build 20 Burj Khalifa's in DC the rents will all stay the same except for at the Burj Khalifa.

What needs to be done is raising the minimum wage in DC to atleast something where a person who is paid minimum wage could afford an apartment in DC point blank without working two or more jobs for the most basic of apartments

by kk on Sep 16, 2013 5:17 pm • linkreport

Why would we want to keep the poor people? I really don't see any reason why DC should go out of it's way to attract or retain poorer residents. They are more likely to commit crimes and require government assistance.

I don't buy the argument that we owe something to poorer residents who "lived through the bad times". Lets be clear, many of these residents and family members who lived with them are responsible for the bad times.

This is really about race and people wanting blacks to retain power in DC. That's why nobody gets concerned when property values increase in middle class white neighborhoods. The reality is that if all of DC's black and Hispanic residents moved out then DC's crime rate would decline by 85% and the school proficiency rates would increase by 50 percentage points. Those results would be great for DC. I don't want DC to be whites only though. In fact I like the diversity. But I don't see any reason to work to keep people who make DC worse and hog the tax revenue. Gentrification is a good thing and it aught to be encouraged whenever possible. It's good for the city.

by Jeezey on Sep 16, 2013 5:31 pm • linkreport

@ Jeezey

First all poorer people are not more likely to commit crimes wealthy individuals also commit crimes the differences are the type of crimes so dont start that crap.

by kk on Sep 16, 2013 5:54 pm • linkreport

While Jeezy might not have been the most PC about the way he stated it, it is true.

We know what would happen of the over heated gentrification continues, and young, highly educated and well paid people replace the poor, uneducated and unemployed…the result is we look like Arlington, which isn’t exactly a bad thing.

We know what happened with the white flight to the burbs. Its our local history. Population dropped like a stone, DC became the murder capital of the nation, and NE, SE and SW all became heavily blighted places. NW became a bastion of heavy wealth, a ward that was in effect a gated community…gated by wealth and education.

by Huh on Sep 16, 2013 6:23 pm • linkreport

@ Huh

Its not totally true what Jeezey said first all and that needs to be understood.

Crimes comes from everybody it also comes from the poor, middle and wealthy class of all races. Dont just single out one race or class

DUI, jay walking, embezzlement, murder, littering, profantiy (in some places), spitting on the ground (in some places), not wearing a seat belt plus thousands of other things are crimes

Poor does not equal uneducated or unemployed. People work at McDonalds and are poor to some but they are not unemployed.

Having young people is not also a benefit from what you said without speaking of the bad and good of both puts you as a ageist and classiest

by kk on Sep 16, 2013 6:34 pm • linkreport

Jeez…I see the “set up strawmen”” brigade is out enforce.

No one said all black people commit crimes, just like no one said all Asian people are great at math, and yes, people of all races and demographics commit crimes.

Now that we have the strawmen out of the way, reasonable adults with a grasp of historical data can say that yes, until the early 2000’s when certain neighborhoods started being rebuilt from the ground up, the cities crime (off all kinds) was heavily focused in its poorest neighborhoods. Fact. If you think the crime differnetial between 5th and O in Shaw, and Connecticut and Porter in Cleveland Park has nothing to do with demographics, you have a long road to hoe in proving it, or convincing people otherwise.

If you disagree, I suggest a quick perusal through the FBI crime stats, or DC crime map. Both good specific sources ofcrime data.

Lastly, I commend someone taking a job at McD’s if the only other option they have is unemployment, but people who work at McD’s, and who live in the District are poor, and are still a burden on the Districts social services system.

by Huh on Sep 16, 2013 7:01 pm • linkreport

I'm not just talking about crime in DC or the US crime in general across all places.

Crime is crime period it is all against the law what specifically was done should not matter as the person is a criminal no matter what.

I dont care if it was murder, DUI, robbery, rape, embezzlement, cheating on taxes, marijuana, cocaine, taking bribes etc they are all criminals to me and nothing changes that.

For your comment about social services it is not true. When I lost my job about 7 years ago I took a job at McDonalds for about a year; during that time I worked at McDonalds only for about 6 months then I got another job much higher pay while also keeping the McDonalds job and then over the year cutting my hours down at McDonalds

As I needed a job right away I went to a place that I knew would be hiring. Yes it was a significant pay drop but i live within my means and made do (no I did not have extra money just lying around due to medical expenses)and did not take a single penny from social services (i dont believe in accepting welfare or unemployment)even though I could have.

I have lived around wealthy and poor individuals (my moms parents are wealthy and dads were poor and moms parents didn't believe in interracial marriages my mom was disowned) people on both sides are about equal when it comes to ethics and crimes in private.

by kk on Sep 16, 2013 7:28 pm • linkreport

@kk...

you write "The height limit wont due a g*d damn thing about affordable housing unless affordable housing is anything under $2000."

I assume you mean that increasing the height limit will only reduce the monthly rent to less than $2000 / month. Well, actually, I just checked Craig's List and there's already heaps for rent in the District under $2,000.

So...problem solved!

and

"What needs to be done is raising the minimum wage in DC to atleast something where a person who is paid minimum wage could afford an apartment in DC point blank without working two or more jobs for the most basic of apartments."

Well...as Mayor Gray pointed out, the higher the minimum wage the fewer the jobs that employers are going to be willing to create at that rate. Imagine you own a business: are you really going to hire a high school graduate at $30 / hour with full benefits? Really? How are you going to make any money?

So, even if you do raise the minimum wage to something super-high, the people that you are trying to help won't be helped because nobody can afford to pay them that wage. How does that help anybody?

As for working two or more jobs, I've worked two and three jobs at a time. Nothing wrong with that.

And I certainly don't feel entitled to having an apartment that somebody else is willing to pay more for. It's not fair to the property owner and it's not fair to the person willing to pay for it.

Why is it that some people keep proposing more regulation to solve the problems that the first round of regulation created?

JPH

by JPH on Sep 16, 2013 8:35 pm • linkreport

I dont care if it was murder, DUI, robbery, rape, embezzlement, cheating on taxes, marijuana, cocaine, taking bribes etc they are all criminals to me and nothing changes that.

I hesitate to jump in here, but this is just silly.

Urban crime was a national tragedy in the late 80s and early 90s--and arguably no place was worse than DC. And it wasn't DUIs and embezzlement that were tearing DC communities apart. It was drug-related shootings and other violent crimes.

All crime may be illegal, but if there are bullets flying down my street because my neighbor is running a drug distribution operation, that affects me in a very direct way. If my neighbor is cheating on his taxes, it's a bit less immediate. So let's leave aside the sophistry about "crime is crime."

by oboe on Sep 16, 2013 8:52 pm • linkreport

Great article Falcon!

Back to the question of the supply of housing: There are a couple of tiers of housing supply in the District and developers, on balance, aren't building the kind most people can afford. Why not? Because they can make a lot more money building what most folks consider unaffordable housing. There are a lot of ways to address this: more, better transit, updating the rent control law, higher IZ ratios, better targeting of gov't tax incentives, zoning changes (like allowing significantly more by-right accessory dwellings, corner stores, etc - and zoning out destructive uses - e.g. Wal-Mart), and better use of public land.

by bobumd on Sep 16, 2013 8:56 pm • linkreport

Just want to agree with Alex B' post. Obviously we want to have a city in which all economic groups are represented. That's different from what many of the housing nonprofits are arguing, which is essentially that anyone who wants to live in DC should have access to housing--and if they can't afford it, it should be subsidized. And that's just not realistic.

Really, if we're going to play SimCity and actively manage the mix of socioeconomic classes in the city, the group that is really underrepresented in DC is working class and the middle of the middle-class. (Say a family of 3 making $60k). But as the @Bossi quote from above highlighted, there's really no one who's advocating for that...

by oboe on Sep 16, 2013 9:01 pm • linkreport

From the Housing For All blog:

At CNHED we believe that all District residents deserve housing at a price they can afford.

Sorry, but "no". If you replace "District residents" with "US residents" then I'd agree, but a policy of "anyone who wants to live in DC will be provided housing at a price they can afford" is so wrong it borders on nonsensical.

by oboe on Sep 16, 2013 9:21 pm • linkreport

@ JPH
I only propose something that would make it so that workers could live in DC. I did not say they best apartment or anything just in DC. I'am saying that most people by the attitudes and what is said here this site that many would consider $2000 to be affordable when it is truly not and so where near it.
There should be more apartments priced between $700 to $1500 price range which would really be affordable. They could be those micro units that many on here seem to love or 1 bedrooms. But in 95% of DC you will not find that and if you do it is with a slumlord.
I have also looked on craigslist to help others find apartments and a good amount of them are between $1500 and $2000 and the ones cheaper are usually slumlords
A person making minimum wage would not be able to afford an apartment in DC without working 2, 3 or 4 jobs and a roommate. If a person is pursuing higher education all of this goes out of the window and issues are increased with paying tuition, rent, transportation and food.

At minimum wage no one working in DC could afford an apartment in DC anywhere; and in reality they probably couldn't afford one in Arlington, Alexandria or eastern FFC Virginia or in Montgomery or Prince George's Counties in Maryland and afford the bus or train fare into DC (low paying jobs don’t give transit benefits; I also bet the majority of people on here don’t pay out of pocket for transit fare) The fare for transit could be up to almost $6 each way (rail fare) paid out of pocket out of a low wage (most buses between DC & VA don’t run outside of white collar business hours and commuting times (6am-7pm)
Considering pay wage I never said $30 but may $15 and give developers tax benefits for apartments that are priced lower than $1400 in new developments. I would give transit benefits
Also if one cannot make business due to other side issues be it regulations, competition (which has been claimed about Wal-Mart, Target, & BestBuy) then they need to operate in a different market or price their products accordingly. Wages have risen many times since 1940 and businesses have done ok, moved or gone out of business. That can be done now. If you cannot than you simply should not be in business. Minimum wages are higher in other places in the USA and abroad and businesses do fine.
I have been poor as well as being wealthy growing up and understand both sides of the issue probably far better than others posting in here.
When it comes to welfare and or similar stuff (since this is spoke about I’ll address it before anyone else decides to hit me with that) I would start over with the system and kick everybody off that does not at least have a part-time job or pursuing higher education anyone sitting on their ass does not deserve anything I don’t care if you have children you chose to have them (unless you were raped) but if they are working or going to college and need help ok they MAY (case by case) deserve it.

by kk on Sep 16, 2013 9:22 pm • linkreport

@kk
You're right that nobody working on a minimum wage can live in a decent neighborhood in DC or the surrounding area. However, if you increase the minimum wage in the absence of competition in the rental market, landlords will just jack up rents to soak up the extra dollars. It will be no easier for working people to get a place to live, but you will have made it harder for a small business owner to set up a store, bar, or restaurant to provide services to the local population.

What we need is far more homes. But let's be realistic about how many more homes would be necessary to get widespread rents of $700-$1,500. I am going to go out there and guess that we would need to double the supply of available housing units in the District to get a housing market where those kinds of rents would be available. And that is not going to happen. Which is why we must either do more to regulate the supply of housing to lower-income citizens, or accept displacement. My guess is the latter is what we'll get.

by renegade09 on Sep 16, 2013 9:57 pm • linkreport

The article, like most things in the Post, reflects a rather profound ignorance about the city that comes from people who either aren't from here or are just lazy and responsive to their friend's anecdotes.

The "market" is unlikely to create affordable housing as long as land is expensive and demand remains strong. The most recent downward pressure on prices came when the bottom fell out of the mortgage market. The last downward swing before that was in then 90s; it was more sustained and reflected incompetent management of the city, rising crime rates (at a time when crime was starting its downswing in places like NYC), and the threat of massive government cutbacks. There's likely to be a point where the current mortgage market becomes unsustainable and the various parlor games played in Congress may ultimately have an effect, as well. Even in the 90s, gentrification continued, although the pace had slowed, esp. where early speculation had poisoned the market, as in the green line corridor.

One factor missed here is demographic. DC's gentrification actually began long ago, first with Georgetown, then with the rediscovery of places like Woodley Park and Cleveland Park, which had been redlined in the 50s, but still middle class. Then there was Dupont followed by Adams Morgan, and from the early 60s onward. Many of these places are aging and the current property values in much of them may be unsustainable, given the rising cost of everything else. Property may slowly enter the market as it has in areas that turned over during white flight, such as Brookland and areas close to Petworth, but if it begins to turnover more quickly and languish, then there may be downward significant downward pressure on prices, particularly if places East of the River show more gentrification and begin to draw white as well as black buyers, but remain relative bargains.

by Rich on Sep 16, 2013 10:24 pm • linkreport

I agree with oboe. I realize that Ms. Falcon and CNHED have have convinced themselves that everyone who wants to live in DC should be able to live in DC at any burden to DC taxpayers. Given that someone is paying them to promote that mission, I can understand the sentiments of this post. But common sense and the history of the world says that prices for housing will reflect the desirability of the location and its proximity to jobs (among a few, less important factors). And if we want DC to be a desirable place, with well-paying jobs, then by extension we want DC to be an expensive place. CNHED may want to honestly reassess their goals and come up with something that does not cheerlead for that which has never been possible, and perhaps not even desirable.

by Dno on Sep 16, 2013 10:54 pm • linkreport

I look forward to the day the last bums are run out of Franklin, McPhereson, and Farragut, along with those that feed them. Let the homeless live in Fairfax shelters or in the bedrooms of those that feed them.

by No Bums on Sep 16, 2013 11:00 pm • linkreport

I'm a little confused as to why anyone would want to keep these poor people around. They seem to come with a lot of other problems. Lack of education, crime, substance abuse, etc. Also, many are just unemployed and living on government assistance. If you don't have a job do you really need to be in the city? No, you are just getting in the way of people who are here working. Every 'affordable housing unit' we set aside for some bum is one less unit on the market for the middle class working man. If your only 'job' is walking to the mailbox to pick up your government check go out to the sticks somewhere where land is cheap. You don't belong here.

by Doug on Sep 17, 2013 2:36 am • linkreport

I'm a little confused as to why anyone would want to keep these poor people around. They seem to come with a lot of other problems. Lack of education, crime, substance abuse, etc.

Probably a little something called compassion or concern for your fellow person? I guess societal responsibility is out of fashion.

I agree with oboe that DC policy can't be to house everyone in the metro area at whatever price they can afford to pay. At the same time there are benefits to living in the city for low-income people: centrality means easier and usually cheaper access to jobs. Unfortunately in DC and many other cities around the country, finances of the city are divorced from the finances of the surrounding areas that benefit greatly from the city.

by MLD on Sep 17, 2013 8:33 am • linkreport

This thread is starting to feel distinctly heartless, did someone link it to Popville or something?

by BTA on Sep 17, 2013 8:44 am • linkreport

Part of the problem is the unrealistically low minimum wage. It has plummeted relative to it's purchasing power of 20-30 years ago. You simply can't live on the wage today without having three jobs, so then who's raising the kids... we all know who.

Another part of the problem is not planning for more mixed housing types within one area. When you look at demographic maps of 100 years ago, when segregation was strictly enforced, you'd find blacks and whites living with-in blocks of eachother through out the city. Of course the blacks lived in alleys and nrun down neighborhoods, but the lesson is worth studying. Back then the blacks who did the menial jobs for white society they had to be in close proximity of eachother to be able to walk to do the work. Today with cars and zoning it's easier and more comfortable to push the poor out and still get services. Of course, not having positive role models in poor communities makes it much harder for poor kids to pull themselves out of poverty. Allow for more alley dwellings, apartments above stores and density bonuses for a variety of housing types and sizes and I think you'll end up with more economic integration.

All this being said, the fact that DC is improving is something that should be celebrated. The breaking up of large concentrated poor neighborhoods in the inner city is a wonderful thing, not only for people who want to move through a city unharmed, but to the poor who's landscape was nothing but sorrow and failure. Howmuch this can be "engineered" is open for debate, but from one who remembers well the "no go zones" of the 1980's, it's a welcome change.

by Thayer-D on Sep 17, 2013 8:48 am • linkreport

"This thread is starting to feel distinctly heartless, did someone link it to Popville or something? "

I live in Fairfax. I have a hard time asking DC to do more given what Va does. And Fairfax County, when it tries to do more, gets so much pushback from its residents. http://annandaleva.blogspot.com/2013/09/mason-district-council-urges-rsus-to-be.html

Plus what thayer says. Poverty needs to be addressed at primarily at the national level.

Diversity of incomes is probably good. But why is diversity by jurisdiction so good, unless its a matter of sharing burdens? The DC of 20 years ago did not have many neighborhoods where the poor lived with the affluent. It had a few affluent areas, many poor areas, and some mixed areas. Its not clear to me that having poor people on H Street did anything to make live in Friendship Heights more diverse. I appreciate the need to slow displacement to limit the costs to the poor of disruption to social networks, but thats different from an argument that DC should permanently have a higher pct of poor than the suburbs do.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 17, 2013 9:17 am • linkreport

Breakfast links?
I need my fix, man. I need my fix.

by Chris on Sep 17, 2013 9:20 am • linkreport

Some of these comments are so awful I have trouble believing that people aren't making them in jest. It's actually scary to think that I live in the same vicinity as people who would have these thoughts and express them. Cruelty and selfishness can plague a city as much as poverty and crime.

by Question4You on Sep 17, 2013 9:29 am • linkreport

I think the fifth paragraph should read, since "2000" not "2010"

by AubreyO on Sep 17, 2013 9:35 am • linkreport

"Increasing the supply of market rate housing (by easing such restrictions as FAR limits, Height Limits, unreasonable applications of historic preservation, and limits on accessoary units) in order to both directly create more affordable units and to reduce the filtering down of middle class households that displaces the poor."

Ah, yes, the effects of gentrification will be solved, if we just make it easier (and ever more profitable) for developers to build luxury housing and class A office space faster, higher and denser. This is simply a crock of ..., well, red herring. Talk about trying to hijack an issue to further one's underlying agenda. It's about as intellectually honest as the argument that the problem of mass gun violence will be solved if we just make more powerful guns more available.

by Sally on Sep 17, 2013 9:40 am • linkreport

"Ah, yes, the effects of gentrification will be solved, if we just make it easier (and ever more profitable) for developers to build luxury housing and class A office space faster, higher and denser. "

Possibly not solved, but ameliorated. I don't think any one tool can solve the problem.

and it would specifically be residential development that would help, not office space.

And note, as for hijacking - I was merely responding to someone above who thought that "the smart growth set" had neglected this issue.

as fo rgun violence, I do not see the relationship. Guns kill. More guns, would, naively, seem to mean more violence (but please lets not get into that) Housing, houses people. More housing does not, naively, mean less people housed. To get to that result you need some model (hi rises draw amenities which draw the affluent) thats at least as complex as any simple supply and demand model. I think its fair to challenge the models that seem to imply spontaneous generation of Yuppies.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 17, 2013 9:47 am • linkreport

It's about as intellectually honest as the argument that the problem of mass gun violence will be solved if we just make more powerful guns more available.

Speaking of red herrings - the two arguments are based on entirely different concepts, regardless of what you think of their merits.

Ah, yes, the effects of gentrification will be solved, if we just make it easier (and ever more profitable) for developers to build luxury housing and class A office space faster, higher and denser.

Let's see, which will lead to more affordable housing:
1. Not building enough class A housing to meet demand, so that people who want to (and have the money to) live in new class A housing in DC have to move to older housing.
2. Building enough class A housing to meet demand, meaning fewer people will be competing over older housing.

You really think building LESS housing will mean cheaper prices than building MORE housing? Please explain how that works.

by MLD on Sep 17, 2013 9:51 am • linkreport

Cruelty and selfishness can plague a city as much as poverty and crime.

True, cruelty and selfishness have caused problems in DC in the last few decades. But said cruelty and selfishness was coming from the same people who were responsible for the violent crime during that period.

The more well-off residents of DC have paid many billions in dollars in taxes to try and alleviate the social pathologies of the poorer residents. They're not the bad guys here for preferring to see DC's demographics change to hold a higher percentage of law-abiding, tax-paying people.

by Potowmack on Sep 17, 2013 9:51 am • linkreport

@BTA "This thread is starting to feel distinctly heartless, did someone link it to Popville or something?"

This is one of those topics the community leans conservative on.

by Chris S. on Sep 17, 2013 9:56 am • linkreport

This is one of those topics the community leans conservative on.

Not sure why you keep insisting on this idea that "the community" has some monolithic opinion. Read the comments - lots of different and dissenting opinions here. Not to mention the fact that a large portion of the "conservative" opinions appear to be from people who comment here infrequently.

I consider myself part of this "community" and do not hold those "conservative" positions.

by MLD on Sep 17, 2013 10:00 am • linkreport

"They're not the bad guys here for preferring to see DC's demographics change to hold a higher percentage of law-abiding, tax-paying people."

Im not going to judge DC's optimal demographics, but I will point out that many poor people are law abiding (and some affluent people are not) and that all poor people pay sales taxes, and employed poor people pay SS taxes, and they often directly or indirectly (via rent) pay property taxes.

"This is one of those topics the community leans conservative on."

"the community"?? the folks posting the things BTA is referring to are not regular commenters here, AFAICT. many regular commenters, including ones generally supportive of smart growth, transit, biking, etc are quite supportive of IZ and other policies to maintain socioeconomic diversity in DC and other jurisdictions.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 17, 2013 10:01 am • linkreport

In fact I sometimes suspect that certain over the top posts are in fact "false flag" attempts to influence the view of "the community". I don't know that for sure, but its something to contemplate before charecterizing "the community"

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 17, 2013 10:03 am • linkreport

I wasn't referring to you AWITC. More so the people that seem to think the poor should be picked up curbside along with the trash.

by BTA on Sep 17, 2013 10:08 am • linkreport

@BTA,

Never seen any of these "conservative" commenters before, and they seem to be pretty over-the-top without adding much to the dialogue. As @MLD said, it's likely they're either trying to intentionally discredit GGW...or doing it unintentionally.

by oboe on Sep 17, 2013 10:19 am • linkreport

Yes I realize that's very possible. None of them seem to be regulars which is why I suspect the article was linked to some other forum.

by BTA on Sep 17, 2013 10:21 am • linkreport

The more the merrier. Smart growth ideas need to be able to withstand scrutiny from every ideological bent. How it responds to criticism will only improve its output.

by Thayer-D on Sep 17, 2013 10:58 am • linkreport

@Falls Church

"DC is still the easiest place to be poor in the region. Probably by a pretty wide margin."

Not true. The cost of living is lower in places like PG Co., Charles Co., Stafford Co., etc. Plus the median home price is lower in Fairfax City and Mont. Co.

by Burd on Sep 17, 2013 11:31 am • linkreport

An interesting discussion so far, but since the issue is so complicated with many unknowns, it is mostly theoretical.

Eliminate costly barriers to new housing such as on-site parking requirements.

I think the reality of new development in this city has showed us that most of the time, developers do not pass these cost savings on to consumers in the form of lower prices or cheaper rent unless they are legally required to.

Ironically much of the new development built with little or no parking is specifically upmarket.

by Scoot on Sep 17, 2013 11:46 am • linkreport

"I think the reality of new development in this city has showed us that most of the time, developers do not pass these cost savings on to consumers in the form of lower prices or cheaper rent unless they are legally required to."

Unless you have done a statistical study showing the impact of such changes on the prevailing market price, I dont know how the reality would have shown you that.

"Ironically much of the new development built with little or no parking is specifically upmarket."

Since new development tends to be pricey, and the places where its makes the most sense to build with little or no parking are central locations with good transit and good walkability, and such places are currently in intense demand, its not the least bit surprising, ironic or not.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 17, 2013 11:50 am • linkreport

Unless you have done a statistical study showing the impact of such changes on the prevailing market price, I dont know how the reality would have shown you that.

I welcome such a study.

by Scoot on Sep 17, 2013 12:02 pm • linkreport

Unless you have done a statistical study showing the impact of such changes on the prevailing market price, I dont know how the reality would have shown you that.

I thought most people eventually agreed after one of the big debates on the subject that the only way that the savings get passed on to the consumers is if it leads to a noticeable increase in inventory. So I don’t think it’s wrong to say that the developers won’t pass the savings on to customers, but I suppose your argument is that removing minimums will increase inventory to the extent that there’s a noticeable change in rents (not something I’m convinced of).

by Chatham on Sep 17, 2013 12:13 pm • linkreport

as far as I can tell most research on the impact of parking minimums has been on housing construction costs, on density, and on vehicle ownership. I don't know that anyone has specifically addressed rents apart from costs, as the relationship of cost and price is not that controversial in the economics literature. And of course we would have lots of confounding factors - like the fact that changes in parking minimums are often proposed in precisely the places where housing is in greatest demand. But by all means, go fund such a study. I am all for that.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 17, 2013 12:19 pm • linkreport

Also, if you are mostly concerned about for profit developers not passing on cost decreases, would you support the abolition of parking minimums for non profits? IIUC they are also constrained by parking minimums.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 17, 2013 12:21 pm • linkreport

"DC is still the easiest place to be poor in the region. Probably by a pretty wide margin."

Not true. The cost of living is lower in places like PG Co., Charles Co., Stafford Co., etc. Plus the median home price is lower in Fairfax City and Mont. Co.

I might give you PG county. While the median home price is lower in Fairfax/Mo Co., your cost of transportation is higher. Second, the median price in Mo Co is actually a little lower than DC. Third, poor people aren't buying median priced homes. They're renting low-end apartments and there are proportionally more of those in DC than MoCo/Fairfax.

You also have to look at things other than the cost of housing. The social services are much more generous in DC than VA. They're somewhat more generous than MD. For example, if you don't have health insurance, it's far cheaper and easier to get it in DC than VA because the DC government has various programs and subsidies for the uninsured. DC also spends a lot more per capita on affordable housing program and other social services.

by Falls Church on Sep 17, 2013 12:22 pm • linkreport

I mean you can impose other fees on developers though like say mandatory contributions to transit trust funds etc. No reason it has to be parking. The example used previously was whether or not they should make pools a mandatory amenity.

by BTA on Sep 17, 2013 12:30 pm • linkreport

DC is probably best for individuals/smaller families. You can get a bus pass for $64 a month and if you go really cheap maybe find a room/split an apartment for $500/month. You could probably do the same in say Fairfax but your standard of living in terms of access to goods and services would be higher in the district. If you are talking a big family it might be cheaper in the far burbs but transportation would become increasingly difficult.

by BTA on Sep 17, 2013 12:34 pm • linkreport

I don't know that anyone has specifically addressed rents apart from costs, as the relationship of cost and price is not that controversial in the economics literature.

Right, and the relationship happens through change in supply. We had a long debate about parking minimums last time, and eventually everyone (some begrudgingly) admitted that. If demand is the same, and supply is the same, cost will remain the same.

Also, if you are mostly concerned about for profit developers not passing on cost decreases, would you support the abolition of parking minimums for non profits? IIUC they are also constrained by parking minimums.

My position is:

1. Underground parking is beneficial to the city overall, though perhaps not a particularly great benefit.

2. I don’t think that DC is developing too slowly, so I don’t see any particularly benefit from a more rapid pace of development.

3. Since I don’t think of parking minimums as being a particularly great benefit to the community, I would like to see them replaced or modified with something that’s more beneficial to the city – affordable housing, zip cars, RPP-free buildings, etc. But removing them and getting no particular benefit (again, in my opinion) seems like a net loss, even if it’s not a huge one.

by Chatham on Sep 17, 2013 12:37 pm • linkreport

Also, if you are mostly concerned about for profit developers not passing on cost decreases, would you support the abolition of parking minimums for non profits? IIUC they are also constrained by parking minimums.

Who said that is what I am "mostly concerned about"? I'm fine with removing the parking minimums for non-profit developers but I doubt this will really lead to much, if any, reduction in housing prices. You are free to disagree.

by Scoot on Sep 17, 2013 12:42 pm • linkreport

I mean you can impose other fees on developers though like say mandatory contributions to transit trust funds etc. No reason it has to be parking.

I agree, I would like to see them changed. I’m not in favor of the city unilaterally disarming, however.

by Chatham on Sep 17, 2013 12:45 pm • linkreport

I agree, I would like to see them changed. I’m not in favor of the city unilaterally disarming, however.

That's fair and probably a wise position to take.

by BTA on Sep 17, 2013 12:50 pm • linkreport

I'd like to consider the 'supply' question another way...

If we believe the hypothesis that increasing supply will eventually help the working class in DC find affordable housing, then theoretically the neighborhoods in DC where supply has increased the most will also be the neighborhoods that are most affordable. Neighborhoods where supply has not increased will have less affordability.

Let's consider Columbia Heights, where mighty apartment and condo towers replaced surface parking lots and wasteland. Is there any indication that the area has more affordability? No there is not. However, there are lots of GS13s sipping craft beer, instead of homeless dudes drinking 40s.

Let's consider Deanwood, where I haven't heard of any new development. You can get a 1-bed there for $700.

But if we double down on densification and redevelopment, that will bring more affordability?? What exactly is this based on? Evidence or dogma? At what point do we say 'hang on-all this redevelopment is driving our working class out of town, maybe we need to think differently'.

by renegade09 on Sep 17, 2013 1:14 pm • linkreport

"'DC is still the easiest place to be poor in the region. Probably by a pretty wide margin.'"

"Not true. The cost of living is lower in places like PG Co., Charles Co., Stafford Co., etc. Plus the median home price is lower in Fairfax City and Mont. Co."

I might give you PG County

Prince Georges County has a poverty rate of 9%, which is less than DC's poverty rate of 15%. But looking only at the portion of PG inside the Beltway and east of the Anacostia River, PG's poverty rate approaches 20%.

Prince George's has 8 census tracts with poverty rates greater than 20%, one with a rate of 40%. Those racts have a combined population of about 350,000. By comparison, Prince William and Fairfax each have one such tract and other suburban jurisdictions, none.

Per capita income in Prince George's County is about $30,000 compared with $40,000 in the District of Columba.

Roughly speaking, Prince George's County carries the same level of a burden as the District of Columbia, and indeed PG County has almost certainly provided the largest amount of affordable housing to lower income people who relocate from the District.

by JimT on Sep 17, 2013 1:15 pm • linkreport

"I'd like to consider the 'supply' question another way...
If we believe the hypothesis that increasing supply will eventually help the working class in DC find affordable housing, then theoretically the neighborhoods in DC where supply has increased the most will also be the neighborhoods that are most affordable."

No, that does not follow. The submarkets are linked. In fact the places where there is the most new supply are those where prices are highest, because thats where it is most profitible to build, thanks to high demand. The empirical relationship is the opposite of what you suggest and whats more that is exactly what we would expect based on the demand and supply model you question.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 17, 2013 1:23 pm • linkreport

" What exactly is this based on? Evidence or dogma? " Its based on theory and on empirical evidence of how housing markets work.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 17, 2013 1:24 pm • linkreport

@AWITC
The submarkets are linked. In fact the places where there is the most new supply are those where prices are highest, because thats where it is most profitible to build, thanks to high demand

What you write is true, but does nothing to invalidate my earlier observations. Increased supply in DC has always brought with it displacement. I consider that a negative externality that ought to be priced in. Other commenters see it as a perk.

by renegade09 on Sep 17, 2013 1:47 pm • linkreport

I might give you PG county. While the median home price is lower in Fairfax/Mo Co., your cost of transportation is higher. Second, the median price in Mo Co is actually a little lower than DC. Third, poor people aren't buying median priced homes. They're renting low-end apartments and there are proportionally more of those in DC than MoCo/Fairfax.

This argument of "where is it easiest for poor people to live" has an uncomfortable circularity to it: Let's have all the region's poor live in Anacostia, because that's where the least expensive apartments are. And look! That's where they all live. So what's the problem?

by oboe on Sep 17, 2013 1:52 pm • linkreport

. Increased supply in DC has always brought with it displacement.

And severely limiting new supply (with, say, a historic district) has also brought displacement.

Some general conclusions:

1. Some level of displacement is natural - such is the natural churn of the population. Merely observing a shift in an area's demographics does not necessarily mean there's been more people leaving than usual.

2. The pressures on neighborhood change stem from demand. The new supply you see is a symptom of that demand and the positive feedback from it.

by Alex B. on Sep 17, 2013 2:05 pm • linkreport

But the question is without the new development how many of those currently affordable neighborhoods would be gentrified. Also it's not true that all long time residents have been kicked out of Columbia Heights. Many people are still around and many new residents are in new buildings, without which might have considered moving into older ones putting more pressure on those residents. New units are just as much about keeping pressure off old ones and keeping prices reasonable.

by BTA on Sep 17, 2013 2:12 pm • linkreport

"Since 2010, DC has lost half of its low-cost housing and the cost of homeownership has risen steeply."

Elizabeth - based on the DCFPI report, DC has lost half of its low cost housing since 2000 (rather than 2000).

Interesting article!

Take care,
Chris

by Kristofferson on Sep 17, 2013 2:15 pm • linkreport

Demographics are misleading. For example a lot of the gentrification is a discussion of white people displacing black people in DC but if you look at the demographics the black population has been going down starting between the 1970 and 1980 census (and not insignificantly we are talking about 100,000) while the white population was still going down as well which indicates to me something more than just gentrification is clearly at play.

by BTA on Sep 17, 2013 2:16 pm • linkreport

@AlexB
Are you saying that the current rate of displacement of working class DC residents is nothing to worry about? Or that there is nothing we can do to prevent displacement? That seems far too complacent! Is it not possible for Smart Growth to create great places, increase the tax base, reduce carbon-based transportation AND make rents more affordable for folks on minimum wage?

For those that haven't done so, I'd encourage you to look at the DCFPI report linked to by the OP: http://www.dcfpi.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/5-7-12-Housing-and-Income-Trends-FINAL.pdf

by renegade09 on Sep 17, 2013 2:22 pm • linkreport

Are you saying that the current rate of displacement of working class DC residents is nothing to worry about?

No, I am not.

Or that there is nothing we can do to prevent displacement?

No, I am not. I am saying that putting up barriers to new development is definitely not the answer you're looking for, however.

Is it not possible for Smart Growth to create great places, increase the tax base, reduce carbon-based transportation AND make rents more affordable for folks on minimum wage?

Sure, I think all four of those things are possible with smart growth - but I want to point out that none of them directly address your stated concern about displacement.

by Alex B. on Sep 17, 2013 2:29 pm • linkreport

If you're a minimum wage renter in DC, your heart must sink when you see a shiny new, mixed-use apartment building going up around the corner. You know that you'll never live in that building. You won't be able to afford the $8 craft beer. And pretty soon, you'll be getting a letter from your landlord saying that your rent is going up.

Time to start looking for a new place. But 50% of the affordable housing units have disappeared. (I wonder where they went?) So maybe it's time to move out of town. Now you're looking at a 2x longer commute time, and probably extra transportation costs. The nice parks you used to walk in for free at the weekend are now a bus-ride away.

by renegade09 on Sep 17, 2013 2:36 pm • linkreport

The only possible solution to my mind is new development and more affordable housing programs, neither alone is the answer in the long run. I think saying no new development is the equivalent of sticking your head in the sand. Might seem reassuring, but in the long run it's not going to prevent new people from moving to the city and they are just going to keep heading east. I also think it's clear that the minimum wage is too low in the city though I do understand the argument that proximity to VA and MD make it a complicated matter.

by BTA on Sep 17, 2013 2:41 pm • linkreport

@BTA
he solution is to link new development and more affordable housing using a 30% IZ mandate. That way the cost of potential displacement is priced in, and new development works for all socioeconomic classes. It really is that simple.

by renegade09 on Sep 17, 2013 2:54 pm • linkreport

" But 50% of the affordable housing units have disappeared. (I wonder where they went?) "

rented or bought by folks who were relatively affluent but who couldn't afford new units, because we have decided to limit new units, in order to "spread the wealth to more neighborhoods".

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 17, 2013 3:00 pm • linkreport

he solution is to link new development and more affordable housing using a 30% IZ mandate. That way the cost of potential displacement is priced in, and new development works for all socioeconomic classes. It really is that simple.

Except that if you put the IZ tax too high, then all you're doing is raising the luxury rent that developers have to charge to get things to pencil out. They can't then produce market-rate units for a reasonable price because their costs are too high - which limits the amount of new supply, still facing that strong demand.

The result? You see market-rate affordable rents from class B apartments trickle up. In other words, you haven't solved the problem - you might have even helped make it worse. It certainly does not work for all socio-economic classes (I again go back to Bossi's quote: "I make too much for affordable housing, but not enough for unaffordable housing.")

This isn't to say that the goal of producing or preserving that amount of housing is a bad one, but putting the entire burden of paying for it on new development alone is a severe cost with large consequences. Justifying it as correcnt an externality is wrong, because the new development isn't the sole cause of that externality.

If you wanted to subsidize that housing instead with a broader based revenue stream, that would be different. Either way, the path forward involves responding to this strong demand with growth of some kind.

by Alex B. on Sep 17, 2013 3:04 pm • linkreport

what if one were to create an affordable housing fund by taxing all properties worth more than, say, $400 per square foot, whether they were old or new?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 17, 2013 3:14 pm • linkreport

I must be missing something but what does parking have to do with the poor. If you are poor you most likely can not afford a damn car. That is a moot point; there are hundreds of buildings in DC that do not have parking all over SE and NE so why is this just an issue now but not 10, 20 or 30 years ago.

For people suggesting PG County, or other places you are all forgetting one big issue the transit in these areas. Many of the poor work outside of business hours 9-5 Monday thur Friday; almost all low end jobs are more than just weekdays but also weekends where the public transportation almost everywhere outside of DC sucks; PG County, Fairfax County, upper Montgomery County,and central parts of Alexandria city and Arlington County that are not near Metrorail come to mind.

You can not address pushing people to Maryland or Virginia without addressing the transportation issue first otherwise the poor that currently work will not be able to get to their place of employment.

Out of curiosity how many people on here have every been poor, used medicaid/medicare(who is not elderly), foodstamps/ebt, welfare or any other assistance or used public transit because they had to (not including broken arms, leg etc)not because they wanted to ? A person that has not been poor can not help solve the issues of the poor because they are out of touch with the problems and have never experience them.

by kk on Sep 17, 2013 4:24 pm • linkreport

what if one were to create an affordable housing fund by taxing all properties worth more than, say, $400 per square foot, whether they were old or new?

Sounds pretty good, but I still like IZ because it maintains social diversity on a per-block basis. I also think expanded IZ is a potential bargaining chip to build a stronger political consensus for increasing housing supply, even if it does make the financials more difficult for that new development. An affordable housing fund also sounds like the sort of thing that gets raided the moment the city hits any kind of economic speed-bump.

by renegade09 on Sep 17, 2013 4:36 pm • linkreport

"Sounds pretty good, but I still like IZ because it maintains social diversity on a per-block basis. "

You could do the same thing with an AH fund, by buying/renting in the new developments.

"I also think expanded IZ is a potential bargaining chip to build a stronger political consensus for increasing housing supply, even if it does make the financials more difficult for that new development."

IE its political blackmail. Thats fine, as long as its not too high. Right now there is a lot of new supply happening. I dont think going from 20% to 30% buys you a lot more - the folks who hate new development mostly still will. In fact some affluent homehowners who oppose it might oppose it all the more with a higher IZ.

" An affordable housing fund also sounds like the sort of thing that gets raided the moment the city hits any kind of economic speed-bump."

Spend it right away, dont stockpile it. When the speed bump occurs, there wont be so much new development anyway, right?

It just seems a bit unfair and counter productive to put the entire burden on new development, and none on the existing expensive units. It suggests (perhaps unfairly) that the folks opposing the new units are not so much concerned with AH, as they are with the interests of existing affluent homehowners.

Another option - don't count IZ units against FAR limits. In Fairfax microunits are being suggested, aimed at lower incomes, which will not count against density caps - its beleived that the developers will add these units with no subsidy and no requirement, because they will be get additional revenues with only incremental operating and construction cost, and zero land cost.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 17, 2013 4:44 pm • linkreport

If you're a minimum wage renter in DC, your heart must sink when you see a shiny new, mixed-use apartment building going up around the corner. You know that you'll never live in that building. You won't be able to afford the $8 craft beer. And pretty soon, you'll be getting a letter from your landlord saying that your rent is going up.

If your landlord owns more than four units, they are subject to rent control. So, rent shouldn't be going up too much unless there's some way around rent control I'm not aware of.

by Falls Church on Sep 17, 2013 4:50 pm • linkreport

"You won't be able to afford the $8 craft beer. "

If we limited the number of beers that could be sold, that would make beer cheaper, I bet.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 17, 2013 4:57 pm • linkreport

during the last housing boom (pre-2008), I came up with my only decent joke, "that polygamy is going to be legalized, because you need at least 3 incomes to buy a house."

Lots of people have made good points. A little different from Alex B. and Thayer-D, I argue that housing "master" planning is deficient because it doesn't adequately address various tenure forms (like co-ops, land trusts, portfolio investment by nonprofits, etc.) and types, densities, and accessory units (alley units/apts./flats etc.)

You have to deal with all of it. Simultaneously. (Height limit too.) The problem with IZ is that it only addresses new production, which has no impact on existing housing, and prices rise there too, with no policy proscriptions.

e.g. during NYC's downturn in the 1970s and 1980s, a lot of the abandoned tenements were given to nonprofits and rehabilitated, and retained permanently as affordable. But we never had comparable supplies of such buildings in DC.

2. Yes, poverty should be addressed regionally and nationally. For 20 years I've argued that DC's capture of a disproportionate amount of this population should be considered a quality of life subsidy of the suburbs. That the shifts have deleterious consequences elsewhere (e.g. various economic and social problems in PG County escalated as DC rebuilt "public" housing in W7 and W8, displacing residents, because housing for the poor wasn't replaced one for one) is pretty clear.

But it isn't and it won't be.

3. But as importantly, definitionally, poverty issues are different from "the lack of affordable housing". That's an element sure, but the problem of poverty and negative impact on the people, families, and the city goes far beyond access to housing.

Mostly because as someone defined it above, we are dealing mostly in DC with multigenerational poverty. And there are some serious etiologies within those families (sit on a grand jury for a few months and listen to the various testimonies, as a court reporter said to me--"breaking the cycle?! We're just cutting the grass"--meaning, it just grows back).

I intend, hopefully this year, to write a position paper on creating a kind of Marshall Plan for wards 7 and 8/the city's impoverished.

I figure probably half the city's budget is already spent on those populations between criminal justice, police, fire and ems, hospital care, schools, social welfare, housing support, etc.

But those monies are spent for the most part maintaining the status quo.

It's not working.

by Richard Layman on Sep 17, 2013 9:05 pm • linkreport

Renegade, Alex: Part of the problem I see is where that development is happening. For a while, growth in DC was infill in genuinely burned-out areas, with some displacement. Now, all growth is happening is already functional neighborhoods and former industrial zones. Where it is not happening is where residents have the political wherewithal to fight even as-of-right developments and rezone areas to prevent change.

In other words, the people who benefit the most from the current zoning regime are affluent homeowners in NW.

by Neil Flanagan on Sep 17, 2013 9:47 pm • linkreport

note also that the community development movement of the 1970s (which culminated in the creation of community development corporations in DC and elsewhere) was for the most part, focused on the creation of new housing for poor people, thinking that would "fix" cities. It didn't fix cities.

Because the problem wasn't the lack of housing, it was that the local economy and the microeconomies within neighborhoods were broken. Lack of money, jobs, ability to get and retain jobs, access, etc., were the problems, not housing (so much).

http://www.nytimes.com/1994/01/09/magazine/the-myth-of-community-development.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm

by Richard Layman on Sep 17, 2013 9:58 pm • linkreport

"people who are homeless are no longer highly visible downtown"

I live downtown and the above is patently untrue. Homeless folks are plenty visible downtown. It's just that the buildings and the people that surround them have changed.

by pqresident on Sep 17, 2013 10:01 pm • linkreport

what if one were to create an affordable housing fund by taxing all properties worth more than, say, $400 per square foot, whether they were old or new?

On top of the property taxes already levied on the properties, and the income taxes already levied on the people who inhabit those dwellings?

I think the track record of throwing money at problems speaks for itself.

by Scoot on Sep 18, 2013 9:00 am • linkreport

Scoot

The new buildings will pay property taxes, and their inhabitants will pay income taxes. yet some propose even higher IZ requirements, which function effectively as a tax on those new buildings. If DC decides that more affordable housing is not needed that is one thing - but if it decides it IS needed, what is the logic for putting all the burden on the new buildings, and none on existing property holders? There is much talk of "obscene developer profits" but surely many owners of older properties have seen substantial appreciation in value, appreciation directly tied to the forces that have made the city less affordable for those with lower incomes.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 18, 2013 9:18 am • linkreport

Scoot might be on to something...the 'Restore the Core' plan was (among other things) to bring new inhabitants with money to revitalize the city and the tax base. That has been a success. DC now has a better tax base than at any time in the past, thanks to new, affluent residents and a bunch of businesses they support. So why is affordable housing disappearing? Why is the Council unable to put the new tax funds to work to help the working class population? Maybe they too are happy to see the working poor decamp to Prince Georges?

by renegade09 on Sep 18, 2013 9:23 am • linkreport

renegade

I guess you could look at the DC budget.

You'd have to specify a base year (when tax revenues were "low") look at the change in tax revenues, and look to see how much spending has changed, and on what. My sense is that over the last 15 years DC has spent a lot on improving basic services and public safety- which may not be aimed at the poor and working class, but was clearly important to putting the city on a sound footing. More on education, which is only now bearing fruit. And has continued to increase spending on social services. Note its also spending money, IIUC, on rehabbing old infra, including schools, water, etc.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 18, 2013 9:32 am • linkreport

It's politics. And it's certainly not just new residents that the council is catering to but also the signifiant middle and upper class households that have been here for a while. For example, property taxes are low because those people who own property vote to keep them low, not because of new residents. So basically you are right, a lot of people just have the mentality that they can all move to PG or Ward 7/8. Add in the fact that many locals strenuously object to any new development in the the single family home areas and you get an affordable housing crisis.

by BTA on Sep 18, 2013 9:41 am • linkreport

@AWITC
Agree that spending on basic infrastructure, schools is essential to keep DC moving forward, but the new development has created a gigantic amount of wealth. If DC can't funnel some of that toward affordable housing, that tells us something about city priorities.

We don't need more stringent IZ or a property 'super-tax', because redevelopment has already brought loads of new money to the treasury.

That said, I think expanded IZ has great benefit, by promoting a mix of populations. The cycle of poverty will be broken when poor minority populations (those that Layman was talking about) can share schools with engaged, affluent parents. I don't know if that is happening, despite all the new development. I have the impression that as property values rise, minorities are displaced and lose out on the benefit of co-schooling. Perhaps the city should subsidize IZ units using some of the wealth from new property taxes. That would mitigate the risk of scaring off new development by higher IZ mandates.

by renegade09 on Sep 18, 2013 9:44 am • linkreport

"I have the impression that as property values rise, minorities are displaced and lose out on the benefit of co-schooling. "

Hmm, maybe. My general sense is that the public school pops are much higher % minority than the general pop, because so many new white (and asian) residents are single, DINKs, families with preschoolers, empty nesters, or using private schools - so that in the hottest gentrifying areas gentrification is increasing school diversity, well after the neighborhood is majority non black.

Plus, is your goal of minorities getting more education in mixed schools confined to the District? While the poorest black out migrants are almost all going to PG where they are going to places with overwhelmingly black schools, in recent numbers there has been a large increase in the black populations in MoCo, Prince William, Fairfax, and even Stafford, where black children are much more likley to go to school alongside whites and asians. Indeed accommodating a growing minority population is a key issue for Fairfax County Public Schools https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Coalition-of-The-Silence-Fairfax-County/311189382253907 Once again, I think focusing only the District gives a false picture, and may lead to mistaken policy choices.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 18, 2013 9:53 am • linkreport

"recent years"

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 18, 2013 9:54 am • linkreport

@AWITC
Agree about the suburbs. But DC has unique issues, and is limited in its ability to affect policy outside the District boundaries. The OP asked what DC should do to include the poor, so that is why I focus on DC.

Fundamentally, with the rising tide of wealth and a better ability to determine its future, DC needs to decide whether it wants to be London, where policy from the 1950s-1980 integrated working class populations around market-rate housing; or Paris, where there is substantial segregation and working class populations are housed in HLMs at the end of RER lines. I think there are significant benefits to the London model, but I think DC is trending toward the Paris model.

by renegade09 on Sep 18, 2013 10:08 am • linkreport

I understand tht the OP focused on DC issues - I was merely reflecting on your mention of education. Unless the new residents of DC are going to include a much higher proportion of families with school age children than is now the case, its going to be almost impossible to have most black children in DC in schools with large numbers of non-black children, whatever housing model DC picks. If integrated education is the goal, the suburbs really are the answer - and the key will be making sure that there is access to all the suburbs, and not just to PG County.

There may of course be other reasons to pursue residential diversity, by race and/or by SES.

I am still skeptical of the claim that DC will be like Paris. For one, our suburbs do not look or function like the more troubled banlieus in greater Paris. For another, 20% IZ will mean a fairly diverse city, esp if existing subsidized housing is retained/replaced on top of that.

I would suggest that if residential diversity is a big concern, what DC residents might focus on are the problems in replacing subsidized housing that has been torn down - the issue WaPo focoused on a few months back. In addition to diversity benefits, it would be beneficial to make clear that city commitments are followed through on, as the lack of credibility can impair many policies.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 18, 2013 10:20 am • linkreport

And I would note that governance in greater London is far different (IIUC) from that greater Washington.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 18, 2013 10:22 am • linkreport

If DC decides that more affordable housing is not needed that is one thing - but if it decides it IS needed, what is the logic for putting all the burden on the new buildings, and none on existing property holders?

Huh? "None on existing property holders"? The Mayor's affordable housing commitment is drawn from tax revenue, the lion's share of which is already provided by a relatively small number of "wealthy" property owners. Just take a look at the tax data to see for yourself.

If you want to levy yet another tax on people who are perceived to be wealthy, just say so.

by Scoot on Sep 18, 2013 10:27 am • linkreport

The cycle of poverty will be broken when poor minority populations (those that Layman was talking about) can share schools with engaged, affluent parents.

My impression is that this is happening less and less as out of boundary students are being pushed away from some increasingly crowded public schools (of course, other schools are being closed down). But yes, I agree that trying to mix low-income housing (and how about some moderate income housing too?) in with more affluent areas would be good for everyone (and revising zoning laws to allow more to be built). And public transportation is important – just about all out of boundary students that I remember took public transportation to and from school, and this would also benefit individuals who are pushed out into the suburbs as well (though obviously, they wouldn’t be able to attend DCPS).

Other things I would like to see – a moratorium on school closings, revised drug laws (someone shouldn’t have difficulty finding a job because of a possession charge they had when they were 20), ending hunger in DC, making sure shelters are adequately funded (we should not be turning away homeless teens!), etc.

Of course I would like to see something like Richard Layman’s Marshall Plan proposal. Perhaps an endowment for research (tech or biotech to connect with regional strengths) that involves programs with pipelines from elementary school to graduate school (and retraining programs). Not going to happen, but it would be a better use of the $6 billion people want to spend for the Olympics.

by Chatham on Sep 18, 2013 10:35 am • linkreport

"If you want to levy yet another tax on people who are perceived to be wealthy, just say so."

an increase in the IZ percentage to 30% which was proposed above, would be a tax on those perceived to be wealthy (the developers and inhabitants of new market rate housing). Right now the tools to address AH are the affordable housing "commmitment" and current IZ. I am merely suggesting that IF there is to be an increase in AH beyond that, increasing IZ percentages is not the only option.

If you think there is no need to increase AH, that the mayors commitment is adequate, I suggest you respond to those who have argued that it is inadequate, not to me - I was merely exploring alternative means.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 18, 2013 10:36 am • linkreport

I personally don't think IZ is a tax on developers, any more than providing statutory minimum of parking is a tax, or requiring the developer to adhere to aesthetic preservation standards is a tax. In fact, the IZ enables the developer to add more density than is normally allowed by right.

Whether the Mayor's commitment is adequate is one thing -- but whether the commmitment should be funded by new taxes on individual property owners is another. How about eliminating some more waste and bloat in this city's government? How about installing more red light and speed cameras?

by Scoot on Sep 18, 2013 10:53 am • linkreport

How about eliminating some more waste and bloat in this city's government? How about installing more red light and speed cameras?

How about doing all that, AND funding affordable housing? It's hardly an either/or proposition.

by renegade09 on Sep 18, 2013 10:56 am • linkreport

"I personally don't think IZ is a tax on developers, any more than providing statutory minimum of parking is a tax, or requiring the developer to adhere to aesthetic preservation standards is a tax. In fact, the IZ enables the developer to add more density than is normally allowed by right. "

Renegade suggested a considerable increase in IZ. Im not sure if renegade wants a proportionate increase in the density bonus, and if such an increase would be politically feasible (or even physically feasible in many places given height limits, etc).

Assuming that the increase was not offset by further density, it would certain be an added burden on new development, whose incidence would either be on developers profits, or on that of those looking to rent or buy in new developments, depending on how much of that cost market conditions/elasticies allow to be passed on. You may choose not to call that a tax, but in fact its as much money out of someones pocket as an actual "tax".

if its taxes thats the problem, how about we require every existing residential building to take in a poor or homeless family. In the case of SFHs, they would bring them into their homes and allow them to sleep in a spare bedroom, the living room, wherever. Note well, this is not a serious proposal - its again, more of a thought experiment about the relative responsbility of new development versus existing development in bearing the burden of creating affordable housing.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 18, 2013 11:05 am • linkreport

An interesting article in Washington Business Journal on how, even with an influx of new city residents, a massive increase in supply of apartments is creating a renters market in DC (which is projected to continue for some time). Fewer condos have been built recently, for financing reasons, but the demand/supply curve for condos is expected to reach market equilibrium in a few years:
http://www.bizjournals.com/washington/breaking_ground/2013/09/where-are-dcs-condos.html?ana=RSS&s=article_search

by Sally on Sep 18, 2013 11:19 am • linkreport

How about doing all that, AND funding affordable housing? It's hardly an either/or proposition.

I was referring to doing all that in order to fund affordable housing....

by Scoot on Sep 18, 2013 11:20 am • linkreport

You may choose not to call that a tax, but in fact its as much money out of someones pocket as an actual "tax".

That's not a fact, that's merely your belief; just as it's my belief that IZ is not a form of taxation.

by Scoot on Sep 18, 2013 11:24 am • linkreport

Note well, this is not a serious proposal - its again, more of a thought experiment about the relative responsbility of new development versus existing development in bearing the burden of creating affordable housing.

I'm not sure how this thought experiment would 'create' affordable housing, nor am I sure that poor people would actually want to sleep on my sofa.

Here's another thought experiment - limit all market rate housing to 200 square feet, that way, we have enough left over to create affordable housing.

by Scoot on Sep 18, 2013 11:30 am • linkreport

"That's not a fact, that's merely your belief;"

I specified my assumption that the increase in IZ would not be accompanied by an increase in density. Ergo, more IZ means less market rate units. Since IZ is necessarily no higher than market rate rent, and usually much lower, thats less rent received by the building owner. How is that not money out of the owner's pocket? (which may or may not be passed on to market rate renters)

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 18, 2013 11:33 am • linkreport

To be clear, I fully support density bonuses. I just don't believe that current development is providing for sufficient socio-economic integration, and that is why I believe more needs to be done.

IZ is not a tax, but it is a burden on new development. However, demand is so strong that the market could certainly deal with it. We have seen that new development does not extend supply or lower rents to existing residents- quite the opposite- but only provides new residential opportunities to people moving into the city. There would be squealing from those building / living in new developments, and to some extent that would be fair, because previous development got done with lower IZ requirements. But in terms of what would benefit the city, and the region, it makes sense.

by renegade09 on Sep 18, 2013 11:36 am • linkreport

"I'm not sure how this thought experiment would 'create' affordable housing, nor am I sure that poor people would actually want to sleep on my sofa."

It would address what the IZ affordable housing req are designed to address - it would allow poorer people residential options on expensive areas.

If they dont want to sleeping in living rooms, well thats their choice.

"Here's another thought experiment - limit all market rate housing to 200 square feet, that way, we have enough left over to create affordable housing."

what do you mean left over? If the maximum size for a market rate unit was 200 ft, developers would just build more units (within the same FAR envelope) I guess. Or do you mean that total new market rate housing would be 200 sq feet across the district - IE only one new unit would be built?

The thought experiment you have proposed is interesting. It places the entire burden of providing affordable housing on new development. In that way its similar to Renegades proposal for 30% IZ (if thats not offset by significant density bonuses). It again raises the question - IF the current efforts for AH are inadequate, why should the financial burden to increase AH further all be on new housing, and not on existing housing?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 18, 2013 11:38 am • linkreport

Actually what you said is "its as much money out of someones pocket as an actual 'tax'"

But is it? Are those two figures numerically equal? And should all money that comes out of one's pocket be considered a "tax"? A tax has a pretty standard, reasonably narrow definition. Most people would define money out of someone's pocket as an 'expense', and not all expenses are 'taxes'.

by Scoot on Sep 18, 2013 11:40 am • linkreport

"To be clear, I fully support density bonuses."

Those would have to be high to offset even a part of the cost. are higher densities politically viable? Are the physcially feasible under the height limit?

"However, demand is so strong that the market could certainly deal with it."

in some neighborhoods, but its weaker in some others. At the margin it will likely mean fewer units built.

" We have seen that new development does not extend supply or lower rents to existing residents- quite the opposite- but only provides new residential opportunities to people moving into the city."

We have not seen what you suggest, IMO - and those new residents move in anyway, increasing rents. And if it is new residents, they are bringing in new incomes to tax, as well as reducing the impact on GHGs they would have if they lived at lower densities in the suburbs.

"But in terms of what would benefit the city, and the region, it makes sense."

If the burden is passed on, it will mean fewer new residents in DC, lower average density across the region, higher SOV mode share, and will be bad for the region. It its NOT passed on, it will impact owners of developable properties in DC. Relative to sharing the burden with properties that are not developable.

Basically if you own a million dollar SFH in upper NW, you should not bear the burden, but if you own a parking lot on 7th street or H street, screw you. Or again, if it is passed on (as it in part likely would be) if you are a young professional who wants to move from say Columbia Pike to H Street, screw you. and if you are a working class immigrant who might move to a high rise on Col Pike if it werent filled with not quite yuppies who cant afford H Street, screw you.

I have used a lot of economic analysis type talk. But these are not just theoretical issues - they are real impacts on real human beings - just as surely as the concerns about gentrification in the district are, and the desire to address those concerns at the expense of someone other than existing affluent DC residents.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 18, 2013 11:48 am • linkreport

@Scoot:
But is it?
Yes.
Are those two figures numerically equal?
Yes, or approximately so.
And should all money that comes out of one's pocket be considered a "tax"?
One alternative would be not to call it a tax, but to note that it has the same effect as a tax, as AWitC did.
A tax has a pretty standard, reasonably narrow definition. Most people would define money out of someone's pocket as an 'expense', and not all expenses are 'taxes'.
And some expenses are effectively the same as taxes, as noted above.

If your response to it being like a tax but not actually a tax is to point out that it's not actually a tax, then okay . . . but that semantic argument doesn't seem likely to be very productive.

by Gray on Sep 18, 2013 11:53 am • linkreport

"Actually what you said is "its as much money out of someones pocket as an actual 'tax'" "

"But is it? "

I did not mean to establish a quantitative equivalence. I mean "as much as" in the usual qualitative sense "incorrect capitalization is as much an error as incorrect punctuation"
http://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/as+much+as

In fact it couild be less, or it could be more. I beleive the standard econ 101 analysis would suggest that imposing the IZ requirement will be more, but A. that really will depend on all kinds of empirical questions about elasticities and B. I dont feel like arguing for econ 101 right now - I accept that some folks just dont accept it.

That a tax is different from a mandate that imposes an expense is true of common usage. But I think its less than useful as a guid to policy. It leads to all kinds of absurdities - like thinking its better to tell someone what kind of light bulb to use, than to "tax" them on the emissions resulting from their energy consumption.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 18, 2013 11:55 am • linkreport

"If your response to it being like a tax but not actually a tax is to point out that it's not actually a tax, then okay . . . but that semantic argument doesn't seem likely to be very productive."

could we have a tax on semantic points about what constitutes a tax?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 18, 2013 11:56 am • linkreport

AWITC -- fwiw, dc property taxes are comparatively low, so it takes a lot of years to get priced out as property taxes rise, although it can happen.

Chatham's comment made me realize that I forgot to mention price point more actively as one of the elements in housing planning, although that is primarily the point of mixed tenure, but it is a point that needs to be carefully distinguished.

I think there are advantages in mixing incomes. However, social dysfunction typically associated with the extremely impoverished is not attractive and people with choice don't want to live by it (cf. Kentucky Courts on Capitol Hill, Arthur Capper Dwellings, etc.). We haven't solved that issue.

That spills over into schools. I don't think people don't want their children to go to school with people different from them. But they don't want their kids to have to deal with kids who are constantly "acting out", causing problems and reducing instruction time. (This is an issue in East County schools in Montgomery Co. too, and people's willingness to have their kids go to those schools.)

The general point about IZ adding a tax to properties is true if you don't award density bonuses.

This is probably another reason why I favor a change to the height limit, because it would allow for more housing production over time, and a greater proportion of affordable units.

I never did get around to writing about a senior housing project in Tempe AZ. The developer did it because post-crash they didn't have the money to develop the full site, and they carved out this piece, for which they could get tax credits, and go forward. It ends up being an element of the overall program for the site, and mixes up tenure, demographics, price points etc.

and in my earlier comment, I didn't give props to renegade09's various comments. I agree we aren't doing enough to provide more new housing at a variety of price points, especially on the lower end of the continuum, but it's really hard to do when planning and development is mostly a function of the private sector and the market is all about making the greatest amount of income.

Plus (and I haven't gotten around to writing about this, I have a half written post but I wasn't satisfied with it) regardless of the earlier GGW post about how "zoning shouldn't be about lifestyle choices" the reality is that's exactly what it is. Monoculture housing districts are created by carefully designed zoning requirements concerning lot size, mass, height, party walls, ability to include apts. or accessory units, etc.

Most of the city's legacy housing was created when the city was comparatively small. It wasn't until govt. expansion during the FDR era including the Depression and WWII that the city's population significantly increased. Before that the city was small in population and therefore so was the size of the housing stock built to accommodate that level of population.

So now we're mostly built out--except for rebuilds in commercial districts and transit stations and old campus type situations--and we're not built out in a way that accommodates the current situation.

by Richard Layman on Sep 18, 2013 11:58 am • linkreport

I think whatever the AH strategy adopted by DC, we need to work out the kinks now and get to work. The political leverage required for implementing AH is only going to get weaker every passing year.

by oboe on Sep 18, 2013 12:01 pm • linkreport

fwiw, dc property taxes are comparatively low, so it takes a lot of years to get priced out as property taxes rise, although it can happen.

Very few people lose their homes in DC due to property tax liens, despite the recent news reports. Usually "displacement" of homeowners is either the homeowner selling the house they raised their kids in and downsizing outside of the city (as all retired folks have done for a very long time), or elderly homeowners dying and leaving their homes to their 3-4 kids. In that case, the children are more likely to sell and divvy up the proceeds.

by oboe on Sep 18, 2013 12:09 pm • linkreport

If your response to it being like a tax but not actually a tax is to point out that it's not actually a tax, then okay . . . but that semantic argument doesn't seem likely to be very productive.

I personally think the semantic argument is important, as people have a visceral reaction to the term "tax", and it's often a negative reaction.

Equating certain types of expenses (or for that matter, fees or fines) to "taxes" invites an audience to associate that visceral feeling with whatever expense is being discussed.

by Scoot on Sep 18, 2013 12:12 pm • linkreport

screw you
This is an interesting way to phrase it-- and it leaves out a very, very important consideration: plenty of people are already being screwed. The people who are being screwed the most right now are those who are already most dispossessed and disenfranchised.

The idea that 'all we have to do is enable lots more housing' (by getting rid of parking minimums or whatever) is based on the idea that 'As supply increases, prices will fall'. That ignores reality. What actually happens is 'prices increase, leading to more supply'. To the extent that the increases in price are already displacing the working class, the new development is a correlate of displacement, rather than a proximate cause. (That does not mean we just shrug- see below).

The current problem is that the increased supply fuels further increases in demand: a new building forms a nucleus for extending gentrification into new neighborhoods that would otherwise be poor candidates for gentrification owing to distance / lack of craft beer emporiums / extensive presence of gangsters. Therefore, the new supply DOES cause displacement, by serving to further extend the wave of gentrification.

Gentrification can be a good thing but only if the new development and economic wealth is harnessed to provide accommodation for those who would otherwise be displaced. If it just sweeps the working poor out of town, then there is relatively little overall benefit. DC should be adding affordable housing in the neighborhoods where gentrification is happening, but that does not happen because (i) lack of land (ii) NIMBY opposition (iii) competition with other spending priorities (iv) general incompetence.

The solution is to have a mathematic requirement for increased IZ. I reckon 30% is a good start, but you could make a case for even higher proportions. The current mandate is clearly insufficient. Some of the cost of the IZ could be offset by provision from general taxation, but it shouldn't be something that developers can zoning-exception / bribe their way out of.

by renegade09 on Sep 18, 2013 12:28 pm • linkreport

renegade09's latest entry reminds me I forgot to write about the Parisization of DC and AWITC's response. This point isn't about the suburbs per se, but the constant upward demand pressure to live in the city, remaking the core at least and the desirable locations outside of the core such as in Upper NW, all uniformly high in price.

Whether or not you have banlieues specifically in the suburbs isn't the point (cf. Langley Park, parts of PG County, etc.). What is the point is the constant upward repricing of DC housing stock.

by Richard Layman on Sep 18, 2013 12:34 pm • linkreport

that was the point I made in too wordy of a fashion in response to a piece in the Atlantic. The pricing set in the DC housing market is somewhat exogeneous to city-specific factors because it results from extranormal demand to live in the city by people who don't already live here.

http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com/2012/10/exogenous-market-forces-impact-dcs.html

by Richard Layman on Sep 18, 2013 12:37 pm • linkreport

"The current problem is that the increased supply fuels further increases in demand: a new building forms a nucleus for extending gentrification into new neighborhoods that would otherwise be poor candidates for gentrification owing to distance / lack of craft beer emporiums / extensive presence of gangsters. Therefore, the new supply DOES cause displacement, by serving to further extend the wave of gentrification."

Ive been following the changes in DC for 25 years now, and I think your model of gentrification is profoundly mistaken. New buildings do NOT, generally, provide the nucleus. Rather what happens is that individuals buy existing row houses, and renovate them. The first to do so buys at a low price, because they are the first on the block, and the block is considered undesirable. Then a few slightly less bold people buy on the block. Then lots of people buy (including at this point professional flippers/renovaters) but its still all EXISTING housing stock. Meanwhile the retail base slowly changes. By the time that new multifamily housing (with or without retail) is built, the transition is already well under way.

That is my sense of whats happened in Logan Circle. In Mount Pleasant. In various parts of Capital Hill. In Brookland. In Petworth. At an earlier time in Adams Morgan, and before that in Dupont, and before that in Georgetown. Its also what happened in Old Town Alexandria. Its whats been happening in Arlandria and south Arlington.

OTOH when a high density building is placed in area less advanced in transition, with few amenities it tends to NOT lead to neighborhood take off. I am thinking of Rhode Island row and the buildings on Bladensburg Rd NE of the starburst intersection. Those areas, to the extent they are changing, are doing so in roughly the same fashion as they were before the new buildings - or as in the case in Trinidad, the driver is the gradual movement of rowhouse renovation north from CH, not the buildings on bladensburg.

I can't think of any neighborhoods where new multifamily housing was really the nucleus of change - there are some where there was no renovation of rowhouses earlier - but those are essentially neighborhoods that were composed almost complelety of non residential property (or torn down DCHA property) before - NoMa and Navy Yard. There are also places where the metro triggered transformation, and renovation and new multifamily came at about the same time (to some degree Columbia Heights)

In general new multifamily housing is a lagging indicator of gentrification.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 18, 2013 12:50 pm • linkreport

other examples where new construction is NOT leading to transition - Anacostia (the sheridan) Fort Totten, Hyattsville, and PG Plaza. anther places that followed the model of townhouses first - Shaw.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 18, 2013 12:53 pm • linkreport

@AWITC
I believe that my model is consistent with your observations. Multifamily housing lags gentrification. But it extends gentrification. Gentrification doesn't happen everywhere. Areas gentrify by virtue of proximity to something, either an established gentrified neighborhood, an area of major employment, or a metro station. Take SW DC. For a while, only a few brave gentrifiers lived there. Then a bunch of big buildings went in, and are supporting increased retail and wine bars. Suddenly, you've got folks on PoP bragging about bargains in the area, and that means existing residents are being pushed across the river. The new buildings didn't spring up in a vacuum, but they are reinforcing gentrification, while doing nothing to make it easier for existing working class residents. The same thing is happening in Brookland.

by renegade09 on Sep 18, 2013 1:09 pm • linkreport

Part of the demand on the city is just that the region is growing really fast. The population has gone up froma bout 3 million to 5 million in the region over the past 40 years. All the inner suburbs are built out and not really cheaper than comparable options in the city anyway. We've got one of the lowest vacancy rates in the country. So while gentrification trends certainly can be a deciding factor in specific neighborhoods, the main issue is that we don't have enough housing to keep up with demand. Perhaps a cooling economy will allow rents to plateau although I doubt they will go down at all. I really do think we have to be clear when we are talking about affordable housing that there is a difference between citywide issues and localized ones.

by BTA on Sep 18, 2013 1:17 pm • linkreport

"Take SW DC. For a while, only a few brave gentrifiers lived there. Then a bunch of big buildings went in, and are supporting increased retail and wine bars. Suddenly, you've got folks on PoP bragging about bargains in the area, and that means existing residents are being pushed across the river. The new buildings didn't spring up in a vacuum, but they are reinforcing gentrification, while doing nothing to make it easier for existing working class residents. The same thing is happening in Brookland. "

The older hirises were not in demand earlier because they were less desirable than places in NW. As NW has become more expensive, with employment growth and the rise in demand for center city living, they would have certainly become more desirable and pricier anyway. in SW rowhouse renovation couldnt lead the way in redevelopment because there simply arent that many rowhouses in the neighborhood compared to the number of older hirises. I do not beleive the couple of new hi rises has had much impact on the overall demographics on SW.

Similarly Brookland has been changing due to its metro station and desirable housing stock. Its been up and coming for several years. The new multifamily is only just coming on the market now - and thus far I see no evidence that its accelerating the transition that was already under way.

"either an established gentrified neighborhood, an area of major employment, or a metro station."

Yes. IE the presence of new multifamily housing is NOT the nucleus. Now, Im not saying that a new development can't have SOME impact in rising values in a neighborhood - but again, those local impacts are almost certainly offset district wide (not even region wide) by the increase in supply, meaning the net effect is still that, all other things (like employment) being equal, the new density reduces rents from what they would otherwise be. The positive externality value (which flips to a negative if we focus on affordability) is simply not as great as is implied by considering new multifamily the nucleus of change.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 18, 2013 1:19 pm • linkreport

The idea that 'all we have to do is enable lots more housing' (by getting rid of parking minimums or whatever) is based on the idea that 'As supply increases, prices will fall'. That ignores reality.

I don't think anyone posits such a statement without first adding the caveat of 'all else being equal.'

Likewise, I don't know that you'll find many pure supply-siders in the debate. However, given the context of the demand we have for living in the city, a large increase in supply is a necessary (if not sufficient) condition.

Neil Flanagan mentioned this in his comment earlier:

Where it is not happening is where residents have the political wherewithal to fight even as-of-right developments and rezone areas to prevent change.

In other words, this kind of resistance to change within the built environment is not meeting that necessary condition. Caving to the anti-development pressures of each individual neighborhood while the city's housing supply in aggregate sees tremendous pressure is a awfully large collective action problem.

And any likely solution (given the demand pressures and population growth) is likely going to involve a lot of new development.

It's a necessary, if not sufficient condition.

by Alex B. on Sep 18, 2013 1:19 pm • linkreport

I agree, AWITC, what i've seen is buyers/renters of old properties moving in first.

by BTA on Sep 18, 2013 1:41 pm • linkreport

What @AWITC said, $8 beers and new high-rises are usually a symptom, not a cause, of gentrification. The eastward march of gentrification towards the Anacostia, and the westward march towards H Street was driven by the proximity to previously gentrified blocks. By 2006 the commercial gentrification of H Street was inevitable--the strip was still blighted, but walk a block north or south and you were standing among $800k houses and households uniformly with incomes north of $150k. That's when the $8 beer took off.

Mostly gentrification is driven by speculation based on the gentrification that has already accreted. You buy a townhouse from the family of the poor old lady who just died because it's just a block from the "good" area, and you're betting it will "the good area" in another year or two.

by oboe on Sep 18, 2013 2:15 pm • linkreport

fwiw, awitc and renegade09 are describing different stages of the neighborhood "improvement" process. The individual housebuyer process took many years to achieve critical mass where neighborhoods "finally" enter the take off phase and achieve "repositioning" in the context of the city housing market. You start to see some improvement in the commercial district. As these neighborhoods improve, if there are opportunities for multiunit housing development, that becomes the next stage. Over time this further improves the commercial district, maybe even to the point of critical mass improvement, especially for food and beverage, which further draws the interest of potential SFH owners, and residents of multiunit, either rental or condo, and the pricing further escalates.

But as AWITC indicates, that initial individual buyer driven process can take decades.

http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com/2011/07/revitalization-in-stages-anacostia.html

It's funny because people who have been in the city just for the past few years have no idea of how this stuff has worked, how long it takes, that the current "overnight" success is the product of decades of incremental improvement.

I saw a ULI presentation on CityCenter today and it took us back to the time when Downtown really had issues and was a dead zone at night, with parking lots, prostitution, crime, etc. (They didn't talk about some of that, it just reminded me.) How soon we forget.

by Richard Layman on Sep 18, 2013 3:10 pm • linkreport

OT @renegade99: Did someone associated with "craft beer" steal your girlfriend? Talk bad about your mother? You really seem to have it out for consumers of that particular beverage.

by dcd on Sep 18, 2013 3:36 pm • linkreport

@dcd
Ha! No, I actually like craft beer. I am one of the craft beer sippers. I'm also glad that gentrification and densification happened, so I could live in a vibrant city instead of the crappy burbs. The progress in DC is so great, it can blind us to the down side. We laugh at people talking about 'The Plan', but there really was a plan, and it worked.

Almost none of us here are probably on first-name terms with anybody from the vast body of people who have been negatively impacted by this change, which is why it is so easy to get swept up in the excitement. Unless something changes, Smart Growth risks being talked about in the future the same way we now think of Urban Renewal-- a dogma championed by wonks that led to displacement and pain for working class Americans. The warning signs are already there.

by renegade09 on Sep 18, 2013 4:39 pm • linkreport

"a dogma championed by wonks that led to displacement and pain for working class Americans."

I appreciate your concern for working class Americans, but you are a little narrow in only being concerned about ones who live in neighborhoods in DC subject to transition. Aside from the ones in non transitioning neighborhoods who probably benefit from the tax revenues, there are lots of working class people who already live in the suburbs, many of whom (especially hispanics and other new immigrants) never lived in DC, who benefit in terms of housing cost from a shift of upper middle class whites to the city (even if I accept for the sake of argument that blacks in places like h street are harmed) You are neglecting them in your analysis - I suspect you are not on first name terms with them either.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 18, 2013 4:55 pm • linkreport

Almost none of us here are probably on first-name terms with anybody from the vast body of people who have been negatively impacted by this change, which is why it is so easy to get swept up in the excitement.

Here's the thing, though. This city ain't cheap for the middle class, either. I'm on a first-name basis with lots of professionals who struggle to afford a modest place in the city, period. I'll quote Bossi yet again: "I make too much for affordable housing, but not enough for unaffordable housing."

Unless something changes, Smart Growth risks being talked about in the future the same way we now think of Urban Renewal-- a dogma championed by wonks that led to displacement and pain for working class Americans.

Maybe, but I would point out that merely allowing the city to grow, allowing supply to meet demand, isn't exactly a dogma. It's not really worthy of having a name referenced in Capital Letters.

Most of what can really be called Smart Growth (capitalized) is about changing the way we build in the first place - it's about changing greenfield suburban development to embrace walkability. It's operating at the regional scale to prevent sprawl outcomes.

Core cities developed before the rise of sprawl don't have those problems. The redevelopment within DC isn't really new at all - it's quite old, actually. It's good, old fashioned urbanism.

Now, if you're talking about the social part of the city instead of the physical part, that's a different (but still related) subject.

Likewise, if you're talking about pain for working class Americans, I would posit that there are a whole lot of other factors involved in that pain before you even come close to the impact of the shape of the city.

by Alex B. on Sep 18, 2013 5:46 pm • linkreport

What if I'm the son of a working class family who got a job that elevated me above working class to a job in DC that gave me more control over where I wated to live?

by drumz on Sep 18, 2013 5:49 pm • linkreport

And I agree with Alex B,

Smart growth is mostly a design philosophy and zoning framework. In some instances that could lead to less restrictions on development, in other cases more. Lets not assign blame for something it's not exactly responsible for.

by drumz on Sep 18, 2013 5:51 pm • linkreport

@AlexB @drumz
This is becoming semantics now. Whatever you want to call the concept of adding large infill, mixed-use residential buildings in urban environments. That's what we're talking about. I'm in favor of it, but it is accelerating gentrification and displacement. We need to keep doing it, but doing it in a way that doesn't drive the people who support the city to the hinterlands. I feel for Bossi, because I've been in the 'too rich for affordable housing but too poor for a nice apartment' situation myself. It's not really an excuse to turn our backs on those who need affordable housing, which is what we're doing at present.

by renegade09 on Sep 18, 2013 6:12 pm • linkreport

I'm on a first-name basis with lots of professionals who struggle to afford a modest place in the city, period.

Living modestly in the most desirable neighborhoods of the city can be so hard!

by Scoot on Sep 18, 2013 6:14 pm • linkreport

A: I think the semantics are important because precision is important and people often blame Smart Growth for a lot of thing or misuse the term to promote something else.

B: I also think that the causes and effects of gentrification and displacement are so varied and complicated that its hard to ascribe single causes to them. Moreover actual data suggests that poor neighborhoods experience a lot of displacement before gentrification as well (oboe has the links, but hasn't posted it in a while, so shout out to him to post them again).

And since the causes are very complicated then the solutions will necessarily be complicated and varied.

This is a systemic problem so individual examples don't always line up and moreover can be argued endlessly.

by drumz on Sep 18, 2013 6:24 pm • linkreport

@drumz
I agree that there is certainly enough scope for doubt to allow us to do nothing to halt the current rapid pace of displacement, and convince ourselves that we'd be foolish even to try.

by renegade09 on Sep 18, 2013 6:38 pm • linkreport

Well that's not what I said. I'm certainly in favor of doing lots of things. Moreover, I think the rapid pace will end up helping in the long run than not doing anything.

But again, it's systemic. It's bigger than you or me or any individual person. It's fast moving too. I certainly have solutions that would outrun it but few are likely achievable under current constraints (even though some, like the height limit are totally artificial). That's similar to Laymans point that part o it is because we decided to let capitalism be the means of housing people.

by drumz on Sep 18, 2013 6:48 pm • linkreport

The increased density in DC is almost totally well-off people who do dilute the political power that the poor have traditionally held here.

by Tom Coumaris on Sep 18, 2013 8:16 pm • linkreport

"allow us to do nothing to halt the current rapid pace of displacement" Isn't the "current pace of displacenent" another way of saying the rapid pace of development? And why would you want to do that? It seems the more housing one builds, the more prices would go down. Look at NYC in the 1880's that saw the upper east side get filled in, the upper west side get built up, Harlem get developed, to say nothing of the other boroughs. Developers built too much for the market and what happened is that many areas like Harlem or Bed Stuy in Brooklyn became lower income areas. In otherwords, segregation aside, these areas provides housing for many an immigrant families moving up and share croper families moving in. This isn't to discount the many other strategies for helping the poor, like a living wage that I favor, but curbing development dosen't seem like the best strategy.

Look at Mayor Gray's recent decision to veto the living wage agreement so as to allow more development East of the River, the same development that people are decrying in Shaw etc. I agree with Gray's decision becasue a living wage law should be universal, but it's the locals who seem to have wanted the development and ensuing jobs as that is a more pressing issue than the continuing development that might ultimatly force them out.

by Thayer-D on Sep 19, 2013 6:20 am • linkreport

It seems the more housing one builds, the more prices would go down.

No, that assumes that everything else is equal. It isn't- as you build more housing, you make the city a more attractive place to live for people who previously lived in the suburbs. That actually increases demand, making prices go up. Instead of DC being 'that scary place', it becomes 'the place where all my friends live and I want to live too'.

by renegade09 on Sep 19, 2013 7:30 am • linkreport

"I'm in favor of it, but it is accelerating gentrification and displacement. "

You keep repeating that, ignoring the evidence that that is probably not the case - the neighborhood amenity effects are only one part of gentrification, and may well be offset by the supply effects.

" It isn't- as you build more housing, you make the city a more attractive place to live for people who previously lived in the suburbs"

I hate to break this to you, but theres a finite number of current suburbanites who would move to DC for high density living. Very very few people who work in the suburbs will pay a rent and commute cost premium to reverse commute. Of the suburbanites who work in DC, the overwhelming majority have no interest in high density living - they prefer single family detached houses, or if they must live in a TH, they like big ones in complexes with offstreet parking, pools, tennis courts, and the like.

And of course quite a lot of suburbanites are not affluent at all.

The "all of suburbia will move to DC if we build a lot more dense multifamily housing" is only a few steps more realistic than "condos spontaneously generate yuppies"

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 19, 2013 8:50 am • linkreport

Sure, but is there a way to make DCore affordable that doesn't include building lots of new buildings?

by drumz on Sep 19, 2013 8:55 am • linkreport

"Living modestly in the most desirable neighborhoods of the city can be so hard!"

The difficulties involved in say, a young person living with multiple roommates in DuPont Circle, in a suburban parent seeing their 21 YO daughter move after college to a neighborhood with a high crime rate, in an empty nester couple trying to squeeze from a 4BR house into a 1BR with den condo, all certainly are dwarfed by the difficulties faced by a fatherless black teen struggling against the street culture, or a single mom trying to shake off drug addiction. I agree. But by the same token, the difficulties of an established professional trying to pay taxes on a house thats doubled or tripled in value and is now worth a million dollars or more, may not be so impressive either.

The difficulties faced by the middle class who want to live in the city do not call out for subsidy - but it does seem like it would be reasonable to try to modify policies
that make their situation worse - especially when driving them back to the suburbs is bad for the District budget, bad for the region, and bad for the planet.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 19, 2013 8:57 am • linkreport

"That actually increases demand, making prices go up. Instead of DC being 'that scary place', it becomes 'the place where all my friends live and I want to live too'."

A new condo building in Logan Circle does NOT make Anacostia or even Trinidad, less scary. And Logan Circle was already not very scary when the condos started coming in.

Renegade - did you spend any time in Logan Circle in the early 1990s? Or any other neighborhood in the course of transitioning in that era?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 19, 2013 8:59 am • linkreport

"it becomes 'the place where all my friends live and I want to live too'."

that would be Clarendon.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 19, 2013 9:01 am • linkreport

1. AWITC -- DC doesn't need to attract all of suburbia. Merely a few tens of thousands of new residents in DC seeking housing stokes demand in DC and leads to price appreciation. Some of them are relocating from the suburbs, some from other cities, some are out of college, etc.

2. Relatedly, we don't know what "everyone" wants in housing, most segments with less than universal appeal haven't been addressed until recently. The housing in multiunit buildings that's nice is a newer type within the metropolitan market.

Frankly, Reston Town Center even more than Tysons has the opportunity to become an incredibly competitive place to live vis-a-vis DC, and without having to deal with panhandling, street crime, etc.

3. drumz -- yes you can make the DC core affordable, by removing residential property from the impact of market forces by disconnecting it from the "capitalistic aspects of the market" focused on appreciation and realizing gains from price increases. Make it all cooperative, have land trusts, and a 100% confiscatory tax on price gains upon sale of the house are some of the steps you could take. Do I think any of that will happen? Um, no. I'm not necessarily recommending it either.

by Richard Layman on Sep 19, 2013 9:49 am • linkreport

I think @renegade09 put his finger on it:

Instead of DC being 'that scary place', it becomes 'the place where all my friends live and I want to live too'.

The only way that The Plan doesn't come to fruition is if we pursue policies to ensure that DC remains "that scary place". Really those are the two options. There's no policy that's going to ensure "all District residents [get] housing at a price they can afford".

What the "housing for all" folks want is not mathematically possible. It's like saying you want guarantee that every poor child in America has an NBA player as an exclusive mentor.

by oboe on Sep 19, 2013 9:58 am • linkreport

"AWITC -- DC doesn't need to attract all of suburbia. Merely a few tens of thousands of new residents in DC seeking housing stokes demand in DC and leads to price appreciation. Some of them are relocating from the suburbs, some from other cities, some are out of college, etc. "

richard

I am attempting to counter the notion that building any amount of high density housing in DC cannot reduce the price from what it would be in the absence of such housing. For that purpose all that matters is the incremental segment likely to move to DC because of the amenity value connected to the new housing - folks moving from other cities or from college for jobs do not matter since they would have moved in anyway. Unless they would have moved to the suburbs of DC absent the new housing IN DC.

A few tens of thousands can be accommodated especially if DC embraces density more than it already has - the argument that increasing the pace of development will only lead to more gentrification, relies on the notion that there is an almost limitless (at least up to several hundred thousand) pool of would be DC residents in the suburbs. I do not think that is correct.

new urbanist development in Tysons and RTC aside from being good in themelves (offering choices, leading to lower SOV mode share. lowering energy use, preserving land, etc) will also reduce the incentive for people who desire an urbanist lifestyle, but who have jobs in the suburbs, to reverse commute. That will also reduce the potential pool of would be DC residents, and will mean that new suppluy in DC is more likely to impact price.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 19, 2013 10:00 am • linkreport

Do the poor want to be included in D.C.'s future?

by Matthew Hall on Sep 19, 2013 10:35 am • linkreport

A new condo building in Logan Circle does NOT make Anacostia or even Trinidad, less scary. And Logan Circle was already not very scary when the condos started coming in

I agree with the above, but I will add that a new condo/apartment building in Brookland DOES make living in, say, Langdon more attractive (because Langdon becomes closer to amenities and a quorum of white people in Brookland, while still being more affordable). As such, the apartment building in Brookland, which was itself built because of gentrification and rising demand, serves to further perpetuate and reinforce the cycle of gentrification and rising demand.

The increasing supply does not help existing residents, and there is no 'trickle-down' effect, because the apartments were built to cater to new demand, not the existing population. There is clear evidence for this- just read the original post.

What would happen if the apartments weren't built? Areas like Langdon would remain relatively far from the existing centers of craft beer gentrification, limiting new demand and keeping those areas affordable for existing low- and middle-income residents. A few gentrifiers would move there, sure, but widespread displacement would not occur.

That said, I am fully in favor of adding all the new buildings in as many places as possible, because increasing supply does create new housing opportunities. The only thing is to limit the negative externality of displacement, which left unchecked will transform DC into Paris in the next generation. We currently run 20% IZ, and that is having a negligible effect on development or its correlate, displacement. As such, there is a clear case for raising that requirement. It might slow the pace of redevelopment slightly at the margins, but it would help maintain diverse neighborhoods.

by renegade09 on Sep 19, 2013 11:09 am • linkreport

You could make things more affordable by paying people a living wage. I read somewhere that to move a McD's worker from a $7 and change hour job to a $15 hour job, they would have to increase the Big Mac price by 62 cents. I don't know if that's correct, but sure seems worth it.

by Thayer-D on Sep 19, 2013 11:12 am • linkreport

The other thing government should be doing more of is moveing forward with the street car network and other dedicated transit routes throughout the area. We already know that's are future, yet the benefit's to affordability could be felt as soon as the lines come on line. What many people want is a walkable environment with transit to negate the need of car travel for every erand. This makes life more affordable without the necessity of two cars.

by Thayer-D on Sep 19, 2013 11:17 am • linkreport

" agree with the above, but I will add that a new condo/apartment building in Brookland DOES make living in, say, Langdon more attractive (because Langdon becomes closer to amenities and a quorum of white people in Brookland, while still being more affordable). "

One more time, I dont think the convenience to amenities is that important, especially for a neighborhood where most people, especially most potential gentrifiers, will own automobiles. Second, amenities were improving in Brookland prior to the new development. Third, Im not sure what a quorom of white people means. I think that to the extent demographic concerns like that matter, its the makeup of the blocks adjacent to the ones that a would be renovator is going to buy in that matter, not a large project half a mile or more away.

"The increasing supply does not help existing residents, and there is no 'trickle-down' effect, "

that is certainly incorrect. The OP did NOT say there is no trickle down effect from new development. OP only said that currently affordable housing is being lost. But that is due to growing demand in DC, which I think is clearly driven by A. employment growth B congestion on roads into DC C. a changing taste for walkable urban living. Not by the dynamic you claim is driving it. In any case, OP does not address such a dynamic.

" Areas like Langdon would remain relatively far from the existing centers of craft beer gentrification, limiting new demand and keeping those areas affordable for existing low- and middle-income residents."

except as you have been shown repeatedly, gentrification happens anyway, as demand drives up prices for THs (or SFH's) in adjacent areas, and as house by house renovation and turnover makes the next block over less scary.

I am sorry you apparently never got to see how this worked in Logan in the 1990s.

I suggest you go examine navy yard and anacostia. You will not that Navy Yard is now filled with amenities far in excess of someplace like brookland or petworth. Its also got quite a "quorom" of white people. Yet its so far having minimal impact on Anacostia. Why? because what counts is not a quorom a half mile away - what matters is whats on the next block, and the Anacostia River prevents the gradual block by block transformation dynamic from taking place there.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 19, 2013 11:29 am • linkreport

@AWITC
OK, think of it like this. The Old West. A few frontiersmen move out. They build a nice farm. Other people hear about it. They move out to and build a farm too. A big fort arises. Now hundred of people move to the area, prompting the original settlers to sell up and move further west, repeat, repeat with displacement of the native population at every stage. The big fort didn't cause initial settlement in the area, but it does consolidate it, and extend the frontier. The fort also doesn't provide for the native population who are being displaced.

In the same way, in DC, big 'forts' of gentrification, i.e. new apartment and condo buildings are extending the frontier of gentrification. If we make it easier for these 'forts' to be built (reduce parking minimums etc) that will not help the original population. It will just speed the push into new neighborhoods and displacement. However the 'forts' could serve the original population if they are required to set aside a significant fraction of space for them (by increased IZ). The frontier will still extend, just in a more inclusive way.

by renegade09 on Sep 19, 2013 11:43 am • linkreport

forts were military installations. Apartment buildings are not. Apartment buildings do not send out patrols to reduce crime. Indeed its claimed that renters in high density buildings are less likely to be involved in community affairs (presumably including neighborhood watch and other anticrime efforts) than homeowners in rowhouses. So I doubt they do much to reduce crime or impact newcomers sense of security vis a vis crime.

secondly forts do NOT provide housing. Ergo, they do not absorb some of the settlers demand for land. However newcomers to a city DO demand housing, and new buildings provide that, and provide an alternative source of that to the existing stock of houses.

Once again, I will ask you - did you ever walk around Logan Circle in the 1990s? Or any other "gentrification frontiers" in DC in that era.

What you are suggesting is more akin to a claim that the development of tech industries in silicon valley drove the native americans out of california. That the Empire State building is why there ceased to be many american indians in NYC.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 19, 2013 11:50 am • linkreport

The increasing supply does not help existing residents, and there is no 'trickle-down' effect,

This is demonstrably untrue, but it does require a few conditions.

New housing supply will indeed trickle down to 'existing residents,' but it requires that a) the housing supply is allowed to expand to meet demand, and b) time - new assets need to age and depreciate a bit.

Lot's of DC's lost market-rate affordable units were old apartments that have been renovated to cater to higher rents. You'd cut out a portion of that market if there were more new housing available.

Good explanations here:

http://www.austincontrarian.com/austincontrarian/2008/06/filtering.html

http://www.austincontrarian.com/austincontrarian/2013/07/filtering-is-a-real-thing-part-29.html

http://www.austincontrarian.com/austincontrarian/2012/11/filtering-up.html

because the apartments were built to cater to new demand, not the existing population.

This is an artificial distinction, unless you are incorrectly asserting that tenure in DC perfectly correlates with income.

What would happen if the apartments weren't built? Areas like Langdon would remain relatively far from the existing centers of craft beer gentrification, limiting new demand and keeping those areas affordable for existing low- and middle-income residents. A few gentrifiers would move there, sure, but widespread displacement would not occur.

I don't think this holds true at all. If you don't build new apartments, you'd still be facing very strong demand for living in DC - demand that exceeds supply. As renters get priced out of gentrified hoods, they'll start looking far and wide for places where the rent is cheap. Landlords will look to capitalize on that demand, renovating apartments to command higher rents in those neighborhoods.

Again, from the very readable Chris Bradford:

http://www.austincontrarian.com/austincontrarian/2013/07/filtering-is-a-real-thing-part-29.html

From the standpoint of a renter in the market for a $750 per month apartment, two bad things can happen when the rental market is tight. One of those bad things -- the one everyone seems to get -- is that rents can rise across the board. "All the apartments I'm looking at rented for $750 last year but rent for $800 this year."

The other bad thing, though, is less well understood. When there is a shortage of housing at the higher end of the market, there is not only an incentive to build new, high-end units, but also to upgrade existing, lower-end units. Upgrading existing units can almost always be done more cheaply and more quickly than starting from scratch.

The newly upgraded units don't rent for a little more than they used to; they rent for a lot more. The renter, in fact, won't even complain about the rents at the upgraded apartments because she won't bother looking at them -- they've effectively been moved from one rental submarket to another. The renter then has a smaller pool of apartments to choose from, and naturally pays higher rents for what she can find in her price range.

So: (1) a shortage of units leads to higher rents across-the-board; and (2) a shortage of units causes landlords to upgrade low-end units to high-end units. "Filtering up" refers to (2) but not (1).

Point being, if you stop the new development, you will not stop the kind of displacement you seem to want to avoid, because you haven't addressed the overall demand for living in the area.

If you want to argue that new housing and improved amenities will induce some demand, I won't aruge that - but it is not nearly the dominant element of the demand. The demand instead comes from a general pent-up demand for walkable places, places that do not require a car. Falling crime, good jobs, good transit, good neighborhoods - all factors that lead to the growing population that's pushing the demand up.

by Alex B. on Sep 19, 2013 11:59 am • linkreport

If you want to argue that new housing and improved amenities will induce some demand, I won't aruge that - but it is not nearly the dominant element of the demand. The demand instead comes from a general pent-up demand for walkable places,

Now this is demonstrably untrue. The gentrifying areas in DC are quite clearly those areas near other gentrified areas. People want to be in walkable places near other people like themselves. Otherwise they would live for cheap rent around Benning Road metro, with several fine parks and fast-food restaurants to choose from and a convenient hop into town on the blue/orange line.

Why don't they do that? Why don't developers add big buildings there, like they did at Columbia Heights? Because walkable urban living is not what is in demand. Demand is principally driven by proximity to other settled, gentrified areas. The extent to which those areas are settled is a good predictor of demand in the next neighborhood along. A big new building makes a newly-gentrified neighborhood feel more settled (acting like 'forts'), therefore driving demand and gentrification.

The catalytic effect on gentrification outweighs the benefit of increased supply, leading to higher rents and displacement. Note: I like gentrification and I don't subscribe to the 'greedy developer' mindset. A gentrified neighborhood is nicer than a ghetto. But it should accommodate those who might otherwise be displaced. Hence, increase IZ.

by renegade09 on Sep 19, 2013 2:26 pm • linkreport

@renegade09:
Otherwise they would live for cheap rent around Benning Road metro, with several fine parks and fast-food restaurants to choose from . . .
I think we have very different views of what sort of neighborhood should be considered "walkable."

by Gray on Sep 19, 2013 2:32 pm • linkreport

"If you want to argue that new housing and improved amenities will induce some demand, I won't aruge that - but it is not nearly the dominant element of the demand. The demand instead comes from a general pent-up demand for walkable places,
Now this is demonstrably untrue. The gentrifying areas in DC are quite clearly those areas near other gentrified areas. People want to be in walkable places near other people like themselves. Otherwise they would live for cheap rent around Benning Road metro, with several fine parks and fast-food restaurants to choose from and a convenient hop into town on the blue/orange line."

You are confusing what is causing demand in the district, with what determines which particular neighborhoods in the district that demand goes to. People choose to live in WUPs with good access to their jobs. But they still dont want to live in high crime area if they have the choice.

But they dont need craft beers or apartment buildings to find areas lower in crime. They just find the block of rowhouses adjacent to the already renovated section. Once again (and yeah, I wish I had a dollar for each time I have to repeat this) did you walk around Logan Circle in the early 1990s? It basically moved block by block, a house here, a house there. You dont need apartments for that, and you barely need "amenities".

" Demand is principally driven by proximity to other settled, gentrified areas. The extent to which those areas are settled is a good predictor of demand in the next neighborhood along. A big new building makes a newly-gentrified neighborhood feel more settled (acting like 'forts'), therefore driving demand and gentrification."

By the time a big new building comes along its already settled. Again, this is like saying that the settlers on th prairie were less afraid of indians when Kansas City got a major league baseball time.

"The catalytic effect on gentrification outweighs the benefit of increased supply, leading to higher rents and displacement."

There is simply no evidence for this. And I would suggest some evidence against.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 19, 2013 2:39 pm • linkreport

I worry more about the disappearing middle, than the poor. Given Census statitics that state that more of this country is low income than middle income. New York is perfect example of how the middle has been pushed out and we are quickly on that road.

But also most of us should consider that we can argue all day about rent subsidies, medicaid, education, but what really determines being poor or middle class is income. The city needs to raise the minimum wage, not just for Walmart but across the board. We also as a society need to push back against the idea that elite well off folks really should earn several hundread times what other workers are making in the same company. This divide is a social ethics problem.

by DC Parent on Sep 19, 2013 2:59 pm • linkreport

@AWITC
By the time a big new building comes along its already settled.

That is total BS. When the big new buildings went up in Columbia Heights, the place was still pretty much a dump. Sure, gentrification was happening, but when those buildings went in, it went from a stream to a full-force torrent. (Note: some people still think Columbia Heights is not settled, i.e. the 'Columbia Frights' brigade). Despite the buildings being absolutely massive, rents in the surrounding areas went UP.

There is no correlation between increasing supply in a gentrifying area and increasing affordability. The evidence shows the opposite.

Some gentrifiers were active in Petworth pre-2005. That is clear. But after those buildings went in at 14th & Irving, people were crawling all over every area for miles around (see PoP). We can't underestimate the psychological impact of those buildings, not to mention the amenities they supported, on encouraging people to take a 'chance' on the surrounding areas.

Sure, Logan gentrified without new buildings but I'm not saying that gentrification requires new supply; only that gentrification is accelerated by big new buildings.

by renegade09 on Sep 19, 2013 3:21 pm • linkreport

Columbia Heights was heavily driven by the opening of the metro station which did not take place till 1999, and DCUSA which was not open till 2008. DCUSA did not need apt complexes nearby in order to proceed.

And Columbia Heights redevelopment was driven in large part by the filling out of townhouse development in Mt Pleasant, which meant that people who had previously looked there for cheap townhouses now had to look farther east.

I am not saying hi rises have no positive impact on gentfiers(though there is also evidence they have negative externalities for renovators of rowhouses, including noise, aesthetic impacts, and, yes, parking). But the impact is limited and offset by the impact district wide on supply.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 19, 2013 4:02 pm • linkreport

When the big new buildings went up in Columbia Heights, the place was still pretty much a dump.

In Nov 1st, 2005 the median home value in Columbia Heights was $417k. On Nov 2011 it was $420. DC USA opened in march of 2009.

If you look at the home value history here and set the scale to "10 years" you'll see that the run-up in prices all came far before any of the big new buildings went up. If those big buildings had never been built, there'd still be $8 microbrews and upward pressure on housing prices.

Just fewer new residents paying taxes.

by oboe on Sep 19, 2013 4:04 pm • linkreport

"There is no correlation between increasing supply in a gentrifying area and increasing affordability. The evidence shows the opposite."

Again, the supply impact may be offset by the amenity impact in that particular neighborhood. It could raise rents in one particular neighborhood, while reducing them across the district. Note there are many neighborhoods that are (almost) built out and very established, where older buildings face competition from new buildings in transitional areas. The areas that would be more expensive if there were no development in NoMa, Logan, etc, are mostly in upper NW.

"see PoP)"

I would be VERY wary of POP as a data source this - folks there are generally not the sort who see new apt buildings as negatives to rowhouse owners - there are certainly many rowhouse owners who think they are, but I dont think they are very welcome on POP. And they are the sort of folks who are very focused on things like new restaurants (and what would one expect on a blog that feature articles on every new restaurant?)

Im not saying that a new apt building is a negative for a neighborhood the way some "NIMBYs" think. I am merely saying that the amenity value can easily be exaggerated. I am very skeptical that it could offset the supply effect. And I see no evidence that it does - again the overall rise in rents in DC is easily explained by the increase in jobs, the growing difficulty of commuting from the suburbs (as well as increased costs in the closest metro-served suburbs) and by the general growing preference for WUPs.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 19, 2013 4:09 pm • linkreport

@oboe
Give me a break, 2001-2005 was the era of 'irrational exuberance', whereas between 2005 and 2011 the biggest economic correction since the Great Depression hit. Second, many (most?) low- and moderate-income people are renters, not homeowners, so house price data is the wrong metric.

by renegade09 on Sep 19, 2013 4:14 pm • linkreport

The reason we now worry about renters rather than homeowners is because A. the homestead act and B. people have well and truly beat down the false notion that someone who sells their house for way beyond what they bought it for and moves out to PG county so they can have a driveway and an extra bedroom isn't being "pushed out".

by drumz on Sep 19, 2013 4:18 pm • linkreport

house price data is more readily available, and would include prices of rental properties.

Again, its not just Logan that gentrified without new apt buildings - capital hill, mt pleasant, shaw, Ledroit, and bloomingdale all did so. against that you have the very arguable cases of Columbia Heights and Petworth.

And, OTOH, new buildings did not lead to gentrification take off in Anacostia, in PG Plaza, at Huntington metro, etc.

So while new buildings may well have a small amenity value, its not likely that offsets their supply impact and CERTAINLY not enough to impose a special "gentrification externality burden" (since I can't say "tax") on them that is not imposed on all high end properties.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 19, 2013 4:23 pm • linkreport

Give me a break, 2001-2005 was the era of 'irrational exuberance', whereas between 2005 and 2011 the biggest economic correction since the Great Depression hit. Second, many (most?) low- and moderate-income people are renters, not homeowners, so house price data is the wrong metric.

When were the giant buildings in Columbia Heights built?! If you want to argue that the big buildings and their amenities made everything more expensive, you have to stay within that timeframe!

by MLD on Sep 19, 2013 4:24 pm • linkreport

@AWITC
Sure, the metro station counted in favor of 'CoHi'. But plenty of places with metrorail are still ungentrified (I don't see much talk of Congress Heights on 'PoP'). Columbia Heights gentrified because of proximity to Adams Morgan and U Street, which gentrified by proximity to Dupont.

For me, there is no question that the amenity effect of new buildings pushes up rents and stimulates displacement in gentrifying DC neighborhoods. Rents may fall across the Greater Washington area more generally, but that doesn't help a janitor who has to take 2 buses instead of walking to work.

by renegade09 on Sep 19, 2013 4:28 pm • linkreport

Sure, but the mechanism for your theory is that people are driven out of these neighborhoods because yuppies suddenly see them as desirable. And that "big new buildings" are what stokes the yuppie desire.

Your interpretation of the gentrification of CH:

When the big new buildings went up in Columbia Heights, the place was still pretty much a dump. Sure, gentrification was happening, but when those buildings went in, it went from a stream to a full-force torrent.

I was just pointing out that this isn't borne out by the numbers. The house price data shows that housing in CH was hugely desirable by at least 2004. By that point it was inevitable that rents were going to increase as well (barring things like rent control).

Also, I'm not sure we can call the CH 2001-2005 housing market an example of "irrational exuberance" when you those who bought at the absolute height of the bubble have made 20% from 2005-present...

by oboe on Sep 19, 2013 4:29 pm • linkreport

oboe,
Again, house price data is not relevant.

Second, I question the data. Median house price is $417K in Columbia Heights? That means that 50% of houses sell for less than $417K? Right...

Third, big macro plays a huge effect. you can't just brush it off.

fourth, are you seriously saying that the huge new buildings, which included space for places like Commonwealth and the new Sticky Fingers didn't stoke gentrification pressure?

by renegade09 on Sep 19, 2013 4:34 pm • linkreport

MLD,
House prices and rental prices were already rising by the time ground broke on the new buildings in Columbia Heights in 2005. It's hard to break out exactly what % of the further rises after 2005 were due to those buildings in particular, but anyone who spent time around there would have noticed that even people from Clarendon (!) were relocating to the area.

Densification at Columbia Heights supported the success of an activity center, just as urbanist theory says it should. That activity center fanned gentrification in the surrounding areas. There would have been bars there anyway without the big buildings ('Nob Hill') but the big buildings, rather than reducing rents [by increasing supply], merely stoked the gentrification rush.

by renegade09 on Sep 19, 2013 4:39 pm • linkreport

@renegade09,

Again, house price data is not relevant.

As a proxy for neighborhood "desirability" it seems pretty relevant. Unless upper middle-class renters and homebuyers have completely different preferences.

In the absence of huge new buildings (with lots of new housing units) CH would likely have developed in the same way as H Street: by re-purposing existing retail spaces.

Net result: Commonwealth and Sticky Fingers remain, but you eliminate 200 (or whatever) units of housing...

I don't see it. I'm with @AWITC: how does your theory address Hilleast & Trinidad, etc...

by oboe on Sep 19, 2013 4:43 pm • linkreport

"Amenity effect of new buildings trumps increased supply to increase rents in gentrifying DC 'hoods."

I accept there are counter-examples and cases where rents rose without big new buildings, but I maintain that this is generally true.

by renegade09 on Sep 19, 2013 4:43 pm • linkreport

"Sure, the metro station counted in favor of 'CoHi'. But plenty of places with metrorail are still ungentrified (I don't see much talk of Congress Heights on 'PoP').

You would see more discussion of Cong Hts on CongressHeights on the Rise, or on Housing Complex, or even on GGW. Don't rely on POP. anyway, CongHts IS about to get a big new building. What it wont have is proximity to already gentrified areas. Whether St Es can offset that is yet to be seen.

" Columbia Heights gentrified because of proximity to Adams Morgan and U Street, which gentrified by proximity to Dupont. "

precisely. none of which required high density. Though I would suggest that Col Height the path from A-M to CoHi was as much via Mt Pleasant as U street. But if you are focusing on "amenities" rather than the renov of TH's, you might not see that.

"For me, there is no question that the amenity effect of new buildings pushes up rents and stimulates displacement in gentrifying DC neighborhoods."

I for you there is no question - however I do not think that matches reality.

" Rents may fall across the Greater Washington area more generally, but that doesn't help a janitor who has to take 2 buses instead of walking to work."

Preserving affordable housing in Columbia Heights or Petworth doesnt do terribly much more for a janitor needing to work on K street than affordable housing in arlington or Alexandria.

If you want affordable housing for poor people who work in jobs in mostly residential areas and they need to walk to them - janitors in apt buildings, in restaurants, , than yes you need affordable housing in every neighborhood - but in that case you need it in places like Cleveland Park, and Georgetown and Glover Park and so forth quite as much as in Columbia Heights or NoMa. If you count on IZ in new buildings you will over provide AH in place with lots of new buildings and under provide in more built out places with few new buildings.

and you will also underprovide in SFH neighborhoods that also employ poor people.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 19, 2013 4:45 pm • linkreport

@renegade
House prices and rental prices were already rising by the time ground broke on the new buildings in Columbia Heights in 2005.

So big buildings are responsible for raising prices and driving people out, but housing prices were rapidly rising BEFORE the big buildings came in?

Seems like you have a contradiction here. Or rather, that there is an outside factor other than big buildings that is raising prices, which is what the rest of us are arguing.

by MLD on Sep 19, 2013 5:17 pm • linkreport

@MLD
Big buildings are a lagging indicator of gentrification in the neighborhood in which they are built, but a leading indicator of gentrification in the adjacent neighborhoods. The novelty of my hypothesis is that I am suggesting that the presence of the big building accelerates gentrification in the next neighborhood and that this catalytic effect on gentrification has a detrimental effect on affordability that outweighs the potentially positive effect on affordability that comes from increased supply.

As gentrification usually creeps from neighborhood to neighborhood anyway, it is a little tricky to isolate the exact effect of adding a big building. But I don't think it's beyond the abilities of a keen masters student. It would just require some kind of correlation of rental price changes in DC versus big building completions, and a solid methodological protocol. I'm prepared to admit I'm wrong about this one, but I have a strong hunch that I'm right.

From a policy perspective, it is pretty important: If adding big buildings causes local rents to fall, then we should be doing all we can to make sure they are built- get rid of parking minimums etc etc. If big buildings cause rents to rise, then there is a strong case for increased IZ, assuming that we care about maintaining housing for low- and moderate-income residents.

by renegade09 on Sep 19, 2013 6:53 pm • linkreport

you might be interested in Everett Rogers _Diffusion of Innovations_ if you aren't already, and his typology of change: innovators; early adopters; late adopters; early majority; late majority.

The big buildings in one neighborhood probably accelerate take up by early/mid-late adopters. Innovators and some early adopters were likely already there.

The process that AWITC described for Logan Circle is the same process everywhere else. And started a lot early than the 1990s (I remember in the late 1980s talk about Logan, my first job was at 16th and P Streets NW.) It takes a long time to achieve critical mass, but I think renegade09 is on to something in terms of acceleration, although I think the point someone made about Langdon not being that walkable is important. H St. is to Capitol Hill as Trinidad is to H St., but the farther you go out from the core--and Langdon and Woodridge are on the outskirts, the density is pretty low, you lack easy access to Metrorail too. There are limits to the hypothesis.

by Richard Layman on Sep 19, 2013 10:07 pm • linkreport

@ Jim T.

"I might give you PG County"

The issue to which I responded was not who has the most poor people, but Falls Church's comment that "DC is the easiest place to be poor"

If DC's cost of living, home prices, sales tax, etc is higher than many jurisdictions in the region, how is it the "easiest place to be poor?"

by Burd on Sep 23, 2013 6:50 pm • linkreport

My family owns a lot of the property in Capitol Hill and some in Southeast, I welcome the rich as it drives up property values and rent, by the way there Def is poor housing...trinidad, anacostia, but I believe that will change over time too

by property owner on Mar 28, 2014 11:26 pm • linkreport

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