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Breakfast links: Millennial shift

Photo by carfull...Cowboy State-r on Flickr.
Generational churn: Older millennials are moving out of DC as housing costs soar, especially for families. The city's planning office wants to focus on reducing crime and preserving single-family unit row houses in order to provide more affordable housing options. (Post)

Condos get kids: Couples who bought condos in Toronto's new high-rise buildings are having children, and while some are moving out, others are adapting to raising a family in smaller spaces. Much of this also applies to many in DC. (Toronto Life)

Educational migration patterns: College grads flock to metro areas that are large, wealthy, and diverse with many cultural amenities. Those with less education have moved elsewhere, effectively creating geographical talent sorting. DC ranks 3rd in attracting those with graduate degrees. (CityLab)

Political preference: Many young Republicans now prefer to live in cities. Can this demographic break the urban/rural political divide? How might they shift national policy on cities and transportation? (Streetsblog)

A new micro-unit: A Manhattan developer will build luxury "micro-suite" apartment units that offer individual bedrooms (on average, 235 square feet) with shared kitchens and bathrooms. The suites will go for $1500 to $1800 per month per person. (Urban Turf)

Farms in DC?: Vacant lots in DC could soon be urban farms thanks to a bill from Mary Cheh and David Grosso. Urban farms could be a good temporary use for land not yet ready for development, but will problems like rats stymie them? (DCist)

New bus service for Silver Line: As an announcement on the Silver Line start date nears, Metro wants to familiarize riders with changes to bus routes that will shift some riders from the Orange Line to the Silver Line. (Post)

Residents lose Capitol view: Two adjacent lots in the Navy Yard area were supposed to have complementary buildings. The first went up, but when another developer bought the second lot the plans changed, and now the second building blocks the first building's residents' view of the Capitol building. (JDLand)

War on (tiny) cars?: Japan wants to discourage people from using very small cars that manufacturers make only for the Japanese market. But is there room for everyone to have bigger cars? (NYT)

And...: DC is a top 10 city for foodies. (WBJ) ... DC also ranks 5th among states as a safe place to live. (WTOP) ... The Navy Yard Metro cooling facility site will become condos and retail. Metro had been trying to lease or sell the site since 2006. (Post)

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Kelli Raboy works as a federal contractor supporting research on vehicle automation and communications. She loves all things cities, public transit, and rail. She lives in Navy Yard. 


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Rodents will no more stymie urban gardens than they will rural gardens. How anyone could think otherwise is beyond me.

by DaveG on Jun 17, 2014 9:11 am • linkreport

If the city wants to keep families, they should encourage developers to build more 3 bedroom condos in high rises.

by 11luke on Jun 17, 2014 9:15 am • linkreport

In related news, the FT is reporting that the average house in London appreciated something like 9%. That is a real bubble.

DC clearly has a problem with building larger condos for families. It is a multifaceted problem. And it tough for a young family to step up to the 800 to 900K for a house in an area with good schools.

That being said, huge chunks of DC, PG County or PW country are very affordable. For a reason.

You also have a bit of a problem withe 20 years old not being able to build up equity in a house vs renting. It is a problem that the microunits MIGHT solve, if they were for sale and not for rent.

What is interesting is finally we are seeing a change in the number of condos coming in the pipeline in DC. Perhaps 3-4 in the last few months are switching to condos.

by charlie on Jun 17, 2014 9:16 am • linkreport

re Japan and tiny cars: this surprises me for no other reason than I think those little trucks, etc. are really cool and I'd love to have one.

@11luke: the problem with your suggestion is that 3 bedroom condos typically cost WAY more per sq ft than a sfh. I desperately need a larger home; but I'm unwilling and unable to pay $600k + for a 3 bdrm condo. I can get more sq footage in a row house or sfh.

by RDHD on Jun 17, 2014 9:18 am • linkreport

Building more 3 bedroom condos won't necessarily help. My wife and I were looking at a 3 BR in in a close in part of Northern Virginia, had sticker shock at the price, and before we got over the shock heard the place was rented - by three single roommates.

As long as the rents for efficiencies and one bedrooms are so high, roommate groups will soak up the larger units.

The answer of course is to keep on building more units, period. And to address the educational and public safety issues that prevent spreading development further.

by ApartmentSeeker on Jun 17, 2014 9:20 am • linkreport

@11luke: the problem with your suggestion is that 3 bedroom condos typically cost WAY more per sq ft than a sfh. I desperately need a larger home; but I'm unwilling and unable to pay $600k + for a 3 bdrm condo. I can get more sq footage in a row house or sfh.

The condo may - in fact, likely will - still be cheaper because it'll have lower absolute square footage. There is definitely a market out there for people who don't mind raising their kids in apartment/condo buildings and are willing to make that choice (whether by preference or as a tradeoff) as opposed to paying several hundred thousand more for a townhouse.

Besides, there's not really much of an alternative, since there's not all that much vacant land left in DC proper for SFH or even rowhouses, especially WOTR. And those places that do exist are places where the school situation is such that anyone able to afford such housing is either free of school-aged children or has the money to opt out of the public schooling marketplace.

by Dizzy on Jun 17, 2014 9:25 am • linkreport

The obvious solution to soaring housing costs is to build lots of new homes. High prices are a sign of insufficient supply. No one commenting on the WaPo article has figured that out; the prevailing answer there is "get out of town."

by 6357 on Jun 17, 2014 9:29 am • linkreport

It'll be interesting to see if micro-units with shared kitchens will be lucrative or not.

by drumz on Jun 17, 2014 9:32 am • linkreport

And as an aside, it will be interesting to see what housing prices in this area will look like with a 6 or 7 percent interest rate.

by charlie on Jun 17, 2014 9:38 am • linkreport

DaveG, rodents might come equally to urban and rural gardens but there are more people for them to annoy in urban areas. Also, lead and other soil pollution is a big deal on many vacant lots. I think it's pretty careless how Grosso is brushing off that concern. You do NOT want folks eating veggies from lead-laden soil.

re: housing. a big part of the problem is child care. DC helps a lot in that 3 year olds can go to public PreK, but it's expensive and difficult to find care for the 0-3 set (long waitlists). Since most day care centers make their money on the 3-5 year olds that now go to DCPS or charters, its' become even harder for centers to operate profitably. This--in addition to school quality and availability/affordability of 2-3br apartments--is why many of my early-30s friends now live in Silver Spring, or for the higher-paid/low-student-loan folks, Arlington.

by sbc on Jun 17, 2014 9:43 am • linkreport

Other thoughts:

The Japan story is interesting but it tells the story of a government that seems to be responding by just sending in Gorillas to eat the snakes.

Aside, my dad works for a Japanese tractor company and they've had their manufacturing in the USA for a long time because American and Japanese agriculture is way more different than the car cultures of the two countries.

RE: bus changes. What a bunch of non-information, most of the changes are already in place anyway and most of the links the story provided went to home pages and not to any new information.

Re: city migration,

In many respects this is all fairly obvious. Republicans are moving to the city mainly because they have to (see: story about education bringing people to the city). Educated people have always been predominantly found in the city and as people get more education you can expect a rise in that.

Meanwhile, job options for someone who is uneducated are going to be better found outside the city. Either because the cost of living is lower for unskilled labor, or that skilled labor is cheaper to provide outside of a city where the cost of land and transportation is lower for the company and technology doesn't make it so essential to be close to the market anymore.

by drumz on Jun 17, 2014 9:43 am • linkreport

I don't think the couple profiled in the Washington Post story looked very hard, or maybe they don't know how to use Craigslist. Here is a $1616-$1670 apartment in SW DC with all utilities included:

DC is expensive, if you need to live in the most popular areas of the city. It's much more affordable if you can look elsewhere.

The article says the couple looked in Trinidad, but didn't want to be seen as urban pioneers? So they feel they have a moral obligation to live in a more expensive part of the city, and then complain about the city being too expensive? What is this?

The media likes to write a lot of stupid articles about the millennial generation that overly generalizes based on anecdotes. Yes, some people are going to want to move to the suburbs when they are older and want to start a family, just like any generation. Some will stay, and new people will move in to replace those who leave. It's a transient city this is nothing new.

But this article profiled a rather odd couple who didn't do a very thorough job of their housing search and have some eccentric views on where it is ok to live and generalized it to an entire generation.

by KingmanPark on Jun 17, 2014 9:51 am • linkreport

RE War on (tiny) cars?

The article seems to ignore that these minitrucks are popular in Korea, China, India, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam(otherwise known as half the world's population). It is also ignorant of American automakers market share in the minitruck market. General Motors most popular vehicle worldwide is a minitruck and it dominates that market, with it's Daewoo and Wuling offerings.

Japanese automakers do not export these any more, because they do not have a competitive advantage to sell them overseas.

by Richard on Jun 17, 2014 9:51 am • linkreport

kingman Park

note the astterisk on that ad - income restrictions may apply. The couple make about what, 90k? Assuming thats a max income restriction at 80% AMI or 60% AMI, they won't qualify.

Otherwise that unit is bizarrely underpriced for local market conditions.

by ApartmentSeeker on Jun 17, 2014 9:55 am • linkreport


If we built a lot of them, then 3 br condos wouldn't be white unicorns that are priced accordingly. The goal, and the city should step in if it needs to push the market in this direction, is to have a lot of 3 BR condos in the $400-$700K range. That's a stretch for young families with good jobs who don't have family wealth, but it's doable. And right now, that range doesn't buy you a row house in the district in a non-sketchy neighborhood with some transit options and school prospects that are looking up. I'm very skeptical though that anyone cares about well-off, but not rich couples in their 30s who are trying to stay in the district, but I think that's a mistake.

In recent years, these folks could move on to neighborhoods like Bloomingdale, Shaw, Petworth, and Brookland to buy in that range. But not anymore, and it's a rather subtle shift that I don't think people are paying attention to- the next wave of neighborhoods in the affordable zone just don't have the assets and infrastructure that the last wave did.

by 11luke on Jun 17, 2014 9:55 am • linkreport

And while many couples wil happily gentrify, this article at least points out the consequences of "gentrify till you qualify" as a policy response to high costs of living. That most middle class people are unconcerned with such consequences, and either follow the above advice, or refuse to do so because of their views on personal safety, does not lessen the need to examine the social costs of a tight housing market.

by ApartmentSeeker on Jun 17, 2014 9:58 am • linkreport

@Richard, the kei class car is much smaller than a Wuling mini truck.

I doubt that many kei classe are sold in China, let alone anywhere in the world. That is actually why they want to ban them; too much of the JDM is selling these.

by charlie on Jun 17, 2014 9:59 am • linkreport

@Dizzy, I've spent plenty of time on Redfin looking for a larger home. Here's a quick rundown of prices I see in DC (Redfin looking for condos at least 1250 sqft and 3 beds): 25 listed over $1 million; 15 between $600k and $999k; and 3 less than that.

I'm not suggesting these prices wouldn't come down if there were more available; I just fear that it would take huge numbers for the prices to come down enough to be competitive with SFHs and rowhouses.

by RDHD on Jun 17, 2014 10:00 am • linkreport

@charlie: Most likely the prices will slow and pool of buyers will shrink. However, 6-7% is much higher than now, but compared to historical values is still low (e.g. that is the range between 2006-2007 when prices were still going up Y-O-Y). I think when the rates start rising above 5% the slowdown will occur, but as the buyers market mentally adjusts to higher rates (even if they continue to rise), the "normal" 2-3% price rise will continue to occur.

@KingmanPark: Good find, but that appears to be a really tiny kitchen.

I agree with sbc's comments re: childcare. That is the primary driver for a lot of parents. If they can't find affordable pre-PK3 childcare, they will consider moving the suburbs, since the options are greater and costs are generally lower.

by Pete on Jun 17, 2014 10:07 am • linkreport

@Apartment Seeker. Fine, here you go:


Takoma Park-

LeDroit Park-

Friendship Heights-

H St NE- Entire Rowhouse for less than $1800-

Maybe none of these are their ideal location or apartment, but there are more affordable options if you move away from the trendiest areas.

by KingmanPark on Jun 17, 2014 10:07 am • linkreport

@sbc - You can't make a blanket assumption either that all potential urban garden plots are contaminated. That's why soil testing happens.

by DaveG on Jun 17, 2014 10:08 am • linkreport

@Richard, the kei class car is much smaller than a Wuling mini truck.
I doubt that many kei classe are sold in China, let alone anywhere in the world. That is actually why they want to ban them; too much of the JDM is selling these.

It is true that Wuling's most popular model is larger than most Kei's but there is a large market with diverse offerings in the micro and minitruck line up and they aren't just present in Japan like this article says.

by Richard on Jun 17, 2014 10:10 am • linkreport


You're proving my point. I'm advocating for policies that change this status quo, and those policies will be judged on their ability to do so. What those policies look like is an entirely separate debate, but I'm just saying this is a problem. And since most people kind of shrug their shoulders and tell people to buy EOTR or outside the district in Silver Spring or deep Fairfax country, convincing people that the status quo needs to change is the biggest challenge.

by 11luke on Jun 17, 2014 10:12 am • linkreport


@Dizzy, I've spent plenty of time on Redfin looking for a larger home. Here's a quick rundown of prices I see in DC (Redfin looking for condos at least 1250 sqft and 3 beds): 25 listed over $1 million; 15 between $600k and $999k; and 3 less than that.

I'm not suggesting these prices wouldn't come down if there were more available; I just fear that it would take huge numbers for the prices to come down enough to be competitive with SFHs and rowhouses.

That sounds right, if for no other reason than because condos only get built where it is profitable to do so, meaning that we're mostly talking about "sweet spot" locations that are both in high demand areas and at least somewhat transit-accessible. That's gonna keep the price up higher (per square foot, certainly) than a rowhouse in 16th Street Heights or Brightwood or Michigan Park or whatever.

The flip side is that you can, at least in theory, build 'huge' numbers of new apartments/condos. You cannot build huge numbers of new SFHs, especially detached ones. Attached you can build more, and I'd certainly love to see lots more, particularly in the 1 mile to 0.5 mile Metro walkshed.

by Dizzy on Jun 17, 2014 10:13 am • linkreport

I just wish they built more city housing, neighborhoods outside of the city so that the suburbs wouldn't be so unattractive. Developers start with that intention, but eventually the plans always make so much space for cars - lots, garages, wide streets, etc. - and the end result is the same old suburban housing with some empty sidewalks thrown in. No wonder everyone wants to live in a few square miles in the middle of DC.

by dc denizen on Jun 17, 2014 10:17 am • linkreport


Lets see, a walkup unit that will be real fun when their baby is born, a takoma park unit that isn't really in Takoma Park or Takoma, a basement unit in an area known for flooding. I'm guessing there are catches to the other two units as well. If you spend any time looking at rental of the day on Popville you learn that almost all seeming bargains aren't, really.

The people who gentrify, and those who move to the suburbs, do so because of the reality of the housing market, not an inability to use craigslist (or sites like padmapper.)

by ApartmentSeeker on Jun 17, 2014 10:20 am • linkreport

oh, the unit in Friendship Heights is also a basement unit. At least its not an area known for flooding.

So, we expect a married couple to raise a child in a basement apartment. Not because they insist on a trendy area, but in places that are already compromises from the trendy areas.

Is it any wonder that people bag it and consider moving to North Carolina? Or to older high rises in the suburbs, where they need a car, but can at least have natural light?

by ApartmentSeeker on Jun 17, 2014 10:28 am • linkreport

@ Dizzy:The condo may - in fact, likely will - still be cheaper because it'll have lower absolute square footage.

That is not true because most condos in this area are 'luxury' condos with massive condo fees attached to them.

The problem is this area is that we only build 'luxury' places. From the condos downtown to the McMansions in South Riding. Not surprising, because they all sell like hot cakes.

If you can not afford to live there, the only option you have is the infinite sea of mediocre sprawl between the two. Meanwhile, nobody encourages builders to build condos and apartment buildings aimed at people with a half to twice a median salary. Sure the condos would be a bit smaller, but the absence of a pool, a convenience market, a coffee corner, dry clothes places, three gyms, five theater rooms and seven party hallways would cut quite down on the condo fees. Especially considering that downtown, there is a gym around the corner, as well as 3 Starbucks.

by Jasper on Jun 17, 2014 10:29 am • linkreport

Some of Grosso's comments on concerns with his "urban farming" bill are poorly informed. The DGS representative is correct to point out a concern with how farms could attract rats, since that is a real concern in large parts of the city.

But the bigger issue is soil contamination that would result in fruits/vegetables with significant concentrations of lead, arsenic and other hazardous heavy metals.

It's unclear whether Grosso's idea is to bring in topsoil and use that in vacant lots or to use the existing dirt in the lots themselves to raise fruits/vegetables.

The latter option is likely to have contaminated soil. Who is responsible for the testing of the soil? If produce is sold from such lots, who is responsible for testing the produce? If there's no disclosure made about the possible contamination, who bears the liability?

These are all important questions and they're concerns that have been validated by similar "urban farms" operating in other heavily urban areas. I understand Grosso's desire to portray himself as Mr. Outside-the-Box-Thinker, but there's a need for him and his staff to do some basic research before issuing laudatory press releases about their efforts.

by Lurker on Jun 17, 2014 10:37 am • linkreport


Here's a renovated townhouse 2 blocks from the Silver Spring metro for 1740. All you have to do is cross the DC line, although I realize that's a scary prospect for some folks:

Or a 2 bed apt for 1630 one block from metro:

by Falls Church on Jun 17, 2014 10:39 am • linkreport

Dear Mr Falls Church

I am aware its possible to find a unit in that price range in some suburban locations. It won't work for my wife and myself, because we are not willing to rent a house or condo from a private owner where we are subject to being forced to leave because of whims or personal financial issues faced by the owner that cause her to sell. However you need not worry for us, we have fewer constraints than the couple in the article (in particular we do not insist on being car free) and have found places that work, while we take steps to buy.

The couple in the article apparently might be able to make those SS units work. I personally think that small 2BR 1 ba units such as those are a sign of a tight market regionally, though clearly such bargains as there are are in the suburbs, especially in Maryland. I'm not sure if Md taxes and DTSS schools play a role, but the couple has several years before they need to worry about schools, and hopefully will be in a position to buy by that point. Perhaps also service issues on the Red Line play a role.

by ApartmentSeeker on Jun 17, 2014 10:50 am • linkreport


That is not true because most condos in this area are 'luxury' condos with massive condo fees attached to them.

Yes and no. I live in a condo building now, renting from the owner, who lives in another unit in the building. The condos fees are significant but not exorbitant.

This is, however, an older building (pre-Metro). Your point about the bias toward luxury/premium housing in new construction is well-taken, however. The filtering/trickle-down effect that even luxury new construction should spur is not happening to the degree that has been claimed/predicted/etc. It is, of course, very difficult to disentangle that, since you can always claim "well, it would be much worse if they hadn't been built!" and there is no good way to counter that.

by Dizzy on Jun 17, 2014 10:54 am • linkreport

Re WaPo's generational churn article: cafe's, bars, walkability, transit, tolerance for smaller housing and city life in general is a high priority when you're younger and/or without kids. All of those priorities become jumbled when you're looking at long term housing options and kids enter, or are already in, the picture.

I would have liked to have seen the article discuss public schools in DC and their poor perception. If you're a younger couple looking at "up-and-coming" areas that also means you're looking at a local school district that's probably considered below par too. If you're a wood-be parent you can't help but notice the much better perception of schools in nearby MoCo and NoVa.

by Fitz on Jun 17, 2014 10:54 am • linkreport

The one couple from the article needs to explore outside of their DC comfort zone and what they are familiar with. Takoma for example is very safe, transit friendly, and also far cheaper then where they are living now. On their income they can probably afford a small townhouse there. It is also far safer then Columbia Heights.

by meh on Jun 17, 2014 10:56 am • linkreport

It won't work for my wife and myself, because we are not willing to rent a house or condo from a private owner where we are subject to being forced to leave because of whims or personal financial issues faced by the owner that cause her to sell.

You can't be forced to terminate your lease prematurely just because the owner sells. Not even if it's a foreclosure or short sale.

Also, as a Blair HS graduate, I can assure you that DTSS schools (which all feed into Blair) are quite good. As for income taxes, they're not substantially different in MoCo vs. DC.

That said, I agree the market is generally tight but it's irrational how much of a premium people will put on being on the DC side of the dividing line. Both of those "suburban" units are a short walk from the DC border.

by Falls Church on Jun 17, 2014 10:58 am • linkreport

Dear Mr Dizzy

I am not sure what you mean. We have been looking at older hirises in close in parts of NoVa, in or at least near walkable urban places, and there are many older hirises that have demographics (and rents!) that one might expect to find in newer buildings, or in older buildings in desirable parts of DC, or closer to metro stations,were the market not so tight. And the buildings are all renovated in the last 10 years. Buildings filter up, residents filter down. I see it happening massively in the region.

by ApartmentSeeker on Jun 17, 2014 11:00 am • linkreport

I don't think it's a terrible thing if people move to Silver Spring or Alexandria, etc, is it? The problem is that our transportaiton infrastructure has not kept up. If Metro ran better headways 24/7 who cares if your nearest walking distance metro stop is Wheaton? The region is shooting itself in the foot every year we let Metro get worse and ignore potential for aggressive TOD developments within 1/2 mile of every metro station. For the record I do know plenty of young families that stayed in DC and Arlington too (of all stripes and affiliations) but I'm not sure what the obsession is with keeping young families on U st. What's next do we build a giant retirement home there so we make sure old people have access to the hottest new 14th st night lift?

by BTA on Jun 17, 2014 11:02 am • linkreport

WaPo article, another in my repertoire of complaining about DC housing supply being limited by arbitrary and out dated concepts about high rises.

Don't worry though, I hear there is enough in the zoning already planned to fit 3 times more people in DC... unfortunately those people will have to give up their first child and a kidney in order to afford the price since those units have to be crammed in on extremely expensive land, with all sorts of caveats, 8 years of planning review in which the owner of the land pays taxes and bank loan interest, all so they can take 12 units and make them into 40 smaller units.


by Navid Roshan on Jun 17, 2014 11:05 am • linkreport

NIH uses those little Japanese "bread wagons". They're cute.

by Frank IBC on Jun 17, 2014 11:07 am • linkreport

Dear Mr Falls Church

That is true, but an owner can refuse to renew a lease. Do the units in question offer say, a 36 month lease? My impression is that if you can manage to get a 24 month lease you are doing outstandingly well.

I will defer to you on DTSS schools. Income taxes may be the same as in DC, but I believe are higher than in Virginia, which may be one reason that such relative bargains are still to be had in Silver Spring more than in Virginia. I am not sure as my wife and I have not looked at low rises, which at least in Virginia tend to be unattractive and not well maintained. We also are not willing to take a one bath unit that does not have indoor access to building amenities that include a bathroom off a lobby or fitness center. Personally I think the older low rises are one of the last resources available to working class people, and that they are now suggested as the alternatives for couples earning 90k only suggests to me the urgency of doing something about the tight regional housing market.

by ApartmentSeeker on Jun 17, 2014 11:07 am • linkreport


Dear Mr Dizzy

I am not sure what you mean.

I mean that the 'filtering logic,' as commonly understood here, is that new Class A construction will increase overall supply, which will create an overall reduction in price because supply-and-demand.

We're not really seeing that, certainly not to the extent predicted. There's various reasons for this: for instance, filtering logic often looks at units as being prices based on their amenities and newness of construction, when we all know that location (particular 'hipness' and quality of school district) are the actual primary drivers of price.

Also, because the housing market is segmented and stratified in multiple ways, the most significant filtering that we are seeing is further down the domino chain, where exurban prices continue to lose ground relative to inner core (even if their previous freefall has stabilized somewhat). That's not particularly helpful for those not interested in moving to Prince William or Frederick Counties, though.

by Dizzy on Jun 17, 2014 11:07 am • linkreport

Personally I think the older low rises are one of the last resources available to working class people, and that they are now suggested as the alternatives for couples earning 90k only suggests to me the urgency of doing something about the tight regional housing market.

Or the single adult that doesn't want to have to have a roommate because they're an adult not a college kid. There's only one of me! I can't make as much as two people!

by Another Nick on Jun 17, 2014 11:13 am • linkreport

I've only ever lived in garden sytle apartments (2nd or 3rd floor) or group houses. I don't want to live on the 20th floor. I don't like living in basements, I'm sure someone somewhere prefers that tradeoff for other amenities. Unless the market says there is no demand for something, I would be suspicious of any definitive statements on people's tastes.

by BTA on Jun 17, 2014 11:18 am • linkreport

Dear Mr Dizzy

Having been in the market, I can vouch for the fact that newness and building amenities are huge drivers of price - so of course are location, though distance from the CBD and access to transit seem to me to be as important as hipness and even schools.

My sense, having looked at older hirise units in close in areas that are anything but hip, is that the hipness factor is not what is keeping prices up in those areas, its supply and demand. However developers in Arlington County are unable to build any more Reagan era hirises, and as far as I can tell those that do exist in such places have almost all filtered up via renovation already. The lowrises usually have not, apparently as property owners await the possibility of reconstruction at higher density. The unrenovated hirises tend to be in places where total distance and poor transit service make them less desirable, hipness apart. Putting artisanal coffee roasters in Landmark won't make that commute any easier.

by ApartmentSeeker on Jun 17, 2014 11:19 am • linkreport

My fiance and I were able to buy a 900 sq. ft. 1 bdr condo in an incredible location in DTSS for less than $250K. It's an older building, but still a highrise with a lot of amenities. Condo fees include all utilities.

DTSS has good schools. Metro service on the weekends has it's issues, but the 70/79 and S2/S4 buses run extremely frequently. I very rarely have issues w/ metro service on the weekdays.

by Paul on Jun 17, 2014 11:20 am • linkreport

Do the units in question offer say, a 36 month lease? My impression is that if you can manage to get a 24 month lease you are doing outstandingly well.

There's more room for negotiating lease terms with units outside the DC border and with private parties. It shouldn't be hard to get a 24 month lease with a private party, although it may need to include a small rent increase for the second year. Many private owners would be thrilled to avoid the hassle of re-renting a unit after just one year and avoiding vacancy periods is key to property management.

by Falls Church on Jun 17, 2014 11:20 am • linkreport


That Friendship Heights Unit is not a basement unit. The picture show plenty of light. There are plenty of other options, and yeah you can always find something not perfect with any of them, but the nature of real estate is you have to give somewhere if you want a bargain.

And as far as gentrification goes- if you move to a neighborhood that has the housing your family needs at a price you can afford, that's called living within your means. If what you can afford is to live in Northeast DC or EOTR, it doesn't make any sense to say it's immoral to live where you can afford.

Yes, we're more expensive than North Carolina, but so are other major cities like NYC, Boston, San Francisco, etc. The best areas of major cities and job centers are expensive all around the world. But, we have other areas.

That's not to say we shouldn't try to mitigate housing costs. As more people move in, we're going to need to build a lot more housing, including family friendly housing near metro. But it's also not right to say there are no options for millenials who want to stay in the city.

by KingmanPark on Jun 17, 2014 11:22 am • linkreport

It is too bad for me that the city did not concentrate on reducing crime and improving public schools over the past 57 years I've lived here. It cost me many thousands in the unofficial school tax called tuition and it's been scary having unregistered guns (each of us being our own police force). But now that my kids are all grown up I still am glad the city is coming to the realization of the concept of serving its tax base.

by NE John on Jun 17, 2014 11:31 am • linkreport

Dear Mr Kingman Park

My glance at the pictures and looking at the house on google street view suggested to me it was a basement unit. I would have to actually visit it to be sure. In general that is in fact the only way to tell what a unit is like - going by ads is simply not adequate, and in general makes the area look more affordable than it in fact is.

As for compromises, let's recall that the couple in question is already compromising. In most of the United States raising a family in a 2BR 2 bath apt is a compromise. The neighborhood, though good, is less desirable and less convenient than their current location. And its NOT a 2BR 2bath, its a one bath apartment. At least their kid will be in diapers for a while.

As for gentrification, I would not call it immoral for them to move where they can afford. People do what they must. But for people to suggest that gentrification is the answer to this group as a whole, which is what I hear - I am not sure that that is not immoral.

As for San Francisco, it has perhaps the most absurd supply restricted real estate market in North America. Its hardly a model of good housing policy. NYC is a metro area about 3 times the size of greater Washington. And also has policy issues - including Christie's decision to oppose improved transit access to New Jersey which would help that market.

There are of course options. The nature of the options though suggests to me that we have a problem.

by ApartmentSeeker on Jun 17, 2014 11:32 am • linkreport

Wholeheartedly second what several people have already said about poor WMATA service being a deterrent to living further away from the core. Sure, Takoma or Silver Spring might be cheaper and they technically have Metro access, but when you're waiting 20+ minutes to go anywhere else, and your only other options are two bars and a grocery store, it's hard to see the appeal.

Improve bus and rail headways at all times and expand the availability of real rapid transit (not mixed-traffic mode nonsense), and you will vastly increase the "desirable" housing stock for people that would like to stay.

by LowHeadways on Jun 17, 2014 12:12 pm • linkreport

I find it a little odd that folks are discussing the superior reputaion of MD/VA schools without mentioning the fact that DC has free 8:30-3 preschooling for kids as young as 3. PS3 & PK4 is generally "Head Start for All" and is high quality even in schools that are poorly performing in upper grades. Even with aftercare and summer daycare costs, parents can save ~$10K/year during the two years before kindergarten starts.

I'd advise DC parents to wait until their kids turn 5 before leaving the District.

by ZetteZelle on Jun 17, 2014 12:15 pm • linkreport

If they move to a big city in NC housing wouldn't be that cheap. Maybe 30% less? And they would likely have to buy at least 1 car, erasing any savings.

And non profits down there will be paying significantly less.

That said, I agree we need to build baby build!

by h st ll on Jun 17, 2014 12:16 pm • linkreport

This issue is potentially a big opportunity for the counties as they seek to create more urban, walkable places (or strengthen the ones they already have). Much as Arlington emerged in the 1990's as the safer alternative to DC for 20-somethings, places like Silver Spring and Wheaton in Montgomery County, Merrifield and Falls Church in Northern Virginia, Hyattsville and Mount Rainier in Prince George's, etc. could present a powerful alternative to DC for young families who want an urban (or urban-lite, whatever) experience for their kids. The key is whether they'll seize it or not by building on the assets they already have (density, some walkability, good schools).

That means improving transit (to LowHeadways' point; I live in Silver Spring and plan to stay but man, getting in and out of DC on evenings/weekends can be challenging), encouraging the construction of different kinds of houses (especially the elusive rowhouse, which as other commenters point out isn't feasible in much of inner DC) and (as Montgomery County is trying to do) supporting nightlife, because even if you have kids, you might still want to have a nice night out once a while.

It's troubling when families like the one in the article think they need to leave the region if they can't find what they want in DC - which is far worse for DC (and the region) than moving from DC to, say, Hyattsville.

by dan reed! on Jun 17, 2014 12:31 pm • linkreport

have a bit of a problem withe 20 years old not being able to build up equity in a house vs renting.

They can build up equity in their 401ks.

by David C on Jun 17, 2014 12:41 pm • linkreport

@h st II

"If they move to a big city in NC housing wouldn't be that cheap. Maybe 30% less?"

I don't know about that... I was sent to Charlotte for work a few years ago, and had to look for long-term housing. I looked at five or six places in the area, including a couple that were light rail accessible. I could get a one bedroom apartment--with a full kitchen, a living room, pool access, and room for a pony-- for $600, including utilities.

At the same time, I was paying $1200 for a studio in DC.

There are some expensive apartment buildings in uptown Charlotte and downtown Raleigh, but there are also a lot of cheaper options. It's hard to find a transit-accessible workplace in NC, but there's still a lot of room for city friendly millenials of moderate means in both cities. (I personally wouldn't want to live there, though... I've been boycotting my home state since 2012)

by Steven H on Jun 17, 2014 1:12 pm • linkreport

They can build up equity in their 401ks.

Assuming they have the slack capacity in their income versus expenses to put anything into their 401ks because they're pouring absurd amounts of money into their rent.

by Another Nick on Jun 17, 2014 1:28 pm • linkreport


From a policy perspective, of course we need to build more housing. Nearly everyone on this blog agrees with increasing density in popular areas and building housing that is accessible to transit. That will be needed to accommodate the influx of new residents.

It might be in most of the US a 2 bd/ 2ba is a compromise, but DC is not most of the US. It's the central city for what has become the wealthiest metropolitan area in the country. The popular areas of major cities being expensive is just a fact throughout the world- In addition to what I mentioned, I could add on LA, Boston, London, Tokyo, you name it, the most popular areas of a city in any major area are going to be expensive, and that expect that people to stay out of a part of a city they can afford is ridiculous. By all means, let's build up the core, build up near metro stations, but I do not agree with the implication that everyone can afford to live in Columbia Heights or that if you can't afford Columbia Heights or a similar neighborhood than you should leave the city.

by KingmanPark on Jun 17, 2014 1:40 pm • linkreport

Another Nick, per square foot, renting is cheaper than buying. The advantage of renting money (which is what one does if they have a mortgage) is that it's tax deductible.

by David C on Jun 17, 2014 1:56 pm • linkreport

London and Tokyo and LA are all larger metros than greater Washington. I am not that familiar with metro Boston. I think the general counter examples of cities that have built their way out of high costs are Chicago and Vancouver. I realize people can quibble about the comparability of those cities, as I quibble about the more expensive cities you cite.

I am glad you support the same policies to fix the problem that I support. I however do not think they are only needed to address a future influx of new residents - I believe that we are still catching up with the demand changes that have already occurred. Even if growth stopped in its tracks we would still need new units. I do not think the current level of rents and prices is natural. I believe its a product of both time lag in supply, and of policies on zoning, historic preservation, height limits, etc that are inadequate to the current situation.

I do not think everyone will be able to afford whatever they want, but I do think that in a more natural situation, for a metro of roughly 6 million with a more rational layout, the compromises involved will be significantly less than what this couple faces. Even a 10% decrease in real rents would dramatically widen the choices they face.

I cannot speak to what individuals in the position of this couple should do. Different people will choose based on their values. Some will move to block in Trinidad where they will accelerate the departure of the working class, with a complex range of positive and negative effects. Some will choose to raise a child in an 800 sq ft apartment with one bath room. Many will move to an area in the region where an auto is more necessary and will purchase a car. Some will move to other metro areas. All of those have a complex range of impacts that can be judged socially desirable or not.

by ApartmenttSeeker on Jun 17, 2014 2:02 pm • linkreport

" The popular areas of major cities being expensive is just a fact throughout the world"

but 2BR 2BA is not only expensive in the popular areas of DC. As the above discussion made clear, its expensive not only in places like Columbia Heights or U Street, but in places like Petworth or LeDroit or Southwest. Or in DTSS. And I would say also in any place near a closer in metro station in NoVa.

If the couple in question had to choose between an 800Sq ft 2BR 2ba unit in Columbia Heights, or a 900 sq ft 2BR 2ba in Petworth or DTSS that would be one thing. That would make this an expensive city. But the choices they have are less desirable than that. There is a difference between expensive, and unreasonable.

by ApartmenttSeeker on Jun 17, 2014 2:15 pm • linkreport

I meant to say an 800 sq ft in 2br 1 bath in Columbia Heights

by ApartmenttSeeker on Jun 17, 2014 2:16 pm • linkreport

We certainly need more 2-3 BR units for families who don't want or can't afford a SFH. Yet even in upper NW, in good school areas that are very attractive to families, developers basically want to build studio and 1 BR apartments for singles/young couples. The result is that there is a surplus of new, luxury housing say for certain AU students with deep-pocketed parents and big check-books. New family-friendly multi-family is basically not being built.

by Randy on Jun 17, 2014 2:56 pm • linkreport

Southwest, DTSS, and metro-accessible NOVA are pricey because they're metro accessible, which makes them popular. Southwest is also absurdly centrally located. It's not exactly an "undesirable" neighborhood these days.

@Steven H, I'm glad I'm not the only one who finds NC a place to avoid. Spent far too much time in Charlotte, and I guess I've been spoiled by living in DC all these years. I find very little to recommend it. And I refuse to go along with the ridiculous "Downtown sounds so negative so let's call it Uptown!"

by Birdie on Jun 17, 2014 2:57 pm • linkreport

"I think the general counter examples of cities that have built their way out of high costs are Chicago and Vancouver."

Vancouver is incredibly expensive in terms of real estate. Chicago's had a combination of slight over-building and slower population growth than the likes of DC, San Francisco, Seattle et al, which have helped to mitigate home price increases. If any city is managing to build enough, it's Toronto.

by Phil on Jun 17, 2014 3:10 pm • linkreport

Chicago is definitely cheap compared to any other city anywhere near its size. Friend of mine bought a 2BR/2BA in the Loop, almost identical square footage to ours, for literally half of what we paid in Navy Yard.

by JES on Jun 17, 2014 3:18 pm • linkreport

@ApartmentSeeker: "My impression is that if you can manage to get a 24 month lease you are doing outstandingly well."

Montgomery County law requires a landlord to offer a tenant the opportunity to sign a 24-month lease. From the Landlord-Tenant Rental Handbook (pps 11-12):

"All leases for residential rental properties in Montgomery County must:
• Offer the tenant an initial term of two years, unless the landlord has reasonable cause for offering a shorter term. This requirement does not apply to mobile homes and accessory apartments. Examples of reasonable cause for offering a lease of less than two years may include the expected sale of the property with settlement to occur within a two-year period, or a planned conversion to a condominium within a two-year period. If the tenant wishes to file a complaint regarding the landlord’s failure to offer a two-year lease or written explanation, the complaint must be filed with the Office of Landlord-Tenant Affairs within 180 days from the beginning of the tenancy."

Good luck with your search.

by John Henry Holliday on Jun 17, 2014 3:27 pm • linkreport

Steven H- thanks for the response. Interesting.

+1000 Kingman Park in this thread.

Also, I'm not sure what the great hardship is for two people and one child to live in a 2/1 that's 800 Sq ft, especially if they can walk everywhere. Assuming they work nearby many would prefer to avoid life sucking long commutes in exchange for giving up some Sq ft and an additional bed and bath. Tastes vary but nothing radical there...

by h st ll on Jun 17, 2014 4:40 pm • linkreport

I don't know, h st ll. My working theory is that people have different thresholds for stimulation. Some people find constant activity stimulating, others just want peace and quiet. I know people who wouldn't step foot in a city ever if they could help it and I'm pretty sure I'd die of boredom in the country.

by BTA on Jun 17, 2014 4:49 pm • linkreport

Excellent points, I agree. But I thought we were discussing people predisposed to wanting to live in the city and all that that entails.

by h st ll on Jun 17, 2014 4:51 pm • linkreport

Lowheadways if you think that Silver Spring and Takoma area is two bars and a grocery store you have not really been out there. You are example one of the ignorance of the area. Old Takoma (which covers both DC/MD) by my count has more then "two or three" bars and resturants and a grocery store. It it's about ten to fifteen resturants, cafes, and bars. This includes a historic jazz club. Silver Spring though is much bigger. Silver Spring it is close to 150 resturants and bars in the downtown area. This is not to mention an art's center, theater, concert venue, an art's movie theater and major multiplex. The only areas with as many amenities as Silver Spring is Bethesda and Chinatown.

by whatever on Jun 17, 2014 4:51 pm • linkreport

H street ll

Some people like to be able to go to the bathroom when they want to, even when the other person is using the bathroom. When their child is out of diapers, they will have three people needing to use the diapers. Now I grew up in NYC in an apt where 4 people shared one bathroom, so I know thats possible, but my sense is Americans have changed their standards since then, especially outside NYC.

I am also quite aware that some people will choose such to live in tight quarters for convenience. I suspect rather more people will do so for Adams Morgan or for Columbia Heights than will do so for Takoma or Petworth. Or a basement apt in LeDroit.

I am saying that everyone faced with the choices that currently exist should or will leave the region, or move to more autocentric parts of the region. Nor am I saying that the choice to gentrify a new area instead is a bad one. I am only saying that the choices now available in the price range under discussion are less than they should be, and less than they would be if the kinds of fixes Mr Alpert regularly argues for were implemented. And that limited range of choices WILL lead many, including many who are inclined to city living, to leave.

I undertand that some people who argue that the market isn't that tight and DC isn't that expensive and thing aren't so bad also express support for those fixes. But that position reminds of me of people (like Mr Pielke) who say they support pricing carbon emissions or otherwise limiting GHGs, but spend all their time challenging the net costs of climate change. Its hard to take their support for the policy changes seriously. It seems pro forma.

by ApartmentSeeker on Jun 17, 2014 5:10 pm • linkreport

three people needing to use the bathroom - but perhaps three people using diapers would solve the problem.

by ApartmentSeeker on Jun 17, 2014 5:11 pm • linkreport

I don't discount the possibility that people who own rental property have a gut reaction to people saying 'the rent is too damn high" which is a very natural and human reaction, especially when its not clear what the policy being suggested is.

I do not wish to seize your property, nor to establish rent control. I do think that when considering the kinds of changes proposed by Mr Alpert, local jurisdictions should consider reducing residential rents to be one goal of such changes.

by ApartmentSeeker on Jun 17, 2014 5:14 pm • linkreport

Rents arounfd me are $40/sq ft. If a faimly can afford 1000 ft at $4000 they probably will send their kids to private school.

Otherwise the issue becomes whether we subsidize lower rents to encourage families whose children we will also have to pay to educate and provide social services for. DC is instead encouraging single high-income tenants who pay a lot of tax and require few services. The extra money is used to provide social services for our low-income community. (Not taking a side though).

by Tom Coumaris on Jun 17, 2014 11:55 pm • linkreport


I'll grant you that I've found no reason to set foot in Takoma. But I've been to Silver Spring a few times, and every time, trying to get around on foot has been a miserable experience, which might explain why I've seen so few of the gems you say exist there. I don't doubt you, but when you're literally crossing highways to go from one place to another, it's hardly the sort of town I'd like to spend much time in.

by LowHeadways on Jun 18, 2014 10:07 am • linkreport

"when you're literally crossing highways to go from one place to another, it's hardly the sort of town I'd like to spend much time in"

So DC is right out, no?

by Mike on Jun 18, 2014 2:33 pm • linkreport

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