Greater Greater Washington

Housing is a big part of inequality in Washington. We need more housing, and more affordable housing, to fix it

There's a lot of inequality in our region, including housing, where low-wage households living farther out spend more time and money traveling than wealthier ones closer in. A new report quantifies these problems and recommends reforming zoning to build more housing, as well as expanding subsidized housing.


Photo from the report.

The report, from The Commonwealth Insititute, DC Fiscal Policy Institute, and Maryland Center on Economic Policy, looks at many ways the recent economic growth in our region has helped higher-income individuals and families more than others.

The gap between the low-wage and high-wage jobs is greater than the national average and getting worse. Jobs for people without college educations have gotten scarcer, while jobs for people with college educations (particularly with advanced degrees) has grown even faster than the number of people with those degrees. And black residents and young people have been hit hardest.

Meanwhile, it's become more expensive to live in most of our region.

The inner jurisdictions, except for Prince George's County, have the smallest share of families making $50,000-200,000, though DC and Alexandria still also have more lower-income households than elsewhere.


All graphs from the report.

Many households pay more than 30%, or even more than 50%, of their income toward housing. For renters, this effect is worst in outer jurisdictions like Stafford, Calvert, Charles, and Spotsylvania counties.

It's worse for renters than homeowners. It seems likely this is because many homeowners have owned for a number of years with fixed-rate mortgages, meaning their property values (and, often, tax burdens) have risen but their housing payments have not. Renters don't have that long-term stability, and are also more likely to have moved in more recently.

Overall, for both renters and owners, housing costs are lower farther from the core, but so are incomes. That means that the proportion of "housing burdened" households is about the same closer in and farther out. This makes a certain sense, since people will naturally gravitate toward areas where they can afford the housing.

However, that doesn't tell the whole story. If a lower-income household is paying a similar share of income to live in an outer jurisdiction, those residents also likely face longer commutes than a wealthier household in a central location. Low-wage workers are becoming more likely to commute 50 miles or more than high-wage ones.

The report says:

In Fauquier, Spotsylvania, Frederick, and Prince George's counties, the average housing and transportation costs exceed 45 percent of those counties' median incomes. That means the average housing and transportation costs in the county are considered unaffordable for the median household.

Three of these four localities are in the outer suburbs, where high transportation costs are responsible for the lack of affordability, despite median home values and rents generally being more affordable there than in the core and inner suburbs.

In Prince George's County, low median family incomes mean that even with relatively low housing and transportation costs, the median household income is insufficient to cover those average costs.

I would add that Prince George's has poor Metro accessibility compared to Montgomery and Fairfax, making commute times and costs higher. Also, with most jobs having shifted to the west side of the region, it's not quite as close to as many jobs as its distance from downtown DC might suggest.

The report notes that Prince George's had twice as many foreclosures in 2011 as the region generally; its rate is comparable to that in hard-hit outer Virginia counties and neighboring Charles County.

What's the solution? Besides increasing incomes, helping people build skills, and expanding access to health care, a big one is taking steps to make housing more affordable. The report says,

Increasing opportunities for affordable housing for working families through zoning reform (such as removing restrictions on building more apartments close to metro stops) and housing subsidies can help working families live close to their jobs and reduce stress on families and communities.
Many reports on inequality from social justice organizations in the past have not included zoning among the policy tools to deal with housing affordability. It's great to see TCI, DCFPI, and MDCEP agree that we need to do both: add more housing (and lots of it), and also explicitly ensure that some of that housing in all jurisdictions goes to people at many points along the economic spectrum.
David Alpert is the founder and editor-in-chief of Greater Greater Washington. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and daughter in Dupont Circle. 

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Affordability is a multi-faceted problem. Nice to see the range of tools widening.

by Thayer-D on Jun 24, 2014 12:13 pm • linkreport

Building more housing might help a bit, but I think the solution will hinge on income equality. It will be difficult to create more income equality in a region dominated by professional service jobs.

Unfortunately, many people living in the region simply don't have the education and skills necessary to do those jobs, and the government of this country does not value income equality as a public policy matter. What's more, costs will remain high so long as the median income of the region remains high and people can afford the luxury units that developers are building.

by Scoot on Jun 24, 2014 12:28 pm • linkreport

I really, truly don't think people understand how screwed the poor are in this region with the vast majority of DC neighborhoods -- and those in the inner suburbs -- close to transit becoming unaffordable for working-class people. In London, Rome, Paris, Berlin, Madrid, etc. robust bus, metro and commuter rail systems (that make the VRE and WMATA look like a child's toy) provide service to the entire region at all hours of the day and night -- accommodating both the hours of the banker and the hours of the wo(man) who cleans the banker's office or serves his drunk kids hamburgers at 2 AM on a Saturday morning. In DC, we have none of this infrastructure.

Just this past Sunday, I saw an army of working-class (primarily people of color) outside a row of bus stops in Annandale/Springfield waiting for buses that were definitely not coming soon. How many of them were missing an hour of work? How many of them were going to face an angry "manager" when the bus finally did arrive to transport them to their place of employment? If they weren't working, how terrible is it to have to turn a 15-minute trip for bread and eggs into a two-hour bus journey because the low-cost housing in suburbia is not near a large (and therefore cheap) grocery store?

Repeat this problem in DC in every major metro area in the USA, but make it a thousand times worse in places like Atlanta and Phoenix that don't even have something close to resembling our already very inadequate Metro service. It's terrible for socio-economic mobility as the poor -- and their children -- can't access jobs and services. (And as they spend money that could be saved if they had good transit on an unreliable, broken-down car instead.) Think about the climate implications.

Now, last time I made similar comments here, people started yelling at me that "not everyone can live close to Metro" -- basically saying that access to reliable, low-cost transit is a kind of "luxury good" in the DC region. It's not folks -- mobility is a human right. And a society that requires everyone to own a private automobile to realize that right is a society that is broken and will be plagued by inequality and low socio-economic mobility for decades to come.

We need to put people to work rebuilding our major metroplexes to make them look more like Greater London -- and less like Dallas, Phoenix or Loudon County.

by James on Jun 24, 2014 12:37 pm • linkreport

There are two problems shown above - the massive total transport and housing costs for the poor. And the growing challenged faced by middle income people who wish to live in the central jurisdictions.

The first can be addressed to some degree with AH policies, but I agree mostly with policies to address incomes. The latter however can, IMO, only be addressed by increasing housing supply of market rate unit.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 24, 2014 12:38 pm • linkreport

And a society that requires everyone to own a private automobile to realize that right is a society that is broken and will be plagued by inequality and low socio-economic mobility for decades to come.

Absolutely.

by alurin on Jun 24, 2014 1:01 pm • linkreport

More housing is more affordable housing

*opinion*

Unless you want to start evicting people from existing homes in order to make them affordable designated, I dont see how you can get any affordable housing with out

*trumpets flourish*

More housing

by Navid Roshan on Jun 24, 2014 1:03 pm • linkreport

"I would add that Prince George's has poor Metro accessibility compared to Montgomery and Fairfax"

What's this based on? I disagree especially in comparison to Fairfax, which only has 3 walkable Metro stations, and only half of Mont. Co's stations are walkable. Plus PG Co has more Metro stations than both jurisdictions and at least more bus service than Fairfax.

The easiest thing the govt can do to make housing more affordable is cut property taxes. This helps homeowners who have owned for a while keep their homes and stabilize their neighborhoods. PG Co has the highest in Maryland, which explains why residents pay the largest share of their incomes towards housing, and partly why foreclosures were high.

by Brett on Jun 24, 2014 1:09 pm • linkreport

James says that "mobility is a human right". I agree, but that hardly equates to being an entitlement. You want more transit, you need to become politically relevant.

Furthermore, you've got the right to not move to the DC area.

Also, the cities you listed have higher populations and population densities, making said transit feasible.

by calm down on Jun 24, 2014 1:09 pm • linkreport

This issue, like others have eluded to is two seperate issues disguised as one.

The issue of cost of housing (or those paying more than 30% of their income on housing)is comparatively minor to other major urban areas in the nation.

Median percentage of income spent on housing in the below cities:

LA - 47%
Miami - 43%
San Diego - 41%
San Fran - 40%
New York 39%

Etc... so the amount of income spent on housing in DC is realtively a minor issue.

What is not a minor issue is that DC has become a place for white collar, suit wearing multi-degreed mensa members. I mean, an undergrad degree really doesn't even cut it anymore in DC. You need a Masters degree, which is pretty hardcore.

Personally, I think thats great and see nothing wrong with it. But a large demographic of DC would be more suited to manual labor careers or factory jobs. The issue? There just aren't that many of then in the area. DC's industry is intellectual capital, plain and simple.

by Kyle on Jun 24, 2014 1:15 pm • linkreport

@calm down -- DC has density very comparable to Greater London -- much of Greater London (still traversed by excellent commuter rail, tube/metro, and bus service) is extremely low density, the center included. Also, where can the poor live without a car in America? Atlanta? Phoenix? We shouldn't design our cities in such a way as to privilege the middle-class and wealthy enjoying the luxury of a private, single-occupancy commute in a carbon-belching car. That's pro-rich policy, not equitable policy or pro-poor policy, which should be the goal.

@Brett -- I agree we can/should cut property taxes, at least for the first home up to a reasonable amount (considering local context and property values.) But are you willing for the rich to pay more income tax to make up the difference?

by James on Jun 24, 2014 1:16 pm • linkreport

@Kyle Personally, I think thats great and see nothing wrong with it. But a large demographic of DC would be more suited to manual labor careers or factory jobs. The issue? There just aren't that many of then in the area. DC's industry is intellectual capital, plain and simple.

"Intellectuals" still need food delivered, bathrooms cleaned, roads repaired, "luxury" apartment buildings constructed -- and these people need homes. And they shouldn't have to travel 2 hours/day (like something out of the developing world) on a bus to get from work to said home and back.

Further, DC is the CAPITAL OF THE USA. If you want to socio-economically cleanse, the USA for "intellectuals with master's degrees" (I'm one of those people, FWIW) go right ahead, but then you get Brasilia -- a government center surrounded by slums, because we've decided the poor have no right to decent housing - and access to transit - in the core of the capital region. But I think -- for reasons practical, social and symbolic -- the capital of a nation should be a CITY FOR EVERYONE.

by James on Jun 24, 2014 1:20 pm • linkreport

@Scoot

I would agree with you that there is a significant challenge in the region currently in terms of finding adequate jobs for most people, the majority of which cannot qualify for the types of professional services jobs that dominate the local economy. But I would also point out that a lot of research suggests that much of the growth in DC area employment will consist largely of lower wage service jobs rather than the current higher paying professional jobs:

http://cra.gmu.edu/pdfs/studies_reports_presentations/Housing_the_Regions_Future_Workforce_2012.pdf

This will only make the current housing dynamic worse. I am not sure that lower median incomes relative to today will contribute that much to lower housing costs, especially if there is not a commensurate increase in housing supply. The jobs of the future may be largely lower wage service sector, but unless there is a huge increase in construction - to the tune of thousands of new units per year, above what is already being built - there will still be plenty of higher paid employees around to keep costs high. The problem will only get worse into the future, I am afraid.

by ndw_dc on Jun 24, 2014 1:20 pm • linkreport

@James,

I am simply stating the factually obvious. How would you change the situation?

There are 2 ways. Create more labor jobs, or 2 create more locally sourced "smart" people. The first option is kinda a non-starter. The DC Walmarts were the largest single source of labor jobs added to the local market since...who knows. GM isn't going open up a plant nearby and the basic labor jobs we have continue to dwindle.

There were 200,000 professional jobs created in the DCMSA between 2009 and 2013, and 100,000 basic labor jobs were lost.

You can certainly educated the local workforce in a way that betters their chance of getting said job, but this region has the highest concentration of colleges, universities and community colleges outside of Boston. Secondly, DC (I am not as familiar with VA or MD's programs) has had long established programs in place to get DC residents into school and pay for it. There is also the 35 million a year we spend in what most of us could legitimately label unproductive job training programs.

Lastly, the nations capital is a city for everyone. Everyone who can do more than fail out of 11th grade. I hardly think DC is being unfair by holding its standards higher than that.

by Kyle on Jun 24, 2014 1:32 pm • linkreport

We just have to hold society together long enough until the robots can perform all labor for us. Then, everyone can focus on intellectual growth.

It's going to be an interesting transition, and happen in a blink of an eye on the timeline of human history.

by The Truth™ on Jun 24, 2014 1:36 pm • linkreport

kyle

If the issue is getting more people to complete 12th grade, then the number of colleges and universities is not relevant. Whats relevant is local public schools (and also issues outside of school that impact ability to learn, etc)

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 24, 2014 1:37 pm • linkreport

It's clear more affordable housing is needed, but geographically distributing the needed affordable housing is equally important. Building it all in Wards 7 and 8 is not doing enough particularly when AH stock is diminishing elsewhere

by anin7 on Jun 24, 2014 1:41 pm • linkreport

Really, it looks from the charts what we need is more sprawl. Renting in the exurbs is insanely expensive for what it is.

And the more we remove zero income people from public housing and Section 8, and turn that in lower rate market housing for people with jobs, the better the affordable housing picture for DC and inner suburbs.

Is the 50 mile commute one way or both ways?

"Affordable housing" is always based on your income, and this is one of the highest income areas in the country. If you are not making 100K, don't plan on staying. Everyone else can live here for a few years.

by charlie on Jun 24, 2014 1:52 pm • linkreport

Unfortunately, NIMBYS don't seem to get the relation between supply/demand and Price. If you take a scarce good(housing) and keep it artificially scarce by limiting housing construction, that increases pricing.

Or, perhaps they do understand. If you're a wealthy homeowner, constricting the housing supply may make it tougher for new would-be home owners and renters, but then it pushes up the value of your house even more. Screw over the less fortunate to help your property value.

by KingmanPark on Jun 24, 2014 1:54 pm • linkreport

There should be a special tax which is used to buy train/bus passes to oil country (North Dakota, etc) for DC's uneducated. I'm dead serious too. People migrate from all over the country to go work there for good wages...since when was it a right to have full employment in the town of your choice (namely your home town)? People have moved since time immemorial for better opportunities. They're call migrants and immigrants.

Labor mobility to areas with low unemployed for the uneducated is the best way forward. Anything is just inefficient make-work for locals.

by Hard Choices on Jun 24, 2014 1:55 pm • linkreport

given the number of immigrants doing unskilled labor in the suburbs, I am dubious that the equilibrium migration pattern for such people is FROM DC.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 24, 2014 1:58 pm • linkreport

Definitely a problem. I consider it largely a supply side problem, though. There is not enough modest but decent housing available for people with low wages in this city. There is also not enough transit connecting areas outside of the core, nor really the density to support it in many cases. Maybe at some point we will recognize that excessively exclusionary zoning is morally retrograde.

by BTA on Jun 24, 2014 2:00 pm • linkreport

OMG: " If you are not making 100K, don't plan on staying."

Really?! So we should just have a transient class of teachers, dish washers, police officers, cleaners, waiters and retail workers to service the 100K+ crowd?

What do you want? Dubai? Let's bring in the "poors" for a few years, take away their passports to leave DC and then kick them out after three years of making lattes in the bottom of your office building?

by James on Jun 24, 2014 2:03 pm • linkreport

They should excuse affordable units from the parking minimum. That would encourage more of them.

by Steve on Jun 24, 2014 2:08 pm • linkreport

There should be ZERO parking minimum.

by James on Jun 24, 2014 2:13 pm • linkreport

Subterranean "Earth-scrapers" can resolve many objections to growth.

Ideas like http://www.savethemall.org are a start. Imagine housing and shops included, right in the heart of desirable areas.

by The Truth™ on Jun 24, 2014 2:20 pm • linkreport

If it's like anything I've seen proposed then "earth scrapers" present a number of things that would require engineering that has yet to be invented. Like, waste treatment. What happens when you flush the toilet on the bottom floor?

We've gotten pretty good at building taller buildings. We should just allow more of that.

by drumz on Jun 24, 2014 2:23 pm • linkreport

Maybe we should just start with more English basements and then consider the whole earth scraper thing? Generally I don't think fully underground housing is humane though.

by BTA on Jun 24, 2014 2:28 pm • linkreport

Yes, zero parking minimum in affordable housing that will likely be located ridiculoulsy far from reliable transit. Yeah, that will solve the problem.

A major transportation issue that I've been harping on is that poor people are pretty much forced to buy a shitty car and to drive if they want to go anywhere. Mobility is crucial, and the option is to spend what adds up to a few hours waiting for the bus each trip to the grocery store, or buy a car and get there in 10.

I want a dramatically expanded transit system so it's not the case, but right now, easy access to reliable transit is a luxury good, plain and simple. That is simply the reality we live in, and that's the reality we need to plan around for the short and medium term. Parking minimums are more crucial in transit poor areas than they are in transit rich ones. Buildings with no parking can work in the downtown core, near metro and within easy biking and walking distance of everything. But in the outlying areas, where poorer people live, cars are much more necessary.

I'm just curious as to how many people here actually live in PG County (I do). I'm guessing it's not many.

by Zeus on Jun 24, 2014 2:31 pm • linkreport

Obviously fully underground housing is not humane -- and it's not necessary.

Some of the folks who live in neighborhoods full of row houses are just going to have to deal with a few semi-high rise buildings popping up here and there, particularly around the Metro stations.

by James on Jun 24, 2014 2:31 pm • linkreport

Yes, zero parking minimum in affordable housing that will likely be located ridiculoulsy far from reliable transit. Yeah, that will solve the problem.

Or, developers would realize that they need to offer some sort of parking solution and would plan accordingly.

by drumz on Jun 24, 2014 2:34 pm • linkreport

@drumz

In most cases, the technology exists. People have been flushing toilets 750 below ground in Carlsbad Caverns since the 1950's, for example.

by The Truth™ on Jun 24, 2014 2:36 pm • linkreport

Or we can just build affordable housing near Metro stations, streetcar lines and BRT. It's a choice: we can allow private developers to build luxury flats on said land or subsidize developers building housing in said places for those of lesser means.

There's no passage in the Bible that states all housing near Metro stops must exclusively be used for market-rate flats until 2050.

by James on Jun 24, 2014 2:37 pm • linkreport

Realistically, you can't expect most affordable housing to be near (at least not using a normal metric like 1/2 mile) a Metro station. Even a city like New York most of the outer boroughs are not subway accessible. The main problem is inferior bare bones bus systems that operate limited service outside of peak which is not when most lower income need to travel and not when non work trips happen. Things like lack of sidewalks and complete separation arguably hit low income peopel the hardest.

by BTA on Jun 24, 2014 2:46 pm • linkreport

@James

Don't mind charlie - the whole "if you're not making over $100k you best GTFO" angle is his favorite shock card to play.

I think people here generally underestimate the extent to which the haves place a premium value (and are willing to spend their financial and political capital) on enjoying housing that is segregated from socioeconomically disadvantaged elements. Especially as concerns their children and the possibility of having to send them to school with the offspring of said socioeconomically disadvantaged elements.

Simply put: one of the primary roadblocks to 'more housing' is that people with money like space, they like bigger houses and yards, and they don't like having poor/uneducated people living nearby in anything other than token quantities. Maintaining this dynamic requires a lot of space.

by Dizzy on Jun 24, 2014 2:46 pm • linkreport

Truth,

Possible is not the same as practical. Again, we know what it takes to house people. We should just do that. No need to tear up the national mall at all that way.

by drumz on Jun 24, 2014 2:48 pm • linkreport

@Dizzy

Totally agree with you. And the problem is that when rich people migrate from the suburbs to the city, they still want that segregation. Except you can't have it in the city without making life really hard for all the "poors" from which you want to be segregated.

by James on Jun 24, 2014 2:51 pm • linkreport

I understand. As strongly you feel that way, others feel against above ground vertical development. Personally, I'm indifferent, until it affects me directly, then I don't know.

There are all kinds of Nimbys, I guess.

by The Truth™ on Jun 24, 2014 2:51 pm • linkreport

There's a huge difference: above-ground development is humane, putting people in a hole is not. One has sun and light (necessary for life) -- the other does not.

by James on Jun 24, 2014 2:53 pm • linkreport

Dizzy and James

the moaning and groaning about being zoned out of Wilson HS in DC suggests to me that people moving into the city are NOT expecting to be isolated from black or lower SES people. The question is how many - having a "critical mass" of high SES students. I would suggest the desirability of living in Alexandria (TC Williams) South Arlington, etc, suggest the same thing.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 24, 2014 2:55 pm • linkreport

As strongly you feel that way, others feel against above ground vertical development.

Of course. But then again, I think that viewpoint is fundamentally wrong. Both in general and in the context of the DC region (see: the story from yesterday about people who can't handle a 6 story building).

by drumz on Jun 24, 2014 2:56 pm • linkreport

The truth

when a developer suggests a for profit underground mixed use development I will do my utmost to avoid a NIMBY reaction. So far most of the underground building done by the private sector is parking garages, and even those present drainage issues - as pointed out by Tom Coumaris.

Some perusal of the housing market suggests that people pay a premium for corner apts with more windows, and for rooms with windows instead of windowless dens. I think that explains why developers are building up, and not down.

Just because something is possible, does not mean its economical.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 24, 2014 3:00 pm • linkreport

Opinions certainly differ. Everyone who feels strongly about something feels that a contradictory opinion is "fundamentally wrong," now don't they?

Additionally, the humane argument does not apply. First, aren't we trying to give more people the ability to live where they want? Second, is a tiny box on the 7th floor with a window facing the brick wall of another building so much more humane than a tiny box underground? They both have the same television sets and Playstations. Third, a simple Google image search of "Earthscraper" should put the "hole in the ground" argument to rest.

Nimby, Nimby, tsk tsk.

by The Truth™ on Jun 24, 2014 3:01 pm • linkreport

"First, aren't we trying to give more people the ability to live where they want?"

Sure, I am willing to consider changing any zoning regs that ban below ground living for adults (as long as issues with storm water management are addressed).

" Second, is a tiny box on the 7th floor with a window facing the brick wall of another building so much more humane than a tiny box underground?" I dont know if its humane, but I would guess that people will pay some premium for the natural light and air.

AFAICT building underground (beyond a one or two level parking garage) is more expensive, and there is less demand.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 24, 2014 3:05 pm • linkreport

"And a society that requires everyone to own a private automobile to realize that right is a society that is broken and will be plagued by inequality and low socio-economic mobility for decades to come."

This isn't true if we keep gas, cars, and roads cheap.

by Administrator on Jun 24, 2014 3:06 pm • linkreport

"Third, a simple Google image search of "Earthscraper" should put the "hole in the ground" argument to rest"

all i get are articles about a plan from some arch firm for a project in mexico city. Did it get built? If not, why not?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 24, 2014 3:07 pm • linkreport

Just build it. Nimbys gonna Nimby. ;-)

by The Truth™ on Jun 24, 2014 3:10 pm • linkreport

Everyone who feels strongly about something feels that a contradictory opinion is "fundamentally wrong," now don't they?

This puts forth some sort of middle of the road "both sides are bad" sort of reasoning that ultimately settles for the status quo. That may be the goal for some people but it doesn't help solve the overall problem of housing the region's growing population.

Every time a specific project is proposed and pushed back against, opponents rely on the same arguments that have never bore out when buildings are actually erected.

Finally, the best way to address demand is too increase the supply. I don't think there is any serious argument that says we can make housing more affordable without actually building anything new.

Taller buildings near transit is the best way to add that housing compared to all alternatives.

by drumz on Jun 24, 2014 3:10 pm • linkreport

Although I'm fully in favor of high rises, I'd like to strongly note for the record that true row houses absolutely fit in smart growth. Starting at 10 DU per acre you could easily house 15,000+ per sq mile in row house neighborhoods. The problem is sprawly commercial and separate SFH developments.

by BTA on Jun 24, 2014 3:18 pm • linkreport

15,000+ people that is

by BTA on Jun 24, 2014 3:18 pm • linkreport

Not just more housing near transit, but more transit period (which, in turn, can have housing built near it). London is an instructive example - many of the far reaches of those lines go way out into the burbs and garden rowhouses. Not what one would typically think of as "dense." But it's a choice we have to make.

Clearly transit is a far greater amenity than its operating revenues suggest. Even if a given line won't make back its cost in fares, that doesn't mean it isn't worth building. We just have to convince the gerontocracy that there are other ways of living.

by LowHeadways on Jun 24, 2014 3:22 pm • linkreport

"Just build it."

Whom are you addressing? Most housing is built by the private sector.

"Nimbys gonna Nimby. ;-) "

Ah, I see. I think we need better cycling in the region. One of the best bike trails is the mount vernon trail, which includes a section known to local cyclists as "trollheim".

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 24, 2014 3:23 pm • linkreport

It's interesting to note that DC never had an industrial base to speak of, at least not in the modern era. That was Baltimore and maybe some of the other smaller cities in the region I don't know of. I suspect that historically the government function actually supported a much greater percentage of clerks and functionaries that it does today however automation and general technological process has shifted the employment base of the government toward the knowledge economy. Not an economic historian so I can't actually say that is certain.

by BTA on Jun 24, 2014 3:24 pm • linkreport

"Clearly transit is a far greater amenity than its operating revenues suggest. Even if a given line won't make back its cost in fares, that doesn't mean it isn't worth building. We just have to convince the gerontocracy that there are other ways of living."

None of the currently in pipeline big transit projects in the region makes back its cost in fares. Thats not the standard that is generally used. That does not mean the level of rail expansion to become like London is possible.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 24, 2014 3:25 pm • linkreport

Guys,

This absolutely isn't rocket science:

1.) Build more housing of all varieties, but offer subsidies and incentives to ensure that said housing is also targeted towards those earning incomes lower than lawyers, lobbyists and defense contractor executives.

2.) Institute 21st-century rent control (something less draconian than 1960s NYC, but with more teeth than 2014 DC) as is working very well in Paris and Berlin.

3.) Expand the region's transit options -- and increase the frequency of said transit options in the suburbs.

Again, this isn't rocket science. The wealthy will pay a little more tax, the poor will have their lives improve a little bit.

by James on Jun 24, 2014 3:30 pm • linkreport

@ "But are you willing for the rich to pay more income tax to make up the difference?"

No, I don't think a) there's a need "make up the difference" or b) that the rich are responsible for it. Just cut government spending or find new revenue streams.

by Brett on Jun 24, 2014 3:30 pm • linkreport

I don't necessarily agree with these ideas but I think within the realm of the possible there is lower hanging fruit like zoning updates, streetcars (admittedly the data is mixed), and a strong push for TOD around existing resources in the region m(Metro/MARC/VRE). I also think bus/transit only/priority lanes could be great as that could arguably recover the implementation cost in efficiency improvements.

by BTA on Jun 24, 2014 3:43 pm • linkreport

LOL @Trollheim

Actually, I am just illustrating my overall point: If you don't want whatever I want, you're a Nimby.

I also see some contradiction regarding whether it is okay for people to pay a premium to get a more desired housing arrangement than someone else.

Should we build an Earthscraper now? No. However, we need to be able to look at all options. "Up or Bust" doesn't have to be the mantra. However, neither does "Down and Out."

For the record, I am not against any current high density housing proposals in DC. Also for the record, none of them are in my backyard, either. So...I don't know.

Earthscrapers? Yes!

by The Truth™ on Jun 24, 2014 3:45 pm • linkreport

"Actually, I am just illustrating my overall point: If you don't want whatever I want, you're a Nimby."

No, a NIMBY is someone objecting unreasonably to something new out of fear or unjustified selfishness. Thats how I use it. Obviously we can debate particular instances. The claim that its used simply browbeat whoever 'does not want what I want" is false, IMO, and why i brought up the mount vernon trail.

"I also see some contradiction regarding whether it is okay for people to pay a premium to get a more desired housing arrangement than someone else."

Im not sure what that means. I dont think anyone here objects if one person pays a premium to live in a building with a putting green. I think the problem we have is with policies designed to insure socio economic segregation.

"Should we build an Earthscraper now? No. However, we need to be able to look at all options. "Up or Bust" doesn't have to be the mantra. However, neither does "Down and Out.""

I dont think anyone objects if someone wants to think about the earthscraper. or the hyper loop. Or cities on the moon. But this thread was, I think, an attempt to look at policies that woulda actually address the housing cost problem.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 24, 2014 3:57 pm • linkreport

There hasn't been any major opposition to the proposed underground Dupont hotel AFAICT. This is really a non issue Truth.

by h st ll on Jun 24, 2014 4:04 pm • linkreport

You're not getting a complete picture if you look at income; look at wealth instead. A married couple where both work can easily pull in right around $200K and because of student loans not have a lot of disposable income.

by 11luke on Jun 24, 2014 4:08 pm • linkreport

I get it. I really do get it. It is easy to void other people's opinions, and declare them "unreasonable" or "unjustified" or "a non issue."

It's so easy to do.

I know.

by The Truth™ on Jun 24, 2014 4:10 pm • linkreport

"I get it. I really do get it. It is easy to void other people's opinions, and declare them "unreasonable" or "unjustified"

What is unreasonable or unjustified can be debated. We are having such a debate, in detail, about a proposed building in takoma. People are not simply saying "Nimby, nimby, nyaah, nyaah nyaah" they are discussing the details of the buildings architecture, height of existing nearby buildings, proximity to metro, history of the parcel, etc.

That is the GGW way. Some folks who want to oppose a project, on grounds that won't stand up, will naturally claim that the discussion of NIMBYISM around here is an arbitrary way to dismiss their concerns. I believe that it almost never is.

I forget which project it is thats got your goat.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 24, 2014 4:15 pm • linkreport

It is possible I have helped people find jobs and the main issues are transportation. This is not as hard as everyone is making it seem. The main issues are

1 Transportation you can find affordable housing its there but the problem is there is not transit, bus, train etc not even a damn sidewalk.

You can find affordable housing in Herndon, Reston, Loundon County, PG County, Howard County, Charles County and southern Fairfax County; all of these places have a lack of transit or it ends between 6pm & 8pm and basically none of weekends

2 All Metrorail stations should have bus service Monday thur Sunday from atleast 6am-11pm; any where a train does not go a bus should go to the general area (within 2 miles)

3 Anytime Metrorail is not running the bus service should be with all routes; infact I would run more buses when the train isnt running and try to get everyone on trains when they are opening.

I know people that work in Reston and live in PG County neither end destination is near transit.

The people on here need to get out and try taking a bus on a weekend anywhere outside of DC, Silver Spring, Chevy Chase, Bethesda or PG Plaza and see how is it. I bet many of the people here have dealt with many of the problems involving transportation and housing.

by kk on Jun 24, 2014 4:19 pm • linkreport

Totally agree kk, DC is way behind by not having a bus system. As a visitor, it took me about 5 minutes to decipher and correctly choose the proper night bus to get back to my hotel in London. I'm probably on the higher end of the transit fluency spectrum but DC has a much simpler system to start with and I think a quite intuitive system could be designed and implemented. However that wont realistically address a lot of suburban transit issues.

by BTA on Jun 24, 2014 4:25 pm • linkreport

*way behind in not having a 24/7 bus system that is

by BTA on Jun 24, 2014 4:26 pm • linkreport

@AWITC

None. I am actually supportive of projects to increase density and affordability. However, as someone who is relatively new to GGW, from my perspective, there seems to be a default antagonism to those who are not supportive of every urbanist impulse. "Nimby" is bandied about willy-nilly. The Knights who say "Nimby!"

So, though my participation may sometimes appear in opposition to the projects, but I really am not. I am a bike commuter who wants to drive his car as infrequently as possible. I want to pop wheelies all the way to the Farmer's Market. I guess I am just not as quick to villify people who have legitimate interests in their neighborhoods. That is not directed at you personally, just the tone or "vibe" at GGW sometimes. Conversely, sometimes "obstructionist" people really are villains who need to be conquered.

Overall, I do enjoy the articles and discussions here a great deal.

by The Truth™ on Jun 24, 2014 4:30 pm • linkreport

Correction I bet many of the people here have NOT dealt with many of the problems involving transportation and cheap housing.

by kk on Jun 24, 2014 4:37 pm • linkreport

Sometimes we use it as shorthand.

"We should extend the hazel line into seaview acres"
"not enough density there"
"well, just build 2000 brand new condos with putting greens, then we have enough ridership"
"nah, the NIMBYs will never allow that"

Are we supposed to write "the set of mostly older SFH owners who have a mix of valid and non valid concerns about density will never allow that"? Thats kind of awkward.

There is plenty of unreasoned and unjustified opposition to housing and transit projects in this region, which is often very vocal, and because expressed by civic assocations and articulate people, often gets disproportionate press coverage. GGW is a counter to that and a place to discuss these things for the YIMBY contingent. While some people may over use the word NIMBY, I think the vibe here is appropriate.

And using the term NIMBY does not imply that people simply need to be conquered. coalition building and persuasion are needed, and political realism often dictates compromise. What can be missed is how much compromise is often reflected in the proposals that are being fought.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 24, 2014 4:41 pm • linkreport

One person used the term NIMBY before you started harping on it with your 'earthscraper' strawman, The Truth™.

by MLD on Jun 24, 2014 4:44 pm • linkreport

MLD is correct.

the usage was this. "Unfortunately, NIMBYS don't seem to get the relation between supply/demand and Price. If you take a scarce good(housing) and keep it artificially scarce by limiting housing construction, that increases pricing. "

Would it have been better to say "concerned older residents who own SFHs and often have what I believe are unfounded objections to new housing don't seem to get the relation between supply/demand and price" What is advanced by that particular edit? I don't think anything. I think this is useful shorthand.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 24, 2014 4:50 pm • linkreport

Add more housing does not decrease price you can see this now by new apartments and condos in DC all priced about the same give a take a few hundred or 10-20 thousand for a condo.

Almost all new apartments in DC are about 1800-2500 dollars more housing hasnt decreased that price all it does it make all owners/developers price the same or near the same as the building 4 or 5 blocks away.

by kk on Jun 24, 2014 4:55 pm • linkreport

kk

they are priced the same because thats what the market will bear. that confirms that the market is at work. And most large buildings will vary their rents from time to time based on occupancy. So if and when enough new buildings come on stream to decrease occupancy, rents will respond. They dont yet because supply continues to lag the growth in demand. Note also, its rent adjusted for inflation that matters - real rents may decline even if nominal rents never do. And note, that new apts as they increase in number will pressure the rents in older buildings. The shortage has meant that rents in older buildings have incresaed. Note, as the new buildings age, they will more directly impact the supply of old buildings.

SHort version - if you make something scarce, you make it expensive.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 24, 2014 5:09 pm • linkreport

There's an unjustified divide between urbanists and people working for social justice. Even if everyone was able to make a living wage, there's no reason why as much money should go to rents as it does. Adequate supply is a much more robust way to control rents and housing costs than rent controls.

Plus, even if there was public housing to take care of the bottom bracket. It should still be walkable, dense, and transit-oriented. It doesn't need to be radical.

Since we're on experimental architecture, main problem with earthscrapers is that they'd be obscenely expensive. I love projective architecture, but you can't freak out when you run it by an engineer. Same with vertical farming.

by Neil Flanagan on Jun 24, 2014 5:16 pm • linkreport

Also, thanks to the Height Limit, we already have a few earthscrapers in DC. Take the new Convention Center Hotel, for example. The building is nearly as large below ground as it is above ground:

http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/housingcomplex/2010/09/24/coming-to-terms-with-what-convention-center-hotel-will-mean-for-shaw/

by Alex B. on Jun 24, 2014 5:23 pm • linkreport

kk

Of course new units don't automatically reduce rents and condo prices. But if we keep adding to the supply, then maybe we can meet almost meet demand and keep prices from rising too quickly.

by Administrator on Jun 24, 2014 5:28 pm • linkreport

The strawman has declared that the "tone and vibe of GGW" is strictly defined as one single article.

by The Truth™ on Jun 24, 2014 5:28 pm • linkreport

@AWITC

I appreciate your explanation of the usage and context of Nimby, here at GGW.

However, please keep in mind that I showed up here as someone already sympathetic to the causes championed by GGW. If I infer a negative condescending vibe, imagine what others who feel less enthusiastic, or are upset over a particular project (in their backyards).

Fostering community support and compromise is great, if not always possible. It may make things a bit easier on all in the long run, to be less antagonistic in the rhetoric, that's all.

Again, thanks to GGW for the thought provoking articles and commentary.

by The Truth™ on Jun 24, 2014 5:37 pm • linkreport

"However, please keep in mind that I showed up here as someone already sympathetic to the causes championed by GGW. If I infer a negative condescending vibe, imagine what others who feel less enthusiastic, or are upset over a particular project (in their backyards)."

I find DA's tone to be generally quite moderate. and similarly for most other contributors (with one or two exceptions.) Commenters are commenters. We get some over the top folks here, but I would say if anything we get more over the top people who disagree with GGWs position. And the comments here shine compared to most other places where the region's issues are discussed.

And I still do not see what was wrong with Kingman Parks comment.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 24, 2014 5:42 pm • linkreport

A lot of folks would rather be called "NIMBY" than "myopic little twit."

by Randy on Jun 24, 2014 5:51 pm • linkreport

I agree the articles themselves are mostly free of outright antagonism. So, I should clarify that I am referring to some vocal members of the peanut gallery. That is not to say all their comments are that way, or that I even disagree with the points being made when they are "that way."

In contrast to the succinct articles, the comments often rave on and on, and end up comprising the bulk of content and traffic here. I think that is a safe bet. That is what contributes to that "vibe" I mentioned.

Though, I will admit again, it is both the articles and the comments that keep me coming back.

by The Truth™ on Jun 24, 2014 6:16 pm • linkreport

If this thesis really were true, then the relative glut of the 00s would have made housing more affordable. The change was pretty minimal...mostly at the margins. Markets are more complicated than simple supply and demand. High rises are not going to draw the same people as converted townhouses or the glass boxes that are going up everywhere. The other problem is that markets change over time. Housing sizes are shrinking--most new 2 bedrooms I've seen are 1 bed plus closet or tiny den. Single family homes are being cut-up. None of this helps families stay in the District. The big apartments at the Blairs are usually shared by roommates, rather than families--a high rise family unit isn't going to happen. The only places where housing prices have dropped in the recent past have been in places where prices had escalated beyond reason on a mass scale (e.g., Los Angeles) or a weakening job market went too much toward housing/real estate/development with a flood of cheap mortgage money (e.g., Atlanta). DC's employment fundamentals are weakening (the fall off in federal hiring), mass construction might lead to a crash but it would benefit few. The crash in outer suburban NoVa real estate in the 00s is probably the closest thing we've had to that, and few would argue that a townhouse at exit 40 on I-66 is an ideal location for much of anything (schools, shopping, jobs).

Change and growth in DC hasn't been linear or simple. Southwest was more less undesirable to a lot of people until recently (and remains so for many). It's taken decades for Capitol Hill's gentrification to spread from the literal Capitol Hill area to reach H Street and areas like those around Congressional Cemetery that were unthinkable even 25 years ago. Despite decades of redevelopment in Takoma Park, Takoma DC stubbornly drew none of the same interest and still has a lot of housing that needs work. Dupont is dying as a gay mecca and as a retail area, although the area S of the circle has more life than its had in ages. It's easy to go on and on.

by Rich on Jun 24, 2014 9:21 pm • linkreport

@Truth:

I don't think any of us have a problem with people who raise legitimate concerns about development. I think we'd all be interested in how we can preserve quality of life and accomodate growth.

Unfortunately, many people who say they are just concerned about getting certain projects right are in fact ideologues who are opposed to any sort of smart growth, urbanism, or building anything anywhere. Take a look at the PDF in breakfast links where they talk about Chevy Chase opposing any sort of development a half mile away from Metro. Look at how they sued to stop the purple line to save some kind of endangered shrimp in rock creek park- do you actually think they care about the shrimp? Look at the opposition that pops up anytime someone wants to build a bike lane, or do any sort of transportation project for someone other than motorists.

A NIMBY is not simply any neighbor who is concerned about their neighborhood. But it's useful shorthand for those who reflexively oppose any form of sustainable development no matter what. It's important we be aware of them- check the tag "Anti Neighbors" on this site- as they are still politically powerful and influential.

by KingmanPark on Jun 24, 2014 11:09 pm • linkreport

The fact that RE is complex does not mean that supply and demand does not hold. Of course impacts will be at the margins. And yes, the decline in real prices in this region happened more in middle and outer suburbs - its easier to build new there, and demand has been shifting to the core.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 25, 2014 9:09 am • linkreport

While I agree it's not as simple as saying build a ton more and prices will fall, but that's not what supply and demand says. It says that price will flucuate based on both and it would be pretty hard to argue that there wouldnt be more of a price rise with no new construction in the area unless it was met with an equal or greater reduction in demand for housing. So probably a better way to express the benefit of new housing is that it will stall or moderate price increases.

by BTA on Jun 25, 2014 9:19 am • linkreport

Move a lot of DC and Federal government offices to Historic Anacostia. Put a bike lane on MLK. Also put a NICE grocery store on MLK, sprinkle the n'hood with parks and other basic amenities. Do this near the Metro station on Howard Road as well. Invest city dollars (like we do in lots of other projects, i.e the Wharf) in building a mixed use n'hood above the Anacostia Metro that includes ANOTHER grocery store, entertainment and other basic retail. Cultivate an art district on Good Hope Road. Increase police patrol up and down every street in the n' hood 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Gentrification will spill over like Katrina. PROBLEM SOLVED. Housing supply will nearly double. The issue isn't that there isn't anywhere for people to live. Or that housing isn't affordable. It's just that the notion of living EotR in DC is taboo. So we all squeeze as tight into Logan Circle as we can. And by doing this, we kick the long time low income residents out. Now they need somewhere to go - and DC needs more affordable housing. Where is everyone living right now? Somewhere. It's really the NEW people that need some where to live...

by SW, DC on Jun 25, 2014 10:07 am • linkreport

In general, I use the term NIMBY to describe people who don't oppose a project, but rather the proximity of it to their home, especially if it would be fine if it were close to someone else's home. I would say that people who want to re-route the CSX rail line through Maryland are a good example. They recognize that east coast rail is needed, they just don't want it near their home. But near the homes of people they don't know several miles away? That's cool.

If someone wants to build an Earthscraper they can have at it. But as Alex B pointed out, they'll be very expensive - and I don't think many people want to live 75 feet below ground. But, I could be wrong and wouldn't stand in anyone's way.

by David C on Jun 25, 2014 12:03 pm • linkreport

SW speaks truth. The undercurrent to all these affordable housing discussions is that there is no affordable housing in DC but that is not true. These discussions casually dismiss EoTR as a viable housing option.

The truth is there is not enough affordable housing in the trendy parts of the city and when you phrase it that way it's not such a sympathetic topic.

The issue isn't building more affordable housing per se but making communities that have transit potential places where more people want to live because we all know transit and affordability are not the only considerations.

Also, these articles greatly simplify the problem. It's not a matter of just building more. Where these units go is just as important. Concentrating them in a couple areas solves one problem and contributes several more problems.

This is such a nuanced issue. I feel like "need more affordable housing" articles do nothing but stir emotions which are counterproductive if subtlety is ignored.

by anin7 on Jun 25, 2014 1:02 pm • linkreport

Well I think some people all over the city including Ward 7 and 8 oppose new development in their neighborhoods. They don't want anything to change. While housing meets current supply for the most part homelessness is an increasing problem so if it were as simple as moving into affordable units EOTR, that shouldn't be the case really. While generally the outer bands of the city could certainly accomodate more development they are still largely built out in the sense there are few green fields so it's still redevelopment. Even in the case of abandoned properties, reunited divided parcels for larger projects is complicated. And I do think transit access is a big deal. There is a direct correlation to price and access to downtown which is essentially the L'enfant city for our purposes. Obviously other factors are at play including perceptions of safety and acess to amenities.

by BTA on Jun 25, 2014 1:11 pm • linkreport

In general in DC, as in most areas, new dense multifamily housing gets built AFTER the SFHs and row houses are mostly renovated/gentrified, and in some case after the worst old multifamily developments are torn down (see Capper-Carrolsburg). IMO its unrealistic to think that market rate units will be built in places EOTR until such places ares already well along in gentrification. Ergo, EOTR is not an alternative to WOTR that avoids gentrification.

I would also suggest that EOTR is not a long term solution to the issue of TOD housing affordability given current transit infra. There are only 6 metro stations EOTR. Anacostia is already in the initial stages of gentrification, Congress Heights has a large new building coming, and Minn Avenue has one. If densification in places like Logan Circle and NoMa and Navy Yard were to stop, and a large share of that were to stay in DC (realistically it would mean more people in the suburbs, including non-TOD suburbs) that would probably eliminate those places as affordable alternatives in fairly short order. Metro stations are expensive, and there is simply not much land within walking distance of them, ergo to get more walkable TOD (and to justify new transit) we MUST build densely at TOD locations. The issues people have with moving EOTR aggravate that, but they are not really at the heart of it.

But by all means I think steps to add employment and amenities EOTR, and to improve schools, public safety, and transportation there are a good idea.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 25, 2014 1:12 pm • linkreport

I agree with alot of your posts Walker.

I think creative solutions are necessary to solve the ah problems. I don't think market rate is necessarily the solution right now. I think LIHTC should be used to renovate existing garden style apartments in the area. Non profits like L'enfant trust could renovate older homes, or private investors, which is happening. City should take steps to
extend the affordability period on expiring units. Those solutions could provide ah for existing residents and leave space for gentrifiers who want to be near metro. It would reinvigorate the neighborhood by renovating blighted and vacant buildings. The new developments should be mixed income. This would require a sizeable investment by the city but it comes down to priorities.

As for the blanket statement EOTR is against development, I don't think that's true. Also, homelessness cannot be solved by AH as we know it. This is multifaceted, including mental health and drug treatment.

by anin7 on Jun 25, 2014 1:39 pm • linkreport

anin

thanks, but that sounds like A. solving the AH problem for the poor by building AH EOTR, and B. solving it for the middle class by expecting mixed income developments to succeed amidst the the renovated AH

the first is a viable strategy, but IIUC is opposed by many EOTR who donot want all AH for low income people concentrate there. The latter I think is dubious - I do not think middle class people will only move in in numbers, motivating mixed income with a substantial amount of market rate, if the total number of low income people in areas EOTR is actually increasing.

You are correct that private renovation of older homes is taking place. That may well continue. Some of that I guess is vacant homes and displaces no one, but my impression some of it is non-vacant homes - and I would guess some people are betting on the demolition of Barry Farms which at least in the short run will actually decrease the numer of low income people living near Historic Anacostia.

So while I think development EOTR will happen, is probably net net a good thing, I still do not see at as a safety valve against gentrification.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 25, 2014 1:48 pm • linkreport

The truth is there is not enough affordable housing in the trendy parts of the city and when you phrase it that way it's not such a sympathetic topic.

That's still a problem though. Especially when it's an argument used by opponents of a development to block a particular project that they don't like for whatever reason.

by drumz on Jun 25, 2014 1:52 pm • linkreport

Everyone has a reason why EotR as an affordable housing option won't work, but respectfully, IMO - you are all wrong. And adding to, if not creating the problem.

You say that the SFHs in Anacostia would have to gentrify prior to any real density making sense, but was this the case in Shaw or Petworth? Not at all. The city invested in projects on the main streets, near Metro - and people followed... Now everyone wants a SFH in those n'hoods.

And have you been to the Anacotia Metro station? Not rode the train that direction, or passed the stop, but actually gotten off? You say there is no space for new infill - survey says: NOT TRUE. On and all around Howard Road, well within walking distance is plenty of land begging for development.

And Congress Heights is getting a "new building" LMAO - rejoice CH for a "new building" is a sure sign of good things to come.

Give it up. The debate about affordable housing doesn't have to exist. Either pay $3,000 a month to live in Logan (cause that's honestly what the market is) or man up and move EotR, or to MD. Everyone already has a place to live. The issue is you/someone wants their 1907 Victorian style house - well pay for it. But it's not going to be "affordable." But if you are in need of affordable housing - well just buy a 3 bd room house in Historic Anacostia for $250K. By DC standards that MORE than affordable.

by SW, DC on Jun 25, 2014 2:02 pm • linkreport

"You say that the SFHs in Anacostia would have to gentrify prior to any real density making sense, but was this the case in Shaw or Petworth?"

Yes. There was extensive gentrification in Shaw before any large new projects happened. It happened block by block, moving east from Logan Circle. I am less familiar with Petworth but ISTR that the young and hip were moving in before the big developments.

"And have you been to the Anacotia Metro station? Not rode the train that direction, or passed the stop, but actually gotten off? You say there is no space for new infill - survey says: NOT TRUE. On and all around Howard Road, well within walking distance is plenty of land begging for development."

Yes, I know there are vacant lots there. but I am dubious that they will be redeveloped until the neighborhood is far along. and if they kept to a relatively low density (since folks seem think the densities coming to trendy areas are excesssive) they will not provide that much new housing.

"And Congress Heights is getting a "new building" LMAO - rejoice CH for a "new building" is a sure sign of good things to come."

Yes, I agree on that. Though that seems to be motivated by the St Es redevelopment. Which is taking a LONG time to proceed - I wouldnt count on any other cabinet depts moving.

"Give it up. The debate about affordable housing doesn't have to exist. Either pay $3,000 a month to live in Logan (cause that's honestly what the market is) or man up and move EotR, or to MD."

there are plenty of places where development is held back by NIMBYs that are less expensive than Logan - and in fact its an issue in some places in Md and Va - who said it was only about DC?

As for moving to Md and to NoVa, that is indeed a consequence. what follows from that is A. more people living where they will almost certainly drive more B. More displacement of lower income folks in Md and NoVa

I am concerned with affordability near transit because I am concerned with the environment. And my concern for affordable housing includes people beyond the bounds of DC.

"Everyone already has a place to live."

Except for the homeless folks - who are in the suburbs as well as DC. Then we have folks in the suburbs crowded in multiple families to an apt (in the oldest cheapest low rises) We have people living in crowded roommate situations who do not want to. We have people raising kids in small apts, and people living in basements who might like some natural sunlight.

" The issue is you/someone wants their 1907 Victorian style house - well pay for it."

Since the arguments here are about buiding more multifamily housing, I am not sure how you derive the idea its about owning a Victorian.

"But if you are in need of affordable housing - well just buy a 3 bd room house in Historic Anacostia for $250K. By DC standards that MORE than affordable.""

Gentrify till you qualify - its good advice for some, bad advice for others, and whether its good public policy, depends on your priorities I guess.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 25, 2014 2:17 pm • linkreport

In case ya'll missed it and to add something else to the conversation, from last week's NYT magazine ... http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/22/magazine/the-slumdog-millionaire-architect.html?src=me&_r=1 ... about the architect and the projects that have redeveloped the slums of Mumbai.

by Thad on Jun 25, 2014 2:23 pm • linkreport

Isn't "gentrify until you qualify" exactly how Logan and other areas became what they are today? If you like what Logan has become (and I understand some people prefer the old Logan filled with prostitutes and crack dealers), then "gentrify til you qualify" seems like a reasonable way forward.

by Falls Church on Jun 25, 2014 2:53 pm • linkreport

AWITC - Most of the homeless people in DC have mental issues and choose to live on the streets. If you think that there are a bunch of homeless people walking around actively looking for houses, you're clueless. There are all kids of crutches in DC. Of course there are some people that literally have no where to go (besides shelters), but that is not most homeless people. Also nothing you said in your last post really makes sense.

You can babble all you want. EotR is where all the affordable housing is hiding...

by SW, DC on Jun 25, 2014 3:43 pm • linkreport

I am in the Baltimore area and we take quite a bit of criticism for our perceived poor public transit options. Although the rail system is not great, buses are plentiful, covering most major arteries. When visiting the DC area, I've noticed that that also seems to be the case. Is it not? There are numerous comments on this post about the lack of transit serving lower income citizens in the DC area. Is there a real problem finding a bus in the DC area that will take you to your place of employment if you live in a low income area?

by David Hopkins on Jun 25, 2014 3:49 pm • linkreport

"Isn't "gentrify until you qualify" exactly how Logan and other areas became what they are today? If you like what Logan has become (and I understand some people prefer the old Logan filled with prostitutes and crack dealers), then "gentrify til you qualify" seems like a reasonable way forward. "

Objecting to "gentrify till you qualify" as a response to the affordability issue is NOT calling for all gentrification to stop. thats a straw man. Gentrification has benefits and it has costs. The costs increase as their fewer places left in the city (or other accessible areas) that the poor can afford, and i believe the costs are higher the faster the pace is. Gentrification is inevitable, and it will reduce crime in some places but it is NOT the solution to the affordable housing problem. The only solutions for that for the poor are to increase incomes and/or to create guaranteed AH, and the only solution for the middle class is to produce more housing.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 25, 2014 3:56 pm • linkreport

"Most of the homeless people in DC have mental issues and choose to live on the streets. If you think that there are a bunch of homeless people walking around actively looking for houses, you're clueless. There are all kids of crutches in DC. Of course there are some people that literally have no where to go (besides shelters), but that is not most homeless people."

we have homeless people in NoVa - arlington is opening a new shelter, and I believe you have issues with shelter space in DC.

and many of the alternatives to shelters are truely lousy - levels of crowding associated with the 3rd world, or with the Moscow in the old USSR.

I consider those to be problems.

Now if the only solutions were radical ones with terrible costs that would be one thing. But the solutions are not like that. Its just getting the govt a bit more out of the way of development. Allowing a new building on a bethesda fire station - allowing more units at the Takoma metro - allowing greater density at McMillan - proceeding with densification at Seven Corners - waiving some parking requirements in north arlington. Its not anything radical, and the problem is IMO sufficient to justify the solution.

I can't imagine who would oppose it, other than people with an irrational emotional investment in holding down density in the established neighborhoods, or a person with a financial investment in a neighborhood expected to gentrify - or someone with an investment in rental property who has an interest in the rent remaining "too damn high"

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 25, 2014 4:03 pm • linkreport

I cannot speak for the District but in South Fairfax (the part with an Alexandria address), buses don't service enough of the area to be very useful for many people with service jobs. They are either 1)not frequent enough, 2)do not run early/late enough, or 3)do not provide the coverage needed.

Take the REX bus - if you live on/near one of the selected stops on Rt. 1, great (but there are gaps of roughly one mile between stops at points), it doesn't run before 5a or past 11p, and at points during mid-day has a 30-minute wait. While it may be great for a white-collar commuter to get to work, it doesn't help a lot people in the service industry (or event those that may need to work odd hours).

by Thad on Jun 25, 2014 4:10 pm • linkreport

Just about everywhere has decent bus service but traffic congestion makes it a tedious way for most people to travel over long distances hence why it's usually faster (but also more expensive) to use rail at least part of the way for long trips.

Is the vacancy rate that high EOTR. Some commentors are making it sound like there are decent apartments for cheap lying around unused, but I'd need to see data backing that up to believe.

Also the government is investing in jobs EOTR. The new St. Es development will probably spur some local housing development/interest and DC is new offices (to Marion Barry's credit) there too http://www.bizjournals.com/washington/breaking_ground/2013/07/dc-government-strikes-48m-15-year.html?page=all . So while you could argue they should have done it sooner, I don't see how you could argue the city isnt investing there.

by BTA on Jun 25, 2014 4:13 pm • linkreport

Inequality is sort of the point of capitalism. Get over it already

by Jack Jackson on Jun 25, 2014 4:46 pm • linkreport

There are not decent apartments for cheap. That's why I suggested renovating old structures which are vacant and blighted and adding affordability restrictions. The decent newly built apartments have income restrictions and are full. New construction should cater to gentrifyers. And there are a ton of empty lots EOTR perfect for new construction. DC ' S affordability problems are to a great degree manufactured. I've seen several stories about this and most ignore EOTR. The stories that acknowledge EOTR proffer gentrifiers guilt as a reason for not developing EOTR, those are a real hoot.

by anin7 on Jun 25, 2014 5:56 pm • linkreport

A High density makeover of L'Enfant Square, like what was started with "The Grays," would likely be welcome. Did that project get much pushback? I believe the Grays are income resricted apartments.

by The Truth™ on Jun 26, 2014 7:17 am • linkreport

The Grays didn't get push back I don't think.

I think L'enfant square is perfect for affordable housing, but I'm sure the city has other plans. Make WOTR the richest, swankiest place and keep EOTR poorer. It's the only way certain politicians can remain relevant, by keeping a permanent underclass. It's politics imo. Lose wards 7 and 8 and the political paradigm shifts. No more Barrys, Bowsers, and Bonds. More Fentys, Catanias, and Williams.

by anin7 on Jun 26, 2014 7:49 am • linkreport

Affordability must include families who need something larger than one-bedroom apartments. But this site relentlessly promotes high-density small-unit construction designed for comparatively wealthy single young people.

Example: I recently heard a presentation at a GGW and CSG-promoted event focusing on 'exciting' new development at Pentagon City. The developers couldn't even say what the area schools were ("Gun-something?", one said plaintively, reaching for Arlington's Gunston Middle).

Clearly, no families need apply.

by Willow on Jun 26, 2014 7:57 am • linkreport

The Grays certainly was a good project that didn't seem to attract much controversy. It doesn't mean EOTR is somehow primed and all development will be welcomed with open arms. Just look at the rancor over the Big K site.

@Willow, what exactly can the city do to force people to build a different kind of housing? I think it's unfair to say this site "relentlessly" promotes a certain type of high-density housing - it's just promoting building more high-density housing period.

by MLD on Jun 26, 2014 8:17 am • linkreport

By building more 1BR you can poach off people who might have settled for 2BRs and above with roommates.

But the developer's reason for building 1BRs is that it has the biggest margin in an otherwise tight market. By loosening up the market we can help ensure that bigger apartments are more profitable to build.

by drumz on Jun 26, 2014 8:29 am • linkreport

Willow

My wife and I recently looked at a 3BR apt in a nice renovated older building in a good location in NoVa. Before we got over our sticker shock, it had been rented out to the 3 single males. Drumz is correct.

by AptSeeker on Jun 26, 2014 9:04 am • linkreport

Gentrification is inevitable, and it will reduce crime in some places but it is NOT the solution to the affordable housing problem.

It's not the only solution and it's not the whole solution but it's definitely part of the solution. If housing was always affordable in Dupont then Logan would have never developed.

Ok, I'll modify. Gentrification in Logan wasn't a *solution* to the lack of affordable housing in Dupont but the lack of affordable housing in Dupont was bitter medicine that was necessary for the development of Logan. And, the people who swallowed that bitter medicine and bought housing in Logan were eventual winners, as were everyone else who could enjoy all the amenities and the decrease in crime in Logan.

So, what I'm saying is that there's actually a really important consequence of the lack of affordable housing in desirable areas and "solving" the AH problem would have the unintended consequence of hugely slowing the improvement of high-crime, low-amenity areas.

by Falls Church on Jun 26, 2014 10:29 am • linkreport

So, what I'm saying is that there's actually a really important consequence of the lack of affordable housing in desirable areas and "solving" the AH problem would have the unintended consequence of hugely slowing the improvement of high-crime, low-amenity areas.

Only if you assume gentrification is the only way to invest in those high-crime areas.

by Alex B. on Jun 26, 2014 10:32 am • linkreport

Logan gentrified because of the unaffordability of victorian rowhouses in DuPont. Solving the problem of affordable apartments in DuPont would not have prevented people who want Victorian rowhouses from renovating in Logan. It might not have become what it is now so quickly - but it would still have changed.

And as Alex says, thats not the only way to fight crime. Crime has decreased nationally and around the metro area, including in places that have not gentrified. There are many explanations for that.

And note - new development in existing neighborhoods is also a tool to improve places EOTR. It provides tax revenues, which can be used to improve schools, public safety, transit infrastructure, etc.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 26, 2014 10:44 am • linkreport

Lots of good discussion and points here, particularly by drumz and AWITC as usual. Although I do think that folks like AWITC, Ben Ross, etc. are too sanguine about the role that self-segregation - particularly with regard to schools - plays in driving urban/suburban movement, housing, and politics.

You've got WOTP parents complaining that their kids might have to go to *gasp* Hardy rather than Deal. WOTP has been 'gentrified' for a pretty long time now, so clearly schools are much more of a lagging indicator than people may realize.

As for T.C. Williams and Alexandria - 61% of students at T.C. Williams are on reduced or free lunch and only 21% are white (compare to 64.4% of Alexandria's population being Caucasian). The people buying the pricey Old Town rowhomes and condos for the most part are not sending their kids to school there - they simply have the means to both satisfy their desire for urban living and buy out of the public school system.

Anyway, I posted this on CHOTR and it is relevant here too:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Dizzy on Jun 26, 2014 11:20 am • linkreport

dizzy

I don't know many folks in DCPS, but I know quite a few who have or had kids in Alexandria Public Schools. Many of them have thrived at TC Williams. I know some folks hate the "yale or jail" reference, but they end up at fairly selective colleges.

Its also my impression that Wilson HS in DC does not have a much higher (if at all higher?) percentage of white kids than TC does.

I think that what that tends to show is that "critical mass" to make whites comfortable, though still a factor, is not in fact all that high - and I think thats true of housing (though that may vary with locality within the region) as well as schools. And note of course, whites have much smaller aversion to being a minority when the majority is Asian, esp if its heavily high SES Asian. haven't heard of white kids avoiding TJHSST despite its Asian majority.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 26, 2014 11:33 am • linkreport

Logan gentrified because of the unaffordability of victorian rowhouses in DuPont. Solving the problem of affordable apartments in DuPont would not have prevented people who want Victorian rowhouses from renovating in Logan.

The price of class B apartments, class A apartments, condos, and rowhouses are all linked. They all sell/rent at a roughly fixed multiple of one another.

And note - new development in existing neighborhoods is also a tool to improve places EOTR. It provides tax revenues, which can be used to improve schools, public safety, transit infrastructure, etc.

Ah, the old trickle down theory. If that was working sufficiently, I don't think you'd see as many folks lamenting the "two DCs" (as in John Edwards' "Two Americas").

And as Alex says, thats not the only way to fight crime.

True but fighting the perception of crime (not just actual crime) is also important and raising the average income level of an area to closer to the city average is one of the best ways of decreasing the perception of crime.

Also, you're not going to get additional amenities for low-income areas without raising average income levels for those areas.

by Falls Church on Jun 26, 2014 11:42 am • linkreport

Dizzy,

Thanks. My personal impression though is that many parents can end up caring way too much about a specific school when the stuff I've read/experienced seems to confirm that when a parent is involved, the school quality doesn't matter as much.

So if you care about your kid getting a good education, then the kid will probably get one because its you (the parent) who cares rather than the particular school.

That's not a comfort to many parents I know, but I feel that it keeps me grounded at least.

by drumz on Jun 26, 2014 11:52 am • linkreport

FC

"The price of class B apartments, class A apartments, condos, and rowhouses are all linked. They all sell/rent at a roughly fixed multiple of one another."

I do not believe that there is such a fixed multiple independent of market conditions, over time or across metro areas. People will substitute one for the other at the margins, but they are far from perfect substitutes. In upper Manhattan for example, I believe the costs of apts are far more reasonable than that for rowhouses. Similarly IIUC in South Arlington costs for detached SFHs have moved up relative to the prices for class B apts.

SFH houses are land intensive, and you can't make more land. Apts are only as land intensive as density limits make them. As long as there are significant numbers of people with a preference for the more land intensive forms of housing (and there are many such folks, perhaps a majority of all households) I would not expect a fixed relationship.

"Ah, the old trickle down theory. "

This has nothing to do with cutting taxes on the rich to increase wages for the poor. Please lets not use "supply sider by association"

"If that was working sufficiently, I don't think you'd see as many folks lamenting the "two DCs" (as in John Edwards' "Two Americas")."

1. If its not working its in part because the DC Council prioritizes tax cuts excessively 2. If its not working its in part because DC doesnt get enough bang for the buck out of expenditures on education, public safety, and social services. I think they are doing better on education, and Im not sure they are doing so badly on public safety. As GGW has pointed out before, there are issues with employment training, for example. 3. People will always lament, I beleive, independent of facts on the ground. Lamentation is not automatic evidence of a problem.

"True but fighting the perception of crime (not just actual crime) is also important and raising the average income level of an area to closer to the city average is one of the best ways of decreasing the perception of crime."

IOW the only way to make a neighborhood gentrifier friendly is to gentrify it. Gotcha. But if the goal is not to gentrify the neighborhood, but to make it objectively better for all why should we care? For the sake of folks from other neighborhoods who MIGHT go to restaurants and artisanal whiskey bars in HistoriC Anacostia?

"Also, you're not going to get additional amenities for low-income areas without raising average income levels for those areas."

Can we define "amenities"? Bike trails? Parks? Libraries? Or restaurants and higher end retail?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 26, 2014 12:02 pm • linkreport

A white person can move EOTR without being a "gentrifier." There are neigborhoods EOTR that are nice areas in their own right. Good news is that they are still "relatively" cheaper to rent/buy. Bad news, the price has been going up, much like the surrounding area.

Penn-Branch, Hillcrest, etc. SFH, yes, but not really in need of gentrification before they are "move-in ready."

Personally, I think if "new" HD devolopments start near the river bridges and move eastward, there wouldn't be much "unreasonable" resistance, because of the positive changes associated with them. The Anacostia trail is a real asset for the area. It makes my bike commute a dream.

by The Truth™ on Jun 26, 2014 1:12 pm • linkreport

Big K has opposition. It is due to the nature of the project not because it is "development". Other developers in the area have received nearly unanimous ANC support for their project. One such mixed use/mixed income multifamily pud is planned right across the street from the proposes big k site.

by anin7 on Jun 26, 2014 3:02 pm • linkreport

@Falls Church
Ah, the old trickle down theory. If that was working sufficiently, I don't think you'd see as many folks lamenting the "two DCs" (as in John Edwards' "Two Americas").

Uhh, I'm pretty sure "raising more tax revenue to pay for X, Y, and Z" is the exact opposite policy from "trickle down."

by MLD on Jun 26, 2014 3:57 pm • linkreport

Not that this is a solution for many, but there is an abundance of affordable housing in Baltimore. The west Baltimore MARC station is in a very affordable neighborhood. Halethorpe and Penn Station have nearby housing that is a lot less than DC.

by comeback city on Jun 26, 2014 8:01 pm • linkreport

Building more housing and increasing housing subsidies may help, but they'd still fall FAR short of the need.

We know housing prices are very high and continue to rise. This lessens the impact of already severely inadequate housing subsidies. (>60,000 families earning less than 30% of the AMI, and the $187m in the Housing Production Trust Fund will only create ~1,000 units affordable at that level). Even the new minimum wage still less than 50% of the housing wage. Even with more supply, we don't know whether or how much prices would go down.

If we truly want an equitable and inclusive city, the only way we'll make a dent is by supporting non-market approaches to affordable housing, like community land trusts, limited equity housing cooperatives, and public housing.

Regarding the goal of making work pay, the New York City Council and Mayor recently passed a budget with $1.2 million in support of worker cooperatives (businesses owned and controlled by their workers), with the acknowledgment that they help build assets and wealth among low income individuals and communities. Given the unemployment and low wages many workers face, I think this is an approach we can advocate for in the District as well.

http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/24406-leveling-the-playing-field-for-worker-cooperatives

by Allison B on Jun 27, 2014 11:44 pm • linkreport

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