Greater Greater Washington

DC planners want to limit row houses from becoming condos

In neighborhoods like Mount Pleasant and Columbia Heights, people have been converting row houses to 3- and 4-unit condo buildings. Should zoning stop this practice? It would under a new proposal from the DC Office of Planning, but not all of DC's zoning commissioners were enthusiastic about the idea.


Photo by Andrew Wiseman on Flickr.

This proposal would apply to the zones now designated R-4, including neighborhoods like Capitol Hill, Trinidad, Bloomingdale, Logan Circle, Columbia Heights, and Park View. Today, it's legal to have two separate units in one of these row houses, but not more unless the lot is particularly large.

OP's proposal would take away the ability to have more than 2 units at all. It would also limit houses to 35 feet instead of 40 (though owners could go to 40 with a zoning hearing) and end the current policy allowing small "mezzanines" to not count as floors.

The Comprehensive Plan defines the R-4 zone as primarily single-family row houses (perhaps with basement apartments), not as apartment buildings. But in booming neighborhoods like Columbia Heights, OP planners say, developers have outbid individual families for houses with the expectation that they could get BZA exceptions to make the building into a multi-unit condo and add on to the top and back.


Color-coded map of residential zones (as of 2008). R-4 zones are in purple.

Zoning commissioners worry this may reduce housing

OP Associate Director Jennifer Steingasser presented this plan to the Zoning Commission, DC's part-federal, part-local board which has the final say on zoning, on June 9. Commissioner Marcie Cohen asked whether this change would reduce the amount of new housing that can get built in the city. She said,

A major concern that I have is the need for housing, and that's usually the need that's brought before us in the BZA cases. It's adding housing. And no one seems to appreciate density, yet we have the infrastructure in certain neighborhoods for density and I guess I'm in favor of taking advantage to provide the needed housing that we have in the city. How do we balance that?
Steingasser laid out the arguments, and said,
It's just a balance. We're trying to encourage housing, by all means, but we would rather it not be in the single family and at the expense of the historic row houses, that it be geared more towards these larger lots or into these higher-density, multifamily, commercial mixed-use areas.
Something of a debate ensued.
Chairman Anthony Hood: I'm glad to hear you say that, Ms. Steingasser ... While I understand the need, there are a lot of folks in this city who bought in their areas for a reason. ... Do we just throw everybody on top of them or do we kind of balance that out? ... While there is a need for housing, we have to be delicate with that because in this city who's been there a long time, they spent a lot of money in purchasing their homes which is their biggest investment, and they didn't buy into that.

Comissioner Rob Miller: That's why there are five members on this commission, because it is a changing city, it is a growing city, and where you tip the balancedoes two to three [units in a building] really change the character of a neighborhood? I don't think so. But maybe others do.

Steingasser: This is coupled with the new RF zones that we're proposing that do allow for more than 2 units. And where those get mapped will accommodate that. So it's not ensuring an amberification of all R-4, but allowing some areas to have more and some to have less.

However, Steingasser just walked back a very important proposal in the zoning update where homeowners in the R-4 zone, who can already have two units in their building, could put one of them in a carriage house without a zoning special exception. This will reduce the amount of housing that gets added in R-4 zones inside existing buildings.

At the moment, not clear if the neighborhoods that will take advantage of the new 3-unit and 4-unit zones will be R-4 (2-unit) zones, adding more potential housing, or R-5 (unlimited unit) zones, which would decrease potential housing.

In a blog post, unnamed OP planners added,

So, in a time when the demand for housing is great in DC, why would OP propose this? In addition to being inconsistent with the intent of the R-4 zone and sometimes the character of the neighborhood, this is having an impact on the diversity and the relative affordability of our family housing stock. ...

Buildings with one and two dwelling units represent approximately 38 percent of the District's housing stock, but only about 4 percent of the units in the housing pipeline over the next 15 years. Conversely, the District has a large supply of multi-family or mixed use zoned land and developments in the housing pipeline for multi-family housing that is appropriate to meet the demand of smaller households.

Few new multifamily buildings are being delivered with three or more bedrooms, unless they are part of housing planned to replace similarly-sized public housing units. Over the past three years, three-bedroom units have risen in price almost three times as fast as one-bedroom unitsa reflection of the limited supply, subsequent demand pressure, and rapidly escalating prices.

Families seeking to purchase relatively affordable homes are competing with developers who can pay more for a larger house than a family because they can profit by splitting up the building and selling smaller units. Ensuring that the R-4 zone remains a single-family rowhouse or flat zone can begin to address this pressure.

Despite appearances, this doesn't deal with pop-ups very well

OP is right that DC does need some family housing. It also needs single and couple housing. Encouraging family housing is a good idea, but like many zoning proposals from OP recently including the past few years of zoning update tweaks (and like DC's parking policy in recent years), it seems to be just layering customized rule on top of customized rule without a broader strategy.

This specific proposal doesn't even address many of the complaints people have. This is mainly being billed in the press as a move to stop pop-ups. The lower height will deter some of the worst pop-ups, but it isn't going to stop people from adding a third story onto a 2-story row house in a place like Trinidad and the biggest objection is usually that the pop-ups are cheaply made and ugly. A design review process may be better than a zoning limit. Nor will this do anything about many of the more infamous pop-ups, like the one on V Street, which is in an ARTS/C-2-B zone.

How about some actual planning?

Rather than slap on a patchwork of new rules that react to each neighborhood request, why can't the Office of Planning actually plan? Work with residents to figure out where the housing DC needs can go, and what's the best place for different size housing. Figure out where and what kind of family housing there could be, and then write rules to encourage that.

There's a good chance that existing row houses are a more ideal place for family-sized housing. A limit might make sense if, at the same time, the city has a strategy for adding the housing it needs in other ways. It doesn't have one now. There was also massive opposition to allow even targeted exceptions to the federal height limit. People are fighting development at McMillan, at Takoma, at the Big K site in Anacostia, and on my block, all saying that whatever is proposed is too big for whatever area it's in. There was a lot of opposition to allowing accessory apartments in single-family zones, even though that wouldn't change any buildings. And so forth.

Since the first zoning update proposals in 2008, Steingasser's division of OP has been largely reactive, responding to complaints and tweaking the zoning (just about always to make it more restrictive). The agency needs to start being proactive and engaging residents in a discussion about the best way to add the housing DC needs. It's got to be somewhere, and really a lot of somewheres.

Soon, DC will revisit its Comprehensive Plan, which is a good opportunity for this conversation. But it will only happen if OP actually plans for growth which DC's sustainability plan already calls for.

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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Seems like a dumb thing to oppose if your trying to accomodate more people in the city. The only thing I don't like about it is cutting up some nice historic interiors, like is about to happen to the NcKim Mead and White mansion on DuPont Circle, but then again, a good architect should be able to incorporate the best pieces into the new units.

by Thayer-D on Jun 30, 2014 10:32 am • linkreport

I agree these proposed changes are terrible. First, it's unfair to take away everyone's property rights like this.

Second, this seems like it will actually decrease the amount of 3bd housing built. At least in my neighborhood all the pop ups are being used to make a 2nd house on the property. So a single 3bd house becomes to 3 bd houses (increasing residents, the tax base and employment for contractors etc ).

This is a horrible idea all around. Not too mention I enjoy the aesthetics of seeing neighborhoods grow taller.

by h st ll on Jun 30, 2014 10:32 am • linkreport

Becomes two 3 bd houses...

by h st ll on Jun 30, 2014 10:33 am • linkreport

We should saving existing rowhouse stock for what it is. New condos can be built in new buildings. Converting a house into two condos is a backwards way to add a little bit of housing and its more or less irreversible.

by BTA on Jun 30, 2014 10:34 am • linkreport

good piece DA

1. So it looks like pop-ups and smaller units in rowhouses are not universally desired, despite what some commenters here have said.
2. If one is going to reduce alloble density in rowhouse neighborhoods, without limiting supply overall, it needs to be balanced with more dense on the large multifamily parcels. And vice versa.
3. I am not sure the data on 3BR home units is exactly correct. There are new developments (both in DC and in walkable suburbs) that do not have 3BR units, but do have 2BR with den units, where the den is functionally equivalent to a 3rd BR.
4. to address the "shortage of 3BR units" question we really do need data on how many 3BR and larger units are inhabited by groups of roommates - and some idea of how many of those would move to smaller units as individuals or pairs of roommates if the smaller units were less expensive.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 30, 2014 10:38 am • linkreport

For a city that has only recently started to gentrify, the anti-progressive, conservative nature of city planning has truly become absurd.

This is nothing more than provincialism.

These kind of absurd zoning laws are the #1 major reason housing is unaffordable in the United States, and if there is anywhere that should be at the forefront of efficient urban development, it is the District of Columbia.

In my opinion, no height limits should be less than 60 feet anywhere in the United States. No FAR maximum should be less than 3 times the site area.

There is simply no rational reason to demand anything less than this, except to keep housing prices high and exclude those of limited economic means.

by Helmut Schmidt on Jun 30, 2014 10:39 am • linkreport

I think my favorite part about this caving is that the poster boy for bad pop-ups, the 5-story one on V St, wouldn't even be prevented by this change!

by MLD on Jun 30, 2014 10:41 am • linkreport

BTA: In many of these areas, the townhouses are of low quality. They are not historically protected, nor historically interesting.

Developers would very happily demolish these inferior domiciles as they did in these neighborhoods before the Great Depression, but zoning doesn't really allow it.

The truth is many of these neighborhoods are zoned in such a fashion that the houses themselves exceed the zoning laws. It's particularly comical in those neighborhoods where there are massive apartment buildings that are easily many times larger than what is allowed.

If you want to simply have developers demolish obsolete housing stock, increase the zoned maximum density.

ON a side note, in comparison with large swaths of say Brooklyn, Washington, DC has many neighborhoods of positively awful housing. I would estimate that a solid quarter of all single-family homes in DC should be bulldozed. But they won't be with these oppressive zoning laws.

by Helmut Schmidt on Jun 30, 2014 10:46 am • linkreport

I feel for current residents. That said, this zoning change doesn't help the problem it is trying to solve because people cram 10-12 renters in a sf row house.

If I objected to changes in the character of the neighborhood I'd be more amenable to a couple condos than a bunch of college aged renters piled in on top of each other.

But lol at all the efforts to bring more housing while ignoring the most obvious solutions. I say, I hope this proposal goes through. Quit mollycoddling these out of state millenials.

by anin7 on Jun 30, 2014 10:48 am • linkreport

I think given the huge redevelopment potential in areas like Walter Reed, McMillan, unused land around the Old Soldiers Home etc, it would be incredibly short sighted for DC to ruin more historic rowhomes. It also eats into more affordable housing options for families that want a house in DC. From what I've seen if anything the developer buys up a home splits it into condos and charges about as much for the condos as the house was worth in the first place. The areas that are targeted are already the densest parts of DC, why does it make sense to focus all new development there as well?

by BTA on Jun 30, 2014 10:48 am • linkreport

"Helmut Schmidt" brings up a good point which is DC has a large number of poor quality historical housing.

And that is a quandry. Very little guarantee that replacing it would replace it with something better.

But this rule is a good first step. The real target in the L'enfant city shoud be removing and replacing the low density section 8 and public housing which can be rehabilied and sold at market rates.

I'd then go to places like petworth and worry about buldozing them. Large streches up there near Georgia could go as well. Just replace them nice townhouses.

by charlie on Jun 30, 2014 10:52 am • linkreport

"The areas that are targeted are already the densest parts of DC, why does it make sense to focus all new development there as well? "

Not all new development is focused there, by any means. There is new development at every metro stop in DC WOTR (not to mention at every metro stop in NoVa and MoCo) and at some places without good metro access.

As we have discussed in the context of the height limit, there are a finite amount of land available for new multifamily housing in viable locations (even including metro accessible areas EOTR) The height limit is off the table for the indefinite future. Taking pop-ups off the table is limiting options further. This does, IMO, reiterate the need for OP to do a more thorough build out analysis - not only for future height limit discussions, but to better inform discussions of this type. Ideally MWCOG would get other close in jurisdictions to do similar buildout analyses wrt to TODs and WUPs, so we can get a better idea of the build out scenarios for the region.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 30, 2014 10:58 am • linkreport

If an area can qualify as historic, then we should have a conversation about saving hisotric buildings and areas. Merely being old is not the same thing. It has to have some historic significance, or be a particularly good example of an architectural style. Being somewhat old-ish is not enough.

As for aesthetics, I cannot think of a use of the police power inherent in zoning that is more likely to be abused. By definition, there are no real standards. If one means being consistent with other buildings on the block, then we are back to freezing a certain look in place. That's not what cities are about. With a few exceptions, cities are meant to be in a constant, yeasty state of upheaval, tearing down and rebuilding on a regular basis. That's what gives them vitality.

by Crickey7 on Jun 30, 2014 11:08 am • linkreport

I disagree with bulldozing and just building new. I don't want large swaths of DC to look like Rockville Pike, which is exactly what would happen. Developers would throw up poorly built townhouses with too much parking. The old stock keeps developers from veering into suburbian ugliness when building. Seriously, that stuff is ugly. Keep it in MoCo, not in DC. People move to DC exactly because it's NOT Va or MoCo.

by dc denizen on Jun 30, 2014 11:09 am • linkreport

This move would all but guarantee that I end up leaving DC.

In a growing city with skyrocketing rents, moving to limit the potential housing supply is more than absurd, it's discriminatory. Let me repeat: restrictive zoning is a legal way to discriminate against renters and lower income people.

by TransitSnob on Jun 30, 2014 11:11 am • linkreport

If I read this correctly, then the restriction is only 2 units per rowhouse. I'm not sure why everyone thinks that will raise house prices. In my neighborhood developers regularly cut up a rowhouse into 2 or more units and then sell each unit at the same cost as a full sized rowhouse that isn't recently renovated. If anything, that is raising the cost of housing: If you see that a 2 floor condo unit in a row house is just as expensive as your entire house, when it comes time to sell you'll increase your price significantly.

by dc denizen on Jun 30, 2014 11:18 am • linkreport

I have sympathy with the Office of Planning wanting to make sure that there is a sufficient availability of units for families as well as 1-2 person households. But this is the wrong way to go about providing family accommodation. If there is a need for family accommodation, zone for it, and allow developers to build it. The redevelopment of the Blairs in Silver Spring will include family units, but very, very few developments in DC include 3-4 bedroom units in a multi-family setting. This proposal looks like an effort to use distortionary regulation to try to make up for the failings of other distortionary regulation. It won't achieve a successful planning outcome, but it might make some local residents happy.

by renegade09 on Jun 30, 2014 11:22 am • linkreport

@anin7 "Quit mollycoddling these out of state millenials."

What the hell does that even mean? Since when is "ensuring the availability of places to live" "mollycoddling?"

Face it, you're just like all the other reactionaries plaguing the District. "I got here first and I got mine, so screw anyone else who comes behind me." That sentiment is exactly what's wrong with this increasingly backwards, infuriating city.

This is an outrageous proposal of which DC OP should be ashamed. It is criminal to restrict the housing supply in any way right now. Why don't we work on converting all the detached single-family home neighborhoods into rowhouses? It's ridiculous to have yards and setbacks like that in a city hungry for space like this one.

by LowHeadways on Jun 30, 2014 11:24 am • linkreport

This would be a fairly effective regulation to drive new homeowners into Arlington, and would significantly raise housing prices by artificially curtailing the supply.

by andrew on Jun 30, 2014 11:25 am • linkreport

denizen

if one has a choice between an unrenovated house with multiple mtnce problems that sells for $400 a sq ft, and a newly renovated luxury unit that sells for $450 a sq ft, say, isnt the latter really more affordable? Its not like people can keep houses forever without ever replacing aged systems, and so forth.

as for raising the price of unrenovated houses - well sure, popups do that. Thats why banning them is an imposition on property owners. But they should effectively reduce the price of newly renovated condos.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 30, 2014 11:26 am • linkreport

"But lol at all the efforts to bring more housing while ignoring the most obvious solutions."

What would that be?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 30, 2014 11:26 am • linkreport

@AWITC
The housing I'm talking about isn't falling apart or have multiple maintenance problems. I'm saying that these developers are charging the same or more for a 2-floor condo unit at the same price as a row house that is ready to move into and doesn't have to have a lot of work on it. It's just that the condo has "luxury" items in it, like granite countertops, or whatever. The housing (condos) that are replacing the old housing (entire row houses with in-law suite) is not keeping housing prices in check, or bringing them down. They are, in fact, I think raising the cost of housing. This is not a function of the cutting up the houses, per se, but that these developers, trying to maximize returns, fill up the houses with all of these luxury features.

by dc denizen on Jun 30, 2014 11:34 am • linkreport

Developers are going to build what makes them money NOW - currently that is one maybe two bederoom units and those are mostly done by converting a townhouse into 2 or three units. I don't know if these are "good" changes or that they actually work to ensure that there are places to buy that can accomodate families, but the flippers buying up houses which can accomodate families and turning them into multi-unit codos which often don't accomodate families, is what is going on now. If the city wants families to live in the city this is something that the city government percieves as addressing that (however imperfectly).

Madison Investments that is taking a risk by building a 49 unit building at 11th and I SE that is going to have larger units for familiers. Of course they also use the word luxury which means sky high prices (though why someone with a lot of money would buy a place that close to the freeway is beyond me).

On another note, I don't know that people inherently hate pop-ups. What they hate are the ones that are poorly concieved and executed. Some are done to create multi-unit buildings and most are badly executed - think of the Eva on V St. that is always cited as an example.

by ET on Jun 30, 2014 11:42 am • linkreport

Petworth was just listed as the number one place in the country for house flippers. Is that what we really want for DC? For people to come from outside of the district make some easy cash and ruin our already DENSE historic districts to do it? I'm not saying all individual houses are worth keeping but there is something to be said for keeping these historic districts intact.

by BTA on Jun 30, 2014 11:47 am • linkreport

The beauty of accessory dwellings is that it utilizes undervalued spaces like basements or garages/carriage houses. As far as im concerned condoization just defeats the purpose.

by BTA on Jun 30, 2014 11:49 am • linkreport

It's easier to convert a house to a condo than a condo to a house, I imagine. There is a definite deficit of housing in this city.

by Jazzy on Jun 30, 2014 11:50 am • linkreport

Excuse me:

"There is a definite deficit of housing for FAMILIES in this city."

by Jazzy on Jun 30, 2014 11:52 am • linkreport

@Jazzy
You were right the first time. If there was a surplus of condos, developers couldn't make a profit by splitting row houses.

by renegade09 on Jun 30, 2014 11:55 am • linkreport

@dc denizen

Developers don't raise prices, demand raises prices. I want to live in a trendy neighborhood then my choice is pay $600k for a two bedroom condo made from an old row, or pay more than that ($800-1mm) for an old row that is probably not as renovated. These are my current options. How do you propose freezing prices? If you made condos illegal, then rows would still increase, albeit not as much as if an owner had the ability to create multiple units, but they would still be out of my price range. However, you are correct about the luxury new units--I would happily live in a generic home depot kitchen with formica counters to be in the trendy neighborhood. Maybe we can push through a sumptuary tax on luxury items.

by Administrator on Jun 30, 2014 11:56 am • linkreport

No, I am right the second time. It is harder for families to find housing, not to mention affordable housing, than it is singles. Condo-ization cuts the stock considerably.

by Jazzy on Jun 30, 2014 11:57 am • linkreport

DC denizen

I dont know the details of every unit, but my impression is that more is done than granite counter tops and a few cosmetic details.

BTA - 1. Im not sure the residential location of the investors matters. 2. Is it really such easy money for the flipppers? What Denizen has suggested, that the flipping drives up the prices of the unrenovated older houses makes much more economic sense. If the profits are so high wouldnt competing flippers bid up the prices of the older houses till the profit was more reasonable? That seems to be whats happening 3. That there are so many conversions happening in Petworth suggests to me that there is a shortage of condos compared to demand. Some of that is probably due to the limited supply of condos in new multifamily developments, which IIUC has a lot to do with financing issues. I suppose one could attack buyers for preferring a condo in Petworth to a house in Brightwood - we could even call them racists for their preference.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 30, 2014 11:58 am • linkreport

Petworth was just listed as the number one place in the country for house flippers. Is that what we really want for DC? For people to come from outside of the district make some easy cash and ruin our already DENSE historic districts to do it? I'm not saying all individual houses are worth keeping but there is something to be said for keeping these historic districts intact.

by BTA on Jun 30, 2014

_____________

You got it BTA.

by Jazzy on Jun 30, 2014 12:02 pm • linkreport

@BTA

Do you really want to turn Petworth into Georgetown? The whole city can't be historic.

by Administrator on Jun 30, 2014 12:04 pm • linkreport

The conversation about "family housing" is interesting. Many opponents to development say that they would support more family housing over 1 and 2 bedrooms. While most people want families to be able to live in their neighborhood I don't think they realize how expensive apartments or houses with 3+ bedrooms can be. The effect of this change would be to reduce housing options for a couple with one child who earn $100k per year and are looking for a 2 bedroom. Meanwhile, it would provide more options for a couple with 2 children who earn $200k per year. I don't think that's worth it.

by TakomaNick on Jun 30, 2014 12:08 pm • linkreport

"No, I am right the second time. It is harder for families to find housing,"

since families generally want more sq ft, and sq ft is at premium, thats not surprising. Its even worse if the families insist on lower density and on good schools.

" not to mention affordable housing, than it is singles. Condo-ization cuts the stock considerably. "

Note well, many couples, some single parent families, and even some couples with children will buy condos.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 30, 2014 12:08 pm • linkreport

@Jazzy
It's hard for everyone to find housing. The solution is to build more housing.

by renegade09 on Jun 30, 2014 12:08 pm • linkreport

There is no need to turn Petworth into Georgetown. The question is why are putting all the new density in one place? It's nonsensical. If we are going to put in density lets please make it actual density in the form of mid rise buildings with multiple units.

by BTA on Jun 30, 2014 12:12 pm • linkreport

If we take the goal of preserving affordable housing for families at face value and the mechanism of making it difficult to convert rowhouses, then what you are doign is artificially goosing the supply of that type about what the market would provide. Yes, th eprice of that one typ ewill drop, while the types it could have converted into will rise. And because there is excess supply of rowhouses (compared to other types), some people who don't need that much house will buy it anyway, because it's been made cheaper relative to smaller alternatives.

It distorts the market, transferring wealth and forcing overconsumption of housing while making the overall supply situation worse.

by Crickey7 on Jun 30, 2014 12:15 pm • linkreport

"The question is why are putting all the new density in one place? It's nonsensical."

It is indeed nonsensical to say thats what we are doing. There is new density not in Takoma, Ft Totten, Brookland, RI Avenue, NoMa, Trinidad, Hill East, Navy Yard, and some places EOTR - not to mention Silver Spring, betheda, Rockville, Wheaton, and Hyattsville - and Pentagon City, Columbia Pike, Del Ray, Huntington, Tysons, Merrifield, and Reston.

Nonetheless fighting to keep density out of the places in greatest demand has costs.

"If we are going to put in density lets please make it actual density in the form of mid rise buildings with multiple units. "

As Tom Coumaris has frequently pointed out, density is people per sq mile, not sq ft per sq miles (and the popups DO add sq ft). Putting more people into an existing house can be a way to add density that is greener than building a new building.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 30, 2014 12:22 pm • linkreport

@dc denizen
It might seem to benefit affordability if we leave one unimproved row-house, but the 2-condo unit has the big advantage that it houses two households. If there is just one unit, then the other household goes unhoused, leading them to bid up the cost of other properties. In aggregate, this leads to higher property prices. It's a slightly abstract point at street level, but city-wide planners ought to be aware of this. New zoning restrictions will just push up home prices elsewhere, probably leading to accelerated gentrification in Brightwood and Brookland.

The regular addition of 'luxury' features to new condos is a further sign that the market is constrained and that developers don't have to compete on unit price. In the automobile market, most manufacturers make cars without luxury features. That's because the market is competitive and buyers are price-sensitive. In DC, people shopping for homes are price-sensitive too, but because demand vastly outstrips supply, developers maximize profits by targeting wealthier customers.

by renegade09 on Jun 30, 2014 12:23 pm • linkreport

amusing that the folks who want to improve affordablity by discourage granite counter tops, are mostly folks who want to MANDATE off street parking for new units.

Someone who wants to pay a premium for luxury touches but is willing to go car free is an entitled yuppie. Someone willing to live in a house that's got older and/or cheaper details, but has a parking space, is a salt of the earth type.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 30, 2014 12:32 pm • linkreport

@Administrator, @AWITC
I didn't say make condos illegal. I am not opposed to cutting up rowhomes for condos at all. I am simply questioning the assumption made by some that increase supply makes the price go down. It's the kind of mantra that is endlessly repeated. I am think housing supply is quite strained and I would like to see more of it. But not housing supply that makes a 1200 sq foot condo with luxury amenities costing the same as a 2400 sq ft single house with in-law suite that is perfectly fine to move into. My wife and I go to almost every single open house in our neighborhood whether it is condos or single family houses. So do all the other neighbors. A lot of these condos are not that qualitatively better than the older stock (by older I mean a house that is not recently renovated). Seriously.

They need to create new stock that is more affordable without all the bells & whistles. They need family units as well. Many of these condos are cut up badly. You can see the developers don't target families; rather young singles and childless couples. If the developers don't do it then maybe the city needs set-asides. Again, I don't oppose increasing the housing supply through cut-ups. After all, I benefit from the increasing house prices since I own a house. I just hate to see so much over-inflated tricked out condo real estate instead of solid bare bones condos that are affordable and liveable.

by dc denizen on Jun 30, 2014 12:38 pm • linkreport

Because ample parking match the historic character.

by Crickey7 on Jun 30, 2014 12:41 pm • linkreport

Lol at the people crying discrimination because there will be less 800k 2 bedroom condos being built in trendy areas. That is pure gold.

Typical millenial response: tear up entire neighborhoods and build sky scrapers in DC so hipsters making 30k can afford to brunch, watch the world cup at a bar, and work a leisurely bike ride from home.

Obviously the easiest solution is to develop EOTR. Makes no sense to radically alter building heights and to carve up nice row homes and not to mention destroying family homes before that is done. All that stuff should be last resort.

by anin7 on Jun 30, 2014 12:43 pm • linkreport

Everybody likes granite counter-tops and part of why they're popular to add is because they'll get back in resale their investment.

by asffa on Jun 30, 2014 12:46 pm • linkreport

" But not housing supply that makes a 1200 sq foot condo with luxury amenities costing the same as a 2400 sq ft single house with in-law suite that is perfectly fine to move into. "

If people are paying that much for luxury amenities that don't cost very much to add, that suggest there is massive unmet demand for small luxury units, as compared to unrenovated SFHs. (BTW I would love to know which nabe that is, to check some of those units out) That strikes me as possible, given that there are lots of singles and couples in search of newly reno condos in the city, often in neighborhoods where schools, residual crime, etc lead to working class and lower middle class families avoiding them.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 30, 2014 12:53 pm • linkreport

Typical millenial response: tear up entire neighborhoods and build sky scrapers in DC so hipsters making 30k can afford to brunch, watch the world cup at a bar, and work a leisurely bike ride from home.

A: There's not an actual proposal by OP or the Zoning board to do this.
B: We probably shouldn't be making recommendations on housing policy because we have different hobbies than others.

by drumz on Jun 30, 2014 12:54 pm • linkreport

Anins post leads me to think we ought to have NIMBY bingo or drinking game

He does pretty well, - millenials, hipsters, skyscrapers, brunch, biking, and gentrify till you qualify

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 30, 2014 12:55 pm • linkreport

BTW development is already happening EOTR - in fact at 3 of the 6 metro stations EOTR there are new buildings recently completed or in pipeline. And at least one gentrification has begun.

So nothing should be done till there are no more poor people in DC? Gotcha.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 30, 2014 12:57 pm • linkreport

@Transit snob--

Far from discriminating against low and moderate people, the OP pop up proposal removes tempting incentives for developers to gobble up moderate income SFH housing to flip it into $1 million plus condos. The proposal not only has aesthetic benefits, it will encourage the preservation of moderate-income housing stock for families, which DC so desperately needs, I don't exactly see a shortage of high-end units for affluent singles and DINKs.

by Alf on Jun 30, 2014 12:59 pm • linkreport

This notion of affordable sfh vs luxury condos is unbelievable. There is nothing to stop a new owner from turning their sfh in to a luxury home, while if new units are completed there is a concrete increase in supply.

by h st ll on Jun 30, 2014 1:02 pm • linkreport

h st ll makes a good point

Again - given a demand for luxury units, the tendency of the lower middle class to move to the suburbs, and the existing income distribution in America - wont this simply lead to houses being bought, renovated and flipped as SFH's?

IIUC there are neighborhoods where zoning prevents popups and multiple units. Dont they still have renovation, granite counter tops, and gentrification?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 30, 2014 1:06 pm • linkreport

Nothing radical should be done. No need. I like DC just fine. That hissy fit about how infuriating this place has become was a knee slapper though.

I for one am glad OP is smart enough not to make those recommendations drumz. I only see them on this website and am thankful for the laughs.

AWITC: I already have the rights on that phone app. Urbanist Bingo. Of course, half my target audience wears beards, thick frame glasses, and skinny jeans, but they are into irony so go figure.

by anin7 on Jun 30, 2014 1:09 pm • linkreport

The granitization of Amercica's historic heartland is a threat to everything we hold most dear.

Bare cupboards and granite countertops: a curious juxtapistion of the new economy.

by The Truth™ on Jun 30, 2014 1:10 pm • linkreport

If DC is going to retain families, it needs single family homes and not just in Chevy Chase or Shepherd Park. Much like absentee landlords the people doing this kind of stuff probably have few ties to the area--their property rights aren't like those of people who actually live in what they own.

by Rich on Jun 30, 2014 1:19 pm • linkreport

DC does not "need" single family homes instead of, presumbly condos. If people want them instead of condos, nothing is stopping them. Tastes are changing, though, and if peopel are buying into pop-up condos, that's because that, and not fairly nondescript historically insignificant rowhouses, is what the market is demanding.

by Crickey7 on Jun 30, 2014 1:29 pm • linkreport

"I like DC just fine"

A perfect encapsulation of the rentier mindset. YOU may be doing okay but the THOUSANDS who want to live here and are priced out or forced to live somewhere without transit access are NOT.

DC as it is does NOT work for a whole lot of people. And you're just standing in the way of positive change.

by LowHeadways on Jun 30, 2014 1:30 pm • linkreport

It's not just me. 1100 people a month like it too unfortunately.

by anin7 on Jun 30, 2014 1:51 pm • linkreport

The granitization of Amercica's historic heartland is a threat to everything we hold most dear.

Bare cupboards and granite countertops: a curious juxtapistion of the new economy.

by The Truth™ on Jun 30, 2014

____

The image/stereoptype of the couple/people who renovate their kitchen only to eat out or order in is not a new one. It dates back to at least the mid-80s.

by Jazzy on Jun 30, 2014 1:57 pm • linkreport

Nothing radical should be done.

Ok, so what is/isn't radical?

I'm hard pressed to think why splitting a house into 3 units instead of 2 is radical.

Or why building near a metro stop without any dedicated parking is radical.

Certainly letting someone turn a garage into an apartment isn't radical.

by drumz on Jun 30, 2014 1:58 pm • linkreport

Just because people like it enough to move in, does not mean they oppose the kinds of changes urbanists generally support (or that they support zoning changes that attempt to preserve the existing physical form)

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 30, 2014 1:59 pm • linkreport

The supply/demand point that's being danced around is that the housing market can be thought of as being segmented into family and non-family housing. The difference is that non-family people can and do enter into the family housing market (via living with roommates), while families generally do not enter the non-family housing market unless they have no other choice.

So, the objection here is dividing up rowhouses is actually reducing the amount of family housing stock and replacing it with non-family housing stock.

The standard response here has been "well, if we just build enough non-family stock, that will pull those non-family roommate groups out of the family stock, freeing up that space for families." My response to that is: that won't work if all of the family stock ends up being subdivided into non-family. All except the super-luxury SFHs WOTP and the super-dilapidated SFHs EOTR.

Moreover, with DC continuing to be a major draw for young, upwardly mobile folks, the rate at which new non-family stock comes online and eventually draws non-family groups out of family stock is likely to be slower than the pace at which conversions are taking family stock off the market.

"Things will balance out in 20 years or so" is a good theoretical response, but from a policy perspective, you can understand why the District may not want to go through (another) two decades of family flight.

by Dizzy on Jun 30, 2014 2:24 pm • linkreport

"The image/stereoptype of the couple/people who renovate their kitchen only to eat out or order in is not a new one. It dates back to at least the mid-80s.

by Jazzy on Jun 30, 2014 1:57 pm"

Still, it is curious, and for reasons you did not touch on. Curious indeed.

by The Truth™ on Jun 30, 2014 2:25 pm • linkreport

AWITC it means they like it enough to keep coming and that's a bad thing to me so from my perspective laws need to be more archaic.

Have you seen these projects? There is one on the corner of 13th and Girard that's hideous, for example. They are expensive as hell, too. But that's not really what I'm talking about. This proposal to limit would actually be a radical change, one I happen to support.

In any event, someone proposed razing the "old homes" in Petworth and other places as if people don't live in them, and people routinely talk about raising height limits, that's more what I was talking about. Those are the things that make DC what it is. Why even go there when there is still developable land in DC

I'm a proponent of affordable housing but allowing for more luxury condos doesn't fix anything.

by anin7 on Jun 30, 2014 2:30 pm • linkreport

To add one more point: prices are sticky, and rental prices especially so. I was talking to an acquaintance who is in real estate a little while ago, and he basically confirmed for me that all the residential apartment companies in the area are engaged in an unspoken but understood system of price signalling to set de facto price floors.

If demand for particular units is slack, they will take short term hits by offering free move-in, free first month's rent, and other discounts or amenities, but they absolutely will not lower stick price rent. To the extent that is true, it only further works against added supply bringing down prices.

I've already discussed on past threads that the bulk of the reduced housing prices manifests itself not in the core, where construction takes place, but in the periphery. Building luxury condos on U Street does very little to bring down prices on U Street - quite the opposite. But it does contribute to a lowering of prices in Charles, Prince William, and Frederick.

by Dizzy on Jun 30, 2014 2:32 pm • linkreport

Razing old homes in petworth isn't serious, has never been proposed in a post, and that sort of thing is pretty uncommon in comments here.

The height limit would mostly impact places already zone for multifamily housing, not SFH or rowhome areas. Also the most likely alterations to the height limit would allow buildings only a few stories higher, not skyscrapers.

Allowing more units of any kind will address supply.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 30, 2014 2:35 pm • linkreport

Really? People who buy luxury condos in popular parts of DC are people who would otherwise be buying in Charles/PW/Frederick county? I don't think so - they have nothing in common!

by MLD on Jun 30, 2014 2:36 pm • linkreport

Dizzy

Given that the movement of non-families into "family" housing does take place, it may be that nothing can stop the reduction in the amount of "family housing". Note if maximing family housing were the main goal, DC would limit the number of units, but not reduce the maximum height.

Note also, as Mr Coumaris has pointed out, its not only roommates who take these SFHs from families. Its also wealthy singles and couples.

Note also, when we say keeping these for families we do not necessarily mean middle class families. Again, AFAICT in areas where conversion is not possible, houses are flipped and still get their granite countertops and high prices, but as SFHs. It may be that the District has a policy reason to want to have more very affluent families, rather than more very affluent and slightly less affluent singles and couples.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 30, 2014 2:39 pm • linkreport

@MLD

We've had this discussion before - it's a domino effect. Core DC pulls in people who would've otherwise lived in Brown Flipflopistan. Those units are opened up for people who otherwise would be priced out to inner Fairfax or middle-MoCo. And so on and so forth. Eventually, the real hit in prices takes place out in the periphery. And thus you get suburbanization of poverty - the prices end up the lowest, so those with the fewest resources populate there.

by Dizzy on Jun 30, 2014 2:40 pm • linkreport

Nothing radical should be done. No need. I like DC just fine.

I agree. So why is OP proposing change to a rule that works fine as-is? I think that's the author's entire point. To repeat:

Today, it's legal to have two separate units in one of these row houses, but not more unless the lot is particularly large.

OP's proposal would take away the ability to have more than 2 units at all

OP's proposal is the sort of "radical change" that's not needed.

by Falls Church on Jun 30, 2014 2:40 pm • linkreport

*radical changes to build more housing are not needed

Radical changes that keep neighborhoods from being overrun with hipsters are fine by me

by anin7 on Jun 30, 2014 2:44 pm • linkreport

Instead of prohibiting pop-ups, there should be a max square ft to occupant ratio that should be enforced. If a property in a high demand neigborhood exceeds the maximum, it should trigger an automatic eminent domain process to fix these under-developed properties.

People want to live those high demand areas, and basically we have these property owner squatters who are flaunting their luxury in the faces of those people.

Of course, there would need to be a significant lead time on enforcemnt to give the current residents/owners time to bring their properties below the square foot to occupant max, probably at least 10 years. Whether that means adding roomates, extended family, or internal ADU's would be up to the owner.

It should go without saying that the farther away a property is from transit, the less strict the density requirement would be.

by The Truth™ on Jun 30, 2014 2:44 pm • linkreport

" Building luxury condos on U Street does very little to bring down prices on U Street - quite the opposite. But it does contribute to a lowering of prices in Charles, Prince William, and Frederick"

As MLD points out these markets are not directly linked. They ARE indirectly linked, but only via several steps of filtering (both down the income scale, and down the convenience scale) For U Street to impact Prince William county, it has to first impact a bunch of place in between - Crystal City condos, Landmark rentals, southern fairfax townhouses, etc, etc.

Note - its also not clear to me that having more units in high amenity/good transit/close to CBD locations doesnt ultimately lower prices in those places (ceteris paribus) It depends on how deep the demand for such places is. dizzy seems to think that most of the roughly 5 million people in the suburbs of DC would move to a U street like place if it were made available at a modest discount to current U street prices. My own experience with suburbanites in FFX and elsewhere suggests that is not the case.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 30, 2014 2:44 pm • linkreport

@Dizzy:

The answer you suggest is nothing other than a transfer of wealth to families (or at least you hope) from condo buyers.

As for the supposed cartel, real estate investment has one of the lowest barriers to entry of any industry. There are dozens of players. What you describe is a common form of marketing, not price fixing.

by Crickey7 on Jun 30, 2014 2:45 pm • linkreport

"And thus you get suburbanization of poverty - the prices end up the lowest, so those with the fewest resources populate there."

the folks with the fewest resources in NoVa are mostly immigrant day laborers living packed in tenement like numbers of people per room in aging, poorly maintained, low rise garden apts, often in places with very limited transit access. A significant reduction in prices in the periphery would allow for such people to reduce their levels of crowding and/or move to townhouses/and or move to apts with better transit access or better mtnce - or just reduce their share of income going to housing.

The phrase "suburbanization of poverty" makes the improvement of conditions of the suburban poor sound like a bad thing. That just seems perverse to me.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 30, 2014 2:48 pm • linkreport

dizzy - you do realize that the sequence of jumps up the ladder you list leaves all the individuals jumping up the ladder better off? and all the landlords worse off?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 30, 2014 2:51 pm • linkreport

Another difficult part of the "family housing" debate is what people expect a family to look like. When I was kid in the suburbs it seemed like 2-3 kids was the norm. Now I'm living in the city in a house that's half the size of my childhood home. I can't imagine having 3 kids. Now I'm thinking 1-2 and I don't think I'm alone with that. A 2 bedroom condo could work for many families. A guest bedroom or separate bedrooms for the kids would be nice but for the price it's not worth it for a lot of people. It's time to think of 2 bedrooms as family housing.

by TakomaNick on Jun 30, 2014 2:52 pm • linkreport

Why do you think the family bed is so common in Japan? It's not just a matter of close family ties. It's a matter of practicality and space.

by The Truth™ on Jun 30, 2014 2:55 pm • linkreport

"hipster"

a word used to make policies that defend the material interests of certain classes of property holders appear to be "populist" and aimed at an elite, when they are in fact, elitist. See "whats the matter with Kansas?"

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 30, 2014 2:55 pm • linkreport

Terrible and will be unpopular. For those of us that own real estate, we should not have to jump hoops to do what we want with our property. This reduces the expected future cash flow of your property by limiting the things that you can do.

by Interested Reader on Jun 30, 2014 3:19 pm • linkreport

@BTA - Petworth was just listed as the number one place in the country for house flippers. Is that what we really want for DC? For people to come from outside of the district make some easy cash and ruin our already DENSE historic districts to do it?

I'm not really a fan of flip aesthetics or pricing, but in Petworth a lot of houses are straight-up blighted. Like, former crack house/brothel blighted. Many of these are than converted into glossy-finished SFH with granite countertops and the same sink and Home Depot bathroom tile. While that's not really a great thing--it would be better if every flipper really addressed the structural issues in the old, dilapidated housing stock rather than focusing on surface--I'd call this a different type of issue than chopping up a rowhouse into condos. Many Petworth flippers aren't making things any denser.

by worthing on Jun 30, 2014 3:20 pm • linkreport

There is a policy reason for having diverse neighborhoods.

If families with means can't buy homes in single family neighborhoods because they are outbid by developers looking to create overpriced condos for single people, it's a problem.

Moreover it can take relatively affordable room rentals offline.

by anin7 on Jun 30, 2014 3:26 pm • linkreport

"If families with means can't buy homes in single family neighborhoods because they are outbid by developers looking to create overpriced condos"

Whether the condo is overpriced or fairly priced is a matter of personal judgement and taste. I doubt the people paying the price think they are overpriced. I think calling certain market priced items "overpriced" even though they sell at that prices, though a common rhetorical device, distracts from policy considerations.

" for single people," Except condos are purchased by couples, and sometimes by small families.

"it's a problem."

Somehow I have a hard time seeing a neighborhood of only the very affluent as diverse, even if it keeps more very affluent families. Even more so if it does so by reducing the number of slightly less affluent people who live there.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 30, 2014 3:46 pm • linkreport

I hate greedy developers. Like the ones that erected these rowhouses in the first places. Or the ones who erected the cabins those replaced. Or those Iriquoian developers throwing up cheap wooden structures with no thoughts as to the aesthetics of the Algonquian tribes they displaced.

by Crickey7 on Jun 30, 2014 3:59 pm • linkreport

While I agree with much of what you say, Dizzy, after years, I am not sure this is the forum to seriously think about and discuss housing for families and affordable housing for them. The appetite for the discussion is weak, I've found.

Also, there are many fine SFHs east of the river, and even if some are dilapidated, so what? For me, strength of community is just as important as anything. I agree with Takoma Nick, that it's time to think of condos as "homes" just as much as free standing houses, but the problem is, it is difficult to find 2 bedroom condos, let alone 3. And again - expensive.

Some say hipster some say nimby. I say end the name calling. Sometimes it borders on being an epithet.

by Jazzy on Jun 30, 2014 4:04 pm • linkreport

Its more than a rhetorical device. It's a fact. When the economy turns, condos retain much less of their value than sfh. In that sense they are overpriced. The notion isn't born from nothing.

And yeah, when a city becomes city for rich singles or couples with no kids it's a problem. It's a problem when it's just for rich folk, but when you take away kids too it becomes even more insiduous.

by anin7 on Jun 30, 2014 4:15 pm • linkreport

See Japan's population crisis. Density and high costs of living have a negative effect on fertility. Eventually, nature finds its equilibrium.

by The Truth™ on Jun 30, 2014 4:19 pm • linkreport

Russia's population is declining, too, and density is not their issue. Gaza is dense, and has high fertility.

by Crickey7 on Jun 30, 2014 4:22 pm • linkreport

Gaza, not the best example. I could not think of a place less appropriate for a comparison!

by Jazzy on Jun 30, 2014 4:24 pm • linkreport

"Its more than a rhetorical device. It's a fact. When the economy turns, condos retain much less of their value than sfh. In that sense they are overpriced. The notion isn't born from nothing. "

A. Im not sure that is consistently the case B. Even if it is, depending on when the economy next turns, and how big a factor that is, buying a condo will still be a better deal for many people for many people than buying a house. Arguably at those market bottoms the condos would be underpriced.

"And yeah, when a city becomes city for rich singles or couples with no kids it's a problem. It's a problem when it's just for rich folk, but when you take away kids too it becomes even more insiduous."

But if we allow more condo conversions, we will allow some slightly less rich folks, since a renovated condo is still less expensive than renovated SFH. Note of course some families do live in condos, and plenty of SFHs have folks who have no kids.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 30, 2014 4:25 pm • linkreport

They get to replace their housing every few years whether they want to, or not.

by Crickey7 on Jun 30, 2014 4:26 pm • linkreport

"Some say hipster some say nimby. I say end the name calling. Sometimes it borders on being an epithet"

Nimby at least is a reference to someones role in development debates - its not a reference to their demographics - people of any race, age, etc can be NIMBYs. Hipster is clearly an attempt to bring an irrelevant demographic question (either an actual reference to cultural styles, or a euphemistim for certain other things)

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 30, 2014 4:28 pm • linkreport

@Alf
I'd love to buy a single family house in the district and raise kids here. However, there are only a few left in the price range of my partner and I, which are all rapidly gentrifying, and we're still saving for a down payment. The big apartment buildings are a more affordable option, but they lack character. The best option we have identified is to live in a unit of smaller building (house), or accessory unit that still has character consistent with the neighborhood. By living in a smaller space there are more options that we could afford in neighborhoods that have low crime rates. This proposed change would effectively dramatically limit those options, and would effectively take a realistic option off the table for us. Yes, competing with developers could raise prices, but it would also create more stock. I love that you're advocating on my behalf, but please consider the actual effects before doing so.

by TransitSnob on Jun 30, 2014 4:31 pm • linkreport

Why is this even a question? Becasue many worry if their neighbor turns their place into an apartment building, that their home's value will go down, or they might not like to live around renters, or both. Eitherway, it's an unfounded fear, unlike in the early part of the 20th century when zoning attempted to "protect" respectable property owners from the lower classes. Nowadays, thanks to our automibile dominated landscape, the most vital and sought after neighborhoods are a product of just this kind of thing, yet the mentality still persists that this kind of mixing is somehow undesirable.

Certainly, many don't want to live in a lively neighborhood, at least not on its main street, but there are certain pluses and minuses to every kind of living arangement. And while having a boat load of money makes some feel entitled to dictate what happens in their surrounding public space, this isn't always in the best interests of the city as a whole. In our case, if the city is serious about accomodating more residents, it should think this through in concert with it's other efforts to address affordable housing. Some kind of zoning relief needs to happen to allow the market to address the lack of supply. Building a smart streetcar network should be the backbone of these efforts imho.

by Thayer-D on Jun 30, 2014 5:12 pm • linkreport

Wow, what a terrible proposal from Gray's Office of Planning.

We absolutely need to find ways to house more people in DC, not fewer. It is disturbing to see affordability used in the Office of Planning's justification document, when in reality limiting supply of units will clearly raise prices further.

I agree with LowHeadways who characterized this as an "I got mine" mindset... the proposal is great if you want to keep more people out of your neighborhood.

OP's proposal mentions a single group, the Mount Pleasant Citizen[s] Association, as a group they consulted for this proposal. I am not familiar with this group so I googled... the only references online that I found were historical: a group by this name promoted property covenants in Mt. Pleasant that prohibited black people from buying homes in Mt. Pleasant.

by Tim H on Jun 30, 2014 5:24 pm • linkreport

When I drive out NY Avenue, I see underdeveloped properties and vacant lots that in the not too distant future could look like Connecticut Avenue. The old Hecht's warehouse redevelopment is just the beginning. A shortage of develop-able land in DC is some ways off.

by Randy on Jun 30, 2014 5:33 pm • linkreport

Yeah, I really don't understand the panic. DC is not out of space. All of the word salad in this thread, that never gets addressed by the new urbanists. I guess if it's not trendy DC, it's not DC.

by anin7 on Jun 30, 2014 5:40 pm • linkreport

Thayer-D In MontCo, there's zoning limits that place only houses a certain distance from each other as ones that people can put in accessory apartments. The laws also prohibit keeping more than one work truck parked in front of the house, but you can have any number of SUVs or whatever the same size. It's a comment on how some residents don't like working class immigrants moving in.
It seems a little awkward that one homeowner would have to worry about someone else putting in an accessory apartment somewhere nearby just in case they'll want to add one in their house. It also seems backwards if the problem is potentially how many cars are parked on the road when the Council has decided to limit how many cars can be parked on people's own properties, which doesn't even affect street parking. I think it's about image wanted of everybody here being white collar workers and not likely working in construction.

by asffa on Jun 30, 2014 5:42 pm • linkreport

Then if there's space, I guess we don't need a preserve for rowhouses.

by Crickey7 on Jun 30, 2014 5:46 pm • linkreport

Helmut Schmidt: your statement about inferior building quality of rowhouses is unfounded, at least for buildings constructed before 1945.

cf. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/27/opinion/inferior-products-and-labor-drive-modern-construction.html?_r=0

FWIW, given the issue of party walls and assembly, it's not very easy to build condos in the place of existing buildings

by Richard Layman on Jun 30, 2014 5:50 pm • linkreport

anin

The reality is that limiting development in already high value areas will not only mean more people gentrifiying other areas - it will mean more people in less urban places generally. Some will gentrify till they qualify in response to high prices, but most won't. for those concerned about reducing automobility of the region thats a problem.

As for how much space DC really has, thats debatable. As I said above DC could really use a better more detailed, more scenario focused build out analysis.

I note that many of the folks saying the height limit built out analysis was wrong assumed that popups would remain legal.

Thayer - it is worth noting that the gentrify till you qualify meme, used for keeping the height limit, is here used to stop the kind of development you like.

Note, if you like DC as it is, encouraging more rapid gentrification seems self-defeating. Even more so if you value diversity in the city.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 30, 2014 5:50 pm • linkreport

Granted our house is a bungalow not a rowhouse, constructed in 1929. The old growth timber used in its construction is so dense, it can be impossible to drive a nail into it...

try that with a stud from Home Depot or in a house of new construction.

by Richard Layman on Jun 30, 2014 5:51 pm • linkreport

Gentrify til you qualify was all there ever was. Now we have a new demographic that would rather drag a neighborhood down than invest in another neighborhood more suited for their finances. This is the everyone gets a trophy generation.

I also don't buy the trickle down development theory you're selling AWITC. If the DC govt only leverages it's funds in developed areas that's where development will take place. It does not mystically go to historically under served areas.

First, people need to identify the problem, which has nothing to do with a land shortage in DC. It's a red herring. Then we can discuss solutions to affordable housing and housing for families, which is a problem.

In any event, I believe there is room for everyone in this city. Not everyone will be where they want necessarily, but there can be diversity and development. Yes, there is that much room.

by anin7 on Jun 30, 2014 6:13 pm • linkreport

@anin7:

So what generation are you a part of? Boomer? The one that devastated the environment for the generations to come and created a massive national debt for future generations for future generations to pay off? The first generation to leave this country worse off for the next generation to follow? And then has temerity to whine incessantly about the generation that will pay the price for their greedy and irresponsible ways?

One could make an argument about the social value of allowing greater density in close in areas. It is good for the environment if people can live where they need not drive to work. My guess would be though that you are simply too selfish to care.

by KingmanPark on Jun 30, 2014 7:15 pm • linkreport

Much to my chagrin, I'm a damned Millenial depending on who is setting the time frames. Tail end. If you're going to denigrate me based on crude demographics lump me with the DC Natives afraid of change.

by anin7 on Jun 30, 2014 7:21 pm • linkreport

Self-Hatred is a wonderful thing ain't it? I'll take Millenial over Boomer any day. I'd wait until our generation achieves some actual power before judging us like that.

Point taken about denigrating based on crude demographics. You might consider that someone would have reasons for wanting to promote density other than being a PBR swilling entitled millennial who believe he has a constitutional right to live within 5 minutes walking distance of a bottomless mimosa brunch.

by KingmanPark on Jun 30, 2014 7:34 pm • linkreport

Considering there are places in DC where you can bike and public transit to downtown in under 25 minutes, and that are affordable, I'm having a hard time understanding the millenials plight unless it involves pbrs and mimosas.

by anin7 on Jun 30, 2014 7:40 pm • linkreport

From the individual perspective of someone who must deal with the housing market I agree with you, you need to live where you can afford to live. As you can guess from my username I live in a less expensive neighborhood outside the popular core.

From a policy perspective, there are good reasons for sustainability to make housing more available in the urban core of dc. Yes, any individual can find cheaper housing by choosing to live EOTR. We'll have more success at reducing the amount of driving and pollutants emitted however if housing can be made more available in the heart of the city.

by KingmanPark on Jun 30, 2014 7:57 pm • linkreport

Just stay away from my acre of paradise in NE, yeah, NE!

by NE John on Jun 30, 2014 8:11 pm • linkreport

@AWITC - Hipster is an overly broad shorthand for the demographic (i.e. white/rich) that is the visible face of gentrification. While name calling definitely hinders the policy discussion that I like to read on this site, the gentrification has a role in development debates.

@Randy/Anin - I would love to see DC build transit down the NY Ave corridor, or white families make rationale decisions about moving EOTR (i.e. it is a third the price of Chevy Chase and closer to downtown). However, this shouldn't stop allowing property owners from adding a story to their rowhouse, better transit downtown, or maybe allowing new office buildings from being built downtown.

by Administrator on Jun 30, 2014 8:15 pm • linkreport

I'm not buying the environment argument lol. Get a bunch of hipsters in core city and they may bike to work but how much fossil fuels are burned shipping in craft brews from Alaska and other conspicuous consumption of niche consumer goods shipped in from everywhere in an attempt to be more ironic than the next broski. If you want to have a real discussion about being environmentally friendly we can jump down that rabbit hole but it's a bit weird in isolation and as a justification for living literally two metro stops further out. It's also not just EOTR. Talking McMillan park, Walter Reed, NY Ave, Rhode Island etc etc

by anin7 on Jun 30, 2014 8:37 pm • linkreport

We are all aware that people already live EOTR? That they have lives and communities?

14th street yuppie grad looks downright humanitarian compared to "gentrify 'til you qualify."

by Neil Flanagan on Jun 30, 2014 8:49 pm • linkreport

Yes fulfilling and beautiful lives, existential dramas out the way, also, one grocery store, no hospital, and a few non carry out restaraunts.

The problem isn't lack of land in DC . It's lack of development in areas where there is land available. And where there has been development, a lack of concern for maintaining an acceptable level of affordable housing stock. Call me naive but I don't believe development and ah are mutually exclusive.

Like one poster mentioned, better public transport along ny Ave solves alot of issues. We never get there if the conversation is framed by "lack of land"

by anin7 on Jun 30, 2014 9:01 pm • linkreport

+1 Neil F

Where are folks who live EOTR supposed to go to make way for all these newcomers? And lots not forget many people there are anti development/height as well so it's no panacea.

by h st ll on Jun 30, 2014 9:47 pm • linkreport

No one's anti development EOTR. There is one very small historic district there and because unscrupulous developers want to raze it the residents encompassing all of the EOTR get labeled anti development. Ward 8 has 70k residents, in its hay it had 90k. I'm guess they don't have to go anywhere.

by anin7 on Jun 30, 2014 10:24 pm • linkreport

What passes for "smart growth" in DC and the way we increase density is the opposite of what European cities do and is dumb and ugly. Instead of dividing existing buildings into smaller units while preserving the outward appearance, we require huge units in the older rowhouses and put all the increased density in tall ugly bland buildings that do nothing to preserve the character of the neighborhood, are expensive, and environmentally destructive.

We're not preserving family housing we're mandating huge residences below sq ft market value for wealthy couples and singles.

As I've said many times, residents rebel at much taller buildings next to theirs and at increased lot coverage somewhat, but no one cares how many doorbells a house has.

by Tom Coumaris on Jul 1, 2014 1:24 am • linkreport

I have lived in Columbia Heights. These huge residences you speak of have upwards of 10 renters in them. Even those lived in by traditional families, often have adult children in them and extended family structure. A row home with a couple or nuclear family is somewhat rare, east of 14th st, at least. There is plenty density. Seems condos reduce the density and also detract from economic diversity. I find some of the arguments presented here quit odd and detached from lived experience.

by anin7 on Jul 1, 2014 5:15 am • linkreport

Perhaps what is needed is a new president and/or congress who will not be a fashion symbol or trendy to the types of folks currently attracted to living as green urban cosmopolites in DC.

Make it uncool/unhip/politically unpalatable, and then we are left with residents who merely want to live and work here without the compulsion to strut around wearing the luxury DC label on their wine stained sleeves.

Change the DC license plate to read something mildly offensive to their worldview.

"DC: Coal powered and proud!"
"DC: Wine is for sissies!"
"DC: Every bike path leads away from DC."
"DC: Not Gotham City."
"DC: Not as dense as you."

I don't know, I'm just spit balling, here.

You know, low tech and low cost ways to make it a desirable place to live for families.

by The Truth™ on Jul 1, 2014 8:23 am • linkreport

Folks, I probably should have stepped in a while ago, but there is far too much sneering toward young people and young urban dwellers' preferences. This is not appropriate and I will be deleting further comments that are derogatory toward any group of people's retail choices or other lifestyle elements.

If you want to discuss how much and whether to have family housing, please go ahead. But please do it in a manner that is respectful of everyone's right to be a part of a city, no matter their age or culture.

by David Alpert on Jul 1, 2014 8:33 am • linkreport

I should emphasize my attempt at satire. For the record, I love wine and bicycling and Batman. I have ironically loved coal ever since it was found in my Christmas stocking as a young boy.

by The Truth™ on Jul 1, 2014 8:43 am • linkreport

It depends on how deep the demand for such places is. dizzy seems to think that most of the roughly 5 million people in the suburbs of DC would move to a U street like place if it were made available at a modest discount to current U street prices. My own experience with suburbanites in FFX and elsewhere suggests that is not the case.

Oh come on, AWITC, 5 million? Why not go with eleventry trillion at that point?

The number doesn't have to be astronomical - it just has to be larger than the amount of supply that exists (in areas not broadly considered 'off-limits' due to crime/undesirability) and is coming online. The benefits of close-in living are such that you absolutely will induce more demand as you increase the supply. It may be variegated, differ based on neighborhood, etc. But it definitely has taken place and is continuing to.

As for your Fairfax suburbanites, many of them may find their calculus changing once their local elementary school class becomes 50-75% children of Central/South American immigrants. Some will retreat further out, where the commuting cost and time becomes cost-prohibitive for most of the working class, but plenty of others will find a South Arlington or Del Ray duplex to be much more to their liking than they ever thought.

by Dizzy on Jul 1, 2014 8:53 am • linkreport

A row home with a couple or nuclear family is somewhat rare, east of 14th st, at least.
I would love to see your numbers on that, because I don't thnk it's in any way true. Brookland? Petworth? Capitol Hill? Michigan Park? Eckington? Bloomingdale? I could keep going for quite a while.

Seems condos reduce the density

"Density." You keep saying that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

by worthing on Jul 1, 2014 8:53 am • linkreport

Yes, on GGW the only sneering allowed is that directed toward OLDER urban residents and their lifestyle preferences. Get with the program!

by BTDT on Jul 1, 2014 9:04 am • linkreport

Sneering toward older residents is also not allowed. Please report comments that do that in a way similar to the ones on this thread and we will modify or delete them.

by David Alpert on Jul 1, 2014 9:20 am • linkreport

I'm older. I remember H Street NE burned out from the riots. U Street so dangerous a friend got pistol-whipped there. No Metro at all. What's so great about preserving the past?

by Crickey7 on Jul 1, 2014 9:21 am • linkreport

"A row home with a couple or nuclear family is somewhat rare, east of 14th st, at least.
I would love to see your numbers on that, because I don't thnk it's in any way true. Brookland? Petworth? Capitol Hill? Michigan Park? Eckington? Bloomingdale? I could keep going for quite a while."

Ditto. On my block in Columbia Heights (east of 14th), SF rowhouses with nuclear families are the majority. Can't speak to other blocks. (Although neither can the poster who made the initial cvlaim, I expect.)

by dcd on Jul 1, 2014 9:21 am • linkreport

"As for your Fairfax suburbanites, many of them may find their calculus changing once their local elementary school class becomes 50-75% children of Central/South American immigrants. "

whats the total number of latin american immigrants compared to the total population of the metro area? Or even just to the white and asian suburbanites? I really do not think most suburbs are going to become majority poor. The poor may become suburban, but the suburbs won't (mostly) become poor.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 1, 2014 9:36 am • linkreport

I was only talking about Columbia Heights. Not even sure homes in some of those areas you named could fit 10-12 people. But yeah alot of this homes are smaller and have families. Also not really prime candidates for two plus condo units, either.

At David, it cuts both ways. Euphemisms like gentrify til you qualify also miss the nuance in arguments and are insulting.

by anin7 on Jul 1, 2014 9:42 am • linkreport

Its very difficult to parse what it rational for an individual making a housing choice. EOTR areas are cheaper, and some have good proximity to employment centers. Many of them have significant problems with crime, street harassment, and related issues. How to make the tradeoff is something people must decide for themselves, and calling people names because they don't make the choice that is convenient for others makes no sense, IMO. Unless the goal is to distract from the policy discussion.

From a policy POV, its almost certain that limiting development WOTR will not result in a unit for unit shift to EOTR. Some demand will shift EOTR, and some to the suburbs (what impact that will have on the suburbs Dizzy and I have discussed.) And some will stay in WOTR DC, but in smaller and smaller living spaces (which may be green, as per Tom C). Lets say 30% downsize, 40% move to the suburbs, and 30% EOTR. Some of the EOTR movement will result in new buildings on vacant land, some will result in renovation/replacement of existing inhabited units, with resulting increases in housing costs EOTR.

the results will be a range of benefits and costs. There will be an increase (ceteris paribis) in auto mode share, VMT, and GHGs. There will be increases in property values EOTR and more commercial amenities there. There will certainly be a negative impact on renters EOTR. That might be offset by an increase in guaranteed AH WOTR, but AH WOTR is expensive, and is largely happening in connection with IZ or with funding that comes mostly out of taxes from downtown and WOTR development.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 1, 2014 9:48 am • linkreport

gentrify till you qualify is not a euphemism, its precisely the advice offered regularly to people complaining about the cost of housing - if its a snark its because its parallel to "drive till you qualify" which is advice many people take, and which is widely derided by urbanists.

It is certainly not deriding an age group, race, religion, etc.

I would add that there are plenty of people over 50 who bike, like craft beers, etc. Note that lots of people drink local craft beers and are "green" in aspects of their lifestly other than location. Not as many move to the city (empty nesters have lots of inertia that keeps them in the suburbs) though a few do. In any case, even if someone is living a high energy intensive lifestyle in terms of consumer goods, moving them to the suburbs won't reduce that. from the policy POV, its still better to have them in a location where they do more active transportation and have shorter trips. If, that is, the discussion is about policy, and not a debate about the moral quality of individuals or groups.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 1, 2014 9:54 am • linkreport

or white families make rationale decisions about moving EOTR (i.e. it is a third the price of Chevy Chase and closer to downtown).

You can wish more white families moved EOTR, but claiming that it's not a rational decision is pretty out there. In addition to all of the issues AWITC pointed out, one of the most important (if not the most important) issue to families (which implies school-aged kids) is schools. There aren't too many schools EOTR a family that can afford Chevy Chase likely will find acceptable, so you're probably thinking about private school. With 2 kids, any savings in the real estate market will be more than eaten up by tuitoin payments. So it is entirely rational for families to decide to live farther away from work, in a more expensive part of town, if their kids can live in a safer area and can attend public schools.

by dcd on Jul 1, 2014 10:02 am • linkreport

It presupposes aspects of gentrification, involving race and class, which do not have to be true. It is in many instances, but doesn't have to be. Why can't someone typically known as a "gentrifier" use the education and economic resources which gain them the gentrifier title in the first to be an asset to the community to stem many of the negative effects linked to gentrification while allowing for some of the good effects? If that's done, are they still gentrifiers or just part of the community?

It is a euphemism that flattens the texture of discourse and mislabels people. Since gentrification is so tied to demographics, it does so along the lines of race and class. I understand it's use as an identifier, but in a pithy rhyme? Is it that much different than joking about hipsters?

Also, personal choice is well and good. And if community stakeholders in the affected neighborhoods are proponents of this change, then that too is personal choice.

As for any policy discussions, let's not start on the false premise that DC is short space.

I also disagree on your point about suburban hipsters and consumption. I feel like suburban hipster is a contradiction in terms. They may consume other stuff like Americans tend to do, but like I said it's a rabbit hole. My only point was bringing it up was weird in isolation considering the context (a couple extra stops on metro)

by anin7 on Jul 1, 2014 10:23 am • linkreport

"It presupposes aspects of gentrification, involving race and class, which do not have to be true. It is in many instances, but doesn't have to be. Why can't someone typically known as a "gentrifier" use the education and economic resources which gain them the gentrifier title in the first to be an asset to the community to stem many of the negative effects linked to gentrification while allowing for some of the good effects? If that's done, are they still gentrifiers or just part of the community? "

I have never said that all gentrification is bad, or that all who gentrify are uninvolved in the community. However their impact on the housing market in the neighborhoods they move to is going to be similar, regardless.

"It is a euphemism that flattens the texture of discourse and mislabels people. Since gentrification is so tied to demographics, it does so along the lines of race and class. I understand it's use as an identifier, but in a pithy rhyme? Is it that much different than joking about hipsters?"

Yes, profoundly. Gentrify refers to a housing choice, and its necessary impacts. A person of higher income moves to an area of lower incomes, and changes the income mix - and depending on their choice of housing, and the potential vacant lots for development, and externality effects, MAY increase the rents for existing housing. It says nothing about their race, age, or non-housing consumption or lifestyle choices. As for the till you qualify part, that is a statement about motivation - to get cheaper housing. Since you have said several times that you think people asking for cheaper housing can find it EOTR I am not sure why you find that as a statement of motive to be objectionable.

"Also, personal choice is well and good. And if community stakeholders in the affected neighborhoods are proponents of this change, then that too is personal choice."

Im not sure who community stakeholders are or how they represent the community. I expect that people who own property EOTR (including both owner occupants and absentee owners, people who live in guaranteed AH EOTR, and folks who rent market rate units EOTR all have different material interests WRT to changes in property values EOTR.

"As for any policy discussions, let's not start on the false premise that DC is short space."

As I said, I think the OP build out analysis (done as part of the height act discussion) was too cursory and did not fully address all scenarios. Note are discussing here a downzoning. At some point sufficient downzoning will lead to an imminent shortage of space. The impact of any particular downzoning can be debated.

"I also disagree on your point about suburban hipsters and consumption. I feel like suburban hipster is a contradiction in terms."

You should visit Mosaic District. Locally sourced, sustainable, organic everything - all outside the beltway. There is nothing about that sort of thing (and of course thats not the original meaning of hipster anyway) that is impossible in a suburban location.

" They may consume other stuff like Americans tend to do, but like I said it's a rabbit hole."

I am not sure that that sentence means.

" My only point was bringing it up was weird in isolation considering the context (a couple extra stops on metro)"

Housing within walking distance a couple of stops further on the metro is at a very considerable premium, and many of those stops (at least in Va) are well on their way to buidout (despite looser height limits than in DC.) So many people will end up in non-metro served areas. Even the closer in metro served areas are often less compatible with a carfree lifestyle (despite ArlCo's worthy campaign) than parts of DC.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 1, 2014 10:37 am • linkreport

"Gentrify till you qualify" always strikes me as a bit racist, and I am not one with a hyper sensitive racism detector.

In fairness, I don't believe that it is a consciously intended connotation, from most commenters that use the phrase here.

by The Truth™ on Jul 1, 2014 10:43 am • linkreport

A gentrifiers impact on the housing market does not have to be bad for anyone. Particularly if the gentrifiers advocated for ah and rent controls and were successful. So I'm not sure what you are getting at there. The problem with gentrification is not moving in, it's the shift in policy aims that occur afterwards and that exclude long time residents and eventually pushes them out. That's what differentiates a gentrifyer from a new neighbor Your little rhyme does not leave room for new neighbors and it is insulting.

Addison rd, Congress heights, anacostia, Benning etc etc are nowhere near build out.

Hipster does not denote race or class in my book but it does have to do with value systems. On the other hand gentrifyer has strong class, if not racial conotations. And again, value systems. So I'm not sure where you are going with that either.

by anin7 on Jul 1, 2014 11:02 am • linkreport

"A gentrifiers impact on the housing market does not have to be bad for anyone. Particularly if the gentrifiers advocated for ah and rent controls and were successful."

They could have advocated for such without moving to the new area. I mean one could live WOTR and advocate for more investment EOTR, especially in schools. The point here, which I think you are missing, is that I am not judging the gentrifier as person - I am judging the meme that gentrification is a solution to the affordable housing problem. Similarly I do not judge individuals who choose to commute 30 miles to work - I judge the public policies that lead to that outcome.

" The problem with gentrification is not moving in, it's the shift in policy aims that occur afterwards and that exclude long time residents and eventually pushes them out. "

I do not think its policy aims that have that effect, but the working of the market place (at least wrt renters)

"Your little rhyme does not leave room for new neighbors and it is insulting. "

A new neighbor, however liberal their views on AH, and however friendly they maybe, is still increasing the SES of the neighborhood, and is still likely increasing rents. That is why I use the term of gentrifier. Its not my fault if some people in DC use the term to mean "some selfabsorbed dude who doesnt talk to locals".

I am considering moving to a lower SES area myself - and would of course want to be a good neighbor. I am sorry that the discourse on gentrification in DC (sometimes quite overwrought, I agree) has left you so sensitive. I think its a very useful description though.

"Addison rd, Congress heights, anacostia, Benning etc etc are nowhere near build out."

Not yet, although the pace of development is picking up. And I think its mostly unlikely that new development will occur without transistion of the existing housing stock in most of those places.

"Hipster does not denote race or class in my book but it does have to do with value systems."

Its often used to denote race and class, and almost always to denote age. And its used very loosely for value system - in fact its often used to refer to the very people the original hipsters most disliked.

" On the other hand gentrifyer has strong class"

Well yes. Im not sure how to discuss the impact of higher income people moving to a cheaper area without discussing class.

"if not racial conotations"

There are black gentrifiers. And in cities like Baltimore and Chicago, there are whites gentrifiers moving into white working class areas.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 1, 2014 11:14 am • linkreport

Unless you're particularly connected you can't advocate for issues the same way if you don't live in the area. At public hearings your testimony is weighted more. And decision makers take heed because you are their constituent. Also, organizing is much easier when you are not seen as an outsider.

I also disagree about friendly neighbors. You can say hi and advocate for tearing down ah. Saying hi isn't what makes you a non gentrifyer. It's how you civically engage your community and that has everything to do with policy aims post move in. Market will act as it does, but policy mitigates and can even nullify as far as ah, tax consequences, and rent control goes. Gentrifyers are typically unconcerned or even hostile towards ah. It's not a website that's made me sensitive or clued me into what gentrifying really means. It's been the city and watching it change

by anin7 on Jul 1, 2014 11:33 am • linkreport

I am simply questioning the assumption made by some that increase supply makes the price go down.

That's pretty much the law of supply and demand. Anyone who can prove that wrong, will win a Nobel Prize.

by David C on Jul 1, 2014 10:27 pm • linkreport

A shortage of develop-able land in DC is some ways off.

Not according to OP. And the amount developable land near Metro stations definitely is. Considering we haven't added a DC Metro station in 11 years, and have no concrete plans to do so any time in the next 15, that's a real issue.

I oppose lowering the height limit on pop-ups for the exact same reason I support raising the height limit, namely there is absolutely no compelling interest to reduce people's property rights, and in fact, it harms the city in many ways.

by David C on Jul 1, 2014 10:52 pm • linkreport

In any event, I believe there is room for everyone in this city.

Just not hipsters, amiright?

by David C on Jul 1, 2014 10:53 pm • linkreport

I love hipsters. Good beer, biking around, living in historic neighborhoods, what's not to like, besides the tight pants?

by Thayer-D on Jul 2, 2014 4:53 am • linkreport

There's room for them too. Just wish they'd quit their belly aching and notice.

by anin7 on Jul 2, 2014 8:12 am • linkreport

Oh and OP link re: lack of developable land? Odd considering the glut of OP documents planning to develop, you guessed it, land. Also, street car?

by anin7 on Jul 2, 2014 8:19 am • linkreport

DC population is 630,000 or so. If it grows by just under 1% a year, which is not much more than the national growth rate, and probably does not increase DC's share of the regional pop, and thus is likely conservative, DC needs room for 6,000 new people EVERY year. the remaining units till buildout in Navy Yard per Capital Riverfront BID is only about 7000. The total including the 3000 existing units is 10,000. Assuming 1.5 persons per unit, NY can hold 15,000. You need a new, fully built out, Navy Yard every 2 and a half years or so.

Thats a LOT of units. Even if there seem to be a lot of parcels available for development right now.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 2, 2014 8:38 am • linkreport

"Unless you're particularly connected you can't advocate for issues the same way if you don't live in the area."

If you are advocating for building more AH WOTR, why can't you do that WOTR?

" At public hearings your testimony is weighted more. And decision makers take heed because you are their constituent. "

But it seems that you are for more ah WOTR, and less EOTR. Certainly many folks advocating more development EOTR take that position. So it sounds like the city would listen to you more on stopping ah EOTR, and less on building it WOTR. sounds like a formula for less AH,not more.

Maybe we need to have our public officials take a broader view. Its bad enough counties in Va make decisions without regard to the impact on othe counties, or on DC. But that DC might only listen to people in a given ward about a project in that ward seems particularly dysfunctional.

"Also, organizing is much easier when you are not seen as an outsider. "

Lets recall what started this. You justify zoning to reduce the number of condos in places like Columbia Heights, because there is still "cheap housing EOTR" Do you really think all the folks you push EOTR by making housing pricier WOTR are going to be activists passionate for organizing the existing community, and passionate about ah? I don't. Very few people are activists period. Whether they are "hipsters" or "gentrifiers" or not. most people just arent that political (and lots of political people in DC are unconcerned with local politics) MOre likely they will just drink lattes Nurish and go about their business - or they will push to make their EOTR neighbohoods more like the WOTR areas they were pushed out of. They may well find allies among DC native homeowners EOTR. But thats hardly going to make it a paradise of cross class activism where new homeowners make common cause with renters concerned about being priced out.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 2, 2014 8:48 am • linkreport

Also, street car?

A. Won't lead to the same level of transit usage as a heavy rail metro station will. Doesnt mean its not a good thing, but still.
B. Will need to be financed. More high value properties WOTR will help. More development in NoVa (the much more likely result of limiting development WOTR) will not.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 2, 2014 8:51 am • linkreport

I'm not arguing units won't be needed. I'm saying there's land to develop.

Poplar point, McMillan, Walter Reed, East Capitol EOTR,cong heights, RFK, NY Ave, Rhode Island etc etc...DC has housed 800k people. I understand alley dwellings aren't in vogue, and we don't have to go back to them if we continue building. But seriously, there are vacant newly built condos just sitting dormant in cong heights. Abandonminiums all over EOTR. I can't reconcile lack of living space in DC with that. Suitability outside transit is an entirely different discussion. One I'm game for, but I can't argue with phantoms. A DC with no affordable housing near transit doesn't exist to me. Again, preface with Lenfant city or trendy and I might cede more.

by anin7 on Jul 2, 2014 9:00 am • linkreport

Building AH EOTR and not WOTR is likely illegal because it has a racially segregative effect. By blocking it EOTR on those grounds, some comes to WOTR. Note this scenario does not involve the city listening. Further there are innumerable studies on the detrimental effects of concentrating subsidized housing and racial groups in one area. If any of your prior argument is alluding to NIMBYism, please educate yourself on the meaning of that word and also on segregation.

You don't need to explain to me the difficulties in organizing and getting people motivated. It's a good thing "most people" aren't needed to effectively advocate for change. One day soon you might read about cross class activism EOTR over your latte. Because it's happening.

by anin7 on Jul 2, 2014 9:20 am • linkreport

"Poplar point, McMillan, Walter Reed, East Capitol EOTR,cong heights, RFK, NY Ave, Rhode Island etc etc..."

lets take Mcmillan for example. The current plan for McMillan is for less than 600 residences. At 1.5 per unit, thats 1200 people. IE its under 3 months of DC growth. And that plan is too dense for many people and is being fought. Similar issues almost everywhere. Thats why doing a build out analysis is so complicated - its more than just "oh, theres a vacant lot, it can hold X"

"DC has housed 800k people."

Briefly, during and after the war, when people lived in very crowded conditions (and had more kids per household). That level of crowding and housing shortage led in short order to large scale suburban growth in inner MoCo, PG, Arlington, Alexandria, and even some inner parts of FFX county.

"But seriously, there are vacant newly built condos just sitting dormant in cong heights."

Interesting, I am not familiar. tell me more, with links if possible. Why are they not being sold?

" Abandonminiums all over EOTR."

I would love to know how many there really are. What their potential for renovation or redevelopment really is. Their proximity to metro. The walk friendliness of local streets. A whole bunch of interesting issues - more info would definetely better inform our discussions.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 2, 2014 9:25 am • linkreport

"Building AH EOTR and not WOTR is likely illegal because it has a racially segregative effect."

I know of now evidence that building AH where land is cheapest has been so held by any court.

" By blocking it EOTR on those grounds, some comes to WOTR. "

Maybe, or maybe less is built, or maybe none is built.

"Further there are innumerable studies on the detrimental effects of concentrating subsidized housing and racial groups in one area. If any of your prior argument is alluding to NIMBYism, please educate yourself on the meaning of that word and also on segregation. "

I support AH in more affluent areas - not only in WOTR DC, but in FFX where I live in Arlington, etc. However the arguments for more AH in affluent areas do not always win politically. I am not sure that getting more "hipsters" to live in EOTR because they can't qualify for a condo WOTR will lead to a stronger political coalition for ah elsewhere.

"You don't need to explain to me the difficulties in organizing and getting people motivated. It's a good thing "most people" aren't needed to effectively advocate for change. One day soon you might read about cross class activism EOTR over your latte. Because it's happening"

Maybe. Maybe not. thats worthy of a post, if its happening. But I don't see how that leads to wanting more WOTR "hipsters" to go qualify EOTR. Will their presence make that activism more likely?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 2, 2014 9:30 am • linkreport

oh well. thats not a condo development sitting vacant. thats a partially completed one that stopped being built cause the developer ran out of money partway through. Someone then bought the whole thing (with most lots unbuilt - just 19 finished ones) and is presumably going to complete the remaining lots and sell them. If the buyer is a speculator, they will likely flip it to a developer who will do so.

Not an indicator of units ripe for move in being avoided by hoity toity hipsters.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 2, 2014 9:49 am • linkreport

So they're not exactly "vacant, newly-built" properties, they are partially unfinished and not for sale.

by MLD on Jul 2, 2014 9:50 am • linkreport

Question: How can anyone ensure that the new housing in the R4 zone would be for "families"? The answer is that you cannot. Therefore, these new units will not go to families that need affordable housing...they will most likely go to the singles who choose to rent together OR the units will be made smaller (1 bd or studios).

Thus, it is not likely that this proposal would have any negative impact on the amount of new family housing in the city. I am not against it.

by buppy08 on Jul 2, 2014 9:57 am • linkreport

@buppy08

Nor would removing the ability to build higher structure necessary preserve these units for families. That's the assumption, but in fact as you constrict the supply of smaller units and prices rise for those, some who might have bought smaller units will simply buy bigger ones--i.e., rowhouses.

When you distort the market, it's like squeezing a balloon. The demand is still there, it just emerges in a different place, in a different form.

by Crickey7 on Jul 2, 2014 10:05 am • linkreport

Never said they were turnkey. They are exactly as I described. Vacant, newly built, and dormant. As if people don't move in during phase 1 of developments like this. You'd think DCs market for AH was non-existent looking at this development.

by anin7 on Jul 2, 2014 10:06 am • linkreport

I am pretty sure they don't move in when the project is uncompleted and the developer is insolvent. I don't think banks like to give mortgages in cases like that. Different case from "phase 1" of an ongoing development with a solvent developer. Thats not what this is.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 2, 2014 10:09 am • linkreport

here's an update on the project - looks like its alive

http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/housingcomplex/2014/05/02/shedding-light-on-congress-heights-mysterious-development-project/

"But according to the LYNK press release, the developers will put the finishing touches on the 26 existing units as the first phase of the project before embarking on the remaining 68 homes in the second phase. Eventually, there will be 70 condominiums and 24 townhouses, with prices expected to be between $240,000 and $360,000."

so, its true there are units affordable to middle income people EOTR (new condos for 240k). Whether those are good deals for any individual, given crime, schools, and transportation, is up to the individual. It does NOT appear that the new developers expects they will be vacant for long.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 2, 2014 10:12 am • linkreport

BTW that appears to be over a mile to the CH metro station.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 2, 2014 10:16 am • linkreport

Please link to court case where segregation is justified by land cost. I believe the judicial standard is : there is no less segregative measure to achieve the proposed end.

Doubt DC gives up the hundreds of millions if not billions given to it by HUD because they don't want to build AH WOTR. They aren't vindictive, they just do what they can get away with.

Also, I advocate for development and ah EOTR. I don't care who moves in, in particular.

by anin7 on Jul 2, 2014 10:20 am • linkreport

"Please link to court case where segregation is justified by land cost. I believe the judicial standard is : there is no less segregative measure to achieve the proposed end.
Doubt DC gives up the hundreds of millions if not billions given to it by HUD because they don't want to build AH WOTR. They aren't vindictive, they just do what they can get away with."

IIUC DC is both attempting to replace existing ah units WOTR (though not being terribly fast about it) at HOPE VI and CHOICE projects, and is also trying to add ah units via IZ. but they are also looking to put a fair number of new AH units EOTR because of cost.

I am not familiar with the legal doctrine either way. I would remind you that YOU suggested what they are doing is illegal - ergo, I would suggest you should back that up.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 2, 2014 10:31 am • linkreport

Oh and OP link re: lack of developable land?

'The Office of Planning analysis points to D.C.'s recent and ongoing population growth, which will require more development capacity in order to meet demand. The analysis projects that population and job growth will require somewhere between 157 million and 317 million square feet of new development by 2040. The current height limits, the Office of Planning determines, will not realistically allow the city to reach those levels of development.'

http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/housingcomplex/2013/09/24/d-c-recommends-major-changes-to-height-act/

by David C on Jul 2, 2014 10:58 am • linkreport

I never said we wouldn't eventually run into problems. I suggested building out first. That quote says nothing about developable land available now, there is room. "Doomsday" is 30 years from now but from the complaints I'd think 2040 was yesterday. But thanks.

Start with Thompson v HUD, Shannon V HUD, and the Inclusive communities project vs TDHC.

by anin7 on Jul 2, 2014 12:01 pm • linkreport

The problem with waiting for buildout (both with respect to the height limit and the pop-up condo conversion limit) is that meanwhile investments will be made, and they will be long lived.

In the case of condo conversion (since the height limit change is dead for now) that unrenovated 3BR rowhouse in an in demand area is not going to stay an unrenovated 3BR rowhouse. If we ban the conversion, it will likely be renovated anyway, but as a single family. Once thats done, the economics of converting it to multiple units down the road will look different.

lets say the unrenov house is worth 400k. You can make 400k condos out of it. DC bans that. The 400k house becomes a 700k SFH instead. Then "buildout" arrives, and DC changes the law to allow condo conversion/pop-out. But now you have a 700k house, with full 2014 luxury finishes, etc. Will it still make economic sense to convert it in 2040? Maybe if its deteriorated a lot (is that likely?) or if fashions change dramatically, or if real condo prices escalate well above what they are currently (!!!) Otherwise, you have locked in the current physical form.

Housing is long lived and sunk costs are sunk. Ergo, the rules you make now, impact what will be possible decades from now. You can't just wait till build out. You need to act (or in this case, refrain from acting) when build out is in sight.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 2, 2014 12:20 pm • linkreport

That's a fair point re:sunk costs. I still think condos take affordable room rentals off line. Row homes ripe for 3 or more condo units often have numerous renters. Columbia Heights is a good example of this.

by anin7 on Jul 2, 2014 12:32 pm • linkreport

Another problem with limiting pop-ups NOW is that in those places where pop-ups have happened they will now be odd-men-out for the forseeable future rather than being joined by surrounding houses reaching the same uniform height.

by MLD on Jul 2, 2014 12:39 pm • linkreport

I think some of the old iconic row houses should be preserved, however such a distinction would be determined.

I don't care so much for many of the later built concrete box-style row houses. However, one thing they have going for them is the general uniform appearance down the line.

As each starts to pop-up willy nilly, the cohesion would lost, and, since the metamorphosis will be spread out over decades, it will create a mishmash of varying heights and styles (nothing like the idealized photo from Amsterdam in another thread.)

I can see things getting really ugly. I don't know how that could be prevented.

by The Truth™ on Jul 2, 2014 1:08 pm • linkreport

Form codes could mitigate some of the worst aspects of what you talk about The Truth. Also, there are many historians who would be more than happy to illustrate those row houses that would contribute to the history and character of the city vs. those "concrete box" types. Lastly, the uniform character of some of those streest pale in comparison to some of the eclectic and varied blocks in the older part of the city. But I suppose this kind of difference in opinion is what would make the excersizes you propose near impossible without all out opinion wars. I think it's worth trying, simply to get the public more engaged in their built environment.

by Thayer-D on Jul 3, 2014 9:06 am • linkreport

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