Affordable Housing Disappearing In D.C.

Despite the economic downturn, the cost of living in D.C. has rapidly increased over the past decade, according to a new report by think tank DC Fiscal Policy Institute.

Getting by on $750 for housing — which includes rent and utilities – has become increasingly difficult. The number of such apartments has decreased by more than half during the past decade, going from 70,600 in 2000, to 34,500 in 2010, according to the report.

Renters are more vulnerable to the forces of gentrification than homeowners, since renters don’t have equity to leverage as housing costs rise. But buying a house in D.C. has also become much more expensive over the past decade. The median home price in D.C. more than doubled since 2000, reaching $400,000 in 2010, according to the report.

More than half of the city’s population rents, and the D.C.-area is the tenth most expensive metro region in the nation for renters. People of color are more likely to rent than whites in D.C.; about the same number of whites own homes than rent them. Meanwhile, about double the number of blacks, Latinos and Asians rent their homes than own them.

Increasing housing costs and stagnant incomes mean that a growing share of DC households face severe housing cost burdens. Since 2000, the number of households paying more than half of their income on housing has risen by 15,000, and this occurred almost exclusively among renter households. Very low-income households are the most likely to face these severe housing burdens, with just under two-thirds paying more than half of their income on rent in 2010. Paying more than half of one’s income on housing is considered a severe housing burden by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and can leave low-income families with little left to take care of other necessities like food, clothing, medicine and transportation.

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