DCentric » Affordable Housing http://dcentric.wamu.org Race, Class, The District. Wed, 16 May 2012 20:20:35 +0000 en hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.2.1 Copyright © WAMU The Complexities Of Rent Control http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/04/the-complexities-of-rent-control/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/04/the-complexities-of-rent-control/#comments Fri, 20 Apr 2012 18:15:03 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=15542 Continue reading ]]>

Derek K. Miller / Flickr

Expensive rents can be a byproduct of gentrification and rising property values. So isn’t rent control one way to keep housing affordable?

Turns out that it’s not always that simple.

This week’s Washington City Paper Housing Complex column explores how one developer’s approach to purchasing and renovating old apartment buildings in D.C. has become a double-edged sword for renters. When landlords wants to sell their buildings, a D.C. law requires that they offer tenants the first right to buy. Urban Investment Partners buys old buildings, but they get the tenants to waive their right to purchase by striking deals that include keeping rents relatively stable for original tenants. Those old buildings need major renovations, and the company pays for them by substantially increasing rents for newcomers to the building. The result: rent-controlled, low rates for those who remain, but the number of affordable apartments in the building — and the city– declines.

But what other options exist? The pot of money intended to preserve affordable housing in the District is dwindling. For-profit developers want to make money, and it’s difficult to massively renovate a building without charging people more to live there.

These issues disproportionately affect people of color in the District. About twice as many African Americans, Asians and Latinos rent rather than own homes in D.C. Meanwhile, nearly the same number of whites own homes as rent them in D.C. About 55 percent of people who live in D.C. rent.

Increasing home ownership among the renting population has been cited as a way to keep low- and moderate-income people in gentrifying neighborhoods. Home owners have more leverage and could either remain or benefit from gentrification by selling their homes at higher values. Renters, on the other hand, could get a payoff from a developer to move out, but it’s certainly not enough to buy a new home. It may not even be enough to continue renting in the same neighborhood.

Still, owning a home isn’t a surefire way to protect oneself from poverty. For instance, the black middle class suffered greatly during the recession and housing bubble burst because they disproportionately had more of their wealth tied up in home equity.

Obviously, rent control does help existing tenants. But given the declining number of rent-controlled apartments, it can’t be a longterm solution to the city’s affordable housing problem.

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DCentric’s D.C. Budget Highlights: What’s Cut, What’s Not http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/03/dcentrics-d-c-budget-highlights-whats-cut-whats-not/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/03/dcentrics-d-c-budget-highlights-whats-cut-whats-not/#comments Tue, 27 Mar 2012 16:42:37 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=14946 Continue reading ]]>

scienceoftheinvisible.blogspot.com / Flickr

Mayor Vincent Gray unveiled his $9.4 billion proposed budget last week, which outlines millions of dollars in cuts to social services.

The city anticipates a $172 million shortfall next year, and Mayor Gray wants to fill the gap mostly through cuts — about $102 million worth of them — while raising the remaining $70 million. The D.C. Council will spend the next couple of months digesting, debating and changing the budget before finally voting on it.

Let’s take a look at a few highlights:

No new taxes
Last year’s budget battle included a debate over whether to create a new tax bracket for wealthier residents. The council eventually approved a new tax bracket for households making more than $350,000 a year. This time around, Mayor Gray isn’t suggesting further raising taxes on the wealthy to balance the budget. Instead, he’s looking to make money by extending the hours alcohol can be sold and expanding the traffic camera program.

The DC Healthcare Alliance provides insurance for the approximately 20,000 low-income D.C. residents not covered by Medicaid. Mayor Gray proposes cutting $23 million from the program, transforming it from offering comprehensive coverage to just primary, preventative care.

Mandel Ngan / AFP/Getty Images

Mayor Vincent Gray.

The money to build and renovate affordable housing units comes from the Housing Production Trust Fund. It’s also where tenants turn to for low-cost loans to purchase their buildings when landlords put them up for sale. Tenant purchase is often cited as a way to prevent displacement of low-income renters in the face of gentrification. Mayor Gray proposes taking $19.9 million from the trust fund and using it for low-income rent subsidies instead, which is in really high demand.

Economic development and jobs
Mayor Gray proposes boosting economic development funding, including $58 million of infrastructure investments at St. Elizabeths in Ward 8, future home the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The redevelopment is expected to reinvigorate the economically depressed area by bringing in thousands of jobs.

The District has also had problems training residents for jobs; Mayor Gray proposes a $1.6 million pilot program intended to better connect residents with jobs.

The wish list
The budget does include a “revised revenue priority list,” essentially a wish list of items that will be funded if more money is brought in than projected. And most of those programs benefit the city’s neediest residents, including $7 million for homeless services, $14.7 million to pay for Temporary Aid for Needy Families (formerly known as welfare) job programs and restoring the cuts made to healthcare and housing.

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Finding Out About Group Homes and the Fate of the Peaceholics Buildings http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/03/finding-out-about-group-homes-and-the-fate-of-the-peaceholics-buildings/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/03/finding-out-about-group-homes-and-the-fate-of-the-peaceholics-buildings/#comments Thu, 01 Mar 2012 17:11:35 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=14385 Continue reading ]]> The number of group homes in Ward 8 has been a point of contention among some residents in recent weeks. Such homes and shelters are actually called community residential facilities, and there are a number of reasons why group homes and transitional housing opens in Ward 8, including zoning, market forces and government-funding that has to be spent in low to moderate income communities.

Eleven D.C. agency representatives showed up to a Ward 8 community meeting last week to discuss the presence of community residential facilities in the area. Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Sandra “S.S.” Seegars, who is running for the Ward 8 City Council seat, organized the meeting. And she, among other ANC commissioners, were vocal in their opposition to more homes opening in their communities.

Part of the ire from some local officials comes from the lack of notice they get when such facilities can open in their communities. In the past, Ward 7 Councilwoman Yvette Alexander proposed that ANCs to be notified when a group home was proposing to open. John Hall, director of D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development, which helps fund some community residential facilities, said moving forward ANCs would be notified when those submitting proposals for group homes don’t include a letter of support from the ANC. “I’m open to that,” Hall said. “With the next [request for proposals], we can do that.”

Not everyone opposes such group homes, such as ANC 8D02 Commissioner Olivia Anderson, who attended last week’s meeting.

“I came here to get information on group homes. As I’m sitting here, I’m hearing, ‘These children. These children.’ These children are our children, from our community and we need to welcome them back,” she said. “Not all these kids going to transitional housing are problematic kids.”

The most recent high-profile project includes a building at 1300 Congress Heights Street SE, spearheaded by nonprofit Peaceholics. The District government sunk $5.5 million into three vacant buildings that were intended to be fixed up and house “troubled” men between 18 and 24. The buildings could soon fall into foreclosure.

The borrower has until April to pay back the District. Hall said during last week’s Ward 8 community meeting that his agency is preparing to take over the buildings if the first lender can’t. If that happens, Hall said the Congress Heights building would become “quality affordable housing,” rather than community residential facility, as initially planned. He said the District has “gone down the group homes route with these projects before. I’d be a fool to go down that route again.”

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When Affordable Housing Isn’t So Affordable http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/02/when-affordable-housing-isnt-so-affordable/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/02/when-affordable-housing-isnt-so-affordable/#comments Mon, 06 Feb 2012 18:53:51 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=13965 Continue reading ]]>

Josh / Flickr

When planning affordable housing, the major consideration is whether residents will be able to make rent. Housing is considered affordable when you’re spending 30 percent of your income on it. But paying rent is only one part of affordable living; you still have to spend money to eat and get around.

GOOD reports that, in the long run, factors such as transportation, grocery options and other costs can make some affordable housing developments more expensive than others. For instance, the difference in living costs between some of Chicago’s affordable housing developments was high as $3,000 a year per family, depending on location.

That’s relevant to D.C., where 55 percent of the population doesn’t make enough money to afford rent (the average household would have to earn $28.10 an hour to be able to afford housing). Transportation costs differ neighborhood to neighborhood — Tenleytown residents are paying $1,003 a year on transportation, while those in Columbia Heights are paying about $200 less. It may only be a couple of hundred of dollars, but the difference in transportation costs could big for families on limited budgets.

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Why Crime is High Where Housing Voucher Users Live http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/12/why-crime-is-high-where-housing-voucher-users-live/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/12/why-crime-is-high-where-housing-voucher-users-live/#comments Tue, 27 Dec 2011 16:25:04 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=13033 Continue reading ]]>

Ian Britton / Flickr

Typically when there’s a move to provide more affordable housing in a neighborhood, some existing residents rail against it. One of their main concerns: people using housing vouchers, or government subsidies to pay rent, bring crime.

Yes, crime rates do tend to be higher in neighborhoods where many people use housing vouchers. But it’s not because those individuals increase crime — it’s because they move into neighborhoods where crime is already increasing, according to a recent study [PDF].

Researchers at New York University’s Wagner School and Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy examined the relationship between housing vouchers and crime in ten U.S. cities, including D.C. Their evidence shows that people using vouchers choose to live in neighborhoods where crime is high and rising.

That may be due to a number of reasons. As crime increases, vacancies increase and rents drop, meaning landlords may be more willing to take people using housing vouchers. Also, voucher holders can only live in neighborhoods with affordable rental housing, “and they may only know about—or feel comfortable pursuing—a certain set of those neighborhoods, given their networks of social and family ties,” the study’s authors note.

More than 11,000 D.C. families use housing vouchers. The D.C. Housing Authority launched an initiative this summer, Beyond the Voucher, to help such families dispel the negative stereotypes often associated with housing voucher holders.

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Competing For Flat-Screen TVs and Affordable Housing http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/11/competing-for-flat-screen-tvs-and-affordable-housing/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/11/competing-for-flat-screen-tvs-and-affordable-housing/#comments Wed, 30 Nov 2011 17:12:55 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=12451 Continue reading ]]> Hundreds of people anxiously waited in a long line near 14th Street NW in Columbia Heights last week so they could buy heavily discounted flat-screen TVs and tablet computers. Another long line formed in the neighborhood last night, but this time it was full of people waiting to sign up for affordable housing.

Hundreds people waited Tuesday night, through the rain and with some camping overnight, to sign up for newly-renovated Hubbard Place’s waiting list. And according to The Washington Post, competition for the apartments “was intense:”

Security guards and two D.C. police officers tried to keep the line orderly, but shouting matches broke out, and some of those who had waited accused others of cutting in line and not waiting their turn.

“There are a lot of people that need housing, a lot of homeless right now,” said Katherine Felder, a security guard who had been waiting in line since midnight. She lost her apartment this year and has been staying with relatives, along with two granddaughters, ages 3 and 2, who are in her care.

“I don’t have anywhere to stay,” she said from under a black umbrella, shifting her weight to keep warm. “I’m cold, wet and soaked to the bone, soaked from my head to my toes. Cold, cold, cold. Haven’t slept all night.”

As the Post points, out, there’s quite a high demand for affordable housing in the city: about 20,000 people are currently on the city’s waiting list. Although D.C. rents aren’t the highest in the nation, they are out-of-reach for many in the city. A little more than half of District residents don’t make enough money to afford a market rate, two bedroom apartment. Development has caused Columbia Heights in particular to become more expensive, which is one reason behind Latinos increasingly settling in more affordable neighborhoods in the city.

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Who Owns D.C.’s Homes http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/08/who-owns-d-c-s-homes/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/08/who-owns-d-c-s-homes/#comments Mon, 01 Aug 2011 19:48:28 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=9281 Continue reading ]]>  

Diana Parkhouse / Flickr

A new Brookings Institution report on affordable housing in D.C. notes that between 2000 and 2009, home ownership increased by almost 45 percent. But the rate jump wasn’t felt evenly across class lines; home ownership actually declined among households making less than $50,000 annually:

Percentage change between 2000 and 2009

Household incomes Renters Homeowners Overall
Less than $50,000 -24 percent -32 percent -26 percent
$50,000 to $75,000 Unchanged Unchanged Unchanged
More than $75,000 +81 percent +58 percent +63 percent
(Source: Brookings Institution)

In the span of nearly 10 years, D.C. experienced an increase in the number of people with more money and a decrease in the number of people with less money.

This new report is an update on one issued five years ago, which had recommended increasing the rate of home ownership to help boost affordable housing. But housing prices in the District are increasing, so naturally it’s becoming more and more challenging for lower income people to buy homes. Some lower-income home owners are finding it increasingly beneficial to sell their properties that have appreciated so much in value.

Even knowing exactly how much affordable housing there is in D.C. has proven to be difficult, researchers noted. The report recommended improving the process of documenting the housing stock, and included other suggestions such as increasing property taxes to raise money for affordable housing.


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Righteous Real Estate http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/02/righteous-real-estate/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/02/righteous-real-estate/#comments Thu, 10 Feb 2011 19:44:22 +0000 Anna http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=4119 Continue reading ]]>

Flickr: ONE DC

Lydia DePillis of the City Paper writes about a new source for affordable housing in the District– churches. DePillis visited one house of worship, the Temple of Praise, an interdenominational megachurch that Mayor-for-life Marion Barry attends; the Temple has big plans for Ward 8. The church is so popular, it has outgrown the huge building it built just eight years ago; now it wants to construct something larger and transform the current Temple into a charter school. Beyond that, the ambitious church wants to develop affordable housing on its property.

And Bishop Glen Staples isn’t stopping there. He’s working on building a medical clinic, and wants to construct senior housing and a new community center, as well as a credit union, local retail, and restaurants—which neither the market nor the government have brought to that part of Ward 8 (even the local McDonald’s is vacant).

“There’s nothing here,” says Staples, taking a break in his dark wood and leather-trimmed inner sanctum, while the noon service thunders outside. “I don’t know if politicians are able to do anything, if they want to do anything, I don’t know, but I do know nothing’s been done. So it’s incumbent on us to try to do something.”

“Re-knitting an urban fabric” might be just what this city needs:

The particularly important thing here: These are the kinds of building projects many neighborhoods either grumble about or reject altogether. A church’s willingness to put them in its own neighborhood demonstrates a confidence in its ability to be a positive and stabilizing influence, re-knitting an urban fabric shredded by drugs and crime, in places where private capital would never voluntarily go.

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What’s Needed: “a large attitude adjustment on both sides” http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/01/whats-needed-a-large-attitude-adjustment-on-both-sides/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/01/whats-needed-a-large-attitude-adjustment-on-both-sides/#comments Wed, 05 Jan 2011 15:40:32 +0000 Anna http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=3168 Continue reading ]]>

Flickr: Rhys

Shaw, D.C.

Yesterday, I wrote about caustic reactions to the news that more affordable housing is coming to Shaw. One of you left a comment in response to my post that deserves to be seen:

I think we are seeing here is the very real balkanization of urban society that stymies us. I commiserate with both sides, there needs to be affordable housing in the city, and yet it comes fraught with so many problems that makes it unpleasant for the neighbors.

I recently saw a project about The Frederick Douglass Dwellings in Anacostia, that was public housing built in the WWII boom. There were many two parent families and a community center in which the ladies who ran it really took an interest in their charges. They didn’t know they were “poor,” and there was a strong sense of community and family.

There are so many problems here: it’s true that many urban blacks that I have encountered blame their problems on the system, “the plan”, without seeking solutions, but I find this mimicked in modern society too, where many people blame “the media” without questioning their role in propagating a media more concerned with the upcoming royal nuptials than the minutae of the tax code. People do need to start taking responsibility for themselves, their knowledge base, their support of leadership, and their desires to meet and understand their neighbors. Start community watches. Volunteer with big brothers. Don’t accept or make excuses. There will need to be a large attitude adjustment on both sides for anything to change.

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“Yet another warehouse of concentrated poverty” http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/01/yet-another-warehouse-of-concentrated-poverty/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/01/yet-another-warehouse-of-concentrated-poverty/#comments Tue, 04 Jan 2011 21:21:18 +0000 Anna http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=3144 Continue reading ]]>

Flickr: M. V. Jantzen

Shaw Metro station, at 8th & R Streets, NW

So I was reading this post from the City Paper about new, affordable housing coming to Shaw:

It’s a tentative plan, but a plan nonetheless: Lincoln Westmoreland Housing Inc. is moving forward with a 50-unit apartment complex on 7th and R Street NW, right next to the 10-story behemoth constructed right after the 1968 riots.

The new building, designed by Shalom Baranes architects, could not be more ideally located: It sits directly above the Shaw metro station (part of the land will be purchased from WMATA), and across the street from the new Shaw library. It will replace a decked-over parking lot, have retail on the ground floor, and still leave some green space for a sculpture installation.

“Affordable” is the key word here, because as Lydia DePillis reported, the units would be accessible “for people making 60 percent of the area median income”. Sounds great, right? I love neighborhoods that have a range of people from all backgrounds–it’s my favorite thing about Columbia Heights, where there is everything from affordable housing to $3,000 converted condos. The readers who commented on her piece had a different, more bitter take:

Building looks nice and hopefully they will balance income levels. 60% AMI residents will be a welcome addition to the neighborhood and attract civil servants, firefighters, police, teachers etc. But if they decide to concentrate the extremely low income/AMI residents in this building, well they might as well hand over the building to the local thugs so they can have a nice shiny new HQ from which to terrorize the rest of the neighborhood from. [wcp]

Commenter “Sally” was blunter, but on to something– another commenter referred to “yet another warehouse of concentrated poverty. Disgusting.”:

Make it actual workforce housing, not the usual poor people storage facility. [wcp]

Disgusting is right. So the people to whom Sally and other commenters are referring are objects to be stored. Storage facilities and warehouses are places for things forgotten, for the unnecessary crap we don’t have room for, which should remain out of sight. Language, people. Language.

Commenter “Q-Street” added:

I really can’t take another subsidized property in the neighborhood. I’m paying my mortgage month to month while my neighbors walk around drunk all day and talk about the ‘man’ keeping them down burning trash and peeing in public. Let Dupont or Chevy Chase take the next subsidized housing complex for f*cks sake. [wcp]

I feel for this person, I really do. I can’t imagine how frustrating it must be to pour all of your money, hopes and dreams in to a home of your very own only to move in and witness crimes being committed, all around you. That’s what public drunkenness, arson and public urination sound like, to me– crimes. It must be disheartening.

Having typed that, I also wonder if a lot of the gentrification-related rage in this city is born from an impatience that neighborhoods aren’t prettying up as quickly as newer, more affluent residents had hoped they would. It’s tough to be the new family on the block, but someone is always first, aren’t they? Or second, or third. I have sympathy for fed-up homeowners but only to a certain point; if the grittiness of a transitional area will be too much to bear, I’d suggest a different neighborhood. If crime-ridden neighborhoods are all someone can afford, then the real problem is access to affordable housing for all of us– not drunken neighbors, which Shaw hardly has a monopoly on…public drunks have annoyed me in Kalorama, Georgetown and even my current building. Is an inebriated sorority girl who is shoeless and screaming hysterically on Irving street less annoying than someone railing about “the man”? Or is she just prettier, less threatening, and thus more acceptable?

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