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D.C. Housing Market Woes

The District of Columbia Housing Monitor for Winter 2008, released today, confirms what one might expect, given the national economic woes, the mortgage crisis and the District's own issues with affordable housing. The report findings: condo and home sales are down; single-family home prices are down; and new housing construction is down.

For low-income D.C. residents, the news is bad as well. The cumulative loss of federally subsidized Section 8 housing units continues to grow. In addition, more than 10,000 units for low and moderate-income tenants are set to have their affordability restrictions expire by 2010, "presenting a continuing challenge to preserving affordable housing in the city," according to the report.

The report contains a special focus on tracking subsidized housing and includes factoids such as the number of subsidized affordable units in development in D.C. -- almost 35,000 -- and how many households -- more than 9,700 -- benefit from city-funded housing choice vouchers which can be used in apartment complexes throughout the city.

The report was issued by NeighborhoodInfo DC, a partnership of the Urban Institute and the Washington DC Local Initiatives Support Corporation. It is based on data compiled by researchers from the Urban Institute's Center on Metropolitan Housing and Communities. The report is available at www.NeighborhoodinfoDC.org.

By Sylvia Moreno  |  March 26, 2008; 7:01 AM ET
Categories:  Affordable Housing , Sylvia Moreno  
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Comments

DC would have a lot of affordable housing if vast parts of SE and NE were safe. Until then, everyone in the city will try and cram in the small part of the city (NW) that is deemed safe, driving the prices of NW into Manhattan like prices. It is a shame that noone on the city council will even acknowledge this.

Posted by: nathanmboggs | March 26, 2008 9:00 AM | Report abuse

Actually, I believe only small parts of DC are dangerous. Mr. boggs what part of DC do you live in that is so dangerous?

Posted by: govmom | March 26, 2008 9:24 AM | Report abuse

nathanmboggs

There are plenty of nice areas in SE and NE, Fort Dupont Park (SE), Brookland (NE) are just two. Also there are plenty of rougher areas and public housing in NW (Columbia Heights, Sursum Corda, parts of Brithwood, etc.) Additionally, while Petworth and Brightwood have experienced more development recently, plenty of folks would deem those neighborhoods "unsafe".
I wish folks would stop making blanket statements about entire portions of the city. If people want to spend all their money trying to as you say "cram" themselves into NW then that's their choice. I have no sympathy. Please note that Capitol Hill is in SE and NE. Eastern Market is in SE..are these areas all of a sudden places that aren't in demand?

Posted by: negee99 | March 26, 2008 9:27 AM | Report abuse

of course there are safe neighborhoods and not-so-safe neighborhoods in every quadrant. the larger point he's trying to make is still true. as a general rule, rents for the western part of the city are orders of magnitude higher than rents for the eastern part.

Posted by: theladykali | March 26, 2008 9:39 AM | Report abuse

Don't worry, the Manhattanization of DC cannot go on forever, for it is connected with and influenced by, overall economic factors -- i.e., the past few years of debt expansion and resultant recession and/or depression will take the wind out of all of it. You will see a glut of houses like never before seen. You will find that you are living in the past, just as those two years ago thought house prices will continue to rise, unabated, forever. Just wait and see. Dramatic, drastic, and yes, depressing changes are coming. (For a sneak look, Manhattan's real estate and rental prices are finally coming under pressure --downward that is -- in a market that could NEVER go down. You will see this if you follow it closely, not in the mainstream press, but with NY real estate blogs and related.)

Posted by: BobbySoHo | March 26, 2008 9:50 AM | Report abuse

I'm interested to know what % of condos in DC are actually lived in as opposed to owned by investors. Does anyone know where to find that info? And what will happen to those condos now that the housing market isn't quite as crazy... will investors hold on to them or try to unload them as quickly as possible?

Posted by: theladykali | March 26, 2008 9:56 AM | Report abuse

theladykali
it doesn't matter if rents are higher in the western part of the city or not. My point is that there are affordable SAFE neighborhoods in SE and NE if people would stop listening to bogus stories they would know that. And there are plenty of people that have paid lots of money to live in "less safe" parts of NW because they completely overlook safer areas simply because they have no knowledge of SE and NE. If people would get out of their cars and look they would be quite surprised.

Posted by: negee99 | March 26, 2008 10:36 AM | Report abuse

Really? I'd be pretty surprised to find anyone who had decided against living in Capitol Hill or Eastern Market based purely on the fact that they are technically in SE. Everyone knows those are not bad places to live and the rents reflect that. The same goes for less-safe places in NW. In general I think rental prices already do a pretty good job of advertising which areas are considered "safe" and which aren't. Anybody who rents a $1000 a month rowhouse in DC expecting it to be in the most fantastic neighborhood ever is just deluding themselves.

Posted by: theladykali | March 26, 2008 11:54 AM | Report abuse

There are plenty of nice areas in SE and NE, Fort Dupont Park (SE), Brookland (NE) are just two. Also there are plenty of rougher areas and public housing in NW (Columbia Heights, Sursum Corda, parts of Brithwood, etc.) Additionally, while Petworth and Brightwood have experienced more development recently, plenty of folks would deem those neighborhoods "unsafe".
I wish folks would stop making blanket statements about entire portions of the city. If people want to spend all their money trying to as you say "cram" themselves into NW then that's their choice. I have no sympathy. Please note that Capitol Hill is in SE and NE. Eastern Market is in SE..are these areas all of a sudden places that aren't in demand?
-----------------------------------------
But the perception (right or wrong) is that they are not safe. That is why a house in Brookland rents for the same rate as an apt in Penn Quarter. DC should do something about the perceived lack of safety and the housing market will correct itself. As it stands now, the perception of danger artificially pushes the rent higher as more people compete for rentals in the few "safe" neighborhoods.

Posted by: nathanmboggs | March 26, 2008 12:33 PM | Report abuse

NathanBoggs has a point, if perhaps inelegantly expressed.

DC does not have an affordable housing shortage.

DC has a safe housing shortage.

Vast swaths of the city are simply unsafe. Yes, many of them are in SE and NE. But, as some have pointed out, much of NW is also the same way. And some areas in SE and NE are relatively safe.

But anyone that knows DC can say with certainty that more than half of the city is what most would consider high crime areas.

At the same time, we have literally miles of affordable housing. A simple Craigslist search will turn up thousands of affordable apartments. It's just that they are in high crime areas.

We also need to start thinking regionally. The suburbs need to start doing their part to provide affordable housing. Why does the burden fall only on DC? We have only 12% of the population but we are expected to should er the affordable housing burden for the entire area?

Last, there is already affordable housing in some parts of the burbs. Yes, they are boring areas, but they do exist.

Last (ok, really the last), we need to shift our focus. For decades DC has considered affordable housing to be only for the extremely poor, focussing on essentially public housing. That focus did not require any personal responsibility on the part of the individual. In fact, it encouraged people to not get jobs. Hence, we have three or even four generations of families in DC, all on public welfare.

Instead, we need to focus on affordable housing for the working poor.

Posted by: HillMan | March 28, 2008 7:56 AM | Report abuse

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