Limited Affordable Housing in the District

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By K. Levek

The District of Columbia is the nation’s capital. Sitting just a mere 22-miles long, this district city boasts some of America’s wealthiest homes and workers who can afford these homes. However, in a not too distant past there were scores of people who moved into the city limits because of its affordable housing market. That is not the case today.

Native Washingtonian Macalla Woods said she now lives in Maryland. “The District is too expensive now. Even if I wanted to move back into the neighborhood I grew up in, I couldn’t afford to,” said Woods. Woods is just one of many former D.C. residents who now live in Maryland or Virginia because they’ve been priced out.

When the recession hit the housing market in the District fell dramatically. Homes were abandoned, foreclosed and many short sales began popping up across the city. As the market began to recover, so did the housing market. “It’s getting back to where it was in the mid-2000’s, unaffordable,” said Leverne Freeman, who lives in Ward 6. Freeman lives in a row home in the Rosedale section of the city that has seen its share of crime and drugs. She has weathered the storm, deciding not to move when the neighborhood got rough. “Now it’s changing and many of my neighbors are starting not to look like me,” said Freeman. Rosedale is getting its own facelift. A new recreation center has been built and new solar townhouses are due to be finished by the end of 2013.

But it’s not just Rosedale that’s changing. Drive around to any formerly blighted corners of the city and you will see new development happening. However, with new development comes new people and often times higher property values. The translation of development is not always pretty for the longtime neighborhood homeowner.

A recent column in the Washington Post, analyzed past market value to the current value today, showing that “nearly 40 percent of workers in the region earn $90,000 or more (in 2011 inflation adjusted dollars.) In 1990, that share was less than 10 percent (also in 2011 dollars.)” The analysis showed that because of this change households at the lower economic end are being priced out.

The city is no stranger to transient workers; people who move in the District for a few years then leave. These transient workers will come in and pay higher prices to live in areas that are closer to the metro or bus line system. These workers are also younger and as they move in with higher salaries, the native Washingtonians are priced out. One realtor, who chose to speak anonymously, said his best advice would be to “Buy now or get priced out later.”

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