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Washington D.C. Is Having an Affordable Housing Crisis, And This Is Why

Single family house on pile of moneyPublic housing has never been a cut-and-dried issue. In D.C., the situation just got a lot more complicated.

A new development on Florida Avenue in Shaw will be bringing in 352 new apartments — and a Whole Foods supermarket — and 30% of those units (107 units) will be on the market at a subsidized rate.

According to Greater Greater Washington, the property would be worth $27.6 million if it were sold right now and built up with units that reflect the neighborhood’s median income. Because 107 units will be sold below market rate for residents with incomes below the median household earning, the property’s value drops by about $20 million and is worth only $5.9 million.

Somehow, the city of D.C. sold the property to developers for $400,000 because they had agreed to build low-income housing.

And that isn’t the only questionable housing issue happening right now.

The D.C. Housing Authority has caused quite a stir after the agency began “flipping” rowhouses along 14th and Euclid streets NW, according to the DCist. One of the 26 houses that the Housing Authority is renovating was just sold at market rate for $920,000 last month, but the Housing Authority only invested $281,716 worth of work into the property.

In one case, the issue is about bringing poorer residents into wealthy neighborhoods. The other, about bringing wealthy residents into crumbling neighborhoods, thereby pushing low-income residents out and reducing their housing options even more.

Both issues paint a vivid picture of the housing catastrophe currently happening in the nation’s capital.

As Elevation DC reported, the George Mason University Center for Regional Analysis predicts that low-income households in D.C. will increased by almost 150,000 in less than 10 years, and there isn’t enough affordable housing as it is. Housing is considerable “affordable” when it’s no more than 30% of a household’s yearly income, but since 2002, the number of apartments charging rent no higher than $800/month has decreased by more than 50%.

According to Inside NOVA, the Washington, D.C. housing market is already very fragile; homeowners in the region are paying mortgages that are 74% higher than the national average, and real estate taxes are 94% higher.

The median construction year of D.C. houses was 1977 (nationally it’s 1975), meaning that many older homes are literally falling apart. Something as simple as proper ventilation and insulation in a home’s attic can reduce yearly energy costs by 30%, but this is an investment that most residents can’t afford.

Isolating wealthy residents from poorer residents certainly isn’t the answer, but it’s understandable why so many D.C. residents are not pleased with the government’s interference either.

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