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Opinion: The Rent Isn't Too Damn High

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Despite what many young people are saying, the rent isn’t too damn high.

    Market forces are setting housing costs.

    The District of Columbia, for example, is a desirable place to live. Unlike in many parts of the country, there are job opportunities in our region. Many of the positions pay a good wage. A robust job market attracts new residents. In turn, the demand for housing increases. Prices go up.

    Simple economics.

    Residents with good jobs also increase the tax base. Their salaries, along with the goods and services they purchase, are taxed. These are the exact types of people the District needs to attract in order to continue developing its economy and funding its government.

    Higher prices for housing, however, are costlier to some residents than others. For people whose earnings do not rise, the percentage of their income that goes toward housing increases. The D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute describes renters who spend as much as half their income on housing as "severely-burdened rental households."

    But who are these residents? Most (60 percent) are single without children. They are largely unencumbered, mobile individuals.

    Why on earth would anyone stay in a city where they earn little, but pay a lot for housing?

    Relocating to the suburbs, finding a roommate or moving into a group home is a better plan.

    When you are finding your way in the world you make sacrifices.

    Many of the young folks who I hear complain about housing prices do so at happy hour while drinking a $7 beer, tweeting from their iPhones and making travel plans to go to New York for the weekend.

    Gimme a break.

    The rent is too damn high for many senior citizens who live on fixed incomes. The rent is too damn high for many working families and single parents.

    But the rent isn’t too damn high for young people with steady incomes or those who have trouble finding or keeping a job.

    The D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute spent a lot of time crunching numbers that justify their calls for District government to invest more money in affordable housing initiatives.

    I’m all for making sure senior citizens are not displaced. As well, working families and single parents with roots and jobs in the District should be given a fighting chance to prosper here.

    But taxpayers should not be asked to spend a dime on affordable housing for young, single residents without children. There are plenty of market rate solutions to their housing concerns. They come in the form of suburbs, group homes, roommates and sacrifices.


    Chuck Thies is a political analyst and consultant.  His columns appear every Tuesday and Thursday on First Read DMV. He co-hosts "DC Politics" on WPFW, 89.3 FM. Since 1991, Chuck has lived in either D.C., Maryland or Virginia. Email your tips and complaints to chuckthies@gmail.com or tweet at @chuckthies.