DC's Real Estate Boom Leaves Many Behind

Half of the city’s low-cost rentals have disappeared since 2000, study says

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    NEWSLETTERS

    There's concern that the housing boom in the District is creating hardships for many of the city's lower- and moderate-income residents. Half of the city’s low-cost rentals have disappeared since 2000, a new study says. (Published Tuesday, May 8, 2012)

    Downtown near Union Station, the venerable Central Union Mission is leasing the old, abandoned Gates School to turn it into a modern homeless shelter.

    Meanwhile, the Mission’s shelter on 14th Street NW is being sold and turned into luxury condominiums. It's a sign of the times -- in fact, the entire 14th Street area near U Street was recently featured in the New York Times as a major area of gentrification.

    “We saw the gentrification coming,” said David Treadwell as he stood outside the 19th-century building that will be the Mission’s new home as of next spring. “We wanted to go where the need is greatest.”

    The tale of the Central Union Mission is just part of the real estate story in the District.

    Upscale development is changing the face of many neighborhoods in the city -- an economic boom for many, but also a hardship for those looking for affordable housing to rent or buy.

    “Reasonable housing here in D.C. is just vanishing,” said Jenny Reed, the leader of a study on city housing for the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute (DCFPI), an advocacy group for low- and moderate-income citizens.

    The DCFPI study said that 50 percent of the city’s low-cost rentals have disappeared since 2000, and about 70 percent of homes valued at least than $250,000 are no longer available.

    Reed said the study shows that both families and singles in the District are suffering “severe housing burdens” and paying more than 50 percent of their incomes for housing.

    Even real estate interests that support the city's redevelopment and question parts of the DCFPI study say the city government must aid housing affordability here.

    Nicola Whiteman of the Apartment and Office Building Association told News4 that the District government “has done a pretty good job == not to say it couldn’t do more” in creating affordable housing opportunities. “

    There is going to be a segment of the population for which rents are going to be unaffordable... a real issue for the city," she said.

    The DCFPI and other housing advocacy groups hope to use the new study to influence budget debates ongoing in the D.C. Council. Advocates say Mayor Vincent Gray’s 2013 budget makes serious cuts in the face of severe housing needs.