The Most Powerful Person in D.C. Real Estate

It’s not my beat, but I hear that schools chancellor Michelle Rhee is a big deal in this here mayoral race.
Here’s how she ties in to real estate, though: It’s a pretty widely-acknowledged principle that good schools are a huge factor in local property values. Until recently, that didn’t hold so much in D.C., since anyone of any means would shell out for private schools or move out of the District once their kids entered kindergarten. Now, getting into the right district for a high-performing school is a key element in the housing search.

Don’t believe me, believe Tommy Wells, who just came out with a new spot discussing neighborhood schools: “We have had a renaissance,” Wells says. “Just to see the excitement of the realtors who are so happy with me because now people say, ‘not just are we in the boundaries for the cluster, but are we in the boundary for Brent, are we in the boundary for Maury, are we in the boundary for Tyler…Really no other urban area in America has had so many traditional elementary schools come back online as schools of choice in such a concentrated area.”

All of this means that the chancellor's decisions like which schools are closed, which are renovated and which principals go where can govern where current and prospective parents want to live. It also impacts the childless, since their home values go up if they live in a good school district. It even affects commercial real estate – many companies consider school quality when they decide where to put large numbers of employees. That, in turn, generates more property taxes, which feeds into the city’s general fund, which helps programs all over the city.

I’m writing in much more depth about this for next week’s education issue. If you’ve got particular insights or experience with this phenomenon, please get in touch: / 202.332.2100 x224.

The Most Powerful Person in D.C. Real Estate was originally published by Washington City Paper on Aug 18, 2010

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