The District Of Columbia Is Becoming An Unaffordable Place To Live – We Should Fix That

Apr 14, 2017

We are faced with growing evidence that Washington, D.C. is - very rapidly - becoming less of an affordable place for certain families along the socio-economic scale to live in. At this pace, there’s seemingly no end in sight to the trend.

That’s what new data on District of Columbia rental prices tell us: affordable rental property, a prime quality-of-life need in any major city, is fast disintegrating for lower to middle income residents.  Sky high rent is compounded by costly housing prices. Recent reports from Zillow discover home values have risen 9.1 percent since 2015 with the real estate tracker predicting a 3.0 percent rise this year alone.

The median value of a home in the District: $550,200.

At the same time, the District is one of the fastest growing and prosperous cities in the nation.

However, many struggling individuals and families find little comfort in that prosperity when they’re unable to find a home. A look at the average residential costs bears this out. In the diverse, culturally eclectic and gentrifying Adam’s Morgan neighborhood, a one bedroom apartment, for example, can run as high as $2100 per month.  Nested.com’s recent 20017 index on affordability shows a family would need to earn a little over $100,000 in order to even live  in the city. That survey also placed the District as the 4th most expensive city for renters - and the 7th most expensive in the world.

That says a lot.

As a consequence, the District’s homeless population is on the rise. A recent survey by the U.S. Conference of Mayors determined that the District of Columbia has the largest concentration of homeless individuals for a city of its size. There are 124 homeless people for every 10,000 residents. Compare that to Witchita, Kansas, which has 11 per 10,000.

The challenge of finding affordable housing and the high cost of living have a correlation with the homeless problem, according to the New York Times. The downside is that this festers into an unsustainable economic model for the District and surrounding jurisdictions.  That leads to a number of grave social and public safety consequences.

There’s a real need to reverse this trajectory.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has increased the number of shelters and members of City Council have been hard at work introducing legislation to increase the supply of affordable housing. This is all good. Still, the ongoing crisis born from unaffordable living space, screams for even more creative thinking.  Everyone, from non-profit and private sector to policymakers and residents must collectively ponder the state of housing in the District. Once we do, we must then act to change it.