Most D.C. Property Priced Out Of Reach

In today’s Washington Post, D’Vera Cohn reports that "Most D.C. Property Priced Out Of Reach."  80 percent of the properties for sale in the District were out of reach of the average city household’s income.

There are a number of implications to this, and all of them suck.  Sarah and I have noticed this in our own neighborhood.  Owning a house we purchased almost four years ago, we can no longer afford to purchase the house we’re living in given the price increases.

Entire swaths of the city’s employee base can no longer afford to live near their jobs.  A free marketer would say, ‘Ah-hah!  I see a need for moderately priced housing!  I can fill that need and make a bundle without competing with all the luxury condo people.’

Well, you’d think that, but opposition to building any significant quantity of housing, even apartments, in the city is high.  You can pretty much guarantee that in any quarter of the city that either the Advisory Neighborhood Commission or a self-appointed group of residents will organize to stop any significantly dense development, for free that it will change the character of their neighborhood. 

On their face their arguments are about traffic or ‘preserving the historical character of the neighborhood’, but the effect is to preserve their class and sometimes racial enclave. 

Over time, the pull for employers to locate their businesses in new, smaller towns outside DC will become great.  Rockville, Gaithersburg, and Silver Spring will all gain currency as the city empties of every employer not necessarily tied to the White House and Congress.  DC will be back to being a government town.

You can help change it though.  Next time someone wants to build an apartment building somewhere in your neighborhood, ask them if it can be made bigger, and require it to contain a set aside for low and moderate income apartments.


  1. Joe Grossberg on November 16, 2005 at 10:12 am

    And isn’t there some stupid restriction on buildings’ height not being able to exceed the top of the Washington monument? (Maybe that’s a local urban legend.)

    If you could build 20- or even 40-story apartment buildings, it would provide more housing units in a smaller footprint.