Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Where would you put Grandma

I haven't seen if the BACA blog put anything up about last night's meeting but there was some lively discussion about Mt. Lebanon Baptist Church's proposal that they are planning to bring before the Council about putting affordable senior housing in the MM Washington School building. And off topic but before I forget supposedly traffic is gonna be crazy around here next week.
OK, back on topic. Some things. MM Washington is not occupied and the church is somewhere in the Mount Vernon Sq. part of the neighborhood, which is why most of us have never heard of the church. Apparently it's been there for 20 years. According to some historical record the building was previously an Italian Baptist Church. There were other representatives for the project who stated that their previous projects included Golden Rule Plaza, the one for old folks.
The negative voices at the gathering wondered about security, the homeless, and live in relatives. The developers mentioned there was a waiting list despite mentions from the assembly that they wouldn't want to put their grandparents/parents in the facility. There were also questions about space and activities shared with the community. The peanut gallery seemed to want the developers to say that they would keep the homeless or actively discriminate against the S.O.M.E. homeless when the facility opened up the activity room for shared events. They can't discriminate any more than anyone else who opens up an event for the public.
The developers mentioned different events or activities they hoped to have for residents. They made some mistakes in stating that there was a grocery store and pharmacy in walking distance. NY Ave is a road of death and that Safeway really isn't in 'safe' walking distance. Oh, and the heroin corner is not a pharmacy. Also they mentioned that the residents would determine what activities they'd have for the activity room, so it may wind up being closed off and turned into an old folk gym.
Giovanni asked about end of life as the project is an independent living facility. Someone (I took no notes this is all in my head) asked about 'grandchildren' and other relatives that may want to live there with granny. Then there was the issue of parking. Apparently the SOME and mental health employees are competing with residents for parking.
Well if there is a waiting list I guess it doesn't matter if I or you wouldn't want your Nanna over there. It isn't Riderwood* or South Florida (the retirement village of America). It does matter if it would be a good fit for the development of North Capitol and the residents of the Hanover section of the TC.

* This weekend I met a retired couple who live at Riderwood in Silver Spring and they just raved about it (good food, lots of clubs, and interesting residents) and made us almost want to sign up.

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Monday, April 05, 2010

BACA meeting tonight

7PM basement of Mt. Sinai Baptist Church.
Of the most interesting things is the speaker coming to talk about the MM Washington building which is slated to become senior housing.

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Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Renting and owning in the upper TC 1900 style


This is the one chart I've managed how to figure out to do. I could go through the training course to figure out Access 2007, but right now I'm going to fool around with it and hope for the best. So in fooling around with the data I present the above. It is the level of ownership and renting for blacks, whites and one Chinese guy, divided by gender. Just going by heads of households, blacks outnumbered whites in the northern (1st, O St, NJ, FL & RI Aves) portion of the Truxton Circle study area, and most households rented. There were two types of ownership shown here, mortgage and free. Free, meaning free and clear, meaning no mortgage and the heads owned the house outright.
Now given that most housing is rental housing it would stand to take it that people where a bit mobile, as renting a house doesn't tie one to a place for any longer than the lease. It will be interesting to see if I can get to the 1910 census how many people remained in the same spot for 10 years or more. I'm gonna bet very few, less than 5-10%. Looking through I know that at some point there is a large influx of North Carolina and South Carolina Afro-Americans who show up in later censuses, so far I see a lot of District natives, and people from Maryland and Virginia. And just as a note, so far no Italian borns, I'm guessing all those Italians who were around to support the Catania were living in an enumeration district we haven't gotten to, or had not arrived. Well when I get the eastern TC data I'll play with that too.

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Sunday, November 08, 2009

Roommates- Not just for the recession

In Saturday's Washington Post section about people taking on roommates because of the economic downturn, I kept thinking of that 18th & 19th century stock character of the widow or couple taking in borders like the Micawbers for David Coperfield. In early 20th century pulp fiction you have the murder mystery of a dead husband with the wife and the hot young male border as suspects. It is unfortunate that it takes an economic downturn for some folks to see having roommates or boarders as a positive.
For the most part I've always had roommates. When I bought my house, yet after I got it in decent shape to share, I took in roommates. I could afford to live without roommates, but the extra cash doesn't hurt, and I am sharing resources. Because I am the homeowner and it is a roommate situation I can be picky about who gets to live with me. Finding a roommate can take weeks or a couple of months depending on the season. I've charged between $500 and $750 a month, depending on the state of the house, season, length of stay, included utilities, etc. I've gotten roommates from Craigslist, personal leads, and the Washington City Paper.
Roommates can be great, not just for the money. Depending on who I've had, I learned about other countries and cultures, experienced the way others view the world, picked up some cooking & drink tips, and had someone around the house so I'm not talking to myself all the time.
Now if you are thinking of renting out your extra room I have a few pointers.

1. Ignore scammers. These are the long winding nonsensical emails you'll get from foreign supermodels or freelancers with no set employment in DC or lawyers writing on behalf of their daughters/nieces. Even if they are the only responses you get all week, ignore them. They are a waste of your time.

2. Seriously interview and check references. This person will be living in your home and will have keys to it. I usually like to talk to at least one ex-roommate to find out how they are with cleaning, how responsible they are, etc.

3. Have a contract. I had a roommate agreement. The reason being is I wanted to clarify what my and what my roommate's responsibilities were, with cleaning, utilities, smoking, guests, and lost keys. You can find examples here, here, and here (PDF).

4. Sometimes nobody is better than anybody. Try not to be desperate to get just anybody in. If you seriously can't afford the rent on your own, a deadbeat roommate just makes the situation worse.

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Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Find a home for Turtlegirl

Turtle Girl seems to have found something.
My former supervisor's daughter just got a job working at National Airport and needs a place to stay. I'm calling said daughter Turtlegirl, because she likes to stay in her room on her computer. For some people she'd make an excellent roommate mainly for her keen staying the hell out of the way & being quiet superpowers. Like the mighty turtle she tends to retreat into her shell. She'll need to emerge for heating food up, laundry and hygienic activities.
If my room were available I would house her, but alas it is occupied by someone else. So I am calling out to those of you in Shaw or at least a 10 minute walk from a yellow, green or blue line station who is charging less than $800 and has Internet, cable, washer and dryer and kitchen privileges. Please email me - mari at inshaw dot com if you have room for Turtlegirl.

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Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Housing Under $250K

I was noticing a photo, more like a screen shot, from Scenic Artisan of the Redfin graphic showing housing under $250K. They are pretty much all east of the Park. Rock Creek Park, the one of several big dividing lines. The other things that divide are 16th Street NW and the Anacostia River.
And there is a big ole cluster of under $250K 2 bedroom, 1 bath houses east of the River, over near Capitol Heights. There are a few in what looks to be Petworth, parts of Columbia Heights and Brightwood. There are a couple in Truxton Circle proper. One is on the corner of 3rd and P as an as is. There is another on Florida Ave. But the problem with Florida Avenue, well a problem for me, is that there is almost no space between your front door and the sidewalk of a very busy street. In the NE, non-Shaw part of Truxton (see I love confusing y'all) on Florida is another house for $170K. Also no room between the front door and the crappy sidewalk.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Sibling Rivalry & Slumlording All In One

I've been debating about if I should post this bit of family business on the blog. Everyso often I might mention my sister and my nieces, one of whom is my blog icon. But so I'm not explaining the story over and over, as I have forgotten who I've told and when and how much, I'm going to try here.

Shaw has a fair amount of subsidized housing, it is the thing that keeps the neighborhood economically diverse, which is good. However, I don't believe subsidized housing is a good long term solution for individual families. At least not my family. It's fine for seniors, as we do need to care for our elderly, but for young families with developing children, no. Not long term. My sister and her husband and her daughters (my nieces) live in subsidized housing in Florida, and finally G-d has provided the means for me to get them out of there.
My sister's family live in a run down apartment complex. Earlier this year the local paper announced that the conditions were so bad that HUD was going to revoke federal funding for that and another complex. From my own visits I observed poorly maintained parking lots with tons of pot holes, and a blue tarp covering the roof that had been there for a while.
Also going on is the Real Estate troubles which have hit Florida really hard. Poking around on-line I discovered a house near my mother's house for $7,500. Yes, $7,500 for a stick structure and a little plot of land. But the stick structure needed lots of work and in inquiring about it I hooked up with a Realtor. Bob, the Realtor worked with my Mom and my sister and found us a foreclosure that was clean and in almost move in condition for well under $40K. However, I've had to destroy all my savings and investments to make it happen. So there is some good in the foreclosure crisis.
So once I get some minor repairs done (some leaks, a hole in the wall, etc), figure out how to hook up the utilities, and get her to sign the lease, I will be my sister's landlord. She and the family will move to a working/middle class and diverse neighborhood. And if she can manage not to stiff me for the rent (taxes & insurance mainly), she will be able to buy the house at a discounted price after a number of years. Which is fair since she's in charge of all the maintenance. This moves my nieces out of an area of concentrated poverty and into an environment where they can be free to run in their own yard. The yard also give my BIL a place to garden.
This is not charity, it's taking care of family and an opportunity to live out my beliefs. As a society we should take care of the least fortunate, but we should also encourage them to become strong and independent so they on an individual level can help others as well. I see independence as freedom, and everyone should be free.
I want to thank my roommate whose help has been invaluable as she drove me to the inconvenient bank and the other places I needed to get to. And I need to thank my supervisor, who let me leave work with a moment's notice to deal with this.
So I'm going to put the blog in sleep mode while I take care of my new house, so the comments are in moderated mode. I'll be back to the blog in a week or so.

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Thursday, July 09, 2009

Beware of Craigslist Scams

Seems someone was trying to rent out 429 Warner St NW as part of their scam. I've mentioned the various Craigslist housing scams here, here, and here.
For the love of G-d, or whomever/whatever you hold dear use common sense when conducting a house search. If Ms. Future Landlord is off away in London or Leeds or the deepest darkest part of Angola, and can't show you the DC place, MOVE ON, IT'S A SCAM! Think, if someone can't even show you inside, how would they handle the AC not working or other landlord duties? They won't because IT'S A SCAM. On of my neighbors was sent to Bangledesh, has a local real estate company doing the management. So in a real life situation you'd be talking to a real estate office, not emailing some scammer. No excuses if you're out in BFE, Nebraska and you can't physically take a look at it. Stay in a hostel for a week or work with a real estate office/ management firm that has a number in the phone book, crash with your sister's ex-roommate's second cousin, but don't just hand money over to a complete stranger for a place you haven't seen.

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Friday, May 22, 2009

Intern Housing Advice: $500 a month will not get you an apartment in Penn Quarter

Followup from Intern Housing Advice: Scope your location. This is my advice to young ones who are coming here from where ever for an internship, fellowship or whatever to avoid the scams that haunt the housing boards on Craigslist.
Pretty much almost all the listings on Craigslist for DC apartments under $600, if they actually are in DC not College Park or Crystal City, smell fishy or are mislisted. This is obviously a scam, using someone elses pictures. Well obvious to someone familiar with the city.
So let me quickly go over the scam. Say you are an intern looking for housing and you see this great ad for an apartment in DC for $450. You email the contact in the ad and they are willing to rent it to you sight unseen. You then send/wire/Paypal the deposit+ 1st month's rent or the application fee to this person you don't know from Adam, for a place you've never set foot in, and your money is gone.
Cheap rent is to be had in group houses and rooms for rent. Typically an honest ad will give an intersection the place is near and mention the neighborhood it's in. Group houses may also be funished, or at least have furnishings left over from the last roommate.

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Monday, May 11, 2009

Average Janitor Cannot Afford To Buy Average House in Bethesda

$10 gets you nowhere at Saks 5th Avenue.
The Metrobus operator will not drop me off in front of my house.
Handsome underwear models do not flirt with me.
There is no justice.

Someone over at the National Housing Conference alerted me to their new study on home ownership and affordability called "Paycheck to Paycheck: Wages and the Cost of Housing in America." According to their study Bethesda, MD is the 15th most expensive place to purchase a home, Washington, DC as a whole (I gather they factored in Georgetown and Barry Farm) ranks at number 24. Baltimore was at 34. For rentals DC and Bethesda tied at number 19.
The Area Median Income (AMI) around here for 2009 is $64,000 (PDF) and the biggest job title is office drone and executive assistant to the assistant peon (occ. code 43). There aren't a whole lot janitors making up a percentage of the official job pool.
The NHC study also looks at the affordability of the average home for first responders and school teachers. According to their chart, school teachers and police officers can afford the fair market rent of the average two bedroom. Which is good to know when the odd developer comes shuffling through trying to push workforce housing for school teachers and police.

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Friday, May 08, 2009

Intern Housing Advice: Scope your location

In a few weeks we'll be getting some shiny new interns, or fellows. Apparently at some places you can't call interns, interns, something about a seedy connotation. At my place we got some gal last year who came to the area, rented waaaaaay out in Fairfax, with no car, and paying what I thought was too much for the location. So I'm putting out this public announcement in memory of her.

Physically check out apts, group homes, rooms, don't just rely on the internet.

Seriously.

"Walking distance" and "close to" are subjective. So are at times location names. Where I am has been described as Dupont East, LeDriot, Logan East, Eckington, Bloomingdale, Shaw, Truxton, and NW. Only three of those are correct.

"Near metro" can mean the metro station is just across the street or the area is served by a metro bus a mile away that only runs every other hour and never on weekends. If you have to depend on the bus and the place is in PG County, avoid at all costs. Metro bus service there is crap.

When I advertise my extra bedroom I tend to demand that perspective roommates visit the house. Besides being a way to separate the serious house searchers from the flakes and Nigerian scam artists, it lets me gauge a person's comfort with the neighborhood. The TC ain't right for everybody. The bars on the windows of about 80% of the houses on my block bother some people. The demographics on the street may be unsettling or the houses seem too small and cramped. Things you can't tell or judge by simply looking at a few pictures on-line.

'But', you say I live all the way out in BFE, USA and I'm in school, I can't take off time to look at places.' When I was a grad student at UMASS-Amherst I took the 3 hour bus ride to Boston to look for housing before my internship started. When I went to London for work, I stayed in youth hostels and cheap tourist hotels before I landed in a group house in Earls Court. So I'm really not feeling that excuse.

Next time: Intern Housing Advice: $500 a month will not get you an apartment in Penn Quarter.

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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Leaving the keys & walking away


Lost keys
Originally uploaded by In Shaw
Please don't do that. I've only heard two people actually say that out loud about their houses. Neither one of them live in the DC metro area. One was my mom, and this is a periodic threat, so I don't take it that seriously. The other was some guy from the mid-west visiting, who got a little over his head.
When I was passing out fliers yesterday, I came across this scene of keys on the fence and thought of that phrase of leaving the keys and walking away. As far as I know these are some lost keys in front of a house that doesn't look occupied.
From what little I know, walking away does not help, unless the house is actually worth more than what's owed, because at some point the bank will come after you for the difference.

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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Affordable Housing in DC online

I have finally done my taxes and as I wandered over the the DC.Gov website to fill in the blank to do my DC income tax on line I noticed something on the front page about searching affordable housing on-line. Going back to search for the announcement, I can't seem to find it but the link is on the Department of Housing and Community Development's page.

It appears that the DC Dept of Housing and Community Development has partnered/contracted (I can't tell) with Social Serve.Com in listing affordable housing in DC that is either for sale or for rent with the site DC Housing Search.Org. For fun I played around with it looking for 'affordable' housing for sale then plugging in some numbers for rent. I also searched to see what's affordable in the 20001 zip code. The results were a bit wrong, bringing up some NE (20001 is Old City NW) addresses. Among the misses were some hits like a couple of 2 bedrooms on the 200 blk of Florida Avenue for $1,500, an apartment at 413 P St., Golden Rule Plaza, and the studios in the Phyllis Weatley YWCA on Rhode Island Avenue. I also fooled around with the 20009 and 20011 zip codes and found properties there too, but the search feature has more so one could search by distance to public transit, handicap accessibility, pets, security deposit needed, criminal check and you can exclude the properties on the waiting list. There is also a neat little chart to decide how much rent you should pay based on your hourly wage.

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Going Rate

Between visiting friends and hosting relatives who really should use the opportunity of staying at my place to hunt for a job (hint*hint*), my 2nd bedroom has been fairly occupied. However, I do plan to rent it out again for summer and the 2009-2010 academic year. The big renovation of 2007 wiped out my emergency fund. It wiped out all my funds. Near the end of 2008, I finally finished paying off the air conditioning. Next year I want to take care of the cellar and finish putting a shower in the 1/2 bath. I can't do another loan. And so begins the slow build up of the house/emergency fund, which requires money, hence the renting out of the 2nd bedroom.
Figuring out how much to rent it out for requires a bit of research. If I was just renting my place, logically I'd go halvies with whomever I was renting with. But I'm a homeowner and my mortgages alone are a tiny bit more than the average rental price for a 2 bedroom in the far eastern corners of Shaw. Also there are other costs such as repairs, maintenance, etc., that I haven't figured out monthly. I check what people are asking for as far as roommates go, because that's the market I'm in. The general price in a roommate situation varies between $600 and $1100 a month. The fun part is trying to figure out what justifies the higher price. Some places include utilities. Some don't. Some places have Internet and cable, some don't. Then there is maid service, private bath, proximity to the metro, size, number of roommates, pets in the house, and other factors.
Back when I only had 1 mortgage, I could charge something cheap, $575 including utilities. The second mortgage made me jack it up, but I don't think I found the right price since. I had one roommate negotiate the price down, because I was so far (7-10 mins walking is far) from the metro. So once again I'll make up a number, run it up the flag pole and see who salutes. And seeing how many bites I get (not counting the Nigerian scam artists), I'll know what the going rate is.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

More than just transportation

Yesterday I got an email about something I heard about on the radio this morning. The Terwilliger Cost Calculator is part of the Urban Land Institute's Terwilliger Center for Workforce Housing with the Center for Housing Policy and the Center for Neighborhood Technology report "Beltway Burden: The Combined Cost of Housing and Transportation in the Greater Washington, DC, Metropolitan Area."(PDF)
I played with the calculator. I had to use the Internet Explorer version despite being in Firefox. I plugged in different areas, Shaw, Riverdale, Arlington, and the far reaches of Alexandria. Except for Arlington where the income was higher, most other places had the transportation/housing costs to income around 50% or higher.
Yet in past conservations with co-workers, though housing costs are cited as one reason for moving far out, there are other factors at play.
These factors include spouses/partners who don't work in the metro center, but out in far reaches of Fairfax, Bowie, and Baltimore. They include large dogs, whom the owners believe need a large yard. A desire for a school system you don't have to think about. And a desire to live in a setting like the one they left back home. Problem is with this area, the house with lot that is average in St. Pete, FL is expensive in Rockville. The other problem is a lot of us aren't from here and trying to re-create the familiar here is pricey.

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Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Crowding- and good intentions gone lost

I forget which census year it was but one year there were 11 people living in the house I currently occupy. As far as I know, the house has always been a two bedroom and I believe the cellar is a late 20th century addition. My house is about 1,000 sq ft.
I have read that overcrowding could be blamed on segregation. Segregation was probably one of several causes, if there are so many structures in the city and many of those structures are off limits due to covenants and other restrictions, then that limits housing choices. I get a sense that economics had something to do with it as well, but that is just a guess.
Anywho, a turn of the century description of crowded rental housing comes from a report from Clare de Graffenried:
I have no doubt that lodgers are harbored in these alleys whose presence, for many reasons not creditable to the occupants, is always concealed. The confessed facts are startling enough. We have here accounts of 7 persons living in two rooms-- the mother and her sons, 21, 17 and 7 years of age, occupying one bedchamber. Again, 9 individuals live in two romse[sic]; 11 people in four rooms. Five, almost all adults, sleep in one room-- the mother 43, a son 21, and daughters 19, 17, and 14; and 4 persons use another room-- a mother 45, and aunt 70, and a son 22, and a baby 9 months old.
--Page 18 of Kober, George "The History and Development of the Housing Movement in the City of Washington, DC" Washington, DC 1907.

Doing a Google search for Miss de Graffenried, brought up Between Justice and Beauty by Howard Gillette, Jr., which on page 113 where he notes that she goes for the dramatic story over statistics. Later Gillette writes on page regarding the predecessor of the Washington Sanitary Improvement Company, which built the houses on Bates Street:
By 1904 the company housed 140 families, 30 of whom were black. Since the overwhelming majority of alley dwellers were black, the company clearly did not direct its attention to those in greatest need.-- page 115

In Kober in 1909 writes about their housing efforts:
It should be stated, that while the original intention was to provide homes for alley residents and thereby remove the slums, it was considered best to begin this movement by providing improved dwellings for the better class of wage earners, in the belief that houses vacated by them would be rented by the next grade, and so on until the bottom of the ladder was reached. --page 31

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More from The History and Development of the Housing Movement

Here's something else from George Kober's The History of Development of the Housing Movement in the City of Washington, D.C. regarding slum housing:
But even in modern cities unhealthful habitations abound and have been permitted to be erected without interference.
We have them in Washington and Georgetown in considerable number, which greatly increased during the War, when the slave deserted the plantation to find refuge and liberty in the District of Columbia, the only spot at that time in the United States that offered such a boon.
The rapid influx of a negro population, estimated to have been between 30,000 and 40,000, imperatively demanded immediate accommodation. In consequence of this necessity, hovels of every description arose as if by magic. The result of this abnormal growth of a class of people destitute of means and education, ignorant of physical laws, at a time of war and confusion has been the erection of cheap dwellings, as much of the material having been obtained from army camps and hospitals.
--Pages 4-5

That could explain the shanty nature of some of the 'houses' pictured in the book and in other places I've seen regarding bad DC housing. The weirdest thing is people paid rent to live in these poorly constructed shacks. In 1874 the amount ranged from $2.50-$10.00. In an 1896 survey unfit housing rents were about $8-10.50. What's that in 2009 dollars? No clue the BLS inflation calculator only goes back to 1913. But $10 1913 dollars equals $214.57 in today's dollars. Roughly.
Later I will cover overcrowding.

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Friday, January 30, 2009

1909 book on alleys and crappy DC housing

Weller, Charles Frederick. Neglected neighbors :stories of life in the alleys, tenements and shanties of the national capital. Philadelphia : J.C. Winston, 1909. Is available online at http://pds.lib.harvard.edu/pds/view/3370011. It does the whole city. However the author appears to be concerned solely with white occupants of slum housing.

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Inauguration Housing Fantasies

I haven't put my house on Craigslist or anything to try to cash in on the whole inauguration rental thing. Yet, but it is very tempting.
There are several reasons of why I haven't. For one, I don't know if I will have a roommate scheduled to be in my guest room at that time. I like to have short term roommates, so I don't want to screw up that. Secondly, there is family. My mother's people are country and homey and I'm wondering at what point someone will bug my mother, or father (less country, more moochie), to bug me to put them up for the inauguration. However, I'm sure several family members have written my place off because I live in a tiny house in a "bad" neighborhood. It's not "bad" it just lacks a driveway and loads of parking, which would make Auntie's 3 bedroom house in Riverdale, the Other Aunt's 3 bedroom in northern PG Co., and the Cousin's 3 bedroom in NoVa, all with generous amounts of pull in parking, way more attractive than my place.
But if I were to rent out my place, the money would be more to ease my mind, than for the space. Everytime I get a new roommate, my anxiety level rises because of how they treat the space. So what amount would soothe my nerves? Oh maybe, $1,000-$2,000 a day, my mental health is very valuable to me. If the people were relatives? Free, nerves would still be frayed, but frayed nerves and relatives go hand in hand. Besides if I charged relatives a few bucks I'd never hear the end of it..... even if all the money went into somebodies college fund. Friends? Possibly free, depends. I might demand a few cases of wine, the good stuff. Nothing soothes the nerves like a few cases of wine. Complete strangers? I'm quite sure they'd be happy to add to the nieces' college fund, and in that area my mind would be eased.
But seriously, I'm waiting to see what the relatives want.

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Sunday, October 05, 2008

General Real Estate post

Hey I remember that doey eyed look. That's the look of a young first time homebuyer. I used to have that look.
Meltdown, schmeltdown people are still buying in the hood if today's encounter with a young woman and her Realtor was anything to gauge anything by. The pair were walking up and down the block pointing at houses, I assume, after they looked at the one house on my side of the street that is still on the market. I was outside puttering in the yard, and we chatted for a bit. Normally I'd talk up the neighborhood a bit more, but the house they were looking at has a family renting, with one really good kid in it. If Ms. Doe Eye or anyone else were to buy it, I'm sure the family could find equal and suitable housing, but moving is such a pain.
I believe the market is slow but not dead, as the house with the loud and out there residents disappeared from the real estate listings, I gather it is under contract. We'll see in a month or so. I suspect another house on the block being fixed up will hit the market in a month or two, and maybe it might sell in the next 9 or 10 months. Maybe. Though it maybe wrong to judge a place that's on 2/3rds done, I don't think it would be a quick sell manly due to proportions and the aesthetic. IT and I took a quick peak at the place while workmen were still working. I think it reveals too much of a suburban Maryland aesthetic trying to shoehorn itself into a small DC rowhouse. The house was around 1,000 sf with 2.5 bathrooms. If you have a 1,000 sf house I think you may understand the problem of a 2.5 bathroom house. I have a 1,000 sf house and just 1.5 (would be 1.75 or 2 if I had $5,000 fall into my lap). One of the bedroom bathrooms was tiny and hard for IT to turn around in. IT is a thin man. The bedroom for this tiny bath was also quite small and maybe, just maybe could have a double bed and nothing else. More than likely it could have a twin and a dresser/ desk, or just be an office. Anyway it's still not finished, and it will be interesting to see if the builder will do anything to make it easy to imagine the space as something besides cramped.

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Friday, October 03, 2008

July 28, 1933: Low Cost Housing & Slum Clearance

I really have little to add to what Shaw & Bloomingdale bloggers have to say about the various things going on, so I'm going to go to history and type up more of City Planner John Nolen's report "Low Cost Housing and Slum Clearance Opportunities in Washington Under the Public Works Administration". I previously typed up the section "Washington's Problem". The following is "Objectives of a Housing Program":

Many reports on this subject by Mr. [John] Ihlder and others to this Commission have indicated that the following program should be followed.

1. Concentrate on the elimination of the alley slums.

2. Provide suitable housing for the alley population either by repair or reconstruction of existing vacant street dwellings, or by the building of entirely new housing. New housing might well be for not only the alley population but similar economic and social elements of a population not now adequately housed.

3.Through the rehabilitation of blighted areas, pressure would be relieved on better neighborhoods inducting the natural flow of capital by private initiative for other modern reconstruction as the inevitable result of the rehabilitation of the areas originally causing the shift in population.

It may be that the present situation and opportunities will make advisable some change in the order of this program; for example,- the population in the alleys has been increased by the depression whereas the street vacancies in the same neighborhoods have increased. This situation will make more difficult the acquisition of alley property at fair prices, as well as work a hardship on the unfortunate elements of the alley population. At the same time the widespread increase in street vacancies may mean a willingness on the part of owners to sell their property at reasonable prices. A housing development only incidentally involving inhabited alleys as the first step to be taken may thus well take advantage of natural economic conditions.

-From part of a Report by John Nolen to the National Capital Planning Commission, July 28, 1933. Found in the appendix to the July 1933 minutes. National Archives and Records Administration, RG 328, A1-15.

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Saturday, September 20, 2008

Do it for the old people

I swear there are certain promises and proposals that get hoisted up the flagpole that supposedly wave you through, "affordable housing", "senior housing", youth something or other. I gather you propose these things and certain rules no longer apply to you and thus you get away with all sorts of foolishness. Yesterday I wandered by a site that, according to the historic papers I had been going through (1985-1999), should have had housing and job training. That site has none of those things in 2008. I'll have to look to find out what the heck happened or why things didn't happen.
According to our friends in Mt. Vernon Square, someone is suggesting a boatload of foolishness under the flag of elderly housing. There are requests for zoning variances for 1238 and 1242 New Jersey Avenue. According to Si's letter (seen here) the owner is suggesting that he going to building housing for the elderly, despite making the previous elderly tenant run for her life when 1242's structure failed and collapsed. Take a read of Si's letter, she's a bit more clearer about this than I.

Addition: If you are here from the DC Blogs link a list of candidates is found in my comment here.

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Friday, September 19, 2008

How's it looking on your block?

Housing that is? I can read the Post about regional and national trends but what's happening on your block? Mine? A few houses up for sale, a few more houses getting rehabbed and there is the confusing tale of one foreclosure that I can't tell who all the players are without a detailed playbill. One of the houses getting rehabbed was a foreclosure, but that was a case of an investor who spent too much on the property. And now that one of our more louder drama prone neighbors has relocated, a loudmouth lawyer with a cell phone is the only thing that stands between me and peace and quiet.
Also on the housing front, down in the Hanover region of the TC there is to be a permament housing shelter for 17 homeless women on 57 O St. NW. According to the mayor's press office:"..the Dunbar Apartments, the first permanent supportive housing project for women funded by the Fenty Administration. The project will not only provide apartments for chronically homeless residents, but comprehensive support services as well."

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Monday, September 08, 2008

Renting out rooms

DCRA has their website, ThisShouldBeIllegal.Com mainly aimed at college kids to get them to rat out their landlords. Well it has proven helpful to me, answering something I wondered about. I've always had roommate, ranging from my sister in my parents home, to dormmates in college, group housemates in grad school, to regular run of the mill roommates. So when I bought the house I didn't figure on changing my lifestyle. I kept having roommates. Anyway, I worried that I was on the wrong side of the law as I wasn't licensed or whatever the hell DCRA wanted. But according to the comments on one of DCRA's posts "If you are living in the house, you can have up to 3 unrelated people living with you without being flagged for a business license. If you did not reside there, you would have to get a license."
So I guess I'm fine, as I only have one non-related person in the house. Two would drive me nuts. Also I left behind the 'joys' of group house living and would be happy never to experience that again.

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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Neighborhood Character in Post

There is some disagreement between me and my source, but I think I know of the "Derrick" in the article appearing in Sunday's Post article "After A Few Months in DC, It's Not Just The Rental Options That Stink." The author moves in a group house on 1st St NW, and though he says it's near U Street, the "Derrick" he meets sounds too much like a Truxton Circle "Derrick" who haunts 1st St. This Derrick hits the author up for a beer so he could celebrate his anniversary with his wife. This was the give away, as there is a TC Derrick who is known for hitting people up for beer and acting like a self appointed street mayor. Yet my source thought 1st Street could possibly have several Derricks, besides the TC Derrick, who is actually named Derrick and may ask for a beer.
So Bloomingdale, y'all got any storytelling beer-mooching Derricks up there?
Anyway, one of the things that made my source doubt that the Post's Derrick and the TC Derrick were one in the same was the rest of the author's story. Apparently, the author moved in without signing a lease. The guy who was on the lease collected the housemates money but never paid the landlord and they all got evicted. Which sounds like the same thing that happened to Nora Bombay's brother in Florida, where the housemate collecting the rent ran off with the money and everyone got kicked out. But then again, that was a case of don't have crackheads for roommates, and especially don't give them the rent money.
I really don't understand. Almost all the places I rented, despite having roommates, I paid the landlord or manager directly. The only sort of exception was when I was renting in DC and had occasional roommates who were staying for a few months, where I was collecting the rent.
A word of advice kids, get on the lease and/or at least have management aware that you have the right to stay there. You never know when you'll get locked out of the apartment/condo and need to convince the doordude that you belong there and he needs to let you in.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

History lesson, and no this won't be on the test

I have something. It is long and if you have time I'd like you to read it and give your thoughts. I'm leaving off the date and the source so I can ask you the following questions:
When do you think this was written? What year, what decade? Language will give a clue.
After reading the following passage, how do you see DC's housing problem?

Washington's Problem (select part of report sumbitted to govt body) by John Nolen (govt employee):

__________ís long study of the housing problem in Washington has revealed without question that the inhabited alleys are not only the most serious part of the situation but are, to a great extent, the cause of a general housing problem in the sections of the city in which they are most predominant. Moreover, relative to other cities in the United States, the inhabited alleys of Washington are as serious from a social, health and public welfare point of view as are some of the slums in the industrial centers.
The general importance of the inhabited alley situation to the city as a whole lies in the social and economic blight that envelops many alley dwelling area. These areas have so depreciated that both white and colored population area moving away to the better neighborhoods. Although in the old city of Washington all but one section declined in total population during the last decade, and all sections declined in white population an average of 20%, in more than half of the old city the colored population increased, so that many section heretofore predominantly white have changed in the short period of ten years to predominately colored. This encroachment, especially in the northwest direction in areas that have always been white, has resulted in part from the depreciation of the neighborhoods normally occupied by colored residents of the better economic class. This shift in population over such a short period of time seriously affects property values and the use of existing school facilities, and raises many other municipal problems. The increase in vacancies in the blighted areas has brought pressure for changing the zoning of residential area to commercial in sections of the city where there is already an ample supply of commercial area. Moreover, a normal proportionate share of improvements to private property during the last eight or ten years has failed to go into the reconstruction of the deteriorated residential portions of the old city. There has been a relatively insignificant increase in assessed values affecting the tax income of the municipality from these areas. All of these forces, operating apparently to an increasing degree, have left areas of stagnation and blight, many of which are favorably situated for housing the lowest income groups in a manner conducive to the public welfare and an adequate return on private capital. Such enterprises, aside from their local benefit, should have a city-wide effect in stabilizing the character and value of neighborhoods.

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Fun with Redfin: Houses Under $200K

Seven years ago, when I started looking for a place to buy, the RE market was starting its roller coaster ride up to crazy. In the "better" neighborhoods houses didn't stay on the market very long and there were bidding wars. I was looking for fee-simple places under $125K, which was hard but not impossible. The third house I looked at, was way less than $125K and on a street I liked, so I bought it.
Fast forward, the roller coaster has gone up, and now it is heading down. Playing around with Redfin I decided to see what was out there and lo and behold prices that start with a '1' are back. Just not a lot of them.
There are a bunch of under $175K condos over in the Petworth and Fort Totten area, if we want to limit this to NW DC. Bump the search up to $200K and a house will appear in Columbia Heights.
Expand the under $175K search to NE DC and more houses do appear in Frozen Tropics' Trinidad.
The point is that the affordable house I believe is coming back. Right now it's a handyman special or a about to be foreclosed condo. It's not luxury for cheap but something to start with.

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

A plan for Bates Street

I have the 1968-1974 (the dates I'm unsure of) brochure of "A Plan for Bates Street" in PDF form. It's a big file and because it is so large, I'm not posting here. However, I will mail it to folks who ask (offer expires in 30 days). Basically, like the title says, it was the government's plan for the two blocks of Bates, to improve the housing.
Houses on Bates Street (well the houses on Bates I've been in) are deep and some of them are divided into two units. It seems that when they were initially built by Washington Sanitary Housing (or Washington Sanitary Improvement, I'm still working on the facts of this), they may have all been two unit structures. You can see it in the placement of windows and doors.
The wonderful fellows at Truxton Circle have a few pictures from the brochure. This first one shows the street plan for squares 552 & 615. It appears there was the intention to remove some structures for the creation of small parks, a tot lot, a teen lot and parking. Spaces for adults apparently were to be carved out of existing space. The second picture, shows a typical Bates Street house prior to any renovation. The first and second floor are two separate units with their own living rooms and kitchens. The plan was to combine the two to make one unit, replace 2nd unit doors with windows, move the kitchen to the 1st floor center, and create more bedrooms, going from 1 to 3 or 4, as seen here.
Looking around Bates Street now, there seem to be fewer 2 unit houses than 1 units.

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Thursday, April 03, 2008

Thursday-Friday Grab Bag

Warning for some of you car owners, traffic enforncement is now in tow. I've been seeing cars get moved by the city on a regular basis. Today I saw a truck taking away a car on New Jersey Avenue. The day before it was moving a car on R St. You've asked for city services, and well you got one.

With the housing problem we are surprised why? Remember oh, back to 2004, 2005, and 2006 when I said real estate agents were on crack and the houses were overpriced? So, what happened? We discovered the houses were overpriced. The bubble deflated. I can't say burst because it's not like the houses are worthless, just worth less. We knew people were taking out loans too large for them to handle. We knew this day would come. We knew a few years back that there would be a lot of foreclosures, and guess what? 2008, there are a lot of foreclosures. Who knew? Yes, there are people who are losing their homes, but where I am, so are a lot of developers and flippers and speculators who came into Shaw, looking for a quick buck. Some of them got out in time. A good number didn't and so we are stuck, until the next housing uptick, with vacant, 1/2 done, or crapily done houses, and cut-up townhomes created into funny looking condos.

Central Union Mission is going downtown. And there was great rejoicing in Pentworth and some other NW neighborhoods. For lo, they moveth the men's shelter to 65 Mass Ave NW, where they are not far from other homeless services. And someone remind me, wasn't the Gales School (65 Mass Ave) used as a shelter before?

I'd support more harpsichord players. Because they are artists, performing artists. And tearooms? Since I don't drink coffee, I'm stuck with loving Teaism, so if the landed gentry come in and put in tearooms, I'm all for it. Besides I spent most of my undergrad years studying the rise and fall of the British aristocracy, I'd be pleased to observe them up close.

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Friday, February 29, 2008

DC is 1st time homebuyer friendly

Well, not in terms of prices, but programs. So in order to do something useful with my $50 Manolo housing rant, let me tell you of why I know DC is a great place to be a first time homeowner.

$5000 Tax Credit (pdf form)
OK, five grand is just a drop in the bucket, but I found the refund I got back for the two years after I bought my home (I didn't pay enough in taxes to collect it in one lump sum), helpful. Besides every penny counts.

Below Market Rate Loans From The Housing Finance Agency
I was working with a councillor from the now defunct non-profit who steered me over to the DC Housing Finance office over on Florida Avenue. At the time they were offering 30 year mortgages at a rate so low, it was almost like an interest free loan. They were offering something lately but the 5.6% rate with 2 points was only good till Dec 15, 2007. The process was not without its headaches. I thought the woman administering my paperwork was slow and a bit mean. But in the end I got the loan, which will be forever called the 1st mortgage that will not be touched.

Tax Abatement
My housing councilor and my Realtor pushed the tax abatement, which in those early years made my house payment affordable. If you're low-moderate income, you'd probably qualify. I was making what I'll call a starter salary in my profession, so I wasn't poor, but I wasn't completely economically stable either, and the year before I made half of squat. So I qualified, with about $10K between me and the cutoff.
The abatement is a five year period of not paying real estate taxes. The money I saved, allowed for an emergency fix-crap fund. It seems that I could have extended the abatement if I hadn't made $400 over the cutoff amount. So in year 6 I got hit with the full assessed amount, which was a lot, as the assessed value was 4x as much as it was when I bought it. I just got my tax bill and I praised G-d. My taxes have readjusted so it reflects what I would have been paying had I not taken the abatement. So I wasn't punished for taking that deal. I can't find an earlier post I made about how the RE tax system rewards long-term homeonwers who stay put AND take the Homestead Exemption. Long and short of it is, people who have owned their homes for a number of years (basically prior to the Real Estate boom) tend to pay less taxes than their neighbors who bought recently IF (big if) they have the Homestead Exemption.

There are other programs for 1st time homebuyer available to DC residents like the HPAP, but I didn't use those, so I cannot testify to their goodness or badness. Also I think there were some real estate transaction costs that were dismissed because of my status, but I'm fuzzy on that. And there is a caveat to the loan (and/or maybe another program), in that if I sold my house within 10 years of purchase I'd have to pay the city back some of the benefits.

DC looked like a better deal when I was first looking because it has various programs like I mentioned above, that I could not find for Maryland or Virginia.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Like going to Neiman Marcus to buy $50 Manolos

...not going to happen. Well, maybe, on-sale, size 10, scuffed and in some hideous style.
Warning this is a rant, and despite the beginning, not about shoes.

Yes, there should be affordable housing, and young people starting out should be able to buy into the American Dream. However, the vibe I'm picking up from a few segments of the population is that at least 900+ sq ft of move in condition fee simple/condo housing in approved hoods (read nothing but NW) should be in the price range of a GS-5 step 1, which would be in the $70K-$100K range. The likelihood of finding such, is pretty much the same as finding those $50 genuine Manolos.

A now defunct non-profit once offered wonderful first-time home buyer classes that helped me become a homeowner. One of the lessons I learned from the class was that getting the house is the easy part, keeping it is hard. Some of y'all are too caught up on the gettin', thinking all will be right. Furnaces die, roofs leak, drains clog, and when you are a homeowner, there is always something. And something starts at $500 and goes up from there. If the stress is stretching the financials to get a house, then when 'something' happens and messes up another 'something' (overflowing toilet destroys carpeting in adjoining room), where is the money going to come from? Particularly with somethings that require you fix it that day or that week? So you skip that month's mortgage payment to fix the something, and you get behind, and something else happens and you get further behind, and then you're in danger of having your house foreclosed. Then there is plain old maintenance, which is on going, and while not expensive, could be annoyingly time consuming.
Even if a non-profit or exceedingly generous person were to provide a house/condo to a family at a low price there are other problems. Taxes. There are several generous programs to abate and reduce taxes for seniors, and low income persons. However, if you do not qualify for these programs and you live in an area where the properties are assessed in the $300K and up range, you're screwed. Taxes could run you $200 a month. If you pay your taxes late, there are high interest charges. If you don't pay your taxes at all the tax lien will be sold at auction and the buyer of the lien could foreclose on you. If you're in a condo, then there are the blessed condo fees. These can range from less than $100 a month to about $1000 a month, on top of your mortgage. If you don't pay it, well, it really depends on the condo board. Some will sit and stew and deny you services. Others will attempt to take your condo away.
So back to my poor GS-5 step 1 in need of affordable housing. My advice is to become a GS-9. Short of or in addition to that, first clean up her credit and reduce her debit so she can get a better mortgage. Second, save up for the down payment and closing costs. Get a second job (preferably at a place where you won't blow the paycheck on the merch with your employee discount -- a mistake I made) to help with that short term goal. Third, shop the neighborhoods you can afford. There is a lot in NE and SE DC for under $250K. I'm partial to NE, because there are a lot of hidden gems near the MD border, cute little bungalows and rowhouses needing some love and attention. Third, shop around for a good mortgage and first-time homebuyer programs. Lastly, the house you do buy is not necessarily the one you will live in forever. You may trade up in the future. You may move. You don't know what life will throw at you (divorce, kids, new job relocation, etc) so keep that in mind.
When I bought my house I was making about $35,000 (I'm guessing it would be above $40K in todays dollars). It appeared in ok condition (learned later that wasn't the case) in a sorta not so great neighborhood. With the help of a loan from the DC Housing Finance Agency, low interest rates, excellent credit, a re-finagled student load payment, a tax abatement, and $10K saved up this single black woman was able to buy her skinny little plot of the American Dream. Seven years later I live in a much better neighborhood and a much better house and my address never changed.
So it irritates me when people say that it is impossible to buy a home. Hard yes, difficult maybe, but not impossible. The market has come a bit more to its senses and you have a better chance of finding that affordable house. So kids, save your pennies, clean up your credit, and do your homework.

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Foreclosure, probably not that great of a deal

I live next door to a foreclosed house.
The story, from what I can piece together is that long time ago, say 15-20 years ago, some Ethiopian guy bought the house as an investment property. According to a neighbor on the block, he did rent it out but left it vacant for about 7 years. Then for about a year or two he rented to some Ethiopian sisters, one of whom got married and they all moved away. Then the Ethiopian owner sold it to another Ethiopian for way too much at the top of the market. This new Ethiopian owner rented to an Ethiopian family who stayed for a few months, and then the house sat empty. And then it went into foreclosure and the bank owns it. The bank tried to sell it for close to what the guy paid for it, and it sat. Then about every 1.5 months they would decrease the price. It remains unsold.
A friendly Vietnamese couple looked at the house and were very interested. So much so that one day they brought an inspector with them. I'd like the house to sell, but I also want any future owners to be aware that there are some busted pipes in the house, as the pipes failed last winter sending water into my basement. So the couple took in that information and went around with the inspector. They spent an awful lot of time looking at the rear kitchen portion of the house, which if anything like mine, is structurally crappy. The stucco is cracked and red brick dust seeps through. The layout of the 2nd floor is, challenging. Anyway, they didn't buy it. I'm sure the numbers just didn't work out. The amount the house was selling for, plus the amount to fix the busted piping (which would mean taking up portions of the floor and possibly finding mold) just to make it suitable for human habitation, was more than likely far above it's market value. That's not even addressing the structural and mechanical issues, nor is the price of making it 'nice' as opposed to 'not condemned'.
Let me throw in some numbers. The house at the time the couple looked at it was $310,000. This is for a townhouse of about 1,000-1,200 sf. nothing fancy, aged AC unit, blown in heat, busted pipes, electrical systems a big unknown, weedy front and back yards, and appliances over 10 years old. Plumbers cost money. So say there isn't any mold under the house and you just need to fix/ replace the pipes, and it can be done from a crawlspace hatch, so there is no replacing the floor? Well that's over $3K, based on how much I've paid to have a 'simple' plumbing job done in an easy to access area. But there could be mold, and the floor might need to be taken up. And while you're doing that you might as well gut the whole thing. When I asked how much someone, doing it all themselves spent to gut and fix their own house, which is similar in size to mine, the amount was about $60K. I paid well over that, let's just say my contract had a $80K limit, we hit the limit and there was still stuff (like installing heat and AC) that needed to be done when I ran out of money. That amount doesn't include the paint, the tub, and other materials I bought myself.
The houses on the block, sans basements, are assessed for around $350K. I'm somewhat doubting that whoever buys the house is willing to put into it more than its market worth. The bank may have to knock the price down to the high to mid $200K range before anyone bites.

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Monday, November 05, 2007

Stuff at the DC Archives

Okay there is a lot of history stuff from this weekend with the Washington Historical Conference and an email that went out regarding historic preservation that raised one of my eyebrows.
I was happy to stumble upon the DC Archives desk because the web presence of this part of the DC government is like nil. I had a researcher friend complain that he couldn't find any information about hours, or contact info to save his life. It's there, just not terribly easy to find like the Washingtonia collection or the Historical Society's archive.
The DC Archives is at 1300 Naylor Court, NW (office 202 671 1105, fax 202 727 6076) and off the top of my head they have regular office hours. So they are right in Shaw, not too far from the Convention Center.
At the desk I got a list of the different series the archives has and here are a few highlights:

Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs:
Building/Construction/ Alternation Permits & Plans (1949-1995)

Department of Public Works:
Plans of Demolished Buildings (1900-1979)

Department of Housing and Community Development
Redevelopment Land Agency Records (1965-1976)
Shaw & H Street Building Survey Forms (1968-1972)
14th Street & Downtown Survey Forms (1968-1974)
Organizational Records, includes annual reports, history, etc (1934-1987)

Not on the list but I think it was confirmed that the records for a department that condemned buildings may be at the archives as well. I'm very interested in those.

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Condo conversion suit

Read the following:
DCRA Announces Guilty Plea in Condominium Warranty Case
From DCRAs Communications Team
GOVERNMENT OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs Announces Guilty Plea in Condominium Warranty Case

(Washington, DC) Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs Director Linda K. Argo announced that on Oct. 5, Mudasir Khan plead guilty to one count of False Statements in a Condominium Registration Application and one count of Failure to Post a Bond or Letter of Credit for 45 R Street NW.

Under District law, condominium developers or building owners are required to warrant (or guarantee) their construction work with the Condominium and Cooperative Conversion and Sales Branch. They secure this obligation by posting warranty security. Several forms of security may be posted under the statute, including a letter of credit, bond or another form approved by the Condominium Branch.

[SNIP info on warranties]

Under the plea agreement, Khan must:
Pay a criminal fine of $15,000 on both counts - totaling $30,000.
Post a warranty security for $5,000 for 45 R Street NW.
Pay a $250.00 Victims Compensation Fund fine on each count - totaling $500.

Khan was sentenced to 30 days in jail on each count, to be served consecutively. The sentence was suspended and Khan was placed on one year of supervised probation for each count to run concurrently. Khan must report to his probation officer on October 23.

[more SNIPing]
"DHCD understands the critical mission served by the Rental Conversion and Sale Division," said DHCD Director Leila Finucane Edmonds. "We will also hold developers responsible for complying with District law and take strong and decisive action against those who do not."

Not having spent too much time paying attention to the structures on "historic" R St (they had banners saying so), I'm guessing this was a townhouse conversion. Correct me if I'm wrong. Townhouses converted into condos have always been a big question mark for me. But then again, I didn't want to be bothered with condos in any shape or form so I never paid that much attention. There are many town homes around Bloomingdale and Shaw, large town homes, converted into 2 or three condos. Is that a good thing? I don't know.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

If you're a GS-5 step 1, you're poor

Argue with me if you want but a MA in History is one of the most useless graduate degrees out there because my first job out of grad school was a GS-5 step 1 Museum Technician job (bathrooms, down the stairs and to the left). Looking at the AMI link from a posting on the ANC2C02 blog clarifying affordable housing and the locality pay schedule for the DC metro region from the largest employer, GS-5/1 are a tad below 50% of the AMI (Area Median Income) for single households. You hit 50% at step 4. I'm not criticizing Uncle Sam's wages. No, my then $19K (1995-96) salary and living in a shared apartment barely being able to pay back my student loans for 2 years inspired me to go back to grad school and get a practical degree.
Now I know non-profit people, just starting out, with their bright new shiny BAs and BSs or whathave you, get paid jack because just working for the cause is payment enough. Besides, more where they came from when one set gets jaded. Anyway, when I did once non-scientifically compare salaries with newbie non-profit people, they were also below or around 50% of the AMI. In time this changes. You get experience, pick up some valuable skills, get older, get/apply for something else in the org or at another nonprofit or association, go back to school, something, and you start moving into the 60%-80%-100% range. Or you move back to Wisconsin or Minnesota, one of those things.

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Saturday, October 13, 2007

Well, that went well

Well today after getting my hair done, I went to the Shiloh Baptist Church Family Life Center's Forum on Gentrification. It was a good step on the part of the Family Life Center to have something of a dialog, which despite nearly falling into chaos*, where different opinions voiced themselves. Hopefully, some Shiloh groups and community members can come together again to improve communication, find out what we can agree on, and work together on that.
I really did not take any decent notes. Except a notation about something Alex Padro, one of the panel members said about who gentrification really hurt were the people in boarding houses and people in single family townhomes. Shaw has the highest concentration of subsidized housing in Ward 2, with Lincoln Westmoreland, Foster House, Asbury Dwellings and some other places. And, if I remember right, the tenant groups have long covenants that keep the housing affordable to them. So whatever happens in the real estate market, their fine. However, found out that the United House of Prayer, which had/has a fair amount of affordable housing is going market/ luxury rate.
Also it was good to meet/see people I mainly know from the online experience, Ray and the man behind OnSeventh. The great thing about neighborhood blogging is at some point you are going to run into people off-line. Oh, and I stand behind what I said about libel. If there is anything that I have typed that is untrue (outside of an opinion) bring it to my attention, and if it is false, I will retract it or adjust it, basically try to make it right. I am not hiding behind a blog, believe me, you can find me if you put some effort in it, like emailing me, or wandering over to a BACA meeting. At some community gatherings, some people (Scott Roberts) are more than happy to point me out.
After the forum I did talk to some folks who were members and volunteers for Shiloh. There are a few ideas that I hope some who can act on these ideas can work with. One is getting new Baptists in the area to join. Second is doing a better job of advertising different missions that can help people in need in the immediate area take care of immediate needs, like a food pantry and a benevolence fund, and if a person needs to tap into it right this minute, how they would get connected. Third, have a church presence on one of the civic association committees, like Ebeneezer Baptist is with BACA.
*****
I've been typing this up between dinner and had a nice long conversation with a fellow with a Shiloh justice ministry spin-off, the Urban Housing Alliance, who was at the forum. Long and short of it, because I really want to get back to dinner, what's going on with Shiloh and the properties and the official justice ministry to address issues is complicated. This is the part where I don't want to be bothered with the infighting because I have to side with my family members who are Shiloh members and supportive of current leadership. But the fellow made a good point of some failings with current leadership and some of the problems we are seeing.
Anyway, due to issues related to the infighting & parking, the Urban Housing Alliance will be meeting at a friendly location for them, 4311 R St, Capitol Heights, MD October 20th from 10:30AM to noon. 'Cause I asked, why out in Maryland? It seems they also meet in DC as well and their goal is to provide services, free of charge, to DC citizens (I gather from the discussion) to cut property taxes, lower rents, and hold on to homes.
Okay, din-din.
***************
UPDATE: Off Seventh has more here and here.

*I say the same thing about my church's screamy baby service with kids squirming and not providing the expected answers when the priest does the kiddie focused sermon.

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Friday, October 12, 2007

Gentrification and housing

Because of this blog, I get asked about gentrification. I'm not a public policy wonk, or a student of urban planning, or an activist, but I am a citizen with an opinion on the topic. One question is if affordable housing will disappear because of gentrification? Um, short of Mothra coming in a flattening 3/4ths of the hood, no.
The reason why is just off the top of my head there are a couple of public housing units (see here), the co-ops and other apartment buildings that are not market rate on 7th, 6th, 5th, and 1st Streets, that have sizable footprints and surface parking lots (see the DC Real Property Map). Some are owned by churches, which doesn't really mean anything, because a church owns (in full or part, not sure) Kelsey Gardens. But as long as the churches see it as part of their mission to provide affordable housing (with the help of being tax exempt) those housing units should be fine. So the cry that there is no affordable housing or that affordable or low income housing will disappear in Shaw, doesn't ring true in my ears.
I do acknowledge that among privately rented townhouses and small 4-6 unit apartment buildings there is a danger. However if a landlord decides to sell his townhouse to someone who will more than likely want to live in the unit and be a resident homeowner, I think the neighborhood is better off because it stabilizes the community.
Anyway I started writing this to point out a function going on this weekend. Shiloh Baptist Church this weekend is putting on a Gentrification meeting/ forum whathave you reported here and here, and probably a few other spots. It's this Saturday between 1-4pm at 1510 9th St. And to touch on OneDC's rally for their favorite bidder for Parcel 42, but I'll get to that later.

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Housing around

Affordable housing, workforce housing, low-income housing, subsidized housing, senior housing, market rate housing and the various aspects of those need to be illustrated in an easy to understand booklet because some of the subtlies and differences are getting lost on me. As a voter in Shaw, the differences matter because it is the politicos that can approve or tweak the various developments going up or around. I have an interest in the type of big buildings that go up with people with various needs and wants, that impact the kind of public and commerical ventures that come to the hood.
My current question regarding the differences is how and from where do the people who fill the different rental housing options come from? I wonder this because I'm trying to figure out where do people, who may not be invovled with any social service agency that may act as a clearinghouse, find out about housing that isn't market rate.
I also think back to my first Shaw apartment. It was on the corner of 12th and Rhode Island NW, in the basement, no AC (w/ window bars that wouldn't make a window unit possible), window near the dumpster, 2 bedrooms, 1 bath, $525 ($633 in 2007 dollars). I found it in the Washington Post. Because of the location I thought it was a typo, but checked it out anyway. Nasty carpet and dead roaches littering the kitchen, I applied quickly. I think I had to state my income as part of the credit check, but I had just gotten a 'real' job a few weeks before so all I could show was my meager GS-6($26K) salary from the job before. I don't know if that was a qualification, I don't remember anyone mentioning it. I may have been technically, low or low-moderate income at that point. Also I didn't know if the building or unit was rent controlled or what the deal was, I decided not to look cheap centrally located housing in the mouth.
So I wonder is, will, affordable housing be advertised widely and in various mediums to attract various renters?

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Y'all mean

Because my usual Wednesday activity has been discontinued and because I don't have a TV I wandered over to the ANC 2C Show. I don't think my skin is thick enough to deal with a full fledged meeting, 'cause y'all mean. Not to be too Deanna Troi, but Captain, I sense hostility.
I say full fledged because Ms. Brooks appeared ill at the beginning of the meeting and the official meeting was adjourned sometime after the minutes (I believe, I can't hear that well) were approved. What occurred after she and Mr. Thorpe left was a community meeting facilitated by Misters Chapple and Padro.
I guess one good thing was the leader of the Organization for Training Others in Need, Carole A. Mumin, wife of Ibrahim Mumin, addressed her grievance with Mr. Chapple and his reporting of the DC Auditors report. She stated that she erred in giving the auditor the wrong receipts, which resulted in a damning report. There were apologies, speeches and testimonials about the program.
Moving on.
There was something about a building on New York Ave. MVSQ has concerns. I wonder how realistic is it to move a brick building that isn't stable. But I'm keeping my thoughts to myself.
Then lastly, there was Parcel 42 and the presentation was for a matter of right proposal. Matter of right, good, as for reasons I'm not entirely free to blog about, PUDs take for-ever. You can get married have kids and send those kids off to college before some PUDs get finished. Not so great, and I'm keeping my thoughts to myself, but the presenters were suggesting 100% affordable housing. Doesn't the Susan Reitig House of Prayer building that's up have affordable housing aspects? And then across 7th St there is a post-riot affordable housing building, which across 8th from that building another affordable housing structure, and across R Street from that a public housing. Then across R/Rhode Island from Parcel 42 is senior affordable housing. So short of the 7-11 that intersection would be a concentrated area of affordable housing if this plan was chosen. I'm no city planner, but isn't this almost like concentrating poverty? And despite being structured to have retail or some commercial space on the first level the building on 7th and R (Lincoln-Westmoreland? Name escapes me now), there is little for profit business that I see. So something is wrong if pre-existing space is underperforming.
I'll stick with the peace, love and happiness of 5C. I am gaining a greater appreciation for Jim Berry and his legacy of grace and being slow to anger.

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Monday, July 23, 2007

Quick thought on housing and gentrification

There is someone moving into the neighborhood today, who in 5-10 years will complain that gentrification moved them out. This thought came to me after a quick conversation with an older woman (maybe not quite senior citizen) who was moving into a rental house. A house that has been 'affordable' since I've been in the neighborhood. And it has had a fair amount of turnover (but that's because the landlady is horrible) so it remains a housing option.
There is little purity in the gentrification that happens in this neighborhood. All the poor people do not move out at the same time to be replaced by people with more money. Not all the landowners sell when the market is hot, some keep holding on, maybe through greed or apathy, and then the market cools. There is loss, there are fewer housing options for lower income groups, however there isn't a 100% loss of affordable housing from the market.
I write this from what I've observed on my block. At least three houses (there might be more) in the six years I've been noticing appear to fall in the 'affordable' category and they though the crazy RE market and it's current cooling have had some turnover with tenants and yet have had the same kind of tenant.

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Monday, July 09, 2007

Foreclosure

The house next door to mine is being sold by the bank. I suspect that the guy who bought it overpaid for the 2bd/1.5 bath no basement and probably overestimated how much he could rent it out for. Rents in the eastern Shaw area (based on a quick Craigslist search) range from $1500- $1700 for similar units. Dude paid about $400K for the place. I've been in it, it isn't worth $400K. Heck, even my beautifully renovated 1/2 painted house isn't worth $400K.
Now it is on the market for something in the mid 300K range 'as-is'. Competing with it on the same block is a nicer end unit in the low $400K. I don't know how the two will play off each other, but have seen at least one set of buyers look at one and then the other.
I realize that this is not the only piece of real estate where some 'investor' paid too much and failed to notice that the mortgage, taxes and insurance were more than what the market would bear as a rental. But I'm not all that sympathetic to a group that jacked up the housing prices because they couldn't gage the market. Also I think this is the same group that 'renovated' houses for flipping without a decent eye for beauty only to have their properties sit because they u-g-l-y. But that's another post, for another day.

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Monday, June 04, 2007

Alternative Future


In the book "Washington DC Present and Future" published in 1950 by the National Capitol Park & Planning Commission (so its a govt doc, copy away) there is a proposed idea, that never came to be. The above picture (from Truxtoncircle.org) shows an area bound by 7th, Rhode Island, New Jersey and New York Avenues NW. The left is a part of Shaw in the late 1940s, the right is the idea of what it would be, large apartment buildings, snaky townhouse rows, and lot of open space. Roads went missing in this alternative future, M & N Street are gone as well as small road like Warner and Franklin. Anyway, never happened, well not in this version. 1/2 of Franklin did disappear and there are a bunch of apartment buildings along 7th.

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The road to Hell is paved with the very best of intentions

So, former Mayor-for-Life, current Ward 8 Councilman has proposed some housing bills recently, some not bad, others.... I don't want to call them 'stupid' but I can't find another word. It seems his heart is in the right place.
Let's start off with the not-bad proposed legislation, Housing Support for Teachers Act of 2007 B17-0095, sponsored by our own Harry Thomas Jr., Vincent Gray, Carol Schwartz, Kwame Brown, and Marion Barry. A quick look at it seems to offer funds of $5K for individual teachers with moving expenses, housing down payments, and housing stipend. Good stuff for teachers. No complaint here.
The next one I mentioned to someone and he proclaimed the "Evictions with Dignity Amendment Act" as stupid. To me it is not so much stupid, but it looks like a huge liability for the city. Does the city have tons of storage space for people's stuff? And what happens when someone precious thingamabob heirloom dohicky gets damaged by a water leak while in the City's care? Anyway it is co-sponsored with Kwame Brown.
And the last of Barry proposed legislation that should be cause for concern for anyone who is/ will/ has rented out their basement, condo, house or part of their house, the Rent Control Expansion Amendment Act of 2007 (PDF). Barry is the sole sponsor of this really bad idea, that would seem to make every rental-able unit in the city subject to the Rent Control laws, which are now just limited to units of 4 or more. If I'm interpreting this thing right (and I hope I'm not) this would mess with owners of single units, and increase their risk. Also there are a lot of things that go into the expense for a single (or double if it is a house with a rentable basement) landlord that are beyond the control of that person that it seems rent control ignores, like condo fees and skyrocketing tax assessments. The proposed bill is very short and left me with two big questions. One was does it include single and half units (room in house)? And in Sec.3 'Fiscal impact statement' is the language saying there will be an study of some sort to see what economic impact such legislation would have or is it saying that this will be based on a fiscal impact statement that was done already? If there is a study to be done, I hope the city would take a look at incentives for people to decide to make their basements rental units, or to rent out their condos or houses (short-term/ indefinitely) over just selling their properties. People make choices about what to do with their homes and the city shouldn't put something out there that would give homeowners second thoughts about renting out their place as an extra source of income, and thus taking some units off the legal* market.

*Regarding basement units there are height and other requirements, but some folks rent out their basements regardless, and illegally.

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Sunday, May 27, 2007

Memorial Weekend Grab Bag

Lots of stuff all under one posting.
Shiloh- Well I spent some quality time picking up tile with my aunt, a long time member of Shiloh, and she briefly brought up the thing with the vacant properties. There was a meeting, at first she heard it was 3 houses, now it's 4, and May 30th isn't enough time. We'll see.

Speaking of vacant properties, Si K over in Mt. Vernon went all out and surveyed the vacant properties in the MVSQ region and found 100 properties, and 61 of them are taxed at the wrong rate. Read the report, with pictures here. This is the type of thing the city 'should' be doing.

Speaking of reports, in NE at the Florida Avenue Market Frozen Tropics has the Florida Avenue Market Study (PDF) that was presented, at one of the several information meetings about its general development, not the New Towns fiasco. Check of FT and Rebuilding Space's blog about the Florida Avenue Market.

As a housekeeping measure, I'm disabling comments for 2003-2004 posts.

Speaking of house. Renovation is going along nicely. I need to put up some more pictures at the Flickr site because the walls have been mudded and there is a ceiling. What I've been told, is that the trim and the stair railing will be next and that's going to take a while.

Hope you have a good weekend. I'm hanging out in the hood, while it seems everyone else left the city. If you are some of the few who haven't left the TC or MVSQ or central Shaw, drop me a line.

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Friday, May 04, 2007

Celebrate new homeowners

I'm so happy I don't know where to start.
A little while after I moved, in a couple from Chicago moved in down the block. They were renting the house from a friend of theirs and immediately they integrated themselves into the community. The husband regularly (when he's not out of town for work or sick) cleans up the block with a little broom and a trash can. This supplements the work of alley cleaning man. In winter he'll sometimes borrow my snow shovel when there is snow and clear the sidewalk for 1/2 of our side of the street. He's also willing to talk with the "kids" that hang on the block when there is a point that they need talking to. The husband is also an artist of the woodblock variety and adds to the number a artist-type people in the area and when you have IT, that makes 2 artists on our side of the street.
Well the house they were renting got sold to another person and sometime after that the couple started to consider buying a house in the neighborhood. They really like the neighborhood and particularly our block. However the guy who bought the house, understandably, wanted to make a profit from his purchase and they were non-profit people (there are many non-profit org workers running around the hood), so they weren't exactly rolling in dough. But somehow, they closed this week. Maybe the fact that the house needs a boatload of costly repairs might have something to do with it.
Boat. Load. The house has serious, serious problems with water. Mainly the keeping water out kind. The current problem de jour is a leak, or something, somewhere, has water going down the side of the interior wall when it rains. And I don't know if the problem with the sewer was fixed. And the husband mentioned something about the foundation.
It seems they got to work on the house minutes after closing. We engaged in the common bonding experience on our block, the watching construction work. One of the block's contractors was working on the outside of the house while 2 other construction employed residents, the new owner, and I stood around making commentary about the work. Including myself, there are at least 3 people on the block having work done on their house. And usually there is at least one person at any one time having something done in the 6 years I've been here. So there is usually a 'show' where you can stand around, and make commentary.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Fun with ProQuest: Black middle class tries to help

From "D.C. Frontiers, Inner-City Renewal Project, Will Open Soon: Inner-City Renewal Housing Project to Open Soon" by John Saar, Washington Post, 8/13/1973 pC1
Quick abstract: Black businessmen and other AfAm professionals in the form of non-profit DC Frontiers Inc, build, at a financial loss several (and after sever set backs) townhomes at 14th & S, 11th & M, & 11th & N for low income families.

You can still walk by those townhouses today and after 30 some odd years you could say that the project was a success. In the article there was expressed concern that the surrounding decay would undermine the goals of the project. There was a problem with theft while the building was getting built, some snafus that added to construction expenses and there was this inflation thing going on in the 70s. Despite all that the buildings got built stable families got in them and they survived the Crack Barry years and the gentrification.

According to the article, DC Frontiers Inc was more successful than RLA (Redevelopment Land Agency). The difference between the two (besides one being smaller and non-govt) was DC Frontiers aimed for low density and homeownership whereas RLA was high density and rentals, which would be "recreating the old ghetto conditions." The Frontiers houses aimed for something the high rise apartments for poor families wouldn't have, a living room for the parents, play room for the children, a small yard, space for living.

The black middle class I write of were doctors, lawyers, Realtors and such who sponsored the construction costs of building the houses. They wanted to do something to help rebuild the area and they did by offering an alternative. As I mentioned RLA was aiming for high density high-rises, which solves the problem of putting roofs over peoples heads, but does little in stabilizing black families and helping them build wealth.

Frontiers sought to 'reseed' 14th St NW with families with low but steady incomes who paid their rent on time and turn those families into homeowners. Candidates were chosen by what sounded like the lottery method, and had three years after moving in to decide if they wanted to buy. There was a monetary deposit that in 2007 dollars is $1,604.16 and the option of taking a 25 year mortgage.

Another form of criticism in the article I see aimed at RLA that was a problem then is probably a cause of development problems now (or not, it's an opinion). RLA costs were 'unnecessarily' high because the project bought a lot of commercially zoned land for residential purposes. For you kids who don't know, commercial lot is way more expensive than residential lot. Both could be the same in every way, one is more expensive. Fast forward to 2007, hey guess what is sitting on the commercial strips of 7th?

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Monday, March 12, 2007

Sick and moving

I think got whatever headachey, muscle ache, toss yer cookies virus that's floating around. It was bad last week, and then I thought I was well, but then I went out with some friends and quickly discovered, no, I wasn't well. This weekend, same thing, I thought I was over it, and was proven wrong.
Part of me wonders if I really am sick or just anxious about the whole renovation, move out the house project. I've been packing and the house looks naked. Wall hangings have been taken down, most furniture has been given away, promised away, stored away, thrown away, or set in the big honking "Goodwill" pile. Having to figure out which of my worldly possessions goes into which category, has been challenging. Half of what is in the Goodwill and give away categories, I'd keep if I wasn't desperate to cut down on the amount I need to put in storage.
Then there is the issue of where am I going to live. I do have options outside of the borders of Shaw and I am really thankful for those who have opened their homes to me. However, they are not "in Shaw", nor close to the TC, so to answer Dr. Soh N. So's question of am I going to blog while I'm gone, the answer is I don't know. Probably not as much, which means I'll be putting pressure on Truxtonian to blog. If a suitable short term rental pops up in my hood, then I'll look into it.

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Friday, March 02, 2007

Well that's depressing

My choices of contractor are disorganized and expensive, or shall I say beyond my budget. Disorganized is within my budget, and has refs, and a very, very positive attitude, but the disorganized demeanor is maddeningly off putting. Beyond budget did my kitchen so there is already a relationship there. But the price quoted was above what I took out as a 2nd mortgage, and short of working a 2nd job I can't see where else I can come up with the extra cash. I'm beating myself up for not interviewing more, and I'm wondering if I should postpone the project so I can try to raise more money or interview more contractors.
Another issue is housing during construction. I want to do the project before the Summer intern invasion, so I'd have choices. Plan A is find a place via Craigslist or the City Paper and stay there for 3 months (or hop from one temp situation to another) while the house is under renovation. Plan B, stay with Aunt in Hyattsville (all other area relatives are so non-metro I won't even consider them) and commute back into the city via bus and train. I would prefer to stay in Shaw, or places that are Shaw-adjacent, or right on the Green line*, so I can closely monitor the work. I can't monitor jack in Hyattsville. So if you know anyone renting out a small cheap-cheap room, nothing fancy, 'cause really all I need is a bed, a shower, and a microwave, in Shaw or a Shaw adjacent place. If you know of such a place available in April shoot me an email mari @inshaw

*When I say right on the green line, I mean, 5-10 mins walking (not driving or biking) from the station entrance.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

A couple of thoughts

Yes, I did see the Post articles on the Convention Center, 9th Street, the Chinese New Year Celebration down in Gallery Place and the proposed merger of Sirius and XM, which may impact Eckington.
I'd been thinking about Gallery Place/ Chinatown since I've been running a number of errands 'round there lately, and the article just more or less confirmed a bit of my thinking. It seems that a fair number of Asian American attendees at the street celebration were from the 'burbs. Face it, on any other regular day when running around Gallery Place many of the faces are Black, White and Latino. I thought of the Jewish quarter of Prague that the city hawks as a tourist area, which though having a Jewish graveyard, and monuments, but few Jews*. The buildings and signs say something in Chinese, but the spirit of the street says "Gallery Place". When the MCI/Verizon Center was still off-gassing its new paint and floors there were a larger number of Chinese restaurants, that were later replaced by the Legal Seafoods and like chains. The impact wasn't sudden, and the Gallery Place area is still changing. A place opens, then it closes and is replaced (hopefully quickly) by some other operation. And maybe it is still a little too soon to expect great things of the Convention Center.
Or maybe not. We've got our own set of problems and conditions north of the Square. For one, MVQ and the 7th and 9th St corridors are and were far more residential than Gallery Place. Yes, you compare condo to condo but there are also a lot of fee simple, low density housing, garden apartments and lots of non-luxury units. I mentioned that I lost the faith in projects yet to come, those things are on 9th St. Some of them are in the process of 'becoming', some are waiting for their developer/owners to get their act together, and while they aren't yet what they are to be, you got ugly on the streets at present. Unlike Gallery Place we don't have that huge office drone population crowding up the counters at Shaw eateries. I guess we were supposed to get a huge convention going populace, who aren't staying in any Shaw hotels because, oh right. And last time I went to a convention I had lunch inside the building or ate at places I saw between the hotel and the center. Which would mean, if your hotel is at Gallery Place, you're probably eating in Gallery Place.
Don't even get me started on Shiloh. Senior housing. Not plain old affordable housing, because face it many of y'all moved to the burbs to get away from the affordable housing crowd.

*Yes, the population is growing but it is miniscule compared to its early 20th Century, pre-Holocaust numbers.

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