Affordable Housing

NorthWest Coop at 3rd and R NW“Affordable Housing” gets thrown around a lot in DC, as in there isn’t too much of it. HUD (Housing & Urban Development) defines affordable housing as, “In general, housing for which the occupant(s) is/are paying no more than 30 percent of his or her income for gross housing costs, including utilities. Please note that some jurisdictions may define affordable housing based on other, locally determined criteria, and that this definition is intended solely as an approximate guideline or general rule of thumb.” Unfortunately for me, DHCD (Dept of Housing and Community Development) doesn’t have such a nice glossary, or at least one that I could find, and as HUD hinted, the locality may have other criteria.

What DHCD does somewhat define are Affordable Dwelling Units (ADU). According to the website, “Affordable Dwelling Unit (ADU) is an umbrella term applied to for-sale and for-rent homes that are locally restricted for occupancy by households whose income falls within a certain range. ADUs are generally offered at a below-market rate. The DC Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) monitors and enforces compliance with ADU requirements in the District of Columbia.” The income ranges depend on size of household, not makeup (ex. a 2 person household could be 2 adults, or 1 adult and child).

The 2017 income limits and ranges and all that can be seen in a PDF at this link. If affordable housing or a proposal for affordable housing is the subject of an upcoming community meeting in your neighborhood, print out the latest on affordable housing income limits and bring it to the meeting. Typically when I bother to ask the developer or whomever the representative is for some proposed project about income, they are unsure what the limits are. They do know that they are supposed to have X number of units out of Y number of units at 50% or 30%. Sometimes they mention how many bedrooms per unit and let’s say no one is building units for large families.

I feel I need to also define ‘public housing’ as I tend to see comments on DC related blogs and sites referring to a housing complex taking vouchers (sometimes called Section 8) as public housing. The Northwest Cooperatives for the 10 zillionth time are not public housing. Why do I have a picture of the NW Co-op? It is affordable housing as they do take section 8 vouchers and the housing was built with the help of HUD subsidies. The DC Housing Authority has 56 public housing properties it maintains and you can see that list here. If it isn’t on that list, it’s not public housing.

I’m Seeing a Klansman in the Metro

I’ve tweeted it twice, but my brain is seeing a klansman when I’m standing at the platform at the Shaw Howard University metro station in the morning.It looks like a klansman

I know that it is just minerals seeping from the ground through the concrete. I also know it is a sign that WMATA needs to clean up these mineral deposits… WMATA needs to do a lot, maintenance is just one thing on a long list of things to get to ‘good’.

I have no idea if this is still under the sign to go to the HBCU (historically Black college and universities) Howard University (or the elevator), because I’m stuck at home watching a sick baby get better*. I did not get the opportunity to stand on the platform and stare at this mineral deposit and see what my brain, especially with the two dark spots making eyes, thinks of as a representation of a klansman. Someone else could see something else.

I find it interesting, more so about how my brain is working. I don’t think nature or concrete or the metro system is racist. As some point WMATA will clean this up, or the minerals will form some other shape, maybe the Stay Puff marshmallow man from the original Ghost Busters.

*Okay I’m not watching him right now because I went through the checklist (want a bottle? no? need a diaper change? no? running a fever? no, not at this moment, thank goodness. need to be cuddled? no? need a back massage? no? you’re still crying? f it I give up, you’re going to bed…) so he’s napping.

Senior Citizen Deduction on Real Property

I just need to post something and people keep forgetting about this very generous deduction for senior citizens who own their homes. The DC government does take into account low income homeowners as well as low income senior citizens, but I’ll talk about low income in another post. This post is about old people. The thing is they need to apply, it is not automatic. You don’t get a deduction on you 65th birthday. DC government is not tracking you, it is not that organized.

So you’re old (65+) and you own your home but the property taxes keep going up and up, what are you to do? One, are you getting a homestead exemption? If not, why not? Are you not living in a residential property? If you live above your liquor store that you run, sorry no deduction for you. That’s a commercial property, probably. This is for a house, a townhome, a duplex, a triplex (and anything 5 units or less) or a condo. But most importantly this residential property must be your primary residence. The homestead deduction should take off $73,350 from the assessed value.

Okay so you have the homestead deduction. Great. Are you 65 or older? Here is what the Office of Tax and Revenue says,” When a property owner turns 65 years of age or older, or when he or she is disabled, he or she may file an application immediately for disabled or senior citizen property tax relief. This benefit reduces a qualified property owner’s property tax by 50 percent.” 50%!! Half off from regular priced taxes. Old timers whose house is worth over a million dollars will be taxed like their house is over HALF a million dollars. But what if it is a couple living in the house and one is 65 and the other is say 35? There are things I could say but they’re judgey and not polite. As long as the 65 year old owns 50% of the house or condo or whatever it’s still good.

But wait you say, “I’m 65 years old and on a low fixed income, half off does not cut it.” Well guess what, you can have your taxes deferred. I understand the 0% deferral, not so much the 6% deferral. I am familiar with ‘deferring’ things like student loans, it just means you don’t have to pay now, but it’s gonna get paid. With seniors I figure it just means those taxes have to get paid when grandma goes to the great beyond. Maybe that’s why this particular program needs your lender’s okay. Anyway, low income means a household Federal Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) of $50,000 or less. You get the 0% deferral if you are 75 years or older, have lived in your home 25+ years and make no more than $12,500 from dividends and interest. But you get nothing if you don’t fill out and send in the application (Word .doc file).

So if there is an old timer complaining that all these young white whippersnappers are moving in and raising their taxes, ask them if they have taken advantage of the real property programs for seniors and offer to help them fill out the application. Also remind them that nursing homes are friggin’ expensive and Medicare doesn’t cover everything, so having an ever increasing in value asset is a good thing…. provided their pot head daughter doesn’t blow all the proceeds from the sale of the house once she gets power of attorney…. Yes, apparently I’m still pissed off with my sister in law.

Dangit old Engine 12- Spark Restaurant Review

Dammit. I really had hoped this would be better. Maybe they’ll change things up or find their audience or something, because I was mildly disappointed with the new Spark restaurant that took the place of the old Engine 12 Firehouse restaurant.

I had high, maybe too high, hopes for the new restaurant in the old space, when I saw bone marrow on the menu. The last time I had bone marrow was at Eat the Rich (RIP) paired with some jam. It was soooo good. I had those same expectations when coming to Spark.

Bone marrow at Spark 12

 

Okay, let me start off with what I liked. It was bone marrow. There was nice crusty bread. There was a little of a pickle side to cut the fat of the marrow. There was a nice funky tool which to use to scoop out the marrow. There was salt at the table so I could season bland tasting marrow. Yeah, that’s my one complaint, it was bland tasting. Maybe it was because the marrow was ‘smoked’ and not braised or whatever the heck Eat the Rich did. It lacked a richness, and just tasted like fat. I’m fine with paying $16 for a plate of bones and bread, if it is yummy bones and bread.

My main reason for getting a sitter and making Spark 12 our date night outing were the bones. Ignoring the bone marrow, everything else was meh, ‘alright’. The people at the next table were loud and even after they left, we still had to speak with a raised voice to hear each other. The service seemed a little slow, but since they’d only been open about a week, that was forgivable. The Old Fashioned I ordered was fair tastewise but packed one hell of a boozy punch. The Help ordered a chocolate atomic fireball non-alcoholic drink. It was like a chocolate manhattan with the cinnamon spice candy along the rim and at the bottom of the drink. I thought the chocolate tasted watery and the strong cinnamon was a little overwhelming. If I hadn’t had a big lunch I might have been hungry for more, and if I were, we would have left to check out Big Bear or ANXO.

The experience left us a little sad. We really want the space to succeed. The previous restaurant had mediocre food. This, although they just opened and there is a ton of room for improvement, is also mediocre. This would be a great restaurant if they could just get the food right and in this neighborhood we expect more out of a sit down restaurant. A friend pointed out that if they wanted Caribbean, (Spark has some island dishes) they would go to Jam Doung down the block. This neighborhood also hosts Red Hen, Bacio, and DCity Smokehouse, places known for their great tasting food.

Maybe the problem is that I just got a super mediocre meal. The Help, my date, seemed content with his beef patties, but he’s easy to please. I haven’t written Spark off, I’ll try them again and hope for better. But next time we’re bringing the kid and skipping the sitter.

Some federal job advice

I don’t post as much here at InShaw, for various reasons. One, but not a major one, is that I tend to post a lot of material to an internal work network. However, at this hour I am technically unemployed, as I enjoy my 5th Federal shutdown, and so figure I could share one of my internal posts. Maybe someone might find it useful. I’ve edited it a bit.

Our section had a regular meeting about general stuff but [cool supervisor guy who is not my supervisor] encouraged staff to apply for positions, as there are highly qualified staff in lower positions. I just wanted to credit him for those words of inspiration to not let anyone other than OPM to tell you if you are or are not qualified for a position. Apply and find out for yourself. Another thing mentioned was sometimes extra vacancies become available for an announcement for that same location and same job title, in the same department.

So apply.

For one it is good practice. Also you’ll never know how easy or hard each job is and maybe the ones with a dozen ‘describe in 500 words/characters’ essay questions will help when you apply for your dream job, which might have 1 or 2 essay questions. The education/experience question stumps me every time, but each application and how far I get into the process tells me that maybe C- the mix of education and experience might be the right answer…. but I’m not 100% sure. Recently I applied for a position at NASA or Air & Space, I forgot, and I don’t know ‘nothin about no space or no aeroplanes, but applied anyway. OMG that was the easiest application ever. It was just answer a few multiple choice questions about my grade and current job that could have been lifted from an SF-50 and submit my resume. That’s all they wanted. It took 5 minutes to apply. I’ve also applied to positions at the Library of Congress that took days, no about a week, to get my page long essay questions for half a dozen of such questions. That work went into a black hole of nothingness…., but good practice and those answers are somewhere on my home computer should I ever need to write a novella on how I can [do a particular task].

So apply.

Just because you applied doesn’t contractually obligate you to take the job. You can withdraw if it gets to an interview. You can withdraw after the interview. You can decline the job offer. For the love of whatever you hold holy don’t accept if you don’t want the job.

So apply.

As [cool supervisor dude] mentioned, there are lots of highly qualified staff here in entry level positions. Maybe you are where you are because that was what was available when you were looking. Great. Your foot is in the door, but nobody is going to drag your body up the ladder. You see an agency only job, and you’re that agency’s employee, guess what, you can apply! You’re a GS-4/5 and it’s a GS-13 but open to the public and you happen to have experience in the private sector that is equivalent to a year at that level, apply, if you want. So what if it is also open to veterans? That’s no excuse not to apply. You might be more qualified, let OPM or the computer algorithm decide who is qualified enough to make it to the next round.

So get training.

I know, I screwed up my theme and rhythm. Our organization offers training. I keep meaning to sign up for the [technical]  training thing. There are detail opportunities, sometimes cross training. Outside of the organization Lynda.com is available through many public libraries for free. Community college is cheap (compared to universities) and cater to working adults with lives. Volunteering isn’t just for feeling good and doing good, you can also gain experience. Being a church deacon got my retired truck-driver uncle to really spiff up his computer skills. My spouse, who loves old time radio, sat on a museum board for a radio museum, and he can cite the experience of trying to bring the museum from a cabinet of curiosities to a real learning center. Life experience might help, as I have snuck in my activism, neighborhood historian activities, landlording and house renovating (5 projects, 3 properties, 2 different general contractors, 2 architects, a 1/2 dozen subs, with a total budget over $200K) in some of my answers if they don’t specifically ask if was a part of my federal/paid/ regular work experience. So improve yourself.

Looking at the neighborhood with different eyes

So at forty *mumble* years old, I’ve become a mommy through the miracle of adoption. Seven years prior I became a spouse, after living in Shaw as a single lady for about ten years*. I, and the Shaw neighborhood, have changed and with those changes I’ve experienced the neighborhood differently.

After only being a parent for a few months, my view of the neighborhood and the city I’ve lived in for over a decade has drastically changed.Eyeglass binky DC bike mapI’ve observed this in parents, typically people who moved to the neighborhood as single people or newlyweds, and in time had kids, and moved. On an intellectual level I understood the desire to protect their children from the hazards and unpleasantness of some aspects of urban life. As a member of the middle class, you know you have an out, you could, by moving to a solidly middle class neighborhood west of Rock Creek Park or out to certain suburbs or exurbs, you nor your children have to tolerate higher crime, smaller houses, chance of the draw schooling, and off street parking. Now as a mom, I have a better understanding and have the desire to protect my Helpless baby.

But no, we’re not moving anytime soon.

Not to go into my personal career goals, but there is one scenario that would send us to PG County and I’ve already mapped out where we’d relocate. I’ve also been applying to positions in DC and those have much fuzzier scenarios of possibly, probably not, moving to the H StreetCapitol HillStadium Armory area. The job search had more to do with getting married, and I’m more dedicated to a great commute than any neighborhood.

The arrival of the Helpless baby has got me thinking more about parenting things I had thoughts about, prior to his arrival, and parenting things I want to research the heck out of. I have thoughts, slightly unchanged, about schools, child care, general safety, and use of transit. I already know what charter schools we will aim for, what charter will be our safety school, and which religious schools we’ll consider if the charters don’t pan out. Recently I have been thinking about how I could replicate my aunts’ and uncles’ success of raising high earning middle class black men, and I wonder how our neighborhood might work for and against that goal. Then there is the minefield of explaining things that he will observe as we walk around. He’s still non-verbal so I have time.

As I walk around, going to and fro the metro or neighborhood businesses, I see the neighborhood differently. I pay attention to other parents or nannies as they push, carry or walk their charges. I observe their strollers, what their kids wear, and where it looks like they’re heading. I take note what places have parents with kids and how welcoming those places are so I know where we might be able to go. The parents I see going about their day help me feel good about being a parent raising my baby in my hood.

 

*If you’re counting I’ve been in Shaw for a little over 17 years.

A park can be a plus or a minus depending on how it is used and who is using it

So about a week ago the Help (the spouse) was walking around with the Helpless (the baby) and noticed a broken lock on the 1st Street side of the Florida Ave park. I told him to contact 311 and he did not find the response satisfactory, so I tweeted, and got a very satisfactory response.

Keeping the park ‘safe’ is very important.  Because there are a lot of little signs of the return of the neighborhood’s bad old days, I figure I should revisit the days with the Florida Ave park was a liability and not an asset.

Let’s enter the InShaw time machine to 2006 and a post where the Florida Ave park is mentioned in passing. At that time the park was mainly a place where the homeless and addicts (booze & drugs) hung out. The park was open, in that there was nothing stopping anyone from sleeping there or being there at night. The problem at the time was alcoholics would go from Sunset Liquors on 1st and Florida and hang out at the park. Citizens figured if we removed the liquor store that would help clean up the park. The actual solution was making the 1st Ave side an exit only side and renovating the park.

So a decade ago the park was a liability. Kids rarely played on the playground, and maybe played on the courts (depending on if bigger kids and adults allowed it). The playground was the domain of the homeless and the addicts. Parents would try to make a go of it, but finding broken glass or used needles among the wood chips or a passed out adult on the slide was discouraging.

Now the park is an asset. The adults are pushed to the sides at the tables on Florida Ave or the tiny section near the exit on 1st (more on FL Ave because there are electrical outlets over there), and the kids are in the playground area, as it should be. I believe I’ve seen kids from the nearby charter school use the park during the school day. Sundays, when the Bloomingdale Farmers Market is in session, the park is filled with parents and young children. We included the park in our adoption book, as a plus. Now that we are parents, I’d like to make sure the park stays an asset, so when the Helpless is a little less helpless and can walk (or at least sit up) he can play there and expel some little kid energy.

Keeping it a park where little kids can play will require vigilance and positive use. It will have to be kept secure so it won’t get misused by adults and kids will have to use it so there isn’t a vacuum that negative elements will fill. Once it becomes a liability again, it will be another problem residents will have to spend energy fighting, and a blight that will bring down the attractiveness of the neighborhood.

Incompetents with guns

This is not about the second amendment.

This is not about gun control laws.

This is about drug dealers on the corner.

The problem, and it comes with every wave of new neighbors, particularly white neighbors, is the idea that the guys on the corner are harmless and have some imagined right to hang about. They are not harmless.

Where there is the business of drug dealing, there is a gun somewhere nearby. A loaded gun, ready to shoot. More than likely an illegal gun where those in possession never bothered to go through the gun safety training class or registration.

Incompetents with guns have have bad aim hitting cars, houses, bystanders, and sometimes their intended target. I remember a daytime shooting many years ago on my street, in front of my house, so this is not theoretical. The shooters shot at a bunch of guys hanging out on the corner (suspected drug dealers) in a drive by from an SUV- Suburban Ussault Vehicle. The shooters managed to hit one guy in the butt and as they traveled down my street they felt the need to shoot several rounds of bullets towards the ground. They managed to damage some cars. I didn’t have a car so, I didn’t care that much. But I do care about an errant bullet wandering into the insides of one of my neighbors or myself (and now as a mom, my family members).

The bad old days of the drug dealers are slowly creeping back into Shaw. The only difference is there are fewer baby mommas’, girlfriends’ and grandmas’ houses to hang out in front of, the plus side of gentrification. So yes, some of the guys may have lived in the neighborhood at one time (as a kid, as a boyfriend, etc) but they don’t live here now. They do not respect the neighborhood, and never did. Don’t feel obligated to make excuses for them.

Chocolate City- Book Review

Chocolates- GodivaSo my neighbor has a book group regarding DC history. Because I choose not to read as fast as I did in my grad school days, I participate when I’ve already read (or listened on audiobook) the book. Because this book, Chocolate City by Chris Myers Asch and George Derek Musgrove, was recommended by a co-worker who knew of my interest in DC history and more importantly, because it was in Kindle form I figured I’d read it.

Reading it, and having the text to voice function on the Kindle Fire, I thought I would never get out of the 19th Century. That period may or may not have been the longest (maybe tedious) part of the book but I felt like I was slogging through. The 20th Century zoomed by in comparison. Brett, the organizer of this book group, mentioned he found it too depressing and skipped chapters. I was very tempted to skip chapters.

I didn’t skip chapters and I actually got to the end notes and skimmed that. Why? Because I looked at the end notes constantly while reading the book because I questioned the conclusion or interpretation of an event or idea. Then I got annoyed when the citation (when I finally got past 1900) was the Washington Post, for things where a better primary exists. If historians are doomed to repeat other historians, this book is doomed to regurgitate the Post.

My other problem with the book is language. This book may not age well. The authors are fast and loose with the word ‘conservative’. It is used when ‘segregationist’ or ‘Republican’ would have been more precise. The definition of the word changes depending on the time period and place. There are other words that are trending right now, not used as much but I’m sure will date the book when new phrases or words are created and come into fashion.

So what did I like about the book? Well, it starts with Native Americans and actually goes into the the early settlement history. In the 20th Century, the area of the authors’ strengths, takes on a different narrative a bit. When writing about Marion Barry, he’s less of a personality, as he is in other histories. They don’t exactly ignore his womanizing and substance abuse, but it is not the focus and barely the reason for DC’s woes. The main narrative is racism and the struggle for Black autonomy. Barry’s famous line has less to do with being a horny crackhead and more to do with the Federal government going after Black mayors and elected officials.

I’ve got a lot of notes and highlights, and hopefully before the Wednesday, I can have it synthesized into something where I can add to the small group discussion.

That is one pretty salad

Fishscale Romaine SaladSo for lunch I ventured out and was hankering for a Halfsmoke dog but they were closed on Tuesday for lunch, so I walked back in the direction of Truxton Circle to fix myself lunch when I was drawn into Fishscale at 637 Florida Ave NW.

See that salad. That sure is one pretty salad. I did not order that salad. I ordered a fish burger with the sunflower slaw. It was good. Was it $15 worth of good (incl tax)? Unsure, but it was good. I liked it. I may come back to check out the salad to see if it tastes as good as it looks.