Help your lower income neighbors save on phone, electric and gas

This is sorta kinda related to Are You Really Middle Class? Or not, depending on your read of this.

At the last BACA meeting someone from the DC government’s Public Service Commission came by and gave out tote bags. Since we’ve gutted those bags and removed the helpful info contained, I figured it would be right to share this with y’all before we chuck it into the recycling bin.

If someone makes under the RES & RAD Income Guidelines (I’ll get to that later) they can get $3 a month land line, up to 30% off of their PEPCO bills, and 25% off from their gas bill. Water is run by the city so nothing for you there.

RAD is Residential Aid Discount and RES is Residential Essential Service. And like figuring out if you’re middle class or poor, it all depends on household size.

Household Size Maximum Annual Income
1 $30,776
2 $40,245
3 $49,715
4 $59,184
5 $66,653
6 $78,123
7 $79,898
8 $81,674

Now you must wonder, how does one apply to this great program? Well apparently you call DDOE via 311, or the Public Service Commission at 202-626-5120.  For the cheaper phone line you have to participate in certain federal programs, what federal programs I do not know, but call 1-800-253-0846 and ask about Economy II. What barriers there may be to actually get these discounts I have no idea. But know they exist.

Clever Parlor

Corner Art gallery/ tattoo parlorSo the Help and I have been spending a lot of time in Baltimore, dealing with a rental property. So that’s why we found ourselves in the Washington Village (aka Pigtown) neighborhood on a Friday night. Taking a break from grouting a shower, we wandered out to get some dinner.

There is a mix of commercial and residential buildings on the main strip of Washington Blvd, and I had passed by this shop (pictured) several times. It looked like it was an art gallery that might want to be a low key skate shop.  That night the lights were bright and the art on the wall called out to me. At the time the shop’s operator was hanging out with some skinny art student, sketching a drawing, in the door and invited us to come in.

We came in to take a closer look at the canvases on the wall and the t-shirts in the cubes. My dear spouse, the Help, is a super chatty fellow and began chatting up the operator, who explained that they feature different artists’ work and the owner’s tattoo art.

Holy crap we’ve walked into a tattoo parlor.

Clever!

Very clever. People tend to object to tattoo parlors in their neighborhoods because, face it many tattoo storefronts have the charm of a low rent pawn shop. However, art galleries are cool and people like art galleries. Tattoo artists are artists and it totally makes sense to have them in an art gallery! And it makes sense to have their art alongside other artists.

I think this, having a gallery/parlor, would make sense in other areas where a tattoo parlor wants to come in and pretty up the neighborhood.

Are you really middle class?

4 bills and changeSo the Post has an article about middle class incomes rising and mentioned the national median income for 2016 was $59,039. Keep in mind that is for a household, this will become important later.

The median income for the DC Metro area is way higher. Twice as high, at $110,300 for 2017 according to HUD. You might be thinking, I don’t make that much, who the hell is making that money? Well remember this is for households, those incomes are typically for a four person household. This may be two working adults and two kids, or one extremely well paid working adult and 3 dependents.

If you’re a singleton, the AMI is $77,300, pat yourself on the back you are definitely middle class in DC.  If you’re single in DC making $52,550 or less you are low income (80% AMI). An annual income of $38,650 or less, you are very low income (50% AMI) and $23,200, you’re poor (extremely low income).  I will leave it to you to decide if at 80% AMI  (Area Median Income) you are middle class or not.

Using the Federal government’s salary table the good news is for the DC-Baltimore area there are no full time poor workers. Same thing for MPD police who are in the union, the base salary for a Class 1 officer (2015) is $53,750. That puts them in the 80% AMI region if they have 1 dependent. A starting teacher for DCPS with just a BA should get $51,359 annually. So when someone promoting workforce housing proposes having income limits at the very low income level (50% AMI) and says it’s for teachers and police officers, they are full of $hit. Even a family of four would make too much at the 50% level after the lowliest teacher’s 5th year or for a teacher with a MA 2nd year of service and a cop’s second year, assuming their spouse (if any) wasn’t working.

Being in the 80% AMI range can be a pretty sweet spot. Just before I bought my house I was below the 80% AMI and was able to qualify for a bunch of housing programs. There was a property tax abatement I qualified for that lasted about 5 years until I made just a smidge too much and the low interest rate mortgage from DCHFA. Neighbors at the 80% AMI are the kind of people you want. If they are young it is only a few years before they are at or above the AMI.

Did you park on P Street & get a ticket?

Blue, Red, Cream housesI’m just going to pass along ANC Bradley Thomas’ email, just in case you’re not on his list.

From: Thomas, Bradley Ashton (SMD 5E05)
Sent: Friday, September 1, 2017 11:10:24 AM
To: Thomas, Bradley Ashton (SMD 5E05)
Subject: Ticketed for Parking on the South Side of P Street near to Friendship-Armstrong School?

Good Morning All:

It has come to my attention that many cars have recently been ticketed for parking on the south side of the 100 block of P Street, NW.  I’m told that as many as ten cars were ticketed on Thursday morning for violating the new “No Parking School Days” restriction in the block.

Last Tuesday, I had a conference call with the District Department of Transportation (DDOT), which is the agency that installed the new no-parking signs on Sunday, August 13th.  On the call were administrators from Friendship-Armstrong Public Charter School and a representative from the Mayor’s office.  It came out in that discussion that the No Parking signs should not have been put in place as no one, not the school, not the Mayor’s office, not me speaking on behalf of the community, asked for them and that there was in fact no legitimate reason for them to be erected.  DDOT then agreed to remove the signs based on letters from the school administrators and me.  That removal should take place within two weeks or less.

Since the signs were unnecessarily placed and, as I indicated on the conference call, place an unreasonable burden on residents, I believe we have good cause to have any tickets issued for this violation vacated.  If you received such a ticket, please scan the ticket and e-mail it to me.  I can’t promise anything but I will put all of the tickets together and petition the Board of Traffic Adjudication or Mayor Bowser to waive or vacate them.  

If you don’t have the capacity to scan, you can make a copy of the ticket and get that to me.  Let me know if you need to do it that way and we can connect.  Also, I only have e-mail addresses for about 10 percent of the residents in our SMD so if you have neighbors who received tickets for this alleged violation and who might not receive this e-mail message, please have them get their tickets to me too. 

Thanks, and remember, we are having a short (one hour) Single Member District meeting next Saturday, 9:30 am, at Dunbar, so please come if you can.

Bradley A. Thomas
Commissioner-ANC5E05

What you need is a time machine

4 Tardis PlateRegarding housing, I recently heard someone remark, or sigh, that one of those mansion-sized townhomes in Logan Circle was only $200,000 back in the 1980s or 90s, and today those type houses sell for around a million -2 million plus. Then there are the remarks others make about affordable housing, because now, unlike the 70s, 80s, and 90s hardly anyone is building affordable housing. My thoughts? If you want a cheap mansion or affordable apartment houses, you will need a time machine.

A one way time machine would be better.

The thing newer residents don’t seem to appreciate, is although we bought our houses in the neighborhoods you now can barely afford, they were affordable when some of us showed up. They were affordable because of the crackheads, the crack dealers, the prostitutes, the nightly gunfire, the break ins, the homeless guys peeing and pooping on your steps, and the odd dead body. Let’s not forget the schools that were so crappy DCPS made retired Army General Julius Becton, a man without a background in secondary education, school superintendent. He stepped down after 16 months. Not only was the housing affordable, the city was barely bearable.

Now if new residents would be fine with stepping into a time machine and restart their 20s and 30s in the Shaw or Columbia Heights of say 1995, maybe they will see that the price of our housing is more than dollars. Not only do I have some sweat equity, my youth, lack of peace, anxiety for my visitors & their property, and years of lost romantic opportunities* are also tied into the price of this house. Time and progress has healed those wounds.

Houses are affordable in parts of the District that are unfashionable. Gentrification is slowly making its way across the river. And here is the opportunity to jump in the time machine.

 

Side story= The Help, the man who is now my husband, was a very platonic friend when I bought my (now our) house. He had helped me move somethings into my new house and as he drove away he said to himself, “Is she that desperate for homeownership she’d live here?” He has told me this story several times and we do enjoy the irony?/humor of it. The Help could not have imagined living here, and enjoying it, anytime before, say 2008. Between breaking up with a boyfriend and dating my now spouse, I had been on 1 date in a ten year span. Daters would discriminate based on location.

Homelessness close to home and 3000 miles away

Homeless stuffSo this is personal.

We knew my sister-in-law was one kind of homeless. That kind of homeless where the person is couch surfing. Recently we discovered she’s a different kind of homeless (living in a truck) and close to the classic kind of homeless of being on the street.

At this point someone, maybe you, are saying well I and the Help (she’s his sister) should do something. And I respond, it is so friggin complicated and we are doing something, but that something won’t stop her trajectory to the streets.

We’ve concluded that my sister in law has some serious mental health problems (she self medicates), along with the anger management issues (yes, that can fall under mental health), add to that she’s on the other side of the country, we cannot provide or impose the kind of help she needs. Those anger, drug, and mental health problems have irreparably damaged the bridges other family members made available. The ‘something’ we’re doing is trying to salvage the damage left from the last time family helped. She managed to drain her mother’s retirement, leaving my diabetic mother in law destitute with no life savings or assets, so we’re trying to keep the old woman alive from 3000 miles away.

Instead of going on and on, I’ll say eldercare is expensive, unbelievably complicated and oh so emotionally draining. There is not enough left to do anything for the person who caused the eldercare abuse (and there was serious financial and emotional abuse*), except to pray for her.

From where we stand homelessness is complicated and there is no simple long term answers.

 

*We don’t know if there was physical abuse, mother in law is tight lipped about the whole thing. We do know sister in law has physically abused others.

When you find someone on the sidewalk call 911

Guy sleeping in front of Liquor StoreI call 911 a lot.

Not everyday a lot but more than other citizens it seems. I call when the guys selling heroin on the corner contain too many guys or the odd child (bring your children to work day!). I call when I witness an accident. I call when I see domestic abuse playing itself out in public spaces. And in recent days I call when I find someone in my residential neighborhood passed out, semi-passed out or exhibiting irrational behavior on the sidewalk.

Now, I tend not to do this for people in commercial areas or in front of stores, like the gentleman in the photo. I did once for an old guy who wanted to lay down in the street at 7th & P St NW. If he stayed in the street a cabbie or someone not paying attention might have run over his feet when making a quick right on to P. People passed out or experiencing problems in less traveled areas are more unusual and deserve attention. People passed out in the usual areas, I ignore.

So you find someone passed out or not particularly lucid on the sidewalk near your townhome, nowhere near a store, church or park, what do you do? Call 911. They are going to ask a lot of questions. Figure out what address you’re closest to. Decide if the situation needs police or EMS or both. I tend to go with just EMS unless the person seems violent. Figure out if the person is breathing. If you can, stay with the person until the EMS show up.

I can’t say if I’m seeing more passed out or about to pass out people because of the opioid epidemic. They aren’t crack heads, crack heads were a little different. They aren’t drunks, that, I can smell that difference. Something is going on, but I don’t know what.

Death, Taxes and the 60% Senior Citizen Property Tax Discount

I’ve complained about my dead aunt paying property tax before. I’ve even reported it to the DC Office of Tax and Revenue in 2016 and nothing, so I’m going to treat it like a very open secret, and assume DC government doesn’t give a rat’s rear end.

My great Aunt Geraldine died in February of 2012, she was over 100 years old. Prior to her death she was in a nursing home somewhere in Maryland. Her estate, which is a side of family I’m not familiar with, has been paying the property taxes. That’s fine except, they’ve been paying at the hugely reduced Senior Homestead Deduction.

Forgive me, math is not my strength, but without any deduction she’d be paying $2368.09 annually. Her estate and not my dead aunt, because being dead she’s not doing much these days, has been paying $685.82 annually. Roughly that’s a 60% discount.

The Senior Citizen Homestead Deduction is one hell of a discount. So when you encounter someone who 65 years old or older and or disabled who is a homeowner complaining about property taxes being too high, ask if they are receiving the deduction. Of course they could be receiving the deduction and still complain, as old people are wont to do. You could also look their house up on the DC Property Tax Database to check if they are receiving the deduction.

It is such a great deduction that estates, like my Aunt Geraldine’s estate, has no incentive to transfer the property into the names of younger hands. It is also a problem for vacant properties where the owner is dead.

Remembering the Flood of 2001

Pics of flooding from 2001Yes these aren’t the best, but I didn’t have time to scan them. They are photos my aunt took back in 2001 a few months after I had just bought my house. I had moved from an apartment and didn’t have a whole lot of stuff so there wasn’t much to be destroyed in the basement but a few things, and the crappy carpet that came with the house.

It was worse for my neighbors who had full basements. The sewer and runoff were one and so the rain overwhelmed the system and water (with other icky stuff) came through basement toilets and tubs. At the time I had no plumbing in the basement, but I did have a drain outside the cellar door that backflowed sending water into the basement. And I got a little water near the interior water shut off valve on the other side of the house.

Fast forward to this year in 2017, DC Water ( @DCwater) had made some infrastructure investments to deal with runoff and around the neighborhood our drains are not as clogged with trash and greenery as it was when we were more ghetto than gentrified. So a little less damage, but damage still. Our sump pump was only 1/2 full when a mighty river decided to breech our cellar door. The drain outside the cellar door wasn’t draining the water that came down. The Help (my lovely husband) had to jump into action to clear the drain during the thunderstorm.

Another difference, it looks like Truxton got Bloomingdale’s flooding. What do you think?

1717 Should Be Exempt from the Historic Landmark Application

From what I can see for 4th St NW it includes 1709-1721 4th St NW. Thing is 1717 4th Street was infill, built sometime after 2009.
17174thStNW2009-2016
As you can see from the screen capture of Google’s Streetview time machine, there was an empty lot in 2009, surrounded by a wood fence. Up in the left hand corner is an image from 2016. showing the building that currently sits there. Whatever Wardman that used to be there is long gone