One of the few houses I looked at in 2000/2001 was this wonderful old (okay a lot around here is old so it goes without saying) rowhouse in LeDroit Park. It was going for $125K, about $5K out of my price range, but my Realtor showed it to me anyway. It looked like a foreclosure as the previous owners had not finished messing up the place putting in these HUGE! H-U-G-E air vents for AC. Besides the screwy air vents there was a fireplace, original wood floors, pocket doors, little historic details here and there, a two car garage a basement with a piano in it, and lotsa room inside. I couldn’t stop raving about how great the place was and my agent then went to call in to see if it was still available, then I stopped her. I couldn’t buy this house for the following reasons:
1. Where was that extra $5K suppose to come from? I didn’t have five thou around.
2. There was no yard. I want to garden.
3. It was a historic looking house in an historic district…. not cheap to keep up.
No matter how cheap you make them to buy, houses in historic districts are a bitch to keep up.. There are rules to keep historic (see blue areas) areas historic looking. So exterior changes and repairs have to fit a certain criteria. Problem it isn’t cheap and you may not find it at Home Depot. So the historic nature or obligations that come with a place can make it unaffordable.
The historian in me loves historic districts. I love seeing areas in Logan Circle and Capitol Hill being all old and grand. It is wonderful to see an old house, once abandoned, brought back to its previous glory, where columns and details have been replaced with period replicas or other like objects.
Yet these houses, these districts are not for the poor or struggling. There are a few affordable housing units like the Asbury Dwellings for seniors, that maintain their affordablity and their exterior historic details. But typically the affordable tends to be an ugly, bland, and 1960ish. You want affordable and historic, move to Baltimore (as many an ad says in the Metro).
Another issue related to the affordable housing vs history post here, is housing stock. If you plow down a bunch of old low density houses you can build up a high density condo building, which may or may not have, or be forced to have, a few affordable units set aside. I’m not too keen on older housing, housing that is still viable, getting torn down, Yet, I do realize there are only so many condos that can be made out of the older housing stock, and with smaller numbers the profit needs to be higher, so no affordable units.