Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics: Various reasons for ‘gentrification’ that you don’t want to hear

This is old, but the data I needed was buried in a file. The Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity- University of Minnesota Law School put out a study that was reported on by the Washington Post and DCist. The 7-page study is general and I have no beef with it, but its is the interactive map that has me questioning it.

Truxton by the numbers
I might not know the US in general but I sure as heck know Truxton Circle. Let’s look at the study’s numbers for the change from 2000 to 2016 by race:
Asian: 110
Black: -1232
Hispanic: 34
White: 926

Let’s look at my numbers for 1970 to 2010

Year Total Black White Latino/Asian/ Etc
1970 5830 5768 21 41
1980 3349 3249 61 39
1990 3623 3347 189 87
2000 2997 2713 103 181
2010 3028 1964 816 248

The trend since 1970 was downward for everyone, mainly African-Americans since they/we were slowly departing the neighborhood. So the -2,519 of the Black population in Truxton Circle from 1970 to 1980, can we also call that displacement? It’s much bigger than the loss of 1,232 from 2000 to 2016. Now I’ll acknowledge a bump in populace from 1980 to 1990 of almost 300 people, but apparently by 1990 they several hundred said ‘screw this’ (or got shot) and left in droves by 2000. The 00s had numbers so low, I think those numbers hadn’t been seen since the 19th Century when vast swaths of land were undeveloped.

The loss of Afro-American residents from 2000 to 2010 was 749. The study map has it from 2000 to 2016 down by 1232, so an extra 483 left between 2010 and 2016. There is a trend, prior to gentrification of fewer and fewer Black residents.

Whaddya want White Flight. Again?
Let’s expand that table, shall we? Apologies for not having the Black population for 1940.

Year Total Black White Everyone Else
1940 8244 ….. 1718 ….
1950 7720 6186 1511 23
1960 6789 6716 58 15
1970 5830 5768 21 41
1980 3349 3249 61 39
1990 3623 3347 189 87
2000 2997 2713 103 181
2010 3028 1964 816 248

In 2016 the white population should have crested above one thousand, but still not at 1940s or 1950s levels. So let’s say trends continue and the white population continues to grow, maybe getting back to 1950s levels. You know what happened to DC whites after 1950? They began to leave the city in droves, as did TC whites. So when in complaining about the growing the white population, is it a request for white flight?

Various reasons for demographic changes
Demographic changes, aka gentrification. The narrative is that it is displacement. So I return to my question about the loss of 2519 blacks in 1980, was that displacement? Maybe. Was it gentrification? Probably not. Was it crack? That would explain a loss between 1980 and 1990, but there wasn’t a decline. Thinking of my own block I can think of various reasons for the demographic change between 2000 and 2016.

Fewer Section 8s- Or Housing Choice Vouchers or whatever you want to call it, but aka Section 8. There were a few suspected Section 8 houses around, two on my block owned by one fellow who seemed to have gotten into financial trouble and had to sell them. The new owners did not keep them as Section 8, but lived in them a short while and rented them out at market rate. Fewer landlords are chasing Section 8 renters, when the area attracts market-rate renters. And there are accidental landlords (former resident homeowners) who are not savvy or interested in the voucher program.

Not a one to one exchange- My next door neighbors, 2 white men, bought their house from a black family of 5 (mom, dad, two kids, and grandpa). Units that had larger families got replaced by singles and childless couples.

Not enough middle-class Black people moving in- Think of the population from year to year as a river of water that is fed by tiny little streams. As low-income African Americans moved out they’d be replaced by other low-income AfAms. However, this flow is blocked by the loss of low-income rentals in favor of mixed-income and luxury rentals and for sale housing. The city government is more likely to increase low-income housing in areas where property is cheap, so not here. But if the goal is racial diversity, then middle-class Black families would need to stream in. However, there aren’t enough middle-class Black households interested in moving into the urban core. Also, programming targeted at AfAms are more interested in having low-income Blacks as clients, as opposed to creating strong, independent middle-class Blacks.

Affordable Chapman Stables?

Screen Capture of http://opendata.dc.gov/ data set of Affordable Housing

I started searching because the Open Data DC.gov site has a map so you can find affordable housing projects in the District. So I went to the side and drilled down to Truxton Circle.

So I saw Chapman Stables was in there and there are supposed to be 11 affordable unit of the 100 plus units. Six units are at 31%-50% AMI and 5 units at 61%-80% AMI.

But then I wondered. Wait. Condos have condo fees. These fees can start off reasonable and then if something happens creep or jump up. Then I wondered what do these affordable units look like? Are they segregated from the other units, like some apartment buildings?

So I went a looking at the DC property sales database to look at what sold below the $300K advertized basement price. This is public information, but I’m not going to use names or unit numbers. I found 5 units, they are not all on the same level, and they are not all studios. The first was sold on October 9th for $237,400 is a corner two bedroom unit. I noticed several of these affordable units share a wall with some common space things, like stairwells. Three units were sold for $114,600 in 2018. Two of those are one bedrooms and one is a studio.  The one bedrooms share a wall with a common space thing and the studio is well, a studio. And lastly a one bedroom unit sold for $214,300.00 on October 16, 2018, and it only shares walls with other units.

The monthly condo fee for a one bedroom is $362. The fee for a typical studio is less than $300, and for a two bedroom in the $600 range. Remember kids, the condo fee is in addition to the mortgage and real estate taxes. I don’t know if the buyers of the affordable units get to pay a reduced fee or must pay the same rate as the market rate buyers, because everyone must contribute to the maintenance, trash, and all that other good stuff.

Also, let’s look at the categories of 31% to 50% AMI and 61% to 80% AMI. This is more about the buyer of the unit than the unit. Six units are for 31-50% AMI. According to the Department of Housing and Community Development’s chart that’s an income ceiling of $41,000 for a single person and $46,900 for a household of two. On the off chance the two bedroom was available for this category, a household of four’s limit is $58,600. There is nothing for the 51-60% AMI group.  Five units were set aside for the 61-80% AMI group and the ceilings are $65,650, $75,000, $84,400 and $93,750 for households of one, two, three and four persons.

There is another condo in Truxton that is not yet completed, which has just 2 affordable units for 61-80% AMI, and that is Compass’ Five Points Flats. I have no clue as to what the condo fees for this thing will be.

It is easy for me to imagine single teachers, non-profit workers, civil servants, or savvy retirees, being able to fit into these income categories AND keep up with the HOA/condo fees.  What I cannot see is how people who are in those AMI groups find out the availability and price of these units. As I see with Chapman Stables, they did manage to find those units.

319 R Street the plan

319 R St NW, 20001Okey dokey. The fugly, and I’m gonna call it fugly, ’cause it was a plan of ugly of freaking magnitude, plan of replacing the top level of 319 R St NW with a meh 3rd floor and an out of proportion dunce hat is no more. The Historic Landmark application, killed that.

So the developers played chicken, lost and looks like they’re gonna try to recoup their money by selling it, unimproved, for $1.05 million. Unimproved. I don’t think the plans are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. But that’s just my opinion.

So what’s the plan? Go down.

New plan for 319 R St NWThere will be three floors but you’ll have to go down, into the basement. Have they dug the basement? I don’t think so, so there is no guarantee of anything. If they haven’t, you could hit water. Anywho. The top floor is a rooftop deck of sorts, because you can’t change the top anymore. Because of historic stuff. If they just left the damned turret alone, like 210 P Street NW, they would have had more freedom to put on a 3rd floor.

210 P St NW Open House
Turret on 210 P St NW.

But, noooooo. They had to plan to destroy the original turret or threaten to tear down the building. Now they expect someone to pay over a million dollars for the mess they made.

Some DC Homeowner Tax Hacks

319 R St NW, 20001Yes, I know it is a click-baity title but bear with me, I got some good stuff.

1- Get your property taxes deferred. Single? Do you make less than $50K a year? Then you may be able to get a deferment. Unfortunately this doesn’t look like the same deferment I had. Those were 5 wonderful years of not paying any property tax, then one year, I made about $500 too much, and that was the end of that. It looks like you fill out the second (1st half is for old people) part of form FP-110.

2- Are you 65 years or older OR do you receive SSDI? Pay less on your property taxes than those suckers with just a Homestead Deduction. Go to the forms page, fill out FP-100.

3- Did you for some odd reason not take the $5000 if you bought during or before 2011, the 1st time homeowner tax credit? Really? That was just free money. Since there can’t be too many people that qualify for this, I’m going to move on.

4- Do you make $20K or less? You don’t have to be a homeowner for this, renters can qualify. On your DC state income tax, fill out Schedule H, you’ll get a credit.

 

Should Your Property Taxes Go Up 50%+ a Year? Because, Racism

1500 First Street.JPGOnce upon a time in DC parts of the city experienced gentrification. Homeowners who had lived in the city through the crack years, the control board, or got in before the house prices went to crazy town began to experience unpleasant surprises year after year. Say their home that they may have bought for $75K was being assessed at $100K one year, then about $300K the next when the owners did not do any improvements to their home. I remember neighbors who bought their home for something around $200K , later got an assessment of $500K. Of course, people freaked the hell out, because their property taxes kept jumping up and up, near 50%. Some going from several hundred one year to several thousand dollars a few years later. If you’re a lower or low middle income homeowner, this is a very good reason to freak the hell out.

A tool to stop the freaking out and accusations that the city was trying to push out long time homeowners with high property taxes was the 10% cap. A DC homeowner’s taxes cannot go higher than 10% each year, regardless of how much the city thinks their house is worth.

So the DC Policy Center is saying the 10% cap is wrong and possibly racist. It seems to defy logic. They attacked the homestead deduction and failed to show how these things directly related to racism.

There also is some misleading language. In DC there is a homestead deduction, in some other places such a thing is called a homestead exemption, usually it’s a discount off the full tax bill for resident homeowners. Exemption does not mean no taxes are paid, the report seems to hint that it is in not being clear. Another word, “elude” or “eludes”, which according the the dictionary means, “evade or escape from (a danger, enemy, or pursuer), typically in a skillful or cunning way; (of an idea or fact) fail to be grasped or remembered by (someone); (of an achievement, or something desired or pursued) fail to be attained by (someone).”. The claim, “Home ownership and the wealth associated with it eludes communities of color, ” irritated me. I totally acknowledge home ownership is challenging, but DC is frickin’ filled with opportunities for those who are first time home owners that other places don’t have, so much that it is worth another post to go through them.

Can Cops and Teachers live in subsidized housing?

The Advoc8te who runs Congress Heights on the Rise pointed out a problem with income limited or affordable housing in DC. That has continue to bug me, because for years at community meetings when ‘workforce’ housing is trotted out residents are told it would allow government workers such as police and teachers to live in the communities they serve. Then when I see the income limits and then look at the starting salaries for DC police and teachers, I think, I’ve been lied to.
Sign- Join DC MPD I decided to just glance at what DC pays its teachers and police. Almost all government employees’ salaries are public, mine, my spouse’s, my cousin who makes a quarter of a million, it’s no secret, so I can actually see what DC pays. Grade school teachers, not teachers aides, not substitute teachers, nor administrative staff, if they’ve been teaching 3-4 years at least, are in the $60-70K range. There is a school librarian making six figures, as a fellow librarian, I say good for them. I didn’t pay much attention to MPD salaries, but officers are making over $60K. That makes sense if this poster is true and the pay starts at $55,362. If a teacher and cop fall in love, a la rom-com adventure, they’re making six figures as one household if they marry.

Okay, let’s get back to housing and income limits. There are a couple of key things you have to keep in mind, household size and AMI, area median income or MFI, median family income.

2018 income limits for DC Say Anna works for a non-profit and makes $40K, and there is a new affordable housing development with studios and 1 bedrooms that’s at 50% and 60% AMI/MFI. She might be able to get a studio at 60% MFI, but not at 50%. She makes too much at 50%. But if Anna was a single mom, a household of 2, aiming for a 1 bedroom (I don’t remember the rules about this), she would qualify at 50%. Looking at this table, and going on my memory,  the DC government employees who could qualify are school custodians, teacher’s aides, and some DC Public Library staff. The city doesn’t pay our librarians enough.

Condo, Condo, Cahn-do

Tell me what they will build there?
Tell me
Condo, Condo, Con-do!
Things cropping up everywhere,
Open house just tell me when.
-to the tune of Quando, Quando, Quando

Gray Condo on NJ Ave NW
So I have a bias against condos. Just for myself, not other people. If you have stayed in the same 1 mile or 1/2 mile area for 10 years, and are renting, you might want to consider buying a condo…. unless you can afford an actual house, where you own the bricks or board and the dirt beneath.

Unfortunately, condos are the most “affordable” things that are livable around here. Probably not these condos, considering Compass is involved. The Chapman Stables have some studio and 1 bedroom units in the $300K range. Yes, not including the condo fee, you’re paying a little over $2K, provided you put down a decent down payment for 1 room. No parking space. I think Chapman has 1 studio left for $333K. Should the owner of this fine unit ever decide to rent out their unit, because they fell in love, added another human to their life and needed more space, they would probably need to charge nearly $3K a month to break even (condo fee, property management, business license, etc).

I’m not too distressed by the idea that large houses are being broken up into smaller condos. Many of the Truxton houses, the Wardman Flats, and the Bates Street houses were created as 2 unit flats. The value went down and some of them were turned into 1 unit homes. Now developers are turning them back into 2 unit properties. What goes up can go down. This neighborhood pretty much ignored the 2008 housing crash, but I can imagine something that would make those new 1 million dollar condos and houses near worthless. Not anytime soon, and hopefully, not in my lifetime, but a lot can happen in 100 or 50 years.

The Problem is People- Renters and Airbnb

RooftopsI like Airbnb. We’ve used the service to temporarily relocate when our house was being renovated. My spouse used it to be as close to his mother’s elderly boarding house when visiting her in California. We’ve stayed in people’s second bedrooms in NYC. We’ve also hosted Airbnb guests in the room that now belongs to Destruct-O-baby and I’m allowing a tenant for a one bedroom house in Baltimore to be an Airbnb host. So, I’ve had good experiences because it has allowed us to see how other people live. And when the situation requires it, we stay in a hotel.

I’m still feeling frustrated after last night’s BACA meeting where the staff member from Councilman McDuffie’s office touched upon it. The complaints of noise and trash regarding bad Airbnb guests reminded me of the complaints residents made about Section 8 (or suspected Section 8) renters. The problem isn’t length of stay, it’s the people.

When I first moved into the TC neighborhood, Section 8 was shorthand for bad neighbors. Section 8, which goes by different names depending on location, is subsidized housing. In THEORY, renters would be on their best behavior because they could lose their subsidy if they had drug dealing in the home, or were a nuisance. Yeah, that didn’t work. For one you couldn’t find out if a house was a Section 8 house because of privacy. With noise, everyone who has ever called the cops on their neighbors about a blasting stereo or thumping noise, knows how that plays out. Now there were other houses I suspected of being Section 8 where the occupants were quiet and clean. So the problem wasn’t the Section 8 program so much as it was the people in the Section 8 houses and the poor enforcement.

Later the economics of things made it so there were more owners, so the subsidized renters became limited to the co-ops and other apartment buildings. Then those owners moved and rented out their homes to young adults who were oblivious to certain ways of doing things, like trash day, and how to get bulk pick up. These mishaps are not just for renters, sometimes owners and other people who are hard to categorize will leave trash, make noise, and be irresponsible.

There are other problems with the proposed Airbnb legislation before the city council. The concerns about noise and trash remind me of the complaints about Section 8 renters about 15+ years ago. The good thing about Airbnb renters, at least they go away and you’re not stuck with bad neighbors for years on end.

Black Home Owners of 1940: Annie Newsome

In my last post I started with Annie Newsome and could not find much on her so I moved on to Dr. Arthur McKinney.  There was another resource I could have tapped, but didn’t think it would have anything for me, the Recorder of Deeds. Because the Northwest Cooperative sits on the square where Ms. Newsome’s house sat, I was unsure the city would have those records. Well lo and behold, once I figured out the lot number, it was easy to find the Newsome house records.

In the 1940 census Ms. Newsome claimed to be a widowed woman of 53. Prior to that, in the 1930 census she claimed to be a married woman, who had been married for 24 years. Well according to the image below, she may have lied about that.

First page of deed transferring property to Annie Newsome, a Black woman

She bought the house as an unmarried woman in April 1925, from widow Francesca Garaci. So 5 years later for the 1930 census she’s been “married” for 25 years. I believed that she lied to the census taker, as she had two married families living in her home as lodgers, and probably did not want to lose respect in their eyes.

She also probably lied about her age. In the 1940 census she was 53 years old. In 1930, she reported being 47 years old. I’m not particularly good at math, but if she was correct in 1930, she should have been 57 years old, not 53. If she was telling the truth in 1940, then she should have been 43 in 1930.

Big deal you might say. Well, when trying to find someone in the records, the misinformation of birthyear and marital status can send a person barking up the wrong tree. Women, and I write this as a woman, can be difficult, especially when we move around, change our name because of marriage or divorce or remarriage, and lie about our ages. I’ve changed my name, moved around and got married. I’m vague about my age now. Enough about me, back to Ms. Newsome.

Annie Newsome, owned the house at 1616 First Street NW from 1925 to about 1943 when she sold it to the Embassy Dairy. Embassy Dairy was her “neighbor” of sorts on 1st St NW and it appeared they were expanding. From 1943 to 1950 Embassy Dairy Inc bought out her neighbors. That same year, Ms. Newsome’s next door neighbor Ophelia Hurd at 1618 1st St NW, sold her home to the dairy. She was listed as a widowed woman in both the 1930 and 1940 census. She probably bought her home prior to 1921, which is how far back the Recorder of Deeds resource goes.

Redlining, African American Home ownership and the TC

Distribution of Negro Population by Census, 1930If anyone can find or recreate the Washington DC redline map, that would be helpful, because no one seems to have it. There is a project to map restrictive racial covenants, but those seem to be a small amount of DC housing, rather than the majority. The image here is the distribution of African Americans or Negroes, in DC in 1930, so probably close enough to a redline map.

Considering the map, Truxton Circle or as it was known then, Census tract 46, was more than half AfAm. If it wasn’t a redlined area, it may have been yellow, “Definitely Declining.” The area that became Shaw, ranged from 35% to over 75% black, which may have been too many black people for the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC) map makers.

Using data from my TruxtonCircle.org project, I just took a look at the 1930 and 1940 census data*. In 1930, of the heads of households, there were 1109 renters in the TC and 310 home owners. Of those who owned 237 were black. In 1940, there were 1442 renters, 269 home owners, and of those owners, 218 were black. So most people in the TC were renters and African American home owners were a majority of a minority of people.

So who were these Negro home owners? A lot were a variety of government workers (federal and DC schools), service workers (chauffeurs, Pullman workers, waiters) and professionals (doctors, ministers, lawyers) . I’d say the black middle class and prudent working class folks. The same people who’d engage in black flight in the 1970s and 1980s.

 

*I’m still cleaning up the data.