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.

Baltimore City level of Historic Districts- When you have too many

DC has too many historic districts (HD) and just recently got one more as Bloomingdale fell to this sad fate of HD collecting. So about 1 in 5 DC properties is some historic something or another. DC is on its way to becoming like our sister city Baltimore where some historic districts are respected and others, kinda ignored, making the designation meaningless. Maybe it needs to be made meaningless.

mAP OF bALTIMORE cITY hISTORIC dISTRICTSSo I own a small rental in Baltimore which happens to be in a historic district and the neighborhood is listed with the National Register of Historic Places. Historic districts in Baltimore are a different animal than the HDs in DC from what I observed. When I had a local charm city architect over, I mentioned the vinyl window I had in my house and the other vinyl windows I saw in the neighborhood. He said, “Yeah, they’re not supposed to do that but….” and he shrugged and we moved on to other topics.

Baltimore has over 60 historic districts, DC has over 30. The Baltimore Sun supposed that 1 in 3 buildings was listed on the National Register. I have no idea how many of those include abandoned shells. Baltimore also has a local tax incentive to get homeowners on board, but the logic in how it applies confuse me. There are newish condos just outside the district’s boundaries that advertised the 10 year tax credit. Of course there is a lot in Baltimore where the logic of how they apply a lot of things confuse me.

I wonder if the trend to add more and more historic districts will create an environment where the original intents will be undermined because it brings in too many unwilling participants, thin supporters and stretch the resources of the enforcers. Maybe. We’ll see.

The problem with affordable housing on weaker neighborhoods

If you haven’t read Congress Heights on the Rise’s (CHotR) blog, please do. The author, Ms. Peele is telling some serious truths about the problem of affordable housing in her neighborhood. It is not the same problem of affordable housing experienced in NW, the problem is there is a little too much affordable housing and not enough market housing.

One of the post’s “Why investing ONLY in income-capped housing in Ward 8 is setting us up for failure,” can be summed up as affordable housing needs to be spread around more equally across all 8 wards and not concentrated East of the River (EotR). She points out that the majority of the available apartments for rent in her area are income capped, which means a single person making $51,000 cannot rent an apartment there, and forget about a married couple. Without those sort of renters, that middle class contingent, the urban amenities that make DC fun are in short supply in her neighborhood, and she has to drive elsewhere for fitness and food.

Continuing in another post “MORE OF THE SAME: 7 more income-capped housing projects planned for Ward 8,” she is obviously frustrated with the DC government’s (DHCD) housing policy of more income capped housing. This sort of policy keeps out the kind of residents who could support the businesses (and jobs) she wants and provide the kind of role models kids in the neighborhood need. The income limits keeps out nurses, police officers, teachers, and most other professionals. Many of the income limit apartment buildings are at 50% MFI/AMI (Median Family Income/ Area Median Income) so a single person cannot make more than $41,050. The starting salary for a DCPS teacher is supposed to be $55, 209, and the starting salary for a MPD police officer is $55,362. It would have to be at 80% MFI/AMI for a single income teacher or police officer. Logically, if you had a married couple (the cop married to a teacher) they would blow past the $46,900 50% MFI/ $76,000 80% MFI limits for a household of two, and three.

Aren’t we just repeating the mistakes of the past with new packaging? Concentrating poverty is destructive, cruel and wrong. We, as a city, have done it before with public housing and created environments of unemployment, crime, death and dysfunction.