The Spacepak System- After a long hiatus

View-of-ceiling-with-ventSo back in 2007 I got a Spacepak system for my house when I had it renovated down to the bricks and beams. And sometime around 2016? it died. Blah-blah something about leaking coolant, which was expensive (the kind we needed) and the whole thing, we were told, needed to be replaced. I did not understand what that meant. What I did understand was the $12K estimate. That’s too dang much. To be fair, $3,000 of that was for a permit and rental of a crane to put part of the unit on the roof.

So we decided that for that price, it would be cheaper to buy portable a/c units and that was okay. But bringing up units up and down every year is a PITA. That and we knew we’d be departing and wanted to get the house ready for sale or rent, so this winter we got a new Spacepak. This meant a new outside unit on the roof, which the workmen managed to get up there with ropes and ladders, and another interior unit that was squeezed into our crawlspace. The tubes and what not remained.

So lately the weather warmed up enough to justify turning it on. This week was warm enough to test it. Normally, it’s kept at 80F in the day (normally, we are not home) and around 77F in the evening. Not much of a stretch. So when it was sitting at 77F I decided to try to get it down to 72F. I should note that our house’s walls are well insulated. The back has the foam insulation and the front has the pink stuff. It took a while but the thermostat did make it to 72F.

A noticeable difference from the system of the past and now is that it is quieter and the air doesn’t flow as hard. The crawlspace unit is right above our bed, so I noticed that difference when it turns on. The air flow is not as hard because when I overheat, standing under a vent isn’t as satisfying as it once was. Meh.

The replacement cost $9K, when rounding up. This was just for air conditioning. We have a radiator heating system that I luuuuv, bathrobes that have been sitting on a hot radiator is a special luxury you have to experience.  Part of me likes having two separate systems so when one goes kaput the other is fine.

Black Homeowners of 3rd Street – 1940 No covenants

It has been a while since I looked at the Black Homeowners of Truxton Circle. I stopped because I got stuck on a mystery and I’m just going to have to let it go. I will never know who the mystery man was and that’s okay. I’m going back to the Black homeowners because of on-line conversations with Richard Layman and things I’ve been reading about redlining and restrictive covenants.

Old City, DC Police districts

In my own research, I have not seen any restrictive covenants. I believe it is a thing that would be found outside of the L’Enfant planned city and in Washington County, those areas north of Florida Avenue. Mt. Pleasant, Trinidad, and Bloomingdale are the creations of developers who could put in those restrictions. So if you lived in Old City, the likelihood that your fee simple house (apt buildings could be a different thing) had a racial restriction would be low.

When looking at the property records, I have tried to make heads or tails out of them, but they are beyond me for now. I’ll see person X seem to transfer to person Y , then years later Z shows up with X. With E.L. Haynes who owned my house and several other properties in Truxton Circle and DC, she was able to borrow money for her rental properties. The financial details are in her papers at Catholic U’s archive and not so much with the Recorder of Deeds. Anywho, Black people managed to borrow money from somewhere to purchase real estate. Banks practicing redlining weren’t the only game in town.

Below is a table with data from the 1940 census, I’ve had to cut a lot out so it could fit, but know they are all for 3rd Street, they are all owners and African American.

House # Surname First name Age Marital Status School Occupation Industry Income
1311 King Cornelius 59 M H-4 Casterman US Printing Office $1,859
1335 Brown Hillary I 40 M 7 Janitor Apt house $936
1337 Turner Anna 37 M H-1 Waitress Tea room $320
1413 Taylor Emma 46 M H-3  $-
1415 Mudd Harry 60 M 8 Machinists helper Railroad Terminal  $1,900
1429 Aiken James W 48 M H-4 Waiter Hotel  $520
1430 Neal Victoria V 69 W H-4  $-
1431 Anderson Ada 79 W 6  $-
1538 Fitch Lula 45 M H-2
1542 Green William M 40 M H-1 Laborer Gov’t Printing Office $1,320
1544 Williams Augustus A 56 M C-5 Dentist Private Practice $2,000
1546 Brooks Walter A 54 M C-3
1548 Chisley Sadee 62 W 6
1550 Blackwell James 45 M 0 Cement Finisher Cement Contractor $960
1554 Taylor Walter J 65 M 8
1617 Contee Grant 63 M 0 Preacher Ministry  $-
1626 Cobbs Ferrel 45 M H-1 Messenger Interior Dept  $1,260
1628 Coleman Edward 60 M 8 Messenger Veterans’ Bureau  $1,500
1629 Jenkyns Jerome S 61 M C-8 Machinist U.S. Government  $2,245
1630 Marsell William 50 M 8 Custodian Bureau – Standards  $1,140
1649 Heywood Spencer 50 M C-1 Barber Barber Shop  $900
1634 Ford Laura 54 S 4  $-

I highlighted 1649 3rd Street, because that was my hang up, but I’m letting go, letting go. Instead I need to figure out how to make a decent table. This doesn’t seem like a long list, but remember in urban areas, more people are renters.

The owners on 3rd Street NW are varied. There are government workers, widow women, skilled labor and an educated professional. The youngest is Anna Turner, a 37 year old waitress at 1337 3rd St NW. She lived with her son and a female lodger, a teacher, the eldest a 79 year old widow Ada Anderson.

Buy This House: 1616 4th St NW

So our longtime neighbors have moved and are selling their house. Since they bought the house they moved into (for more space w/ legit parking), they need to get their old one sold, pronto! So if you’re thinking about buying a house in the TC let me tell you about 1616 4th St NW by pointing out a few things. Also, there will be an artshow/ open house on Friday 12/6 at 5:30pm , where the current owner will be showcasing some of his art work.

Greenery in the city– The owners love growing things. They had plants inside and out. In the rear are several pine trees, that was so the owner could wake up and see green. In the front they grew tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, basil, and other edibles. They also have planted a Japanese maple, right now it isn’t looking too hot, but in the spring and fall it is lovely. Their small porch they had several small potted plants. There are exterior spigots in the front and back for easy watering.

Kids on the Block– There are kids on the block including my own. A lot of the daycare and pre-school set, mainly boys. When they are seen (they aren’t out hanging about) they are with their mommies and daddies in a stroller. We are in the boundary of Seaton Elementary School (Pre-K 3- 5th grade) which scores highly on Great Schools. There are several Seaton families on 4th St.  The Google group for parents is Bloomingdale Kids.

Awesome Commute?– Yes, depending on where you are going. On the other side of the block you can catch the G2 (LeDroit to Georgetown), and the 96 (Tenleytown).  A block or two away are the 90, G8 and G9 bus stops. A 10 minute walk for me is the Shaw-Howard metro station. It is between the Q and R street bike lanes and there are two Capital Bikeshare stations within a block (or two). I haven’t had to wait more than 6-8 minutes for an Uber. If you must drive, the entrance to I-395 is a few blocks down New Jersey Avenue. So plenty of options.

Walkable neighborhood– The Walkscore is 95. We walk almost everywhere. The Giant is about a 10-15 minute walk if you don’t want to catch the G2. ANXO, is so close you could walk home drunk, but please drink responsibly. Truxton Inn is close too but that requires crossing Florida Ave, so you still need your wits about you.

Great block– The 1600 block of 4th St is the best. Our unofficial block captain Brian keeps the sidewalks clean, along with help from other neighbors. If you move here introduce yourself to the blond giant from Chicago and get on the no drama block email list. It is a quiet street, except when a firetruck is roaring down New Jersey, but eventually you kind of ignore that.

1616 4th Street NW– Built circa 1872-1875 housing black laborers, it is modern and renovated. It has a few flourishes from the previous occupants, notably the interior windows in the front bedroom that allow for light to go down into stairwell. It is listed by Keller Williams Capital.

Who can buy this– Okay, let’s just address an elephant in the room. Yes, $750K is a lot of money. But a shell, a cursed shell mind you, several doors down sold for $625K in November. Most likely buyers would be a DINK, double income, no kids (yet) with professional jobs who sold their condo. Other possible buyers could be single adults who are getting assistance from family (grandma’s will, parent’s co-buying, divorce settlement, etc). A developer could buy it since we aren’t in a historic district and try something, but FAR and a near neighbor’s solar panels might limit that. Families on public assistance aren’t potential buyers. Even with a 20% down payment a 30 year mortgage with great credit is over $3,000 a month (including taxes & insurance). That is above what the voucher program allows in this neighborhood even if it were to be rented.

If you think you are going to be around DC for a while, I would encourage you to buy a condo (although I, myself, despise condos) because maybe you can upgrade later in life when you’ve become more established in your career. You can use the sale of that condo, plus savings, and you have to have savings, to buy something like 1616 4th St NW in the future.

Black Home Owners of 1940: Let’s clean up some data

Disclaimer: This has been sitting in drafts for a year. I forgot what was wrong with it. I’m gonna roll the dice and publish it.

 

So I have a goal to create a big ole spreadsheet of all the residents for all the censuses. Buuuuuut I need to clean up the data. The problem with the Census is sometimes I swear some of the enumerators were raging alcoholics who couldn’t find a job doing anything else. The census data is not pure, nor perfect. Sometimes a person’s only appearance is in the census, but sometimes they’ll appear elsewhere. They’ll be men who had to sign up for the draft, or business people or others who appear in city directories, and for owners after 1921 they’ll be in the Recorder of Deeds website.

So I’m going to look at homeowners who’s square or address has a question mark. These people are Clarence Washington of 126 FL Ave NW, Raymond Montgomery of 121 , Rudolph Blake of 137, Joseph Gibson of 136 Bates St NW, Florence Glover of 109 Q St NW, Jerome S. Jenkyns of 1641, John Lattimer of 1464, Roscoe Patrick, and Laura Ford of 1684 3rd St NW.

I located Clarence Washington on Square 551 lot 172. Now the problem is, that lot no longer exists. The Florida Avenue park sits there. It looks like he’s at 126 FL Ave NW, where previously he might have been at 124. It was unclear. Looking at the records, he obtained his property on September 14, 1935 with a 6% loan from National Savings and Trust Company. He appears to have been single at the time of purchase. He and his wife Clara (listed in the 1940 census) sold the house in April 1948.

Raymond Montgomery had purchased a fair amount of property, well at least someone with that name did so. Just looking at square 552 he owned lot 152, and in the current year that lot’s address is 123 P St NW. So not 121 Bates St NW as I had him in my data. Then a widower in February 1938 he bought the property. According to a October 1965 deed selling the house to a Lucille Baskin, Raymond died February 4, 1959 leaving his wife Estella a widow.

Rudolph S. Blake is another popular name for a property holder. Once again just focusing on Truxton Circle I can pin him down to Sq. 552 lot 159 (137 P St NW) starting in 1925 with his wife Ida B. She sells the property in 1948 after Rudolph as died.

Joseph and wife Novella Gibson are a problem. They are associated with property on squares 551 and 552. The documents for 551 appear to be an outlier as it is concerning a party wall between 213 and 215 Q St NW (Sq 551 lots 7 & 8). I believe they probably lived on square 552 on lot 206, currently 136 Bates St NW. February 1926 Joseph and wife “Navalla” obtain 136 Bates with a $2,250 loan at 6% APR with monthly payments of $30. The Gibsons sell in 1965 to Barney and Henrietta Weitz.

It appears widow Florence O. Glover buys 109 Q St NW, which no longer exists, in 1925. By the sale of the property to the DL & W company in 1957, it seems she is dead. A Florence Glover is deceased as mentioned in the deed, but her daughter was also named Florence Glover, so there is confusion there. And there are more than half a dozen Glovers mentioned on the document. Please don’t leave property to more than 2 unmarried (sans spouses) relatives, it’s really confusing.

Jerome and Ellena Jenkyns bought their home 1629 3rd St NW in 1922, if the records are correct. Once again this is another property that no longer exists. The property was sold in 1972 to the Redevelopment Land Agency (RLA) by the heirs. The document listed Jerome dying around about May 24, 1965 and Ellena dying around May 8, 1948.

 

 

Truxton Circle Property Owners, 1933

Okay the pages for Squares 507 to 510 East are crap. But the pages for Squares 519-521, 550-555, 614-618 and 668-670 (the NE Truxton) are readable.

What is it?

The National Archives has images of some of their stuff in their catalog. So I pulled out parts that pertained to Truxton Circle, here (for a better image of sq. 507-510E), and here. This is just more evidence for the history of Truxton Circle. If I (or someone else, hint, hint) decide to cross reference this list of property owners with a city directory or the 1930 Census, we could see who were landlords and who were homeowners. All sorts of questions could crop up from the data.

Anyway, here’s the pdf.

Truxton Circle 1933 Property Owners by Mm Inshaw on Scribd


 

Same old house, new and improved and expensive

A minor irritation I have with some essays on gentrification and housing is a complete failure to acknowledge investment and disinvestment in physical structures.

This is an August 2004 PropertyQuest picture of 1504 3rd Street NW. I have an earlier one from 2003.150X3rdSt.jpg

Anyway, it sold in August for $765,000. According to the data on Redfin, it sold in 1991 for $76,750. Between 2001-2006 this shell of a house kept getting listed and delisted. I’m not going to do any in-depth research to determine if it changed hands in that period, but in December 2006 it sold for $250,000. Then in 2007 it sold for about $450K, by this time it had definitely been renovated. This year it came back on the market and sold in the mid $700K range.

When someone takes this house and other houses in the neighborhood and just sees prices, what are they thinking? Do they think the rise in price is just arbitrary and an effort to keep lower-income households priced out?

What I witnessed was investment coming into the neighborhood. That house in 2003-2004 was a shell, unfit for human habitation. That was a result of disinvestment when it wasn’t worth it for the owner to maintain the structure.  Shaw had experienced a lot of disinvestment. After the riots in 1968, many businesses didn’t return. Some residents and landlords just abandoned the neighborhood because it wasn’t worth the money to them to fix the damage.

To take a shell from being unfit to being desirable takes capital, investment. Someone paid to buy cabinetry, flooring, windows, paint, drywall, electrical wires, PVC pipes, HVAC system, framing, appliances, and a roof. Plus the labor to install these things. Having renovated my house and another property, I can say this is not cheap. At the very least $100K went into making the house livable.

Well the house was already renovated by 2007, can I justify the $300K-$400K price hike between 2007 and 2019? I can’t tell if the rear deck was already there, but it was the neighborhood that changed in the period that made it more valuable. What happened between 2007 and now? Big Bear, a few blocks away opened up. Then the Bloomingdale Farmers Market about a year later. Nightly gunshots became less of a thing. There are a handful of sit down restaurants within walking distance, 3 that have had or have Michelin mentions. Two with 1 Michelin star within, biking…longer walking distance. Also, other houses in the neighborhood have been renovated and owners have a financial incentive to maintain their properties. But does that justify the price increase? How much is a safer (2019 TC is way safer than 2004 TC) neighborhood worth? How much is it worth to have places to take friends/dates that are a nice stroll back to your place? Schools have improved, and as a parent, it is worth a few thousand to have a plethora of Pre-K choices in walking distance.  As a homeowner, there is a disappointing difference between what you can refinance and what is a possible sales price. The improvements in the neighborhood have allowed us to refinance the house to fix it up, but the value to bank says the house is worth was much, much lower than what was selling around us. But all that is meaningless if all you care about is keeping the price of housing down.

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.