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.

Suing the city about daycare regs

The only reason why I’m curious about this is because I am a consumer of DC daycare, which is already expensive. I’m spending about $1500 a month, which I know is way cheaper than what some of my neighbors are spending on nanny shares and other daycare facilities. I’ve been told the wonderful women who care for the Babyman and his friends aren’t paid enough. The city decided that the lovely ladies need a college degree. I’m not sure who’s going to absorb that cost. As I mentioned, daycare is already f’ing expensive.

So there is a mom and two day care providers are suing the city, OSSE exactly, regarding the new regulations for childcare workers. Pictured is Ms. Sanchez who has a daycare in her home and claims the new regulation would put her out of business. My heart goes out to the parents who use her services, ’cause daycare waitlists ’round here are horrid. As soon as you are pregnant, find a daycare, get on their waitlist.

So I’m curious about this case. I’m also curious about increases in childcare costs to pay for the degree. I really hope we don’t lose the women Babyman seems most attached to at his daycare, but it is likely that will happen.

Can DC be sued for gentrification?

So the District of Columbia is getting sued for gentrification.

Because of Kelo v City of New London, this probably won’t go very far.

For those who don’t remember or know, Kelo v New London was an eminent domain case where the City of New London, CT took the private property, the homes, of residents of an area of town

This is an image from Little Pink House, a movie.

so a developer could build a headquarters for the Pfizer Corporation. Ms. Susette Kelo and others sued the city, sued to protect the homes they owned, from the city taking them away and displacing them. Long story short, Ms. Kelo lost and her home was torn down. There is a movie about it out now and it will be at the E Street Theater June 1-7, and tickets go on sale on May 30.

So just as a man can legally divorce his wife and remarry a younger model, a city can take away your home and give/sell the land to a richer, more economically attractive entity. If that is so, then the District of Columbia can take properties it owns or has an interest in, or doesn’t own at all through eminent domain and give/sell them to more economically attractive entities. Unless there is something on DC’s books actually saying it can’t, but the city can undo its own rules. So I don’t think this lawsuit has a chance.

I’ve noticed there is this mindset that the city has an obligation to care for its poor over that of other interests. In my book club, our next book How to Kill a City, has this same mindset. The author seems annoyed that Detroit or any other city would choose economic development over its poorest citizens.

City governments, like DC, have their own interests. Cities, do not like being broke.  They don’t like even looking broke. They like being gleaming shining examples of whatever is in fashion with local governments these days. However classics like low crime, lots of ‘good’ jobs, and great schools never go out of style and governments will aim for those goals over others.

A better argument would have been for the suburbs to step up

So the Post has another feel bad about gentrification opinion piece that appeared in Sunday’s print version but has been on-line for several days. Reading “Poverty is Moving to the Suburbs but the On Poverty Didn’t“, I almost think the author is trying to argue that poor suburbanites should use DC resources.

No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No.

My ire burns and seethes every time I see a car with Maryland tags drop off a kid in front of a DC charter school. If Maryland parents like DC charters so damned much they should fight for tons of them in Maryland. It’s not just schools, it’s other services that DC taxpayers support and Maryland citizens, who have the privilege of a vote in both houses of Congress, something DC voters lack. It does not help that many DC government workers live in the suburbs, it may have them forgetting about boundaries. In some cases, boundaries don’t or can’t matter, like foster care* and libraries**. I’m not against co-operation between the Districts and the burbs, but like WMATA, the costs need to be shared.

Or/and suburban areas need to step up. Where they can’t do it themselves, they need to partner with the District or other suburban where it makes sense. But Maryland or Virginia residents using DC agencies as if they were DC residents is wrong. The suburbs have something to offer DC, there are welding classes out there, but not here. We can all help each other out, but each government needs to be accountable to and responsible for their own citizens.

 

*There are many DC kids with Maryland foster families.

**Some systems allow for people who work in the area to apply for cards and privileges.

Langston: A failure of DC government

I’m cross posting this with DC Vacant Properties.
100_0400.JPG
There is no point to using an updated photograph of the Langston School. It was rotting away 10 years ago when the picture was taken in 2007, it is still rotting away now and the way things are going, it may be another 10 years before the city actually brings this property back to the land of the living and legit.

This property is a vacant school in the DC government inventory. It was a school from 1902 til the mid-1990s. In 1997 it was a homeless shelter. By the time I moved here in the 00s, it was a vacant husk and only a homeless shelter when the homeless and others broke in. In 2013 it got on the National Register for Historic Places, so there is that. Around 2012 Langston was offered to charters, who have 1st dibs, and nobody wanted it. No charter wants it because it is an unmaintained structure with a rotted roof that is in need of a serious rehab work. Even Mundo Verde Charter School, across the street, which took over the still functioning Cook School building and built an addition, hasn’t seriously pursued it. Langston is too far gone as a building to be of any use to a school.

Another complication is in the Slater School, another building that shares a playground with Langston. It is A.R.E. ARE is a social service organization and a daycare and it looks like they are also getting in on the Pre-K thing too. Slater is a poorly maintained building, but the tenant ARE holds on tight to its location. I strongly suspect ARE has powerful friends that are protecting ARE to the detriment of the Langston building. I suspect this because for at least a decade now, when residents bring up the nuisance property that is Langston to city councilmen or the council staff or city staff who show up to the local meetings, they seem to have no idea it exists and fail to get back to residents with a satisfactory answer.

The civic association for the area BACA, has recently formed a committee to try to figure out what could be done with Langston.

This is DC Government property. It is the Government of the District of Columbia’s responsibility. Any demolition by neglect would be purely the fault of the local government. The DC government has failed the residents of the unit blocks of P and Bates.  But then again, the DC government is a crappy property manager.

Previous blog post about Langston- http://dcvacantproperties.blogspot.com/2014/07/langston-school-vacant-forever.html

Langston School Registration form- https://www.nps.gov/nr/feature/places/pdfs/13000143.pdf

Ward 5 Councilman Kenyon McDuffie- http://dccouncil.us/council/kenyan-mcduffie and http://www.kenyanmcduffie.com/

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.

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.

Twenty Years of Vacancy- The Langston School

100_0402.JPGThe John Mercer Langston School at 43 P Street NW has been sitting empty and vacant since 1997*. That’s 20 years of rotting away with nothing being done to bring it back to life.

When the problem of the school was mentioned at on Bates Area Civic Association to the representative from Ward 5 Councilman Kenyon McDuffie‘s office didn’t seem to be familiar with the hulking corpse of a building and might have confused it with another building. There is so much development going on, some involving city owned land, I understand it can be confusing.

Part of the problem is whomever is the Ward Councilperson for Ward 5 is not particularly interested in being proactive regarding this property. They and or their staff seem to believe the “process” will take care of it. The process is broken.

As a school, charters have first dibs. Langston is a gut job, so no serious charter school is going through the long process getting the school to dump millions of dollars in the building’s renovation. There was a fight for the John F. Cook across the street that Mundo Verde eventually won and added to, but Cook was empty for less than 5 years and was still functional as a building.

Yes, there is an educational center next door in Slater that has always expressed interest in Langston. However the occupants of Slater are poor tenants. Poor as in too poor to do the work needed to have the Langston building gutted, brought up to code, while respecting the building’s Historic Landmark status. However, councilperson staff will almost always drag up that unrealistic possibility when asked about what’s is if anything going on with Langston. The occupants of Slater have been interested in Langston for at least 15 years. If given 15 more years they will express the same level of interest without much action to show for it.

What’s the solution? Well I have an answer no one will like and possibly won’t happen due to the shared lot with Slater, luxury condos. Turning schools into high priced condos or apartments add fuel to the fire of the gentrification unaffordable housing debate. But let me remind you of the problem… Historic Landmark; 21st century building codes; rotting corpse of a building. To work with and deal with those things require the kind of money DINK households making 100-200% of the AMI bring. This cannot be and should not be done on the cheap. And unless the city wants to throw the Slater occupants under the bus, so they can offer a well heeled charter both buildings to make it worth the while, no school with the ability to rehab both buildings (Slater is bad off too) is seriously going to touch it.

*According to the Wikipedia page about the school.