“No one wants to live near poor people”

…isn’t exactly a correct comment, but I have seen it a couple of times on the web regarding mixed income housing and gentrification. I’m mean we’re living in Shaw not Woodly Park or Chevy Chase. I have a hard time imagining that people who bought housing, oh east of 9th Street, were caught completely off guard by the subsidized housing that dots the neighborhood. Than again, maybe some were.
I think of Shaw as economically diverse. You have neighbors in longtime poverty and short term (young, just starting out, etc) poverty, the elderly and disabled on fixed incomes, and others whose incomes wax and wane depending on clients, contracts, sales, rentals, or what have you. But I don’t think it is so much a neighbor’s poverty is as it is their dysfunction. Grad students are broke, but hardly anyone is up in arms about graduate family housing. Plain college students can be broke also (depending on their sources of support) but neighbors do tend to oppose their housing as that population can be a bit too rambunctious and loud, not because they may or may not have money (see Catholic U area for examples of such conflicts).
Shaw’s diversity, economic, racial, etc., is a strength and a challenge. Crime is a huge challenge, so are the blocks of concentrated poverty. In mixed income areas we learn from each other. The more middle class residents learn about the various programs for neighbors in need, the more they can train themselves to be supportive of programs that work and harshly critical of ones that fail and are nothing but fronts for poverty pimps. The more I learn about Bread for the City (CFC# 61733), and N Street Village (CFC# 90946) the more I am impressed by their work and efforts.
But let’s wander back to the question of mixed income housing and if it is possible, would non-poor people be willing to live next to poor people. Well in Shaw, we already do, in townhomes. I have a hard time telling, as it is from causal observation over the years, but the Washington Apartments, along 7th and 6th Avenues, appears to be slowly becoming more racially diverse. As far as I know they aren’t subsidized housing, but I do get the sense that those apartments are economically diverse. Feel free to correct me if I’m totally off base.

3 thoughts on ““No one wants to live near poor people””

  1. I'm generally in favor of economically diverse neighborhoods. But I must admit that paying market rate to live in a new construction condo building with an affordable housing component is unappealing to me. If two condo options are basically the same space, location, and price wise but one has affordable housing component I'd take the one without every time.

    If I were renting I wouldn't evaluate the situation like this and would be more laid back. In an ownership scenario where upkeep matters and I'm exposed to financial risk if others don't pay their condo fees it's a different ballgame. I'd feel more comfortable being in a financial covenant with more affluent people. This is the biggest investment of my life and I don't see a reason to take on an extra element of risk that comes with no price savings or other form of reward.

  2. Not paying condo fees is not a product of affordable housing. There's several very high end DC area condos with high delinquency rates. Hopefully banks are doing a more serious vetting process to ensure that people can pay the house note, taxes and make the condo payment before issuing loans.

    In any case, Montgomery County has had a affordable housing component for decades, and their property values don't seem to suffer.

    On my street of relatively modest townhouses, it's difficult to differentiate between lower and higher income. It seems when one neighbor fixes up their front yard, the next door neighbor does too. However, if the city owns houses on your street, (there are some on my street)all bets are off. The city does not maintain it's property well at all… and it loves to paint things grey.


  3. I hear Arlington does well with affordable housing as well.
    EYA had a project in MoCo where there were some units that were listed "affordable". The prices where lower than the market rate. but one would need to be low-moderate income, not broke. It seems aimed at people who are not making a lot now, but in time will be comfortably middle class, and maybe that's the difference.
    Condo fees can be crazy. A friend of mine started with a cf of $500+, after 3-4 years it was $700+. Where my aunt lives, some people don't pay the $75 a month, not because they can't afford it, but because of a messed up attitude.

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