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  THE LOW INCOME & URBAN HOUSING BLOG  

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Washington DC Overwhelmed With Housing Problems; Average Apartment Is $1,400 A Month

Affordable housing continues to weigh heavily on the powers that be in the Washington D.C. area.

Affordable housing continues to weigh heavily on the powers that be in the Washington D.C. area. Not only is buying a home difficult but renting an apartment that families can afford on their salary is becoming increasingly more difficult.

Affordable has very different meanings depending on who you talk to. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development(HUD) bases affordability on median income, which is $107,500 in D.C. But after crunching numbers based on what's known as the Housing Affordability Index, the monthly rent or mortgage comes out to $1,600 a month.

What the Numbers Mean, Really
  • Affordability is defined as paying no more than 30 percent of monthly income on rent
  • The average cost of a 2-bedroom apartment in D.C. is $1,400 a month
  • A 2-bedroom apartment in D.C. is affordable for anyone who makes $56,480 a year, or $27.15 per hour.
  • A 2-bedroom apartment in D.C. is affordable for a minimum wage earner making $8.25 per hour but ONLY if they work 132 hours per week, 52 weeks per year
The numbers just do not add up for low-income families.

The Problem

The affordability calculations don't work for minimum-wage families. Section 8 subsidized housing, designed to provide financial assistance on rent for those who qualify, is oversubscribed, meaning there are more people needing Section 8 housing than there are units available. For example, affordable apartments went from 17,000 in 2000 to just 5,000 in 2012 in Arlington County. Other D.C. counties are experiencing the same situation. In addition, too many formerly affordable units are being replaced with remodeled units with higher upgrades and higher rents.

The Solution?

Some organizations are jumping in to help. They include:
  • Nonprofit and religious organizations are working to preserve and build more low- and moderately priced housing.
  • The mayor of D.C. has committed to set aside $100 million for affordable housing and preserving 10,000 affordable units by 2020.
  • In Arlington, there is an effort underway to preserve 7,400 affordable housing units and encourage developers to make 20 - 35 percent of new units affordable by giving them incentives.
Although this is a step in the right direction, some feel more needs to be done in D.C., one of the most expensive rental markets in the country plagued with scarce affordable housing options.


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