Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Decline of Rental Housing in Ward 6 and DC

As the Post reported yesterday, the number of people in poverty has increased to one in six. In DC, one in five live in poverty. As far as I can tell, the new Census data made available on Tuesday does not yet provide poverty data at the census tract level, but it does provide rental housing data. Those living in poverty in DC live predominantly in rentals. Also, many other DC residents and long-term visitors also live in rentals.

Citywide, in the past ten years, our population increased by nearly 30,000 people and the number of renter-occupied units increased by about 7,000 units. The proportion of renter-occupied units has not kept up with our population growth. Percentage-wise, there are more owner-occupied units in 2010 than in 2000. However, the Census does not yet provide us with data on how much these renters pay for these units or their income levels. Therefore, we don't know whether these new rentals are predominantly high end. In 2000, about 700 households lived in the Capper and Carrollsburg public housing in census tract 72, which has been dismantled and replaced by Capitol Quarter houses, condos, and apartments with only 39 units available to individuals or families making $30,050 or less (0-30% AMI), aside from the 162 senior units. Therefore, the majority of the new units citywide are not likely for those living in poverty.

In Ward 6, the poverty rate has been steady at about 20% for the past 30 years. The population of Ward 6 has increased by about 8,000 people over the past 10 years, so the number of people living in poverty has increased. The table below lists some of the Ward 6 census tracts. (To see where these census tracts are, see this map.) The bolded items represent areas with decreasing numbers or percentages of renter-occupied units. The wealthiest census tract in Ward 6, number 67, lost nearly 40 renter-occupied units. The poorest census tract in Ward 6, number 71, gained 4.

Renter-Occupied Housing Units

2000 (%) 2000 (#)2010 (%)2010 (#)
Citywide59.2%147,12458%154,652
Census Tract 67 42.2% 79340.4%754
Census Tract 71 69.7% 76957.6%773
Census Tract 6485.6%82383.8%819
Census Tract 7296.6%81684%1534
Census Tract 79.0164.9%95164.2%989
Census Tract 80.0133.3%37835.1%451
Census Tract 8148.1%64446.6%677

Many would argue that it is good to increase the number of home-owners in these areas. However, the demand for rentals is ever increasing, especially for affordable units for interns, low-wage workers, etc. The supply of affordable rentals does not meet the demand. This is a nationwide trend. Even more problematic is the conversion of rental properties into owner-occupied properties, which displaces the poor. From the incredibly informative Housing Policy in the United States 2010 textbook, we know that the average nationwide income for those working as elementary school teachers ($49,781), LPN nurses ($38,941), security guards ($29,401), and cashiers ($19,757) would not allow them to buy a house or condo. Of course, many of the new rental units available are far outside the price range of the average hourly wage for those working as LPN nurses ($15.72), security guards ($14.13), janitors ($11.57), and cashiers ($9.50), who are also in poverty. What can be done to stop the decline in affordable rentals?

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