District Rent Assessment – DC Policy Center

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Author’s Note: We originally planned to release this report on March 17, 2020. But with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have postponed; this seemed insignificant as our world was changing so rapidly with great uncertainties regarding the health and well-being of DC residents and the city’s economy.

These uncertainties are still with us as of April 1, 2020, our publication date. But there is also great interest in how best to help tenants facing job losses while balancing the needs of housing providers, who must continue to operate. Given these interests, we believe this report can provide important information that could help with the difficult choices that district policymakers face in the coming months and early in the recovery.


The DC Policy Center report, Estimate neighborhood rents, provides a comprehensive picture of rental housing in the district to assess its ability to create economically inclusive neighborhoods in the District of Columbia.

The report combines multiple data sources to estimate the number and type of rental units and the buildings that house them, as well as the prevailing rents in different types of rentals across the city.

The report provides detailed data on rental apartment buildings, including rent-controlled stock as well as rental units outside of rental apartment buildings, including condominiums, single-family homes and apartments.

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The report finds that the district has too few rental apartments to serve all renter households: the city has nearly 40,000 households who should not pay more than $ 750 per month to keep their rent affordable (defined as less than 30 % of household income). but less than 800 rental apartments with rents below this level. In competition with them, 41,000 tenant households could pay up to $ 2,700 per month without being overcharged (and 15,500 rental apartments with rents in that range). The two groups put pressure on the city’s rental apartment market with 124,600 units. The shadow rental market, defined as less regulated rentals in single-family homes, condominiums and the like, fills the void by offering units at a wide variety of sizes and prices.

The city’s 73,000 rent-controlled apartments have lower rents than uncontrolled units. Rent-controlled apartment buildings are everywhere, but despite their lower rents, they haven’t created economic inclusion by attracting a mix of high-income and low-income tenants. When rents for controlled-rent buildings are low, estimated tenant charges are high and when rents are high, estimated tenant charges are low. However, the presence of controlled rental units in a neighborhood seems to reduce travel. A greater proportion of residents remain in place in census tracts where rent-controlled dwellings represent a larger share of the housing stock. Likewise, a strong presence of controlled rent farms is correlated with a lower loss of minority populations.

Download the fact sheet: Summary of findings [PDF]


This report offers a new political tool, Inclusive conversions, which takes advantage of the city’s relatively low rents and the ubiquity of rent-controlled buildings in the city to create affordable subsidized housing, especially in very resource-rich parts of the city where it has been difficult to create subsidized units in the city. pass. Under this approach, the district would convert some of the existing rent-controlled housing to designated affordable housing with restrictive covenants. Once the conversion is done, the converted unit would operate in the same way as an inclusive zoning unit: its rents would be capped at the desired affordability goal for the term of the covenants, and the unit would not be available only to people eligible for income. tenants. In return, the lessor would receive financial assistance from the District equivalent to the difference between the regulated rent and the capped rent.

Due to the location of rent-controlled units, the greatest number of inclusion conversion units may be in parts of the city where existing affordable housing programs have not been successful.

And, because the model relies on funding the gap between a subsidized unit and the lower rents in rent-controlled buildings, the inclusion conversions would require a much lower public subsidy than needed under housing programs. current affordability.

Download the fact sheet: Inclusive conversions [PDF]


Download the full report: Estimation of rents in the District [PDF]


About the Author: Yesim Sayin Taylor is the Executive Director of the DC Policy Center.

featured photo: BeyondDC on Flickr (source)

DC Policy Center Fellows are freelance writers and we welcome the expression of a variety of perspectives. The views of our fellows, published here or elsewhere, do not reflect the views of the DC Policy Center.


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