Housing Complex

Morning Links

bellevueD.C. bike commuting continues to rise. Watch out, Portland. [WashCycle]

Here's how other cities stacked up in bike-commute changes. [Streetsblog]

A map of today's temporary parklets [GGW]

Imagining a more natural and appealing Constitution Gardens on the Mall. [AP]

The trials of living in 155 square feet per person. [UrbanTurf]

Federal agencies seek new D.C.-area office space. [WBJ]

Today on the market: Four-apartment building in Bellevue—$475,000

Poll: Most D.C. Residents Support School-Assignment Changes


The reactions came quickly last month when Mayor Vince Gray announced his plan to revamp the city's school-assignment policies and neighborhood school boundaries, and most weren't positive. “Well, that sucks,” was the first response on the DC Urban Moms and Dads online discussion forum, from a Crestwood resident who lost access to highly regarded Alice Deal Middle School and Woodrow Wilson High School. Mayoral candidates David Catania and Muriel Bowser voiced their opposition to the plan. The planned overhaul of the city's school assignments for the first time in more than 40 years may be necessary—and facilitated by Gray's lame-duck status, allowing him to dodge voter fallout—but it didn't appear to be politically popular.

Except according to an NBC4/Washington Post/Marist poll released today, it is.

The poll asked D.C. residents whether they "generally support or oppose" the proposed changes to the city's school-assignment system. Fifty-five percent expressed support, to 23 percent who opposed the plan and 22 percent who had no opinion. (Among registered voters, the responses were nearly the same: 56 percent support, 24 percent opposition, 20 percent no opinion.)

Because the lottery for the next school year opens in December, before the new mayor takes office, it's not clear exactly how the candidates would go about derailing Gray's plan, and they've yet to lay out their processes for doing so. Perhaps, with this kind of support, they'll reconsider whether it's really the best idea.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

Watch the Racial Geography of D.C. Mortgages Change Over Time


The map above shows the racial and ethnic breakdown of mortgage loans issued across the city in 2001. Things have changed since then, as tighter mortgage lending during and following the recession constrained the loans available to minority borrowers. According to an Urban Institute report out today, the percentage of home loans made to black and Hispanic households nationwide dropped from 23 percent in 2005 to 12 percent in 2012.

In the D.C. metropolitan area, according to Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data, the number of black households receiving mortgages peaked at 91,582 in 2005, when they comprised 21 percent of all borrowers. (These figures underestimate the number of borrowers in each racial or ethnic group slightly, given that race and ethnicity were not reported in every transaction.) By 2012, that number was down to 27,473, or just 10 percent of the total. Hispanic borrowing likewise peaked in 2005 at 59,841, or 14 percent; in 2012, it was at 12,355, or 5 percent. Meanwhile, white borrowing, which had peaked in 2003, increased from 40 percent of total borrowing in 2005 to 57 percent in 2012.


Just as interesting as these racial shifts, however, is their geography. Take a look at how the racial composition of D.C. mortgages has changed over the past decade. Pay attention to Capitol Hill's evolution from a diverse mix of homebuyers to a nearly all-white set, and the sections of Ward 4 around Petworth that experienced a black- and Hispanic-led boom in the mid-200os before yielding somewhat to the white wave that overtook the central portion of the city.

Read more Watch the Racial Geography of D.C. Mortgages Change Over Time

Morning Links

fbIf you're living in D.C. four years or longer, it's better to buy than rent. [UrbanTurf]

Tell that to Robert De Niro, who's paying $125,000 a month for his New York apartment. [Vanity Fair]

Major Congress Heights project gets tweaked. [WBJ]

Readers weigh in on 11th Street Bridge Park designs. [UrbanTurf]

Jair Lynch re-envisions Half Street SE. [WBJ]

Software tool could help developers assess project feasibility. [UrbanTurf]

Today on the market: Foggy Bottom "extra large studio"—$220,000

D.C. Incomes, and Poverty Level, Flat Since Recession’s End

Despite the highest median household income in the country, the D.C. area hasn't seen incomes rise since the recession.

Despite the highest median household income in the country, the D.C. area hasn't seen incomes rise since the recession.

The economic recovery from the recession has sent stock prices and D.C. housing costs upward, but it hasn't resulted in higher incomes for District residents.

According to 2013 American Community Survey data released today by the U.S. Census Bureau, the median household income in the D.C. area was $90,149 last year, a small but statistically insignificant decline from the 2010 median of $90,316, adjusted for inflation. Meanwhile, the percentage of residents living in poverty edged up slightly, although again by a statistically insignificant margin, from 8.4 percent to 8.5 percent. And the percentage of residents receiving food stamps, or SNAP benefits, increased from 5.9 percent to 7.9 percent.

In the District proper, the median household income in 2013 was $67,572 and the number of people under the poverty line was 115,551 people, both slightly but insignificantly higher than the 2010 levels. In other words, the economic recovery hasn't brought tangible benefits to many D.C. households, and in fact may have worsened many residents' situations as housing costs have risen and are now the highest in the country.

Still, the D.C. region has the highest median household income of any metropolitan area in the country, besting second-place San Francisco by more than $10,000 a year. Likewise, the poverty rate is the lowest in the country.

Read more D.C. Incomes, and Poverty Level, Flat Since Recession’s End

The Unusual Retail Tactic That Could Transform Rhode Island Avenue NE

On a stretch of Rhode Island Avenue NE sandwiched between rows of single-family houses and accompanied by the steady soundtrack of Prince George’s County commuters, a string of storefronts once served as a main street but has since fallen on hard times. Many of them are vacant. Scattered among the occupied ones are liquor stores, pawn shops, and carryouts. There’s a tire-and-rim dealer, a taxi parking lot, and several car-repair garages.

And then, in the middle of it all, there’s Zeke’s Coffee.

The cafe, with its minimalist decor and pour-over station, wouldn’t look out of place in Logan Circle or Georgetown. Those neighborhoods, after all, have a few things Zeke’s milieu of Woodridge doesn’t: residential density, visitors from around and outside the city, and abundant disposable income.

Their cafes also have something Zeke’s often lacks: customers.

On a recent Wednesday morning, Zeke’s is empty save for a lone man hunched over a laptop at the window counter overlooking Rhode Island Avenue. Unlikely as it may seem, though, the coffee shop’s sparse patronage is almost by design.

That’s because walk-in business accounts for a third or less of the cafe’s revenue, according to John Kepner, who owns the D.C. branch of the small, family-run Zeke’s chain, which also has locations in Baltimore and Pittsburgh. Wholesale business from Zeke’s coffee-bean roasting and stands at 10 D.C.-area farmers markets provide the bulk of Zeke’s income. “Two of the three are coming in outside of the dollars walking through the door,” Kepner says.

It’s what’s happening in the back of Zeke’s, the roasting, that allows the cafe to stay afloat.

“These guys would go out of business if they just sold coffee,” says Bo Menkiti, the leading developer in Woodridge, who owns five properties along that stretch of Rhode Island Avenue plus more in adjacent Brookland. “The community wants a coffee shop. A coffee shop is not viable here now. But this is.” Read more The Unusual Retail Tactic That Could Transform Rhode Island Avenue NE

D.C.-Area Economy Takes a Hit as Government Spending Drops


The D.C. area's gross regional product has declined over the past three years.

In January 2013, the New York TimesAnnie Lowrey ticked off a cadre of proud Washingtonians with a Times Magazine story titled "Washington's Economic Boom, Financed by You." The District's recent economic strength, she wrote, could be traced to rising federal government spending and contracting. "How Washington managed this transformation...is not a story that the rest of the country might want to hear, because we largely financed it," Lowrey explained. And now that federal spending was starting to decline, "the capital's boom days...might be over."

"Old Gray Lady overlooks Washington's true strength," protested a headline in the Washington Business Journal. "The notion overlooks just how much talent and innovation there is in the Washington region," the article asserted. I, too, noted that the fixation on federal dependence was overblown, given that the District economy was becoming far less reliant on federal spending.

And yet 20 months later, economic data would appear to be proving Lowrey's forecast correct, at least in part.

The Center for Regional Analysis at George Mason University is out with a report today on changes in the D.C. area's gross regional product (the regional equivalent of the better-known gross domestic product, or GDP). The news isn't good. GRP dropped by 0.8 percent between 2012 and 2013, a steeper decline than during the recession. Of the 15 largest-employment metro areas in the country, the D.C. region is the only one that experienced a GRP decline.

All of the top 15 metro areas by employment except for D.C. saw GRP gains between 2012 and 2013.

All of the top 15 metro areas by employment except for D.C. saw GRP gains between 2012 and 2013.

Read more D.C.-Area Economy Takes a Hit as Government Spending Drops

Morning Links

manorA response to Dana Milbank's self-centered anti-statehood crusade. [City Desk]

Business leaders make their pitch for the 2024 Olympics. [Post]

Architect abandons creative touch after Zoning Commission objections. [WBJ]

David Catania's education platform may be long, but it's unlikely to solve problems. [GGW]

Howard University plans 319-unit residential building with retail on Sherman Avenue. [UrbanTurf]

A lexicon of new urbanist terms, some better than others. [GGW]

Today on the market: Manor Park rowhouse—$449,000

Morning Links

mtpDavid Brooks sells his Cleveland Park home for $4.5 million. [UrbanTurf]

There's a lot for smart growthers to like in David Catania's platform. [GGW]

Why the "bikelash" is good for cyclists. [CityLab]

Oh good, we're back to credulously quoting AAA about the "war on motorists." [Post]

A long-vacant Columbia Heights lot is finally getting filled. [UrbanTurf]

Department of Homeland Security seeking office space in the D.C. area. [WBJ]

What to do with an abandoned stretch of Virginia Avenue SE? [GGW]

Today on the market: Three-unit Mount Pleasant building—$1,400,000

Morning Links

clevelandThe transformative effects of the planned Union Station redevelopment [Post]

A streetcar expansion might be needed to make the 11th Street Bridge Park work. [CityLab]

But the park's already getting rave reviews. [Fast Company]

St. Thomas' Parish Church design gets tweaked again. [UrbanTurf]

Developer still committed to big Brookland project despite court setback. [WBJ]

Neighbors work to move Marvin Gaye Park beyond its "Needle Park" reputation. [Post]

WMATA employees have a habit of parking on the NoMa sidewalks. [GGW]

Inspired by D.C. experiment, Chinese city creates sidewalk cellphone lane. [AP]

Bryce Harper introduces Anacostia High School students to their revamped locker room. [Post]

Today on the market: Cleveland Park 1BR co-op—$290,000