Housing Complex

The Home Stretch

Can D.C. Make Rapid Rehousing Work?

Nkechi Feaster’s story begins like those of so many other victims of the Great Recession. After she was laid off from her job at a law firm in 2007, work became increasingly difficult to come by. Three times over the next four years, she was hired, and three times she was laid off. Then the hiring stopped altogether. Even the temp jobs dried up.

“Everything just stopped, basically,” she says. “The interviewing was really sporadic. The hiring wasn’t happening.”

Feaster fell behind on her rent, was evicted from her apartment, and landed, with her teenage son, at the family shelter at the former D.C. General Hospital. They spent 11 months there, during which time her son graduated from high school and was admitted to Michigan State University. Then the city tossed her a lifeline.

The city’s primary tool for placing homeless families into homes is a program called rapid rehousing. Rather than becoming permanent recipients of subsidy vouchers, rapid rehousing participants receive rental assistance for just a short period of time: a guaranteed four months, with possible extensions for up to a year or more. After that, the subsidy stops, and the family continues to pay rent on its own. Instead of a crutch, the family gets a leg up to help it support itself.

But for Feaster and many other rapid rehousing participants, self-sufficiency at a time of increasingly unaffordable housing is a longshot. When Feaster was placed into an apartment through the program in 2012—her son had just left for college—she had been unemployed for three years and was doubtful she’d be able to pay her own way when the city cut off her subsidy.

“I did not want rapid rehousing, because that was my longest layoff,” Feaster says. “And I was thinking, if I’ve been laid off this long, what am I going to find in four months before I have to pay market-rate rent again?”

Feaster did receive an extension of her rapid rehousing subsidy, but since she found a job at a nonprofit, the city determined that she could support herself and set a May 1 end date for her subsidy. The trouble is that her part-time job is on a contract basis. Her initial six-month contract was extended, but her current contract expires on the same day as her subsidy. After that, she has no idea if she’ll have any source of income. If she’s out of work, she’ll file for unemployment, but she doubts it’ll be enough to cover her $950-a-month rent and other expenses.

“That’s the part I don’t get,” Feaster says. “When you get a little bit of money, they say fine, you’re OK, you’re on your own.”

Read more The Home Stretch

Zoning Rewrite Public Comment Extended by a Year and a Half? Not Quite.

The zoning update would allow for more new buildings with limited parking, if not quite the zero parking spaces planned for this Tenleytown building.

The zoning update would allow for more new buildings with limited parking, if not quite the zero parking spaces planned for this Tenleytown building.

One short press release, and the Twitterverse went nuts. Mayor Vince Gray's office just sent out an email to reporters announcing that the Zoning Committee had voted to extend until Sept. 15, 2015 the deadline for public input into the city's first comprehensive rewriting of its zoning code since 1958. "I want to thank Chairman Anthony J. Hood and the members of the Zoning Commission for agreeing to my request to extend the period for the District’s residents to provide input on this enormously important overhaul of our city’s zoning regulations,” Gray said in the release.

The public reaction wasn't quite so thankful. Washington Post reporter Mike DeBonis:

Smart-growther Dan Malouff:

Even my editor chimed in:

But all of you can relax, especially you, Madden: It appears the date was a simple typo.

Ellen McCarthy, who took the helm of the Office of Planning—which oversees the city's zoning boards—this week, says it's her understanding the comment period has been extended from late April to Sept. 15, 2014, not 2015. Read more Zoning Rewrite Public Comment Extended by a Year and a Half? Not Quite.

Renewed Lease at One Franklin Square Shouldn’t Prevent Post Move


The law firm Reed Smith announced today that it will be sticking around its current office building at 1301 K St. NW through 2027. Why should we care? Because 1301 K St. is One Franklin Square, where the Washington Post recently signed a letter of intent to relocate. In breaking the news of the Post's likely move earlier this month, the Washington Business Journal suggested that the newspaper could displace Reed Smith.

So does Reed Smith's new lease mean the Post won't be coming? Almost certainly not. Reed Smith will be keeping its offices on the 11th and 12th floors of the building, and moving its seventh-floor offices up to the 10th floor. The net change, according to firm spokesman Tom "Hersh" Hershenson, is a negligible gain of about 140 square feet. The seventh-floor space the company is vacating is around 25,000 square feet.

The Post is looking for about 300,000 square feet. But according to the Business Journal, the nearly 600,000-square-foot One Franklin Square is already set to be 45 percent vacant by the end of the year, and that's before the relocation of accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers' tax practice from the building to Metro Center. If anything, the Reed Smith move could allow the Post to occupy a consolidated section of One Franklin Square, including the vacated seventh floor.

Read more Renewed Lease at One Franklin Square Shouldn’t Prevent Post Move

Exorbitant House of the Week, Elevator Edition


Ever find yourself climbing two flights of stairs to your house's top floor and thinking, "This isn't what I dropped three and a half million for?" The architect of this Cleveland Park home knows how you feel. Sure, it only has three stories plus a basement, but after a long day's work, sometimes you just want to kick back in the elevator and go for a ride.

And isn't it a drag to have to cross several rooms to reach the bathroom? Again, this six-bedroom house has you covered, with nine bathrooms.

The $3.5 million price tag also buys you prime views of the National Cathedral and nautically themed shower tiles. Yet somehow, all this hasn't been enough of a draw: The house has been on the market for nearly half a year at that price.

Have a look around:



Read more Exorbitant House of the Week, Elevator Edition

Morning Links

SWThe three proposals for the Capitol Riverfront WMATA chiller site [UrbanTurf]

D.C. is producing an increasing share of the region's housing [OPinions]

The New York Times discovers the H Street streetcar. [NYT]

H Street church could be radically transformed [Papadopoulos Properties]

Tax filings show a jump in very high-earning Washingtonians. [WAMU]

DC Water tunnel project will mean extended street closures around Shaw/Bloomingdale. [SALM]

Yesterday's storm took its toll. [CarolJoynt.com]

Today on the market: Southwest Waterfront junior 1BR—$218,900

DC Water Plans New Headquarters Atop Shit-Pumping Station

o street

DC Water administrators could soon receive an office upgrade—albeit a small one—moving from alongside a shit-processing plant to atop a shit-pumping station.

The District's water and sewer authority has released a solicitation for firms interested in designing and building a new headquarters for DC Water. The new facility will be located above DC Water's O Street Pumping Station, which helps pump wastewater from around and beyond the city to the processing plant at Blue Plains, where the headquarters is currently located.

The Blue Plains facility is "packed to the gills," says Maureen Holman, DC Water's program manager for sustainability, with many employees working out of trailers. Located at the very southern tip of the city, it's hard for most D.C. residents (and DC Water employees) to access. DC Water administrators will move to the new headquarters, while the engineers will remain at Blue Plains. DC Water also leases two facilities—a customer service center near the Navy Yard and a billing office near Union Station—whose workers and functions would get folded into the new headquarters, potentially saving money in the long run.

The new headquarters, between the Anacostia River, 1st Street SE, and N Place SE, will have five stories of offices perched above the pumping station. The offices will be supported by columns; there may or may not be a small gap between them and the pumping station. When the structure is complete, it will be the same height as the adjacent The Yards development that's underway, just over 100 feet. The pumping station will remain operational, and DC Water's main, historic pumping station next door will be unaltered.

"The idea is to consolidate," says Holman, "and by consolidating we also are going to be getting out of two existing spaces that we currently lease." Holman expects the cost savings from the consolidation to offset the debt service cost of the project.

Read more DC Water Plans New Headquarters Atop Shit-Pumping Station

Plunging Temperatures Mean One More Night of Shelter for D.C.’s Homeless

homelessToday's weather undoubtedly belongs somewhere on the freakish spectrum, with torrential rains, talk of snow, and a high temperature around 40 degrees above the low. The D.C. Department of Human Services just issued a hypothermia alert, meaning that temperatures with windchill are expected to drop below freezing and the city's legal requirement to provide extreme-weather shelter for any homeless residents in need is triggered.

But a hypothermia alert in mid-April—just one day after a 80-degree weather, no less—actually isn't so freakish. Last year, according to DHS, the last hypothermia alert was issued on April 23.

Still, tonight's alert could pose a greater challenge to the city's homeless services operations. D.C.'s population of homeless families swelled this winter, forcing the city to resort to the use of motel rooms and then recreation centers to house families, with the traditional shelters maxed out. On March 24, a judge ordered the city to stop using rec centers, despite threats from a District lawyer that the city would not be able to find other shelter spaces. The city was able to locate enough available motel rooms to house the rec-center families for the few remaining hypothermic nights.

For the past couple of weeks, those families have had to fend for themselves. Tonight, some or most of them are likely to head to the Virginia Williams Family Resource Center to apply for shelter once again.

Read more Plunging Temperatures Mean One More Night of Shelter for D.C.’s Homeless

Think D.C. Rents Are Skyrocketing? Try McKinney, Texas

Fastest-Growing Rent

Got 27 hours in your day? If not, and you're a minimum-wage worker in the District, you're out of luck. That's how many hours you'd need to work every weekday in order to afford fair-market rent for a two-bedroom apartment in D.C., according to a recent study by the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

But if D.C. seems to be getting impossibly more expensive these days, try McKinney or El Paso, Texas. Using census figures, the personal finance site NerdWallet calculated the increase in median rent in America's 200 largest cities from 2007 to 2012, and the District comes in third place, behind the two Texas cities. McKinney, a Dallas suburb and one of the fastest-growing cities in the country, logged a 43 percent increase in its median rent over that five-year period, and El Paso posted a 34 percent gain. D.C.'s median rent went up 33 percent, from $871 to $1,158. (The study doesn't take into account unit size or type—and so D.C.'s rental units are probably much more expensive per square foot relative to those in McKinney than the chart above would indicate—but the rate of change should still reflect each city's overall rental landscape.)

The study shows rents in D.C. overtaking those in New York, whose median rent was $27 per month more expensive than D.C.'s in 2007 but $64 less than D.C.'s in 2012. San Francisco remains the priciest city in the country, with a median rent of $1,459. Both of those cities showed lower increases in median rent than D.C. over the five-year period: 22 percent for New York and 28 percent for San Francisco.

Read more Think D.C. Rents Are Skyrocketing? Try McKinney, Texas

Morning Links

ppNoMa launches international design competition to transform underpasses. [Hill Rag]

Muriel Bowser alters her rhetoric on school assignment changes. [Post]

Behold the latest and greatest generation of D.C. cycletracks. [GGW]

Montreal company's bankruptcy prevents Capital Bikeshare expansion. [Post]

And the sale of that company ends with a little courtroom drama. [Atlantic Cities]

A closer look at the proposal for a Department of Parking Management [UrbanTurf]

Today on the market: Two-level Pleasant Plains condo—$469,900

Morning Links

massThe financial and legal troubles of the Jemal family [Crain's New York Business]

Capital Bikeshare crushed its ridership record on Saturday. [@bikeshare]

Expect more power outages in Columbia Heights, including today. [Park View D.C.]

Med student flips Petworth homes, aims to build skyscrapers someday. [UrbanTurf]

Boomers invade hipster turf. [NYT]

D.C. residents fear the loss of neighborhood schools. [Post]

Real-estate crowdfunding on the rise. [WSJ]

Today on the market: Downtown house in the shadow of Massachusetts Avenue high-rises—$3,290,000