Housing Complex

Hey D.C., Here’s How You Live

Most people actually rent, not own. (Lydia DePillis)

Most people actually rent, not own. (Lydia DePillis)

The 2009 American Community Survey–that's like Census Lite–dropped yesterday, and the biggest takeaway in D.C. is that lots more black kids are poor. But since this is a housing blog, we're going to look at the housing stats, to see how the District looks relative to the rest of the country. A few interesting points:

  • Overall, we're not adding housing units very fast. In the District, there were 282,900 housing units in 2006, and 285,164 today.
  • Our housing is pretty old! Eighty percent of our buildings were constructed before 1970, with the greatest portion–34.7 percent–built before 1940. That's compared to 42.5 percent of housing units constructed before 1970 nationwide. Obviously, being the nation's capital, D.C. filled in before much of the rest of the country, and much of that old stuff has stuck around.
  • Yup, we're a transient city: 47.6 percent of people moved into their current housing in 2005 or later, compared to 40.5 percent nationally.
  • We have relatively a lot fewer cars: 35.2 percent of D.C. housing units have no automobile attached to them (nationally, only 8.9 percent of housing units don't have a car). 44.7 percent have one car (which approximately matches the 43 percent of people who commute by car).
  • We pay a lot in rent: 53.8 percent of renters pay more than $1,000 per month, and the median rent is $1,059. 41.6 percent of units pay more than 35 percent of the household's income in rent, which is five percent above what is deemed affordable by HUD guidelines (the national average is about the same, even though the national median rent is only $842).
  • John

    Well thank god most of our buildings are old cause the crap they are throwing up today has a tendency to disappoint.
    Also, I think the transient narrative in DC is overblown. 7 percent more transient than the national average doesn't seem that huge a difference. Then again I'm a native so a lot of my friends are too. I guess that gives me a different perspective than someone on a kickball league. I would think though that while the national average is 40 percent, just about every growing city has a transient population as big or bigger than DC's. I mean Manhattan has got to be 80 percent transient. But then I'm sure Staten Island is 10 percent transient... I'd be curious to know how we stack up to other growing citys.

  • DCster

    Agree with John - this suggests 52.4% of people have been in their current place at least four years. The idea that DC is transient probably comes from how 'transient' is defined (someone who moved into the District - 5 years ago/20 years ago, or someone who's moved within the District).
    I'd assume at least some of the 47.6% moved within the District. Would be interested to know the percent who have lived in DC 5 years or more, 10 years or more, etc.

  • danvironmentalist

    This suggests that the District needs to focus on weatherization and retrofits of this old housing stock as we encourage energy efficiency and reductions in GHG emissions.

  • DCMJ

    Lydia, the American Community Survey contains dozens of questions and takes forever to fill out. The Census, on the other hand, is only 5 questions now. So calling it "Census Lite" is flat wrong--it's actually the complete opposite. I thought journalists were supposed to have good memories? Presumably you filled out a census form just 5 months ago. Get yourself an editor before you make other ludicrous statements.

  • Lydia DePillis

    Whoa, chill out, DCMJ. By "lite," I meant it was a survey that tested only a sample of the population instead of everybody. Get yourself a sense of humor before making more snide remarks on the internet.

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