Housing Complex

Burleith: Just Slightly More of a Rental Ghetto Than Everywhere Else

Burleith, half renters.

Members of the citizens groups fighting against campus plans recently submitted by Georgetown and American Universities were none too happy that WAMU's Kojo Nnamdi included only university spokespeople in a Monday program on the subject. Before it started, the program's web page gathered more comments than probably any in WAMU's history, and the station was deluged with calls.

Perhaps to compensate, Nnamdi took the unusual step of taking not one, but two calls from Lenore Rubino, president of the Burleith Citizens Association and a passionate advocate against Georgetown's plan to enroll more graduate students. Her primary argument has been that more students living off campus, incentivizing property owners to rent rather than sell homes to upstanding nuclear families, destabilizes the housing stock. After doing a house-by-house inventory of the neighborhood, she even has a statistic: 48 percent of the approximately 500 homes within the neighborhood's boundaries are rentals, and "a majority" are occupied by students, which makes for at least 100 potential animal houses.

"We find many instances where the students are in peril, where we find them drunk, passed out on the streets," Rubino said. "There are huge parties that even the students can't control. There's 50, 60 people. These are small row houses. Next door, you have have seniors. You have babies."

According to the Office of Tax and Revenue, 62 percent of residential properties citywide claim the homestead tax exemption–meaning that the owner uses the house as his or her primary residence–which means about 38 percent are likely rented out. That's not too much less than 48 percent, for an area in such close proximity to a major educational and research institution. Rents aren't exactly cheap in Burleith, either; the typical starving graduate student will look for housing further afield–which they wouldn't have had to do if neighbors had allowed them to build on the 1789 block, just steps from the campus wall.

Rubino withheld her more detailed statistics, saying they're keeping some things in reserve for the Zoning Commission hearing set for April 14th. After a sustained fundraising campaign, BCA and the Citizens Association of Georgetown will still be represented on a pro bono basis by lawyer Richard Hines.

Of course, further north in Tenleytown, neighbors are still protesting American University's plans to build 770 units of housing on a Nebraska Avenue parking lot. That's already been downsized from more than 1,000, and according to vice president for facilities and real estate Jorge Abud, they've also responded to neighborhood concerns by orienting the buildings inward and adding landscape features that will "buffer the community from views and potential noise from the site."

In other words, they're making the new east campus both less dense and less friendly to the streets around it, to assuage the concerns of those who would rather not see it there at all. Meanwhile, the Tenley Campus Neighbors Association has asked AU to sign a conservation easement that would preserve large swaths of green space on the west campus, where a new law school is proposed. Abud pointed out that the best way to allow for the preservation of green space is to build higher.

"There's a tradeoff when you're doing land planning in height of buildings versus how much land you take up," he said. "And obviously, if we built all two, three-story buildings, we'd be doing away with a lot more green space. So it is part of our sensitivity to sustainability that we look at that delicate balance between the height of a building...and how much land we take up in the process."

Never underestimate the ability of those who oppose density to contradict themselves.

The new American campus plan.

Comments

  1. #1

    being a student makes you part of a protected class in this city. i don't understand why that doesn't work more in students' favor...

  2. #2

    There's no contradiction when the underlying desire is to have the universities NOT build anything on that land.

  3. #3

    Yeah I CAN'T BELIEVE Georgetown University moved next door to you Georgetown residents. Who ever saw that coming?! Oh, wait...YOU moved next to Georgetown University?; and now you're complaining about college students living in your neighborhood?...hmm. You poor people!

    The only Georgetown residents I feel bad for are the ones who live near Georgetown cupcake and have people sitting on their front steps everyday. They truly got hosed.

  4. #4

    50-60 people is a "huge party" at Georgetown?

    Amateurs!

  5. #5

    Hey RV,

    Most long-term residents in Georgetown and Burleith bought houses in neighborhoods that were much less saturated with over-populated rundown student rental houses than they are now.

    Most of us appreciate you students, and can even tolerate a loud party now and then, but there is a limit and we are beyond that.

    Yours most respectfully,
    An old man that used to live in a quieter neighborhood

  6. #6

    Another point or two about rental stats:
    1-Lots of people claim homestead even if they don't live there. There is a large financial incentive for doing so and it's not particularly easy or efficient for the city to check on a case by case basis.
    2- Even assuming that the 62-38 figure extrapolated from the homestead deduction approaches the actual number, that figure would include multifamily structures running the gamut from duplexes to huge apartment buildings. Burleith has none of those that I am aware of. It's a neighborhood composed of small(ish) row homes that were built as single family dwellings.

  7. #7

    Us students at Georgetown University can party wherever the $^&! we want. We are taking over Georgetown and Burleith!! GO HOYAS!

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