Housing Complex

Barry: No More Renters in Ward 8!

Gentrification fighter for life. (Darrow Montgomery)

Oh, Marion.

Despite all his talk about bringing economic development east of the river, Councilmember Marion Barry is planning to introduce legislation tomorrow that would actually forbid new apartment buildings in his ward. It's a very short bill, stating simply: "No District of Columbia government agency shall issue any permit for the construction of any apartment buildings in Ward 8," unless they're already underway.

So... why cut apartment buildings, arguably the biggest growth sector in the U.S. construction industry, out of the housing plan for a depressed area?

According to Barry, it's all about encouraging homeownership, which stands at only 24 percent of residents in Ward 8. Instead of developing apartment buildings, he wants to get all the boarded-up houses renovated and occupied, with city-subsidized home loans to help people buy them. Because it's homeowners, not renters, who help improve the area.

"Renters, by their very nature, don't keep up their neighborhoods like homeowners would," Barry tells me. "Renters will allow drug dealers in the neighborhood. It's a fact. It's a doggone fact."

And he's not buying all this Richard Florida bullshit about flexibility in housing being the key to economic progress.

"The American dream is to own a home. And black people have not gotten the American dream as much as they need to," Barry says. "Somebody can rent for 20 years, and has no equity in their unit at all."

"I've thought about this," Barry finishes. "It's not a kneejerk reaction."

  • Bryant Turnage

    Only the latest in insane, illogical statements from the Mayor for Life. Have the last three years taught us nothing? Can we ever drop the illusion that home ownership is the only valid measure of self-worth and proving oneself a citizen, much less that it is the pinnacle of the American Dream?

    Ugh. What a maroon.

  • http://marketurbanism.com Stephen Smith

    The case law on this sort of extreme exclusionary zoning is not in Barry's favor. That having been said, is there even any interest on the part of developers in putting up new apartment buildings in Ward 8? Looks to me like Barry has done a pretty good job of making his ward so inhospitable to new real estate development and general economic development that nobody's really interested in building multifamily structures, anyway.

  • http://rentdccondos.com Domusdc

    Serious problems with this point of view. The reason that Ward 8 trails in homeownership and leads in some of the more negative statistical categories is a jobs issue, not a for-sale housing supply issue.

    "D.C.’s Ward 8 has the highest unemployment rate of any U.S. metropolitan area with a comparable size workforce, Bloomberg News reported, citing data from the Department of Employment Services.

    Ward 8’s jobless rate stood at 25.2 percent in January, up from 23.1 percent in December. El Centro, Calif., had the next-highest unemployment rate at 25.1 percent.

    The poverty rate in Ward 8 is now 35 percent, according to the D.C.-based Urban Institute, Bloomberg said. The average annual household income in Ward 8 between 2005 and 2009 was just over $44,000, compared with $115,000 for the District as a whole."

    Whole article: http://www.bizjournals.com/washington/news/2011/03/30/ward-8-has-nations-highest-jobless-rate.html?response=no

    No matter how much housing engineering you provide, unless you can create sustainable jobs and economic development for residents, you're not going to solve the problems of neighborhood blight.

  • Drez

    This makes no so sense no matter how one looks at it. Dude is nuts.

  • ColumbiaHeightsResident

    "Renters will allow drug dealers in the neighborhood. It's a fact." If that's the case, then I guess it's no surprise that Marion Barry rents his place.

  • Southeast Ken

    I agree, renters tend to don't give a dam about living surroundings in apartment buildings. They trash many buildings. Of course, this doesn't happen on rental properties in Ward 3. Home owners tend to take pride in the neighborhoods.

  • ray

    first time ive agreed with Marion Barry on anything.

  • Southeast Ken

    @Ray; I agree. LOL

  • Ward-8

    Yes, Home owners take care of their property however Ward -8 is plague by the non home owners who walk through the neighborhood most of whom are immune to a trash can dispite getting the DC Goverment to place trash cans through out the ward and at bus stops, the animals contine to throw trash to the nearest ground at their feet and where ever their un-train dog decides to poop, And while the Mayor for life is driving around, talk to the folks who brought houses in these new developments only to find out later a percentages of the neighbors are section 8, the majority of whom care less about the up keep of the property and allow their children to damage the home and the surrounding homes.Keep the new developments 100% owner occupied, problem solved.

  • Yeah

    It will never, ever pass. Big deal.

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  • Jackie

    For real now really...More crap about nothing but crap. Let's not forget Mr Barry where you may be DC mayor but also during your reign in office it was the biggest drug scene in the DC area at that time and let's not forget your journey into that scene also. How about getting more involved in the neighbors you feel is causing or making it that way. What happen to police that care or a government that care also. You want to feel validate then walk in all neighbors not just ward 7 and make crap statements. There is drug & more behind doors keep that in mind.

  • Jackie

    Sorry WARD 8 I meant

  • DC_Expat

    Ha, DCHA voucher recipients and Section 8'ers are a huge cash cow for DC landlords, and a solid business plan for many local business-folk is to stock a building full of DCHA's and/or S8'ers and let the money roll in. My guess is many of these constituents will be giving Barry a call soon to remind him where he gets his giveaway turkeys and to please not exclude their chattel.

  • DJ Ren

    "I've thought about this," Barry finishes.

    And that, friends, is the problem. Marion is nuts. Of course, if he was remotely successful at developing his ward over the last 30-odd years perhaps he would not need to make such absurd statements, but that's all his constituents get out of this dinosaur.

    This bill will go nowhere, and even if it did pass, would not have the intended outcome.

  • HousingAdvocate

    It doesn't matter if it's affordable rental or homeownership in DC, lower-income residents aren't allowed to build any equity regardless. Thanks to the City's ill-thought-out Inclusionary Zoning law or the fact that every development in that District that has city dollars attached to them have lengthy resale restrictions forbidding equity appreciation for purchasers, Barry's "dream" of promoting homeownership in SE is just a sick fantasy. So do away rentals and institute this twisted form of homeownership, it will not make a difference.

  • @SamuelMoore

    It's not that he wants home ownership so much as he's scared of mixed use development popping up near Metro stations in his ward...

  • SEis4ME

    LOL@Marion Barry.

    I sorta understand his point but Barry...come on now.

  • The Truth Teller

    I will first start with Stephen Smith. Mr. Smith you stated case law, we are in DC where probably 25 - 30% of our laws violate previous case law, just look at our First Source rules which have been shot down in the S'Court more than once.

    Now to Domusdc there is nothing the government can do to fix these problems. We have a generational problem of poverty, unemployment, crime and other issues in that ward. Folks actually fight progress because they fear change and they mask in it reverse prejudice. They say that things such as gentrification are going to bring white folks to a traditional black part of the city which 40 years ago was all white. The fact of the matter is that Barry is worried about a new group of free thinking young folks moving into his ward and putting his ass out of office.

    HousingAdvocate, lastly you are 100% correct, the illogical rules in the city make it stupid for anyone who is working to make their selves better to become involved in one of the home buyer programs and there is nothing in it for them.

  • Scott

    I think in an abstract, totally hypothetical aspect, it's not a terrible idea. I do think that, generally speaking, home ownership leads to a certain amount of pride in where you live and a willingness to keep up not only your property, but the neighborhood as a whole. Stability in homes will lead to more economic upturns as small businesses are more likely to open in the area.
    Reality, however sad it is, is a completely different thing and Barry isn't really in touch with it.

  • Ward 8 Resident

    Wow - All your comments are interesting and some I agree and others are way off base. I moved from Ward 2 to Ward 8 to 'make a difference' however I understand there are many challenges within all Wards especially Ward 8. As an educated african american male that is educated, owns his own home, car, and a thriving career, I take an offense to overall generalization of all ppl in the ward. There are some accomplished ppl within the ward. With that being said, Barry has his issues and I am not a fan, however, there is some truth to homeowners taking pride in the properties and renters not basically giving a damn.

  • LongTimeRez

    Not to put too fine a point on Barry's musings, but doesn't he rent?

  • WhoSaidWhat?

    The problem is he's right in a weird way. It's the accepted way in east of the river to stock up apartments with those who feel entitled to live off everyone else aka Section 8. They have no respect for anyone and live like animals and there is always an excuse as to why. Most often the excuse is made by some bleeding heart who doesn't have to live around them.If you're forced to live around these people, you might think differently about it. There are few places left in DC that are affordable. If I could sell my house right now for any kind of profit, I would do it and live in an apartment to get away from them, but becasue they have flooded the neighborhood, there's nothing to be done. All the other areas of DC have changed...ALL OF THEM, except wards 7&8. And everyone cries, "they have to live somewhere" SInce when do we have to support people who do nothing all day? Why is this ok over here but not in Ward 1-3? Oh right, we should be used to it huh? I say, if you've lived here for more than 10 yrs and you have nothing to show for it; get out. If you can't afford to live someplace what makes you or anyone else think you're entitled to live there just because? Get real. Get a job, invest in the community or get out. Go live down south where it's cheaper.

  • Fisch

    "The American dream is to own a home. And black people have not gotten the American dream as much as they need to,"

    Need to, or WANT to? The dream is still there, however, as we have discovered over the past few years, it takes more than a minimum wage income to be able to afford a house payment and with 40% unemployment in that part of town, maybe Barry should be focused more on jobs and employment before he starts pushing people back into a situation that precipitated the housing crisis in the first place.

    I agree with Barry that home ownership creates a sense of pride in the community, but you can't force that upon people- you have to educate people as to the costs of owning a home and regardless of whether someone WANTS to own, they have to be able to AFFORD to own, lest we replay 2008 in another 5-7 years...

  • Fisch

    Correction- I meant 25% unemployment (40% is the poverty rate, I believe).

  • Bob

    "It's not that he wants home ownership so much as he's scared of mixed use development popping up near Metro stations in his ward..."i

    This has gotta' be the reason. Barry wants a piece of the action for Himself and His political cronies. If by some chance this proposed legislation passed (a long shot, I would think), you'll eventually see Barry come forward to amend it for some project or another that has "agreed to invest in the community...blah, blah, blah" -- meaning that tribute has been paid. The poor ex-Mayor-for-Life -- hasn't anyone told him yet that "pay to play" is going out of style even in P.G. County?

  • ess

    how many current owners of rental buildings donate to Barry? How much will they benefit from keeping the supply of rental housing in the area down? That may explain part of why he introduced this bill.

  • commentor

    I am a renter in Ward 8. My husband and I plant flowers, have built a deck, constructed parking spaces for 4 cars (at the permission of the home owner), have put an Island in the kitchen and have increased the value of the home nearly 20,000. We take pride in where we live, renting or purchasing.

    There are good renters, bad owners etc. everywhere.

  • Ward 8 Rez

    @ Commentor - Please don't put another dime into increasing equity for some other person's property! Get your own home and build equity for you and your family. If I was that owner, I would kick you out and collect that $20,000 equity payment. And this is REAL!

  • SEis4ME



    You spent your own money renovating a home that you don't own..but rent?

    Really? So you increased the value by 20g's and will pay the additional 20 g's if you chose to buy.


  • Jerome

    homeowners are drug dealers and USER as well not just renter Barry knows it, he spent many years in CRACKHOUSES, and by the way Barry don't you rent an apartment in Washington View

  • SW

    I agree. What kind of idiot puts $20k of equity into someone else's home? YOU'RE A RENTER. DEAL WITH IT. OR FIND A BETTER PLACE.

    Morons in this city, so fucking many of them.

  • Typical DC BS

    Got to say that this topic really hit home with the amount of comments, many of which were really thought-provoking. Glad to see so many passionate about this subject.

  • oboe

    Barry's about-face on many of these anti-poverty issues reflect the changing demographic of Ward 8. It's trending more middle-class due to gentrification (black middle-class gentrification). Younger middle-class blacks have many of the same concerns as younger middle-class whites. Many of the old guard who see public policy as a tool to effect social change are aging rapidly, or moving out of the city.

    In 5-10 years, DC politics will be completely revolutionized, driven by a multi-racial middle-class coalition, rather than the current system which is fueled largely by fear of change on the part of the rich, and economic resentment on the part of the poor.

  • Dave F

    Barry has his problems, and as a gay man who is absolutely infuriated every time I hear someone who was involved in The Movement come out against marriage equality, I can definitely say he's not all that dear to my heart. However, I think the one really intelligent thing he has to add here that no one is paying attention to is the vacant housing stock in Ward 8. This is a huge problem east of the river, and I don't think he's totally off-base trying to get people to look at working with what we already have rather than razing everything. It failed miserably in SW in the 50s, and it's just bad policy.

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