“Build all the new housing in downtown’s backyard” isn’t working out well for DC

Construction around Navy Yard Metro

Part three of my multi-part series about housing production in DC went live on GGWash this week. Further installments will examine the impact of so much new housing construction on how central-city neighborhood planning — and begin to examine alternative forms that new housing besides central-city high-rises.

Part 1 – DC built 13% less housing over the past decade than its own citywide plan calls for: In 2006, DC adopted a Comprehensive Plan to guide its development efforts. At the time, the District’s population had just started to perk up after six decades of decline, and the plan reasonably foresaw that growth could continue into the future. The District’s population has indeed grown substantially, but its housing stock isn’t keeping pace.

Part 2 – The lion’s share of DC’s new housing is only going in one part of the city: Over the last decade, DC has built 13% less housing than its Comprehensive Plan calls for. Of the new housing that is going up, most of it is confined to the central city even though the plan recommends only 30% go there. Meanwhile, most parts of the District are building little or no new housing.

Part 3 – Most of DC’s new housing is in high-rises, which most people can’t afford to live in
At first glance, the District’s central-city housing boom might seem to be completely benign: as long as new housing is being built, does it matter where it is? But by funneling almost all new residences into central-city high-rises, the District is all but requiring that new housing be built with only the most expensive construction techniques, on the most expensive land. Potential residents need more choices.

2 thoughts on ““Build all the new housing in downtown’s backyard” isn’t working out well for DC

  1. Hi! I read this (on GGW) and thought of a project on my block being protested by my NIMBY neighbors – a pop-up, carve-up of a big rowhouse into 7-8 luxury condos, basically. Our immediate neighborhood has a good mix of low-income and middle income families now, longer-term and newer white, black and Hispanic residents, which is apparently rare in DC.

    The problem for me, an under-informed, non-urban planner, is determining whether and how this micro-level local housing expansion meets goals I think many share of a DC that allows moderate and low-income families to live across DC. Is more widely dispersed housing stock for higher-disposable-income people, likely recent arrivals, a good thing for DC housing planning or not? I do not want to be like my knee-jerk NIMBY neighbors, but should I be on the same side of the argument for different reasons? Or say yes to all new housing, anywhere, of any kind?

    Also, more broadly, are there sets of principles and factors that should go into whether residents should be supportive of certain projects at the micro-level, e.g., pop-ups, new buildings (big or small), low-income housing in your neighborhood, be for/against shelters or vouchers, etc.

    These issues keep being put in front of me, and as an educated person who believes in science and building on others’ experiences, I want to do better than just go with my gut. Has anyone written up something on the for GGW or elsewhere, and if not, would someone (you) consider it?

  2. Pingback: Full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing. | west north

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