As The D.C. Area Grows Pricier, Can Picking Up A Side Hustle (Or Three) Make A Difference?

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<br /> As The D.C. Area Grows Pricier, Can Picking Up A Side Hustle (Or Three) Make A Difference? | WAMU




























Food and savings are Scott’s biggest monthly expenses after rent, accounting for more than a third of her take-home pay. Groceries alone, including a Costco membership, come to about $550, with another $200 spent on the occasional meal out. Then she puts another $908 into savings and a 401(k) that’s separate from the one her work provides.

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“My parents were very open about money in my family, so they set me up with a financial planner in my mid-20s,” Scott says.

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Each month, Scott contributes $358 per month to the 401(k) the planner established as added insulation for the future. While she is paying off $2,000 in credit card debt, sheu00a0is free of student-loan debt, having attended AU on scholarship with her parents covering non-tuition expenses.

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Scott has about $550 in discretionary spending a month, including some $60 for pet-related expenses.Suzannah Hoover / For WAMU

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Bills, Bills, Bills

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Most of Scott’s monthly bills are common to many wallets: $275 for her car payment, $53 for her cellphone and about $200-$300 for utilities, a cost she splits with her boyfriend (who replaced her roommate). She also pays $77 a month for insurance costs: car insurance, renters insurance and life insurance. And she incurs about $115 monthly in routine medical costs.

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Her medical bills went up last year when she had surgery on her hip to repair a running-related injury.

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“I was lucky enough that my insurance plan restarts every first of January, so I took the opportunity to bump up to the platinum plan that my work offered me,” Scott says. The move cut her deductible in half and lowered her copay from $50 to $20. That came in handy during the post-op physical therapy sessions.

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Physical activity is a regular expense for Scott, who describes herself as “annoyingly athletic.”u00a0The triathlete spends about $200 a month on pilates, swim, barre and spin classes from Arlington County Parks and Recreation, and another $49 a month for her CycleBar membership. Socializing eats up the same amount of her discretionary income, with some $252 per month covering bar and restaurant tabs, movie tickets and the like. Scott also has two cats u2014 Rocky and Mickey u2014u00a0whose care requires nearly $70 a month.

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She also travelsu00a0a few times a year, including a trip to Iceland a couple of years ago with her family for a Cyclothon, a bike relay around the country’s Ring Road.u00a0Last year, her travel expenses totaled $2,129.

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Funds For A Family?u00a0

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When assessing her financial situation, Scott says it’s a bit difficult to square her concerns about the future with the fact that she makes “a really good living.” Yet despite all the factors that make it easier to live in the area u2014 from a salary that’s 19% higher than the average per capita income in Arlington to housing costs that are 21% loweru00a0u2014 Scott still has some concerns about the years ahead.

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“I’ve considered going back to grad school to get a masters degree or an MBA, and I just don’t feel like I can take on the burden of another loan,” Scott says, adding that continuing her education could saddle her with more than $40,000 in student debt.

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She’s also not sure how she and her boyfriend could afford children, which she estimates would cost about $30,000 annually. Scott could rein in some of her extracurriculars, spending less on fitness classes, but says the savings wouldn’t make up the difference. And she views eliminating a 401(k) as “gambling” with her retirement.

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Her best bet for the future? Getting a sizeable pay increase without the price tag of an advanced degree, she says.

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“I would have to make at least $30 or $40,000 more a year to feel comfortable enough to make that leap where I can support another person, basically,” Scott says. “And give them all the things that I feel like they should have, especially in an area like this where there’s so much to offer.”

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Tell us about your finances and your money challenges.u00a0

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She’s got enough cash to cover pet expenses and her fitness routine, but financial stability in the future remains uncertain.

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Mallory Scott and her boyfriend each pay $700 in rent for their Arlington home, purchased by Scott’s parents in the 1990s for $190,000.

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Arlington","audioFileID":5527022,"audioFile":"https://downloads.wamu.org/mp3/nw/20/02/moneytalks-scott-web.mp3","audioLength":"4:17","audioOffset":"","postPermalink":"https://wamu.org/story/20/02/19/shes-earning-82000-but-doubts-she-can-afford-kids-in-arlington/","audioSlug":"WAMU"},"beat":"Local","beatSlug":"local","slug":{"name":"WAMU","permalink":"https://wamu.org/provider/wamu/","categoryName":"","providerClass":"provider-internal","flagSlug":"","flagText":""},"promoted":"","headMeta":{"title":"As The D.C. Area Grows Pricier, Can Picking Up A Side Hustle (Or Three) Make A Difference? | WAMU","description":"She's got enough cash to cover pet expenses and her fitness routine, but financial stability in the future remains uncertain.","canonical":"https://wamu.org/story/20/02/19/shes-earning-82000-but-doubts-she-can-afford-kids-in-arlington/","featured_image":{"url":"https://wamu.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/SHP_WAMU_MoneyDiary_MalloryScott-2-1024x683.jpg","width":1024,"height":683},"image":"https://wamu.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/wamu-default-og-image.png"},"provider":{"term_id":561,"name":"WAMU","slug":"wamu","term_group":0,"term_taxonomy_id":562,"taxonomy":"wamu_provider","description":"","parent":0,"count":40879,"filter":"raw","permalink":"https://wamu.org/provider/wamu/"}},{"ID":5514002,"guid":"https://wamu.org/story/20/02/17/more-couples-are-embracing-female-breadwinners-despite-decades-old-stigma/","title":"More Couples Are Embracing Female Breadwinners, Despite Decades-Old Stigma","content":"

Kalina Newman and Alex Peu00f1a locked eyes for a quick chat in a busy D.C. coffee shop. The couple talked about finances as the afternoon crowd sipped lattes and ate pastries.

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A 3 p.m. conversation about budgeting might not be ideal for everyone. But for Newman and Peu00f1a, 22, itu2019s become the norm. And their knack for spreadsheets isnu2019t the only thing that might set them apart from other couples. With a salary of nearly $90,000, Newman earns more than twice what Peu00f1a does.

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u201cIt’s not as if I am paying for everything around the house. I’m not his sugar mama or anything,u201d Newman says with a chuckle.

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Nearly 30% of American wives in heterosexual dual-income marriages earn more than their husbands, according to 2018 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Thatu2019s been increasing over time: In 1987, only 18% of wives claimed breadwinner status in marriages where both partners worked. This trend upsets established gender norms, and research shows it can increase strife in relationships and even lead couples to misrepresent their incomes.

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‘Your Success Is My Success’

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When Newman landed her higher-paying job two months ago, the couple decided they could afford to rent a pricier, better-looking place with more amenities, and they moved to Arlington.

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“She told me that she applied for this job and that she had an interview for it coming up, and that if she got it, it could really open a lot of doors for us,” Peu00f1a says. “I was like, ‘Sweet, go for it, your success is my success.'”

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The two, who have been dating for four years and arenu2019t married, split rent payments in proportion to their salaries. Peu00f1a, the one who drives, covers the cost of their parking spot. The couple splits the bills 50-50. And they typically track and pay for their own individual purchases. Itu2019s a system that works for them, the couple says. But it hasnu2019t always been this smooth.

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u201cThere was a brief period where I was, not jealous, but I was more like, u2018Am I doing my part?u2019u201d Peu00f1a says. u201cI felt inadequate and I felt bad, almost.u201d

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Peu00f1au2019s feelings werenu2019t unusual. A study published by the American Psychological Association found that a manu2019s self-esteem took a hit when his female partner outperformed him in general. Women, on the other hand, were unaffected by their partnersu2019 success.

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u201cThere’s some men who certainly feel really proud of their wives. This is their partner. She’s smart and she’s successful. And it can be intimidating to a man as well,u201d says Dr. Angela Snyder, a Washington-based clinical psychologist.

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Snyder says the concept of a female breadwinner contradicts whatu2019s been the societal norm for decades. Men were typically the ones who u201cbrought home the bacon,u201d and adjusting to that shift can be difficult for couples.

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Hiding A Higher Income

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When women earn more in the relationship, it can make both parties uncomfortable. Some lie about it to family and friends u2014 and other couples have lied to the government about how they actually live.

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A 2018 paper from the Census Bureau suggested that what respondents told census surveyors about their earnings was different than what their employers told the Internal Revenue Service in tax filings.

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u201cI think they’re even hiding it from themselves. And when people come into couples’ therapy, itu2019s amazing how little is being talked about in their relationship about what they’re expecting,u201d adds Dr. Snyder.

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In opposite-sex marriages in which women earned more, women reported on the Census, on average, that they earned 1.5 percentage points less than they actually did. Their husbands said they earned 2.9 percentage points more than they did.

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Newman and Peu00f1a talk openly about their finances with the people closest to them. They say to their generation, a female breadwinner isnu2019t such a big deal.

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u201cI know all of my friendsu2019 salaries and my family knows [that I earn more] and it’s not a secret,u201d Newman says. u201cI earned this job, I love what I do, and I work really, really hard.u201d

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When Reversed Gender Norms Take A Toll

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One Silver Spring woman, whou2019s originally from Nigeria, describes being the female breadwinner in her recent relationship as a u201cnightmare.u201d Her 18-year marriage ended in divorce in 2017. At the peak of the relationship, she says, she was making $120,000 in the public health industry while her husband chose not to work.

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The woman shared her story with WAMU on the condition of anonymity so she could speak freely about the coupleu2019s finances and relationship.

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u201cHeu2019s an extremely smart guy, heu2019s just lazy,u201d she says of her ex-husband.

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Constant arguments about money led to health problems and hospital visits. She attributes multiple mental breakdowns to the shame and stress of being married to a man who didnu2019t provide for the family. In traditional Nigerian culture, she adds, a man is expected to take care of his wife. This was evidenced by the response of her friends and family. When the woman bought a new Mercedes, she says, everyone assumed it was a gift from her husband.

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u201cMy cousin came to visit and she saw the car outside. She then ran straight to my husband, she totally ignored me, and shouted, u2018Youu2019re taking care of her! Thank you! Thank you!u2019 and she went on and on,u201d the woman says.

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After consulting with doctors, the woman eventually sought the help of her in-laws, to no avail. That left divorce as the only option.

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Uncomplicating The Female Breadwinner Dynamic

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These examples show just how sticky gender roles can be u2014 and how slow they are to change, even when reality progresses at a faster speed.

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Women are now much more likely to have an education and career. Yet across most marriages, they still do more child care and housework than their husbands, and men still feel strong pressure to be the family breadwinner.

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So, what does it take to have a successful marriage when gender earning norms are reversed? Dr. Snyder says it boils down to communication. Be honest with yourselves about how you feel about the situation, clarify expectations and get to the bottom of it.

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u201cWith any change, there are stumbling blocks and there is resistance,u201d Dr. Snyder says. u201cAnd that doesn’t mean it’s bad, it just means it’s an opportunity for further growth in the individual and in the couple.u201d

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When you give to WAMU, your tax-deductible gift helps make possible the award-winning reporting and programs upon which youu2019ve come to expect and rely, including Morning Edition, All Things Considered, 1A, The Kojo Nnamdi Show and many more!

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When women earn more in the relationship, it can make both parties uncomfortable. Some lie about it to family and friends u2014 and other couples have lied to the government about how they actually live.

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Kalina Newman and Alex Peu00f1a say though there have been moments of doubt and tension, the two have come to terms with Newman making more than double Peu00f1a’s salary.

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We’re doing a new series at WAMU asking people about their finances. To do this, we’ve distributed a survey that asks some personal questions.

n

Thereu2019s a question about your salary. And thereu2019s a section to tell us whatu2019s your biggest financial challenge and why. From bill payments to entertainment spending, we want a breakdown of how you truly live your life. And, if chosen to be featured, a reporter on WAMUu2019s Affordability Desk will get in touch. So far, more than 150 people have filled out the form. Their answers highlight the broad variety of lifestyles and cash flow in this expensive region.u00a0Weu2019re putting these differences on the front page.

n

Deeply personal. I know.u00a0

n

I met Alison after reading her responses.u00a0She hadnu2019t filled out every column, but she answered most of the questions, including her monthly income, her rent and the amount of debt she was holding.u00a0

n

And weu2019re grateful. For some, jotting down personal information on a survey might be a stretch.u00a0

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Not everybody in D.C. is rich. Not everybody in the District is poor. But we can all agree u2014 it can be tough to afford to live here.u00a0

n

Alison shared that sheu2019s making $56,000 a year and is more than $70,000 in debt from student loans and credit cards. That was enough for me to reach out for a deeper chat.

n

u201cThanks for getting back to me,u201d Alison wrote in a reply email. I was thinking, u201cNo, thank you.u201du00a0

n

On the day we sat together and talked, Alison was an open book. She seemed shy but had a big smile. And she had prepared a small handwritten note that she slid into her pocket. It was her back-up list of monthly expenses, in case she forgot to mention something during the interview. Alison even brought a handful of monthly statements.

n

She was prepared to be transparent.

n

Then she told me about her apartment: a 150-square-foot basement efficiency in Northeast D.C. for which she pays $950 a month. She can touch her refrigerator from her bed.

n

u201cWait u2026 what?u201d I said, and she laughed. I guess sheu2019s used to that reaction.u00a0

n

Alison was clear: She knows she can pay more money and find a bigger place to live. But with a low-paying job (as she called it) and her passion for global travel, she said she decided to make that sacrifice. Alison simply wanted to show how she makes it all work u2026 for her. And only her.u00a0

n

The reaction to this story has been eye-opening, to say the least. More than 30,000 people clicked on the story in the hours after it was published, and countless more heard Alison on Morning Edition. According to WAMUu2019s audience producer, the feature contributed to the website’s u201cbest Wednesday for [online] traffic.u201du00a0

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Many people in this audience have been positive, commending Alison for her bravery, sharing stories of their own unusual living arrangements in D.C., and even offering advice for how to bring down the debt.

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A select few, though, chose to insult Alison and point the finger at her budgeting style and tiny apartment.

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n

Some recognized Alisonu2019s efforts to save money for emergencies and for retirement. She recently upped the contributions to her 401(a). And she does have a plan for eventually knocking down the debt sheu2019s racked up.

n

Show of handsu2026Who hasnu2019t spent more than they should have at one point or another? Which Washingtonian hasnu2019t paid astronomical rent for a place that wasnu2019t worth the price tag? Which working person has it together financially all the time?u00a0

n

Now how many of you are willing to tell your local NPR station about your personal finances in an online survey?u00a0

n

The hands are dropping, Iu2019m sure.

n

It amazes me how many people felt the need to judge this woman, and Jennifer, the Ward 7 resident and subject of last weeku2019s installment of the ongoing series. Neither of them expressed regret over their situations. No one is asking for charity. They donu2019t need lectures on financial responsibility. Theyu2019re living their lives and they were comfortable enough to tell us about it. We value their trust.u00a0

n

But if youu2019re doing so much better than these women, and the others who have responded to the survey, share your budget. Tell us your story. Enlighten us. Put your money where your mouth is, literally.

n

Or you can enjoy the remainder of WAMUu2019s new, diverse series and leave the unfair judgment behind.

nt
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Your Support Makes It All Possible

ntt

When you give to WAMU, your tax-deductible gift helps make possible the award-winning reporting and programs upon which youu2019ve come to expect and rely, including Morning Edition, All Things Considered, 1A, The Kojo Nnamdi Show and many more!

ntt

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ntn","paginatedContent":[],"excerpt":"

“Show of handsu2026Who hasnu2019t spent more than they should have at one point or another? Now how many of you are willing to tell your local NPR station about your personal finances in an online survey?”

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Not everybody in D.C. is rich. Not everybody in the District is poor. But we can all agree u2014 it can be tough to afford to live here.u00a0

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WAMUu2019su00a0Affordability Desku00a0is exploring how people across our region, from all walks of life, earn and spend their money. This is one installment in a series on personal budgeting. You can participate byu00a0telling us a little about yourself.

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Updated February 14.u00a0

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Like many Washingtonians, Alison’s rent is her highest monthly expense. But many Washingtonians may be envious of how much she pays to live alone in the District: $950.

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“I live in a very small efficiency that’s underneath a house, sort of a basement efficiency. It’s about 150 square feet,” Alison says of her apartmentu00a0in the Woodridge neighborhood in Northeast D.C.u00a0“My rent is under a third of my pay, so it allows me to do things. But I do kind of wish I had a higher paying position,” she says.

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Alison, 37, moved to the District from Atlanta three years ago for an internship. That opportunity led to a series of library gigs, including her current stint checking out books to staff at the Library of Congress. She makes $56,000 a year.

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Living in D.C. on that salary has been a financial strain for her. So, she says, she’s sacrificing elbow room in order to make ends meet.

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Living Big In A Tiny Apartment

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According to multiple sources, the median rental price for one-bedroom apartments in the District is $2,000. That makes this arrangement a steal for Alison. She was only working part-time when she arrived in D.C., so she says she jumped at the chance to apply for a “cheaper” apartment.

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“I can reach my refrigerator from my bed, it’s very compact,” Alison says. “There’s not a lot of floor space, but it has everything in it.”

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The rental price includes utilities, she adds. And squeezed inside the unit is a full kitchen, washer and dryer, bed and bathroom. Alison has even turned some storage space underneath the kitchen sink into a bookshelf.

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The tight quarters means she can spend more money on a passion that takes her outside of her home u2014 travel.

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“I like having as little bit of housing obligation as I can, so that the rest of my life can be more vibrant and more interesting,” she says. “I don’t want to just be in D.C. with a giant apartment and just there all day.”

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Aside from housing costs, Alison forks out $110 a month for her student loan payment. She studied history at Georgia State University and hopes to make the nearly $60,000 balance a thing of the past, too.

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“Because I work for the federal government, I signed up for that program that hopefully after 10 years I won’t have them anymore,” she says. “But I’ve heard that hasn’t worked out for a lot of people.”

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She’s also racked up $12,000 in debt on credit cards and department store cards. Alison says the balance began to climb when she moved to D.C. and needed to buy clothing for a new job. Her guilty pleasure after living in the colder climate, she says, has been spending on new coats.

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Health and dental benefit plans cost Alison $120 and $45 per month, respectively. She adds, “I barely use the medical, though.”

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u201cEven though itu2019s really tiny, I wanted a place that I could afford even if everything went catastrophically wrong,u201d says Alison.Courtesy of Alison

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Alison says she dines out more than she’d like to admit. She’s also a sucker for discounted food.

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“I think I’m lying to myself about how much I eat with Uber Eats. It’s so easy because there’s not a whole lot of food in my neighborhood,” she says. “When they have free delivery, or 25% off, I’m like, ‘Okay, this is perfect.'”

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Alison admits she’s practically throwing away $58 each month on insurance for an old car she barely drives.

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She does, however, ride the Metro and she walks about three miles a day on her journey to and from work (this prompted her to spend on some better shoes than she had when she drove more often in Atlanta). One perk she enjoys is the transportation benefit offered by her employer which covers the cost of her bus and train rides. This saves Alison roughly $156 each month.

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Alison also splits the payments on her mother’s car note with her sister. Her share is $50 a month.

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Saving For Retirement u2026 Or An Emergency

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Alison remains focused on the future. With each passing year, as her budget allows, she’s made adjustments to her 401(a) contributions. She pays $93 biweekly for retirement and another $85 every two weeks automatically goes toward a Thrift Savings Plan. Alison also maintains access to funds in a retirement plan from her last job in Atlanta.

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“Andu00a0I have about $2,000 or $3,000 just in savings. I’ve put aside $125 off of my paycheck so that it never even reaches me,” Alison says.

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Alison’s monthly statements at-a-glance.Victoria Chamberlin / WAMU

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Because her current employer matches 5% of her retirement contributions, Alison increased her payments last month. That move, she says, allows her to “take advantage of all [she] can.”

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After the longest government shutdown in American history ended last January, Alison changed her outlook and made saving money a priority.

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“They were talking about how many paychecks can you go without,” she says. “I probably can go about two paychecks before it would get kind of out of hand.”

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Budgeting For Fun

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When she’s not consumed with books at the circulation desk, Alison likes to escape by way of trips overseas. She flew to Iceland and London last year, along with domestic flights to Alaska and Arizona.

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“I like to find cheap ways to get to Europe,” she says. ”u00a0I was able to use my miles for some of them.”

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In between flights, Alison says her social life is pretty low-key. A happy hour here or there u2014 or a stroll through one of the District’s many museums are her preferred ways to spend her time locally. And Alison is still reeling with excitement about watching a recent live performance by the late dancer and choreographer Alvin Ailey’s dance company at the Kennedy Center.

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But as Alison lives her best life, she can’t help but worry about her looming debt and expenses.

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“If I had some sort of medical condition or suddenly got sick, or something happened to my mom, or I had to stop working, I’m not confident that things would be okay in that regard,” Alison says.

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Tell us about your finances and your money challenges.u00a0

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When you give to WAMU, your tax-deductible gift helps make possible the award-winning reporting and programs upon which youu2019ve come to expect and rely, including Morning Edition, All Things Considered, 1A, The Kojo Nnamdi Show and many more!

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This story was updated to clarify Alison attended a live performance of the Alvin Ailey dance company. The text and audio were also updated to remove Alison’s last name, at her request, due to her discussion of personal finances.u00a0

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“I can reach my refrigerator from my bed, it’s very compact,” says Alison of Northeast D.C. about her 150 square foot apartment. “Not a lot of floor space, but it has everything in it.”

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Alison, 37, is a Northeast D.C. resident who works as a library technician at the Library of Congress. “The pay is not high, but it’s stable,” she says.

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Legal segregation ended in D.C. more than 70 years ago. But for many black Washingtonians, today’s housing market feels as inaccessible as it was during the Truman administration.

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In the District, research shows about 50% of black householdsu00a0own their homes, compared to more than 70% of white households u2014 a roughly 20 percentage point gap, according to the Urban Institute. Other metropolitan areas have gaps as high as 51%,u00a0but Washington’s disparity is significant for a region with such a robust black middle class.

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Obstacles to homeownership undercut African Americans’ ability to build wealth, perpetuating racial segregation and further entrenching poverty.u00a0The problem is so severe, the Urban Institute says it “threatens to exacerbate racial inequality for decades to come.”

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A lack of black homeownership is also the main reason white households in D.C. reported a net worth 81 times greater than the city’s U.S.-born black households in 2014. Meanwhile, rising property taxes and intensifying pressure to sell have prompted many of the city’s existing black homeowners to cash in their equity.

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But Hope Willis says her family won’t be one of them.

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‘This Is About Financial Stability’

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Willis is a 24-year-old D.C. native who recently moved into her childhood home in Petworth. Her parents bought the three-story rowhouse in 1991 and raised three kids there, later upgrading to a larger home in Maryland. But they didn’t sell the D.C. house when they moved. Instead, they rented it out for 10 years, with plans to let their children live there one day.

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Hope Willis in the Petworth home where she grew up. The 24-year-old D.C. native says her parents’ home is a lifeline in an increasingly expensive city.Suzannah Hoover / WAMU

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The house is now a lifeline for Willis, who recently took over her parents’ mortgage. She says she wouldn’t be able to afford to live in the District otherwise.

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“D.C. is experiencing a more accelerated form of gentrification than we’ve ever seen before,” she says. Renting an apartment in a Petworth high-rise u2014 where rents start around $1,800 u2014 would be “delusional.”

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Instead, Willis is now a landlord with three tenants, all of them native Washingtonians. Their rent helps her cover her parents’ $2,000-plus monthly mortgage payments. She sleeps in a small converted office off the living room and handles most home maintenance herself.

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Willis has pulled all-nighters repainting rooms and repairing the wood floors in the aging house. She accidentally impaled her hand on a nail while fixing baseboards. She discovered a horrifying cockroach infestation that required fumigation and days of sealing the cracks and holes that had let them in.

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“That was the moment that I said to myself, ‘I have no idea what I’m doing,'” Willis says with a laugh.

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But none of the challenges have shaken her conviction that the home must stay in her family. “This is about preserving community and creating long-term financial stability,” she says.

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It’s the kind of stability that remains out of reach for many black Washingtonians.

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The Roots Of Inequality

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Black residents in the District faced an extremely narrow path toward homeownership until the middle of last century.u00a0The Federal Housing Administration insured mortgages almost exclusively for white people between 1934 and 1962, including in the nation’s capital. The federal government advised lenders to avoid issuing mortgages to black buyers, categorizing segregated black neighborhoods as high risk. Courts upheld racially restrictive covenants that blocked property sales to black residents in many District neighborhoods until a 1948 Supreme Court decision banned the practice.

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For decades, black families were banned from buying homes in Petworth, shown here circa the late 1920s.Theodor Horydczak Collection, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

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Vestiges of legal segregation can still be found on deeds throughout the District. In 1936, the deed on Hope Willis’ childhood home specified that the lot “shall never be rented, leased, sold, transferred or conveyed unto or in trust for any negro or colored person of person of negro blood or extraction.”

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Such covenants were widespread in neighborhoods that later became majority African American.

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That includes the Northeast D.C. neighborhood of Stronghold, where D.C. Council member Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5) lives in a house his grandparents purchased in 1952. Six years before his grandparents moved in, two dozen of their white neighbors signed an agreement to not sell or lease to black residents for 21 years.

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The home has since become a crucial asset for McDuffie’s family.

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In 1936, the deed to Hope Willis’ family home in Petworth had a racially restrictive covenant barring its sale or lease to African Americans.D.C. Recorder of Deeds

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“Our home is our primary source of wealth,” the Council member says.u00a0“When you look at some of the disparities that exist across the country and in D.C. with respect to wealth, you see why homeownership is so important.”

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Today, records show thatu00a0many banks continue to deny home loans to qualified applicants of color at higher rates than white applicants. Racial income inequality, while fairly low in the D.C. area compared to the rest of the country, means people of color are disproportionately affected by rising home prices.

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D.C. has one of the smallest racial homeownership gaps in the country, but African American homeowners here were disproportionately harmed by the mortgage crisis.Urban Institute

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African Americans also were uniquely harmed by the subprime mortgage crisis, losingu00a0more than half their wealth nationally. Between 2004 and 2006, four out of five high-interest loans in the Washington area went to people of color. Consequently, nonwhite Washingtonians u2014 most of them black u2014 lost their homes at higher rates than whites. Black homeownership rates have started to rebound, though many African American borrowers are still paying mortgages that far exceed their homes’ worth.

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Intensifying the problem is the fact that black-owned homes gain value at a slower pace than white-owned homes, says Alanna McCargo, vice president for housing finance policy at the Urban Institute.

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“There’s a big difference in terms of [home value] appreciation that we’re seeing in white neighborhoods versus black neighborhoods in the region,” McCargo says, raising questions about the extent to which segregationist ideas about a neighborhood’s value continue to inform appraisals.

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How To Close The Racial Gap

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Some local governments are implementing partial solutions to address the issue.

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The District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia all offer financial assistance to first-time homebuyers with moderate or low incomes.

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To reduce the racial homeownership gap, local leaders “have to look at land use,” says Alanna McCargo with the Urban Institute.

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D.C.’s Home Purchase Assistance Program, which provides zero-interest down payment loans and closing cost assistance, distributed 343 loans in the 2019 fiscal year. Of those, 85% went to black applicants, according tou00a0Sheila Miller,u00a0deputy director for programs at D.C.’s Department of Housing and Community Development, which administers the program.

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The District and Montgomery County also require most new residential development to include a certain percentage of affordable units, some of which can be purchased.

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But McCargo with the Urban Institute says leaders must attack the problem on multiple fronts. To repair the harm, the think tank has proposed a “five-point framework” to advise government officials on the local, state and federal level.

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For local governments, the think tank stresses offering more financial assistance to homebuyers; encouraging construction of cheaper housing types, like condominiums and duplexes; and rethinking the way land is used, particularly in single-family neighborhoods where high prices have locked out anyone but the most affluent buyers.

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“You do have to take a specific look at what’s happening locally,” McCargo says. “You have to look at your land use u2026 and remove barriers that exist within that.”

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In the meantime, existing black homeowners in the District are under pressure. Many struggle to afford property taxes that have increased as home values have risen. (Though the District has a program for that, too.) Others are understandably eager to take advantage of rising values by selling.
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“I receive phone calls every day from investors who want to purchase my home,” says Sheila Miller with DHCD. “Every time I receive those phone calls, I think about my neighbors who are elderly or maybe raising families that might feel like, ‘Well, maybe I should take advantage.'”

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“I didn’t think when I was a little kid that I would ever leave this place,” says Hope Willis.Suzannah Hoover / WAMU

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Hope Willis is relieved her parents didn’t make that choice.

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After her family moved to Maryland, Willis found every opportunity to return to the city. She lived with family members nearby, later graduating from high school in the District. Now a student at the University of Maryland, sheu00a0hasn’t assumed full ownership of the house yet. But that’s her long-term goal.

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“It’s very surreal for me to be back here,” Willis says, sitting at her new dining table. “I didn’t think when I was a little kid that I would ever leave this place, first of all. And I definitely didn’t think that these would be the conditions and terms of me coming back.”

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Owning a home is the most prevalent way Americans build wealth. But even in the affluent Washington region, homeownership is a distant dream for many black residents.

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For Hope Willis, 24, holding onto her parents’ D.C. rowhouse u201cis about preserving community and creating long-term financial stability for my family.”

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housing policy helped create a racial homeownership gap in the nation's capital. How can it be fixed?","inCollectionId":"5204068","person":"24","secondaryImage":{"type":"","data":""},"titleOverride":false,"urlOrigin":false,"provider":"WAMU"},"audio":{"audioTitle":"For Many Black Washingtonians, Homeownership Remains Out Of Reach","audioFileID":5503685,"audioFile":"https://downloads.wamu.org/mp3/nw/20/02/blackhomeownership-schweitzer_web.mp3","audioLength":"4:42","audioOffset":"","postPermalink":"https://wamu.org/story/20/02/11/for-many-black-washingtonians-homeownership-remains-out-of-reach/","audioSlug":"WAMU"},"beat":"Business & Development","beatSlug":"business-development","slug":{"name":"WAMU","permalink":"https://wamu.org/provider/wamu/","categoryName":"","providerClass":"provider-internal","flagSlug":"","flagText":""},"promoted":"","headMeta":{"title":"As The D.C. Area Grows Pricier, Can Picking Up A Side Hustle (Or Three) Make A Difference? | WAMU","description":"Owning a home is the most prevalent way Americans build wealth. But even in the affluent Washington region, homeownership is a distant dream for many black residents.","canonical":"https://wamu.org/story/20/02/11/for-many-black-washingtonians-homeownership-remains-out-of-reach/","featured_image":{"url":"https://wamu.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/WAMU_Affordability_HopeAlexandraWillis_Selects-4-1024x683.jpg","width":1024,"height":683},"image":"https://wamu.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/wamu-default-og-image.png"},"provider":{"term_id":561,"name":"WAMU","slug":"wamu","term_group":0,"term_taxonomy_id":562,"taxonomy":"wamu_provider","description":"","parent":0,"count":40879,"filter":"raw","permalink":"https://wamu.org/provider/wamu/"}},{"ID":5489408,"guid":"https://wamu.org/story/20/02/10/how-money-can-complicate-relationships-especially-when-you-live-in-an-expensive-city/","title":"How Money Can Complicate Relationships, Especially In An Expensive City","content":"

Kate and Stuart have been together six years. They live together in Northwest D.C. and own a small tourism business. In many ways, the couple says they are in unison. But, according to Kate, the two are polar opposites when it comes to one important subject: money.

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u201cI’ve always had the mindset of: ‘We’ll find the money, we’ll make it work, weu2019ve got to pay attention to numbers,’u201d Kate says. u201cHe’s completely ignorant about money and budgeting and taxes.u201d

n

This is a common issue. Itu2019s estimated that one in seven Americans ends a romantic relationship because of money — specifically over unresolved financial issues with their partner. Research also suggests that 70% of married couples argue about money more than any other topic.

n

And it can be worse in an expensive area like Washington, where home prices and childcare costs are some of the highest in the nation. Living in a region of plenty, surrounded by people who seem more comfortable, can heighten a coupleu2019s insecurity around finances and lead to big disagreements.

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u201cThere are lots of people in [this] area that make lots of money, and you’re looking around and thinking well, why can’t we have that house? Why can’t we have that car?u201d says Michelle Singletary, a personal finance columnist for The Washington Post. u201cAnd so there’s that financial competition that plays into a relationship that’s probably already broken financially.u201d

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Kate, 27, says she was broke when she met Stuart and, though sheu2019s making more money now, maintains a frugal lifestyle. So, she says, conversations about money can be tense for the pair.

n

u2018We Come From Different Backgroundsu2019

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Weu2019re referring to the couple by their middle names, so Kate could speak candidly about their personal finances.

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Kate, who is from Arkansas, says it was difficult to adjust when she moved to D.C. in 2013. It was especially hard to blend finances with Stuart, 35, because the two had different relationships with money.

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u201cHis family is wealthy and travels the world [and] my family has scraped by and had some hard times,u201d Kate says.

n

Singletary says money issues often stem from a lack of communication at the beginning of a relationship. Money can be hard to talk about, especially when you’re just starting a relationship. But knowing a partner’s financial backstory is key.

n

u201cPeople don’t dig deep enough. They don’t ask the right questions when they’re dating — and those are the things that are going to be able to keep you from having conflicts,u201d Singletary says.

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Compatibility doesnu2019t necessarily mean that both parties are frugal savers or lavish spenders. You just want to be sure u201cthat you share the same financial values,u201d Singletary says. And figuring out those values early on is key.

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Prenups: The New Norm?

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If a marriage ends, the financial dissolution can be messy. Increasingly, millennials are turning to a contractual backup plan: the prenuptial agreement.

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Lawyers across the country have reported seeing an increase in younger clients who are open to prenups. One suspected reason is that this generation tends to wait until later in life to get married, and they may have accrued more assets they want to protect in case of a divorce. Putting off marriage means that they have a chance to build up their 401(k) or to aggregate wealth through an employer’s stock program.

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Others choose prenuptial agreements because they are the children of divorce. After suffering the pain of watching their parents go through a difficult process, they may be seeking to protect themselves from a similar situation.

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For now, though, Kate says, she and Stuart have no plans to write up a prenup.

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u201cIf we get incredibly rich that way then sure we can discuss that,u201d says Kate.

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Financial Tips To Keep Couples On Track

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Singletary holds monthly financial workshops and provides budget counseling for individuals and couples. And though sheu2019s helped hundreds of clients, she says people generally donu2019t seek financial counseling as often as they should.

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u201cIn the D.C. area, lots of women earn more than their husbands — and that’s a problem. It’s not that they earn too much, it’s more like, what is it about that husband that makes him less secure that his wife would be making more? And if all the money is in one pot, does it matter what she’s making?u201d Singletary says.

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Sitting down with a professional can be a great way to unpack your past so you donu2019t go into a relationship with too much baggage. And Singletaryu2019s go-to piece of advice for newly minted couples? Pull each otheru2019s credit reports and examine the scores.

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u201cIf you do all the due diligence: you pull credit reports, you ask the right questions, you meet the family, it’s very unlikely that you’re going to be shocked or surprised by some con person,u201d Singletary says.

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When it comes to finances, there are some issues that most commonly doom a romantic partnership. And the added pressure of trying to afford things in an area with a high cost of living can cause bigger disagreements.

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According to a SunTrust Bank survey conducted online by Harris Poll, 35% of people who experience stress in their relationship blame finances.

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As bars were opening Thursday for one of the busiest drinking nights of the week, a different kind of happy hour was unfolding in Crystal City u2026u00a0one meant to promote civic engagement among millennial renters who will soon find themselves living next to Amazon’s HQ2.

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Co-hosted by the Crystal City Civic Associationu00a0(CCCA) and local business improvement districtu00a0(BID), theu00a0rentersu2019 happy hour/millennial outreach event was an evening of light snacks and refreshment, with a touch of activism. The event brought several dozen community members to the JBG National Landing Marketing Center, a space created a couple years ago to help sell Amazon on the idea of setting up shop in Arlington.

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So what were organizers hoping for at this first-of-its-kind event? Mostly to build interest in Crystal City’s ever-changing future among the renters who make up most of the neighborhood’s population.

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u201cGetting those people involved, especially since a lot of those people don’t stick around for too long, is a little hard,u201d says Jackie Bianchini, communications director for the CCCA, and a decade-long Crystal City resident. “We’re trying to think of different ways we can attract renters, engage them in maybe a more informal setting.u201d

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u201cIt’s going to be the responsibility of the city, but also Amazon, to not price out a lot of young people,u201d u2014 Laman Ben-Trahoret, Crystal City resident

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For many renters who live in Crystal City or surrounding neighborhoods, the Amazon-adjacent future looks expensive.u00a0The average rent for an apartment in Arlington is $2,148, according to au00a02018 county report. Rent for garden and elevator apartments increased by 14.5% and 22.8%, respectively, in the last decade.

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Among the residents marveling at the decor of panoramic photos and data visualization at the happy hour, I found Joshua Peacock, who has lived in Crystal City for aboutu00a0eight years. Though his rent has increased, he says itu2019s still cheaper than much of what he could find in D.C. When it comes to having Amazon as a neighbor, though, Peacock has mixed feelings.

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u201cIt’s good to see businesses coming in. But it’s also a little scary to see what’s going to happen to people now,u201d Peacock says. u201cWhat happens to the people that are making $30, $40, $50,000 right now? I mean, the county’s already really difficult to live in if you’re not making six figures. So what’s going to happen once even more people making a lot of money come in?u201d

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Current and proposed Crystal City developments are depicted in this 3D rendering of the neighborhood.Eliza Berkon / WAMU

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About a half-hour into the program, a handful of speakers, including organization representatives and Arlington County Board Member Katie Cristol, addressed the growing crowd. Each advocated renter engagement, especially among millennials, as the community prepares for the rapid development changes ahead.

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u201cWe are unique because we do not have a single-family house in our civic association,u201d CCCA President Carol Fuller told the guests, with au00a0live feed from the top of a Crystal City building as a backdrop. u201cWe are 90% renters and u2026 the biggest demographic is from 25 to 45. So guess what folks u2014u00a0youu00a0are the demographic.u201d

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In November, the CCCA releasedu00a0Livability 22202, a plan for addressing the needs of area residents. Those needs range from affordable housing to an expansion of arts and culture opportunities. In the coming months, the organization will continue hosting workshops to gather community input on its priorities. One is scheduled foru00a0Feb. 22 on open spaces.

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Though the neighborhood has drawn significant media attentionu00a0since that fateful day in late 2018 when Amazon announced its intentions, Crystal City BID President and Executive Director Tracy Sayegh Gabriel says residents have long seen it as u201ca hidden gem.u201d

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u201cThere’s a lot of enthusiasm and excitement. Of course, with that also comes wondering what the future will be like,u201d Gabriel says. u201cThere is a lot of housing in the pipeline, which we hope will be a real release valve for the area and its housing needs.u201d

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The BID says there are about 15,600 existing rental units among Crystal City, Pentagon City and the Arlington portion of Potomac Yard u2014 an area on its way to rebranding as National Landing u2014 with another 6,500 units to come.

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Laman Ben-Trahoret is curious how Amazon’s arrival will impact his small business as a personal chef and fitness trainer.Eliza Berkon / WAMU

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As the event started to peter out, I interrupted two eventgoers chatting near au00a0light-up, board game-like rendering of existing and proposed development.u00a0Laman Ben-Trahoret was happy to share his thoughts as a relatively new resident of the neighborhood. The personal chef and fitness trainer moved in shortly before Amazon named Arlington as its second home and says his ability to continue working here could be threatened by ongoing rent increases.

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u201cEach time a big corporation comes, you want them to bring their technologies and their high-paying jobs. But being a small business owner, I hope that I can still remain in the area and be competitive,u201d Ben-Trahoret says. u201cIt’s going to be the responsibility of the city, but also Amazon, to not price out a lot of young people or people who can’t afford the area because that’s their talent. And there’s a rich Arlington community that keeps thriving with millennials, and I hope to be a part of that.u201d

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As Crystal City continues to change, Bianchini underlines the necessity for area civic associations to advocate for residents.

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u201cWe, along with the other 22202 civic associations, are really being a voice for the residents, making sure we are getting the amenities we need, we have the green space we want and that the developers are really paying attention to those things as they’re planning out this incredible amount of construction,u201d she says. u201cThey’re very receptive and very responsive, but somebody has to be in that room in order to represent that voice.u201d

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Just before 7 p.m., there was no sign of the chicken satay and antipasti from Crystal City Sports Pub that had once been circulating. Alcohol service had stopped, leaving people to take things into their own hands and grab cans of Goose Island from the fridge.

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A message for the organizers? Next time, buy more beer.

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ntn","paginatedContent":[],"excerpt":"

Crystal City organizations are looking to support and build a community of renters ahead of the online shopping giant’s anticipated arrival.

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u201cGuess what folks u2014 you are the demographic,” Crystal City Civic Association Carol Fuller told the crowd of renters, many of them millennials.

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Area Grows Pricier, Can Picking Up A Side Hustle (Or Three) Make A Difference? | WAMU","description":"Crystal City organizations are looking to support and build a community of renters ahead of the online shopping giant's anticipated arrival.","canonical":"https://wamu.org/story/20/02/07/crystal-city-offers-a-hand-and-beer-to-renters-as-amazon-moves-in/","featured_image":{"url":"https://wamu.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/renters-happy-hour-ten-1024x683.jpg","width":1024,"height":683},"image":"https://wamu.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/wamu-default-og-image.png"},"provider":{"term_id":561,"name":"WAMU","slug":"wamu","term_group":0,"term_taxonomy_id":562,"taxonomy":"wamu_provider","description":"","parent":0,"count":40879,"filter":"raw","permalink":"https://wamu.org/provider/wamu/"}},{"ID":5465644,"guid":"https://wamu.org/story/20/02/05/heres-how-far-a-72500-salary-and-an-inheritance-can-get-you-in-d-c/","title":"Hereu2019s How Far A $72,500 Salary (And An Inheritance) Can Get You In D.C.","content":"

This story was updated at 10:00 a.m. February 5.u00a0

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WAMU’s Affordability Desk is exploring how people across our region, from all walks of life, earn and spend their money. This is the first of installment in a series on personal budgeting. You can participate by telling us a little about yourself.

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“My financial situation has changed drastically over the last five years,” says Jennifer, a program manager at a community-development financial institution in D.C.

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In 2016, Jennifer u2014 who asked that WAMU not use her last name to protect her privacy u2014 made $40,000 a year at a local nonprofit.

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“I really loved that job, and I was really invested in the mission of that organization, but it’s just not enough money to live in D.C.,” she says. “Even living in a one-bedroom apartment in Ward 8, I didn’t make enough money to save or invest for retirement, or any of those things. So I made the decision to quit.”

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Jennifer’s subsequent job search took the better part of a year, but ultimately brought her closer to her goal of financial autonomy. By the end of 2016, she’d landed a new job u2014 whose 63% pay increase allowed her to purchaseu00a0au00a0home u2014 and a three-year fellowshipu00a0that brought her $20,000 annually. And in 2018, Jennifer inherited about $175,000 after the death of an aunt.u00a0She now makes $72,500, at a job she’s had since early 2019.

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“All of those things combined just improved my financial situation and allowed me to really be able to save and invest meaningfully for the first time,” she says.

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This led to investments in a home and a few of her hobbies and interests. It’s also brought her closer to feeling financially strong and settled in a city she enjoys.u00a0With a father in the military, Jennifer moved around a good deal as a child, eventually calling Columbia, Md., home. After high school, she moved to D.C. to get an English degree at Howard University, then headed to graduate school to study education in New York.u00a0Two years later, she was off to South Africa for a job at an art and culture magazine. Jennifer has lived in the District since her return to the U.S.

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At $1,776 per month, the mortgage on her two-bedroom, one-bathroom D.C. home is Jennifer’s top expense. After that, most of her money goes to travel, food and fitness.

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On a typical day, Jennifer wakes up between 7 and 7:30, drives 20 minutes to her office, works 9 to 5 and then grabs a meal with friends or streams Netflix at the end of the night. She’s hoping 2020 will be the year she regularly slides in an hour of exercise each morning at OrangeTheory Fitness, where she spends a couple hundred dollars a month.

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“It’s something that I enjoy, and I don’t have kids,” Jennifer says. “So I feel like if I want to spend $200 a month on OrangeTheory, then I can.”

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Much of her disposable income goes toward concerts and travel, and often u2026 concert-related travel. She attends several music festivals a year, including one in Ghana last month and a recent trip to the Art of Cool Festival in Durham, N.C. Travel costs her about $4,000 to $6,000 annually.

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Jennifer is also a big proponent of the visual arts. She’s dabbled in art collecting of late and is a member of three area museums, including an ambassador membership at the National Museum of African American History and Culture that carries a price tag of $5,000 over five years.

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Jennifer regularly travels for music festivals, such as this 2019 event in Philadelphia.Courtesy of Jennifer

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Savings And Loans

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In addition to the monthly income Jennifer receives from an investment property in Baltimore that she helped purchase with her inheritance (which also brings her an annuity of $1,400 per month for five years), she has about $20,000 in savings and additional funds in a Roth IRA and health savings account. She also contributes 10% of her pre-tax income to an employer-sponsored 401(k).

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“I think I’ve done a really good job as a person in their early 30s of investing and saving,” she says.

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Though not Jennifer’s priciest monthly expense, the $61 she shells out for the mattress she bought in 2017 is an expense she calls her “most regrettable.” Metro fare is covered by her employer, and her car is paid off. In addition to gas and car insurance, her other transportation-related line item is $100 a month in D.C. speed-camera tickets; she currently owes $870.

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“Iu2019m a safe driver and D.C. parking/camera tickets are essentially a predatory, regressive tax,” she said via email.

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Student loans from her undergraduate degree cost Jennifer $158 each month.u00a0She still owes $34,957, a debt she hopes will be forgiven down the road.

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Jennifer purchased her house in the Benning Ridge neighborhood of D.C. after landing a substantial pay increase.Suzannah Hoover / For WAMU

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‘In Pursuit Of Financial Independence’

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Jennifer says having money to spare is a relatively new experience. “I’ve not had money in the past, and so I know that that’s a possibility,” she says.

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Many of the shows in her podcast queue relate to the financial independence, retire early (FIRE) movement.

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“I’m not so stuck on the retiring early part because I enjoy my work, but I am really in pursuit of financial independence,” she said.

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To get there, Jennifer plans to continue investing and saving while curtailing her spending. She says she’d like to get married and have children within the next five to 10 years, but thinks maintaining the same padding she currently has in her savings account is critical.

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Jennifer loves her house and would like to stay in D.C.u00a0She has no plans to move.

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“There’s a lot of misconceptions about people that live in Ward 7,” she says. “It’s very one-dimensional, but there’s a broad economic spectrum of people that live on this side of the river. And I want that to be represented more in the media.”

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Tell us about your finances and your money challenges.u00a0

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This story was updated to reflect that Jennifer held another job prior to her current role, which she has had since early 2019.

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This program manager at a community development firm seeks her own “financial independence.”

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Jennifer, a program manager at a D.C. nonprofit, bought her home in 2017. She also recently invested in a Baltimore rental property as an added income source.

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It’s getting harder to be considered wealthy in the District of Columbia. In 2019, the percentage of D.C. residents reporting at least $100,001 in personal income hit an all-time high.

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At least that appears to be the case, going by an audit of the city’s finances published last week by the Office of the Chief Financial Officer. The document shows almost a quarter (24.73%) of personal income tax filers last year reported six-figure-plus incomes u2014 11 percentage points higher than a decade ago and possibly the highest in D.C.’s history, according to a spokesperson for the agency.

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“There is no way to say [it’s the largest share of high-income residents] in the District’s history without going through all the [audits] ever issued,” CFO spokesperson David Umansky writes in an email to WAMU. “However, we will not say you are wrong.”

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As the percentage of high-income residents has grown in D.C., the share of lower-income residents has shrunk. In 2010, tax filers who reported incomes of $50,000 and lower accounted for almost 66% of all filers in the city. In 2019, they made up less than half of the same group.

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Those 87,759 high-income tax filers contributed more than $1.6 billion in tax revenues last year, the audit shows, accounting for more than 80% of the District’s income tax revenue.

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But while the revenue bump is good news for D.C.’s coffers, the influx of high earners is making it harder for lower-earning families to find homes, according to the D.C. Policy Center.

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“A significant pressure on the Districtu2019s housing market is the fierce competition for larger units from affluent singles and couples,” says a 2018 report from the think tank. “The District has many more larger units than families who could live in them; however, affluent singles and couples occupy many of these.”

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Most new housing in the District targets smaller households with high incomes. Sixty percent of housing units constructed in D.C. between 2009 and 2019 were one-bedroom apartments, according to the Washington D.C. Economic Partnership, and the vast majority of new units are luxury, or “Class A.”

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The average rent of those “Class A” apartments was nearly $2,500 in the second quarter of 2019. That’s considered affordable for renters who earn at least $8,400 per month.

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The District was named the country’s most gentrified city in a 2019 report from the National Community Reinvestment Coalition.

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When you give to WAMU, your tax-deductible gift helps make possible the award-winning reporting and programs upon which youu2019ve come to expect and rely, including Morning Edition, All Things Considered, 1A, The Kojo Nnamdi Show and many more!

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ntn","paginatedContent":[],"excerpt":"

Today, almost a quarter of all tax filers in D.C. earn above six figures u2014 a significant increase over 10 years ago. That puts pressure on the housing market.

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Apartments for rent reflected in an office building in NoMa.

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Development","beatSlug":"business-development","slug":{"name":"WAMU","permalink":"https://wamu.org/provider/wamu/","categoryName":"","providerClass":"provider-internal","flagSlug":"","flagText":""},"promoted":"","headMeta":{"title":"As The D.C. Area Grows Pricier, Can Picking Up A Side Hustle (Or Three) Make A Difference? | WAMU","description":"Today, almost a quarter of all tax filers in D.C. earn above six figures u2014 a significant increase over 10 years ago. That puts pressure on the housing market.","canonical":"https://wamu.org/story/20/02/04/d-c-has-more-high-income-residents-than-ever-before-audit-suggests/","featured_image":{"url":"https://wamu.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Harlan_WAMU_Affordability-28-1024x683.jpg","width":1024,"height":683},"image":"https://wamu.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/wamu-default-og-image.png"},"provider":{"term_id":561,"name":"WAMU","slug":"wamu","term_group":0,"term_taxonomy_id":562,"taxonomy":"wamu_provider","description":"","parent":0,"count":40879,"filter":"raw","permalink":"https://wamu.org/provider/wamu/"}},{"ID":5459330,"guid":"https://wamu.org/story/20/02/03/for-richer-or-poorer-romance-scams-are-leaving-more-online-daters-broke/","title":"For Richer Or Poorer? Romance Scams Are Leaving More Online Daters Broke","content":"

Stories like this rarely end well.

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The ideal partner turns out to be a sophisticated scam artist, and a love-struck single is left not only broken-hearted u2014 but broke.

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Being scammed by a romantic interest met online is now the most common type of consumer fraud in the United States, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). In 2018, nearly 40 D.C. residents reported falling for online dating scams, for a combined loss of more than $92,000. And the criminal acts go beyond city and state borders, involving networks of accomplices overseas.

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“These victims are invested in that relationship and they’re emotional when that person does ask for money,” says Kevin Luebke, a supervisory special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). “Usually they’re told that something sudden happened where [the offender] needs money now and that [victim] doesn’t have time to reason or ask friends.”

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‘I Fell For It Hook, Line And Sinker’

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Like many victims of online scams, Ann has kept her story private for the past three years, overwhelmed by feelings of shame. The vibrant 72-year-old from Reston was once a homeowner making good money. Today, she’s temporarily living rent-free with a friend who took her in.u00a0We’re referring to Ann only by her middle name because she fears retribution otherwise.

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“Nobody likes to admit they did something that stupid,” Ann says of the scheme that cost her $180,000 between 2015 and 2017.

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After separating from her husband who was addicted to drugs, Ann went online and started dating. That’s where she met Tony, a 60-something Italian man who, like Ann, was single later in life. Tony told Ann that his wife and daughter died in a car accident, that he moved to London for business and that he was living in a hotel. The two connected, and Tony spent eight months wooing Ann with flower deliveries, poetry and compliments.

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Then his luck changed.

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“He said he had lost his wallet and had no way of paying the phone bill,” Ann says. “So,u00a0I would send $1,500 dollars a week. Sometimes I sent $3,000.”

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Additional financial problems sprang up at random. Andu00a0Ann says Tony continued to ask her for money, often appealing to her Christian faith to build sympathy u2014 he sometimes ended phone conversations claiming to be late for Bible study classes.

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“He actually convinced me to sell my condo. And I sent $50,000 twice,” Ann says.

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Then came the news that Tony was going to move to the U.S. so he could be with Ann.u00a0What’s more, he could finally pay her back u2026 and then some.

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Tony asked Ann to fly to New York to meet a woman who would give her a suitcase holding millions of dollars in cash. Ann just needed to give the woman $10,000.

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That stranger, according to Luebke at the FBI, was working as a “money mule” u2014 someone who collects a payment but never gives the riches that payment is supposed to unlock.

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Ann didn’t get the $11 million she was promised. She did, however, hand over the $10,000.

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Romance Scams: A Secret Operation

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In 2018, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center investigated claims from nearly 18,500 romance fraud victims across the country, who said they’d lost a total of $362,500,761.

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People ages 40 to 69 report losing money to romance scams at the highest rates u2014 more than twice the rate of people in their 20s. At the same time, people 70 and over report the highest individual median losses u2014 around $10,000.

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Special Agent Luebke says though the perpetrators often live in foreign countries, they arrange it so that the bulk of the money is wired through what appear to be U.S. banks. The victim is often asked to send money using gift cards and reload cards. The cards let the recipients get quick cash, the transactions are largely irreversible and they can remain anonymous.

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Scammers offer the muleu00a0a share in a large sum of money or a payment on the condition the mule helps them to transfer money out of the country. The woman who met Ann years ago in the New York hotel room was arrested, but Ann says she’s since been released.

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How To Spot A Romance Scam In The Making

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“Be an investigator, yourself,” Luebke says.

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When you meet a person online,u00a0“Look up their name and see what comes up. Does the story make any sense? Where are they located?” he advises.

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Luebke says the internet crimes unit has been teaming up with AARP over the past few years to host “scam jams” in local communities. Law enforcement officials and experts in Prince William and Fairfax Counties hold regular sessions to teach people how to avoid bogus online schemes and prevent identity theft.

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“Scammers often push to get their victims to communicate off dating websites in an effort to isolate them,” says Strat Maloma of the AARP Fraud Watch Network in a video about romance scams published ahead of Valentine’s Day last year.

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Life After Getting Scammed

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Ann made another trip to New York City, this time to help the FBI catch the woman who collected her money. Sweet-talking Tony, Ann says, remains at-large.

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“The FBI says he’s probably in Nigeria,” Ann says. “We found out all the money I sent went to Nigeria and Indonesia.”

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She’s spent the last year living with a friend who is helping her get back on her feet. But Ann says she craves the independent life she used to live. And she hasn’t received a dime of the money she lost.

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Still emotionally scarred by the ordeal, she remains optimistic that things will turn around for her soon.

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“What the hell have I done?” Ann says. “And then reality sets in and you’ve just got to put your big pants on and move forward.”

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Ann hasn’t quit dating. But her next date, she says, is going to involve meeting in person.

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Between 2014 and 2018, the Federal Bureau of Investigation received more than 1.5 million complaints about online scams.

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According to the FBI, romance scams result in the highest amount of financial losses to victims when compared to other internet crimes. In 2018, Washingtonians were conned out of more than $92,000 while participating in online dating.

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","canonical":"https://wamu.org/story/20/02/03/for-richer-or-poorer-romance-scams-are-leaving-more-online-daters-broke/","featured_image":{"url":"https://wamu.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/computer_Flickr_RawpixelLTD-1024x684.jpg","width":1024,"height":684},"image":"https://wamu.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/wamu-default-og-image.png"},"provider":{"term_id":561,"name":"WAMU","slug":"wamu","term_group":0,"term_taxonomy_id":562,"taxonomy":"wamu_provider","description":"","parent":0,"count":40879,"filter":"raw","permalink":"https://wamu.org/provider/wamu/"}},{"ID":5468856,"guid":"https://wamu.org/story/20/01/31/howard-university-takes-on-african-american-financial-literacy-gap/","title":"Howard University Takes On African American Financial Literacy Gap","content":"

Howard University President Wayne A. I. Frederick and his family have a unique New Year’s tradition.

n

On January 1, Frederick, his wife and their two teenage children follow a home-cooked meal with an in-depth discussion about their family finances.

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“We bring out our accounts, show the kids the numbers and talk about our will and estate,” Frederick says. “We also talk about some things we need to change as a family, in terms of saving and investing.”

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Frederick, a Trinidadian-American, knows this practice is rare among black families. But he’s hoping to impart that kind of discipline to Howard’s staff and students. Part of his mission includes an event held Friday at Howard thatu00a0brought together industry experts to talk about the financial challenges African Americans face, and the origins of those issues.

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Decades of systemic racism have created barriers that block black residents from homeownership, job opportunities, quality education and health care. And despite 10 years of a booming local economy, unemployment among African American D.C. residents remains higher than it was before the recession, while black incomes haven’t grown. These issues were also highlighted inu00a0a recentu00a0report from the DC Fiscal Policy Institute.

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“A lot of folks of color are descended from people who came here and were enslaved. Educational opportunities have not always been equal, and in many ways still aren’t,” says Roger Ferguson, CEO of the financial services organization TIAA, which co-sponsored the event at Howard with AARP.

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It will take a lot of work on a number of different fronts to address this, and one of those fronts is personal finance, Ferguson says. He says people aren’t learning how to properly manage their money in school and they aren’t getting the message at home. That’s where events like Friday’s forum come in.

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Frederick says he sees firsthand how generational curses continue to fester among his mostly African American student body.

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“If we raise the fortunes of the least of us, we actually make America that much stronger,” Frederick says.

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A Closer Look At D.C.’s Financial Wealth Gap

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The DC Fiscal Policy Institute report finds that black residents are now seven times as likely as white residents to be unemployed, despite actively looking for work, and this cannot be attributed to differences in education or skills-training alone.

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It traces the origins of this wealth gap to the years when slavery was legal in D.C., and free black workers were restricted to the lowest-paid jobs. This led to present-day racial disparities in many employment-related metrics, including benefits and opportunities to grow wealth.

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The report, released this week, further finds that:

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  • The Black median household income in D.C. is $45,200 and has not improved over the past decade, while the median household income for white households is more than three times higher at $142,500 and growing
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  • D.C.u2019s returning citizens, who are overwhelmingly Black men, face additional barriers to employment including hiring bias
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  • Black entrepreneurs face greater obstacles to accessing capital than white entrepreneurs which further exacerbates the wealth gap
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  • Black workers have fewer benefits such as health insurance, paid leave and employer-provided retirement contributions than white workers
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“Given this history and what we know about the ongoing displacement of D.C.u2019s black community, the District should be intentional about developing policy solutions specifically for black workers earning low wages,u201d says Doni Crawford, a policy analyst at the local think tank.

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One Solution: Saving For The Future

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The event Friday was largely focused on financial literacy. Saving money and thinking critically about retirement, Ferguson says, is the best way for African American families to turn things around. Although the retirement savings crisis affects everyone, he says it’s time to change the national dialogueu00a0“so that saving and getting a guaranteed income in retirement can become part of what people are expecting.”

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Ferguson says 40% of Americans don’t have $400 available should an emergency situation arise.

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And Frederick is working to change that narrative for the mostly African American faculty and staff at Howard. He says heu00a0recentlyu00a0bumped up some full-time employees to earn a minimum salary of $35,000 and removed the health insurance premium for those who earn less than that amount. Frederick hopes employees will put those small savings toward a retirement fund.

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“It’s not all going to get fixed in one financial move, but if you set out a plan and you stick to it, and you kind of work on it over time, it gets you there,” he says.

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ntn","paginatedContent":[],"excerpt":"

An event held at Howard University focused on solving financial challenges and building the economic strength of the African American community.

n","permalink":"https://wamu.org/story/20/01/31/howard-university-takes-on-african-american-financial-literacy-gap/","currentSlug":"howard-university-takes-on-african-american-financial-literacy-gap","created":"2020-01-31T18:18:54","modified":"2020-02-03T08:47:43","time":"Jan 31","timestamp":1580494734,"timestampGMT":1580512734,"imageData":{"caption":"

A conversation at Howard University was centered on building greater financial wellness among African Americans.

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Former residents of the Barry Farm housing complex in Southeast have been pushing for months to get a historic designation, which they say will allow them to preserve some of their community’s history u2014 and perhaps exercise some control over the plans for its redevelopment.

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Now, the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board has voted to designate a portion of the site a historic landmark. According to Washington Business Journal, the vote was unanimous.

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But former Barry Farm residents consider it just a partial victory: Washington Business Journal reports that the historic landmark designation includes an area along Stevens Road Southeast that encompasses five buildings.u00a0The residents had originally pushed for a designation to cover 32 buildings.

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A memo by the Historic Preservation Review Board says that at an October meeting, “the Board expressed its intent to recognize Barry Farm as a historic landmark but also voiced the desire that such designation allow the proposed redevelopment of the site to move forward expeditiously.” That could explain why the board voted to designate some, but not all, of the site as historic.

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Barry Farm has been slated for redevelopment for years; many residents have been displaced from the property and given housing vouchers to live elsewhere until new mixed-income housing is built at the site. But the process has been tied up in litigation. In 2018, the D.C. Court of Appeals sent the redevelopment plans back to the Zoning Commission. The city was proposing a mixed-income development with about 100 fewer affordable units than the original Barry Farm had.

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“We’ve shown again that an organized group of people can win something, even if it wasn’t what we ultimately wanted,” said Daniel del Pielago, an organizer with Empower D.C. who works with former Barry Farm tenants.

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According to the Housing Preservation Review Board’s memo, “au00a0portion of the landmark should house a museum and cultural center to commemorate and extend the memory and legacy of Barry Farm.”

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Residents have been asking for historic designation to ensure that the property’s history will be preserved. After the Civil War, a group of formerly enslaved and free-born African-Americans founded a community at Barry Farm.

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Detrice Belt, the president of the Barry Farm Tenants and Allies Association (BFTAA), announced the application for historic preservation in April. At the time, she explained that to her, the look of the Barry Farm housing complex was important to preserve.

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“These design elements nurtured the community that produced Emily Edmonson, Frederick Douglass Jr., The Junk Yard Band and many others,” said Belt. “We want to protect and continue that legacy in Ward 8 u2014 at the original footprint.”

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In an emailed statement on Thursday, a D.C. Housing Authority spokesperson applauded the board’s decision for the partial historic designation of the site.

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“We share the [Housing Preservation Review Board’s] desire to create a new beginning for Barry Farm while preserving the history of the past,” said the statement. “Todayu2019s decision will help expedite the return of residents to their community and Barry Farm neighborhood and help us move this plan forward.”

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The D.C. Housing Authority had u00a0previously opposed a historic designation for the full site; In July, the agency’s former senior deputy director of Capital Programs Kerry Smyser requested that the Historic Preservation Board deny BFTAA’s application. Smyser said the Housing Authority would be open to other methods for preserving the history of the site, including oral histories, public art and photography.

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The nonprofit Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH), which is part of the development team working with the D.C. Housing Authority to redevelop Barry Farm, says the historic designation could limit their options on the site.

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Anthony Waddell, POAH’s vice president for real estate development in D.C., told Washington Business Journal that the historic designation might lead them to scrap an entire apartment building u2014 about 200 housing units u2014 from the plans.

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ntn","paginatedContent":[],"excerpt":"

Residents have been asking for historic designation to ensure that the property’s history will be preserved.

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Hundreds who once lived at Barry Farm were given vouchers and told to move, in an effort to make way for a long-promised redevelopment.

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/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/barry-farm-1500x1000.jpg 1500w, /wp-content/uploads/2019/07/barry-farm-900x600.jpg 900w, /wp-content/uploads/2019/07/barry-farm-1600x1066.jpg 1600w"},"ratioOriginalSmallest":{"url":"/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/barry-farm-300x200.jpg","srcset":"/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/barry-farm-300x200.jpg 300w, /wp-content/uploads/2019/07/barry-farm-1024x682.jpg 1024w, /wp-content/uploads/2019/07/barry-farm-1500x1000.jpg 1500w, /wp-content/uploads/2019/07/barry-farm-900x600.jpg 900w, /wp-content/uploads/2019/07/barry-farm-600x400.jpg 600w, /wp-content/uploads/2019/07/barry-farm-1600x1066.jpg 1600w"},"nprLarge":{"url":"/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/barry-farm-1600x1066.jpg","srcset":"/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/barry-farm-1600x1066.jpg 1600w, /wp-content/uploads/2019/07/barry-farm-300x200.jpg 300w, /wp-content/uploads/2019/07/barry-farm-1024x682.jpg 1024w, /wp-content/uploads/2019/07/barry-farm-1500x1000.jpg 1500w, /wp-content/uploads/2019/07/barry-farm-900x600.jpg 900w, /wp-content/uploads/2019/07/barry-farm-600x400.jpg 600w"},"full":{"url":"/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/barry-farm.jpg","srcset":"/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/barry-farm-300x200.jpg 300w, /wp-content/uploads/2019/07/barry-farm-1024x682.jpg 1024w, /wp-content/uploads/2019/07/barry-farm-1500x1000.jpg 1500w, /wp-content/uploads/2019/07/barry-farm-900x600.jpg 900w, /wp-content/uploads/2019/07/barry-farm-600x400.jpg 600w, /wp-content/uploads/2019/07/barry-farm-1600x1066.jpg 1600w"}},"provider":"WAMU","producer":"Tyrone Turner","source_url":false},"postMeta":{"inCollectionId":"5204068","person":"5421802","secondaryImage":{"type":"","data":""},"titleOverride":false,"urlOrigin":false,"provider":"WAMU"},"audio":{"postPermalink":"https://wamu.org/story/20/01/30/part-of-barry-farm-has-been-named-a-historic-landmark/"},"beat":"Local","beatSlug":"local","slug":{"name":"WAMU","permalink":"https://wamu.org/provider/wamu/","categoryName":"","providerClass":"provider-internal","flagSlug":"","flagText":""},"promoted":"","headMeta":{"title":"As The D.C. Area Grows Pricier, Can Picking Up A Side Hustle (Or Three) Make A Difference? | WAMU","description":"Residents have been asking for historic designation to ensure that the property's history will be preserved.","canonical":"https://wamu.org/story/20/01/30/part-of-barry-farm-has-been-named-a-historic-landmark/","featured_image":{"url":"https://wamu.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/barry-farm-1024x682.jpg","width":1024,"height":682},"image":"https://wamu.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/wamu-default-og-image.png"},"provider":{"term_id":561,"name":"WAMU","slug":"wamu","term_group":0,"term_taxonomy_id":562,"taxonomy":"wamu_provider","description":"","parent":0,"count":40879,"filter":"raw","permalink":"https://wamu.org/provider/wamu/"}},{"ID":5445418,"guid":"https://wamu.org/story/20/01/27/with-democrats-in-control-virginia-rushes-to-increase-minimum-wage/","title":"With Democrats In Control, Virginia Rushes To Increase Minimum Wage","content":"

Updated 9:54 p.m.

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An amended version of Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw’s (D-Springfield) minimum wage bill cleared the Virginia Senate’s Commerce and Labor committee Monday evening.

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The current version of the legislation gradually raises Virginia’s minimum wage to $15 by 2025, but language introduced by Sen. David Marsden (D-Burke) allows employers to count certain benefits toward the cash wage once the minimum reaches $11.75 in 2022. The bill also authorizes the Virginia Economic Development Partnership to study potential impacts of minimum wages that differ by locality, and allows the Virginia Commissioner of Labor and Industry to halt wage increases if the state sees negative job growth.

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The bill moves next to the Senate Finance and Appropriations committee.

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Original story continues below.

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Virginia has staked its business-friendly reputation on generous incentives for corporations, weak labor unions and a minimum wage lower than any of its neighbors. That’s now expected to change u2014 and quickly.

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Democrats won control of the state’s legislature for the first time in 26 years in November’s election, all but guaranteeing that the Commonwealth will fulfill the party’s long-deferred wish to raise the minimum wage above $7.25 per hour as soon as July 1.

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The Commonwealth has followed the federal minimum for more than a decade, while neighboring Maryland and D.C.u00a0have approved eventual increases to $15. Even West Virginia u2014 whose economy is 14% the size of Virginia’s u2014 requires employers with at least six workers to pay $1.50 more per hour.

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“Everyone deserves an increase in the minimum wage, full stop,” says Del. Mark Levine, a Democrat from Alexandria.

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Virginia State. Sen. Dick Saslaw (D-Springfield) has a bill that would increase Virginia’s wage to $15 by 2025. The state has followed the federal minimum wage of $7.25 since 2009.(AP Photo/Steve Helber)

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Levine is one of several Democrats supporting a slew of wage bills that, under Republican leadership, would have faced much longer odds in Richmond. There are now seven wage-increase proposals circulating in the House and Senate, with a potpourri of others that would raise wages for inmates, tipped workers and people with intellectual disabilities. Levine is sponsoring a bill that would allow localities to raise wages above the state minimum.

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Progressives say it’s the kind of left-leaning legislation voters were seeking when they gave Democrats the majority in November.

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“[Virginians] were voting on really important issues around, how are we going to invest in our communities and make sure we’re building a Virginia for all of us?” says Anna Scholl, executive director of left-wing advocacy group Progress Virginia. “Raising the minimum wage is a key part of that.”

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A pay increase would put Virginia closer to the estimated living wage for the state, which is currently $12.04 an hour for two working adults with one child, according to MIT’s Living Wage Calculator. In Alexandria, it’s $16.86; in Richmond, it’s $14.39.

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Progress Virginia is backing legislation from Del. Jeion Ward, a Hampton Democrat in her ninth term, that would raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 by July 2023. In the Senate, Majority Leader Dick Saslaw (D-Springfield) has proposed getting to $15 by 2025, six months after Maryland’s $15 minimum wage takes effect for employers with 14 or more workers. Neither Ward nor Saslaw could be reached for comment by publication time.

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In previous years, efforts to raise the wage were overcome easily by Republicans who warned of unintended consequences, like killing jobs and losing businesses to states with lower minimum wages. It appeared that Senate Republicans had a change of heart last year when they sent a $15 minimum wage bill to the floor, butu00a0the move turned out to be an act of political theater, intended to send a message to a business group that had endorsed a Democrat in Northern Virginia.

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“[Maintaining the federal minimum wage] was the political preference of the party that was in charge all of those years,” says Sen. David Marsden (D-Burke). “They’re no longer in power. We are.”

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Marsden sits on the Senate’s powerful Commerce and Labor committee, chaired by Sen. Saslaw, whose minimum wage bill is up for a hearing Monday. The bill is expected to move to the full Senate, despite likely “no” votes from the committee’s three Republicans u2014 Senate Minority Leader Tommy Norment of Williamsburg, Mark Obenshain of Harrisonburg and Stephen Newman of Forest, none of whom could be reached for comment by publication time.

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Many Republicans and business groups maintain that Virginia will lose jobs u2014 and its business-friendly reputation u2014 if a wage mandate goes through.u00a0The Virginia chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), an influential voice against wage increases in the state, estimates that legislation from Sen. Saslaw and Del. Ward would slash 130,000 jobs in Virginia over 10 years, most of them within small businesses.

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“These are going to be are your entry-level jobs that would typically go to young people, maybe in an ice cream shop, scooping ice cream,” says Nicole Riley, NFIB’s Virginia’s state director.

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Democrats reject the notion that wage increases will cause job hemorrhages, especially in a state that hasn’t seen a raise in more than a decade. A 2019 paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research that analyzed 138 state-level minimum wage increases over 37 years found wage hikes didn’t lead to significant job losses. Democrats also contend that many businesses in affluent parts of the state already pay above the federal minimum u2014 they’ve had little choice, as chain stores have ratcheted up pay, costs of living have increased and unemployment has sunk.

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Still, an estimated 15,000 workers in Virginia earned the federal minimum wage in 2007, while 55,000 workers earned less, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Low-paid workers make up 3.6% of the state’s hourly workforce, and most of them are women and people over 20 years old, according to BLS and the left-leaning Commonwealth Institute.

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Employers are concerned that raising wages for those workers will push them to raise pay across the board, Riley says.

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“If you are now going to be forced to pay an entry-level position $15 an hour, your current employees making $15 to $17 an hour are going to expect a pay increase,” Riley says. “They’re seeing someone coming off the street with no experience, making the same amount they make.”

n

Pressure on small business could intensify if Democrats also pass mandatory paid leave, Riley says. Plus, other Democratic priorities like raising taxes on gasoline and tobacco could harm small rural employers, like gas stations and convenience stores, she says.

n

The potential downsides of a wage increase aren’t lost on Virginia Democrats, says Sen. Marsden.

n

“Is it going to be smooth and create no problems and everybody’s going to be happy with it? No. It’s going to create some problems,” Marsden says. “But at the same time, how can you not act? People need to be able to support their families.”

nt
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ntn","paginatedContent":[],"excerpt":"

Virginia has followed the federal minimum wage of $7.25 for more than a decade, even as neighboring states have embraced $15. That’s expected to change soon.

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As neighboring jurisdictions have embraced the $15 minimum wage, Virginia has remained at $7.25. That’s expected to change this year, say Democrats in the state’s General Assembly.

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Area Grows Pricier, Can Picking Up A Side Hustle (Or Three) Make A Difference? | WAMU","description":"Virginia has followed the federal minimum wage of $7.25 for more than a decade, even as neighboring states have embraced $15. That's expected to change soon.","canonical":"https://wamu.org/story/20/01/27/with-democrats-in-control-virginia-rushes-to-increase-minimum-wage/","featured_image":{"url":"https://wamu.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/16540850364_86cb597ec4_k-1024x683.jpg","width":1024,"height":683},"image":"https://wamu.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/wamu-default-og-image.png"},"provider":{"term_id":561,"name":"WAMU","slug":"wamu","term_group":0,"term_taxonomy_id":562,"taxonomy":"wamu_provider","description":"","parent":0,"count":40879,"filter":"raw","permalink":"https://wamu.org/provider/wamu/"}},{"ID":5441678,"guid":"https://wamu.org/story/20/01/24/d-c-has-some-of-the-longest-commutes-in-the-country-what-help-is-available/","title":"D.C. Has Some Of The Longest Commutes In The Country. What Help Is Available?","content":"

Updated Jan. 27, 9:50 a.m.

n

Brent Scott leaves for work around 6 a.m. each day. He arrives two hours later.

n

Scott lives in Brooklyn Park, Maryland, an area of Anne Arundel County thatu2019s closer to Baltimore than D.C. He works in Silver Spring. On a typical day, Scott drives to a MARC station, hops on a train to Union Station, transfers to Metrou2019s Red Line, deboards at Silver Spring and walks (or takes a scooter) five blocks to his office.

n

Scott, who works as an IT engineer, has the kind of long commute that’s all too common in the region. Commutes here are among the lengthiest in the country. While the average American commutes aboutu00a027 minutes (a record high),u00a0the average D.C.-area worker spendsu00a043 minutesu00a0getting to and from work. Andu00a0more than a thirdu00a0travel 45 minutes or more to work every day.

n

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In 2017, those who drove to work loggedu00a0102 hoursu00a0sitting on the road due to traffic congestion. Thatu2019s the equivalent of more than four days u2014 time that could have been spent pursuing hobbies, meeting up with friends, connecting with family or sleeping.

n

For Scott and others, spending hours a week in transit is a tradeoff for being able to afford a home.

n

u201cI wanted a decent, single-family house, and what was affordable was up that way,u201d he says. This echoes a Brooking Institute study that found commutesu00a0tend to be longer in metropolitan areas where housing is priciest.

n

But long commutes can take a toll u2014 on health, wealth, happiness and time. And employers and employees alike are looking for solutions.

n

Commutes Are Getting Longer

n

The number of people in the Districtu00a0increases substantiallyu00a0in the daytime hours, leaping from an estimatedu00a0705,749u00a0to well past a million as commuters pour in from the suburbs and exurbs of Maryland and Virginia. Increasingly, those commuters are frustrated with the trip.

n

In 2019, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) released its triennialu00a0State of the Commute report, a survey that examines commuting patterns. More than a quarter of respondents (28% in total) said their commute was more difficult than it was the previous year u2014 an increase of about six percentage points from the 2016 survey. Overall, about half of respondents said they were satisfied with their commute.

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How are all these people getting to work? In 2019, 60% of commuters surveyed listed driving without passengers in the car as their primary way of getting to work. This is down from its 2004 peak, but still more than triple the next-closest mode of transit. Nearly 20% of respondents take the train (Metro or commuter rail) as their primary mode of work travel. Another 7% opt for the bus, 5% carpool and 3% bike, walk or ride a scooter.

n

Does Moving Help?

n

The reasons why commuters choose one mode over another, as well as how much time theyu2019re willing to travel, arenu2019t as readily quantifiable. Several factors come into play when choosing where to live and work: the availability and proximity of a job; the need for an affordable home; the location of a significant other. Often, itu2019s a blend of reasons.

n

Nora Strumpf, communications manager for the National Cherry Blossom Festival, commutes an hour and 45 minutes to D.C. from her home in Baltimore. She moved to Baltimore four years ago to live with her boyfriend, but that’s just one of the reasons she lives where she does.

n

u201cThe rent, obviously, is very high in Washington, D.C., and we can get a lot more of an affordable rent living in Baltimore,u201d she says, adding that when she moved, she didn’t think she’d maintain the commute for as long as she has.

n

But while moving further from the District can cut housing costs, those savings can quickly be negated by added transportation costs. For example: Two adults with no children in Arlington County need about $5,653 in monthly income, according to theu00a0Economic Policy Institute. In Anne Arundel County, where Scott lives, the estimate is very similar u2014 $5,039 u2014 due in part to transportation costs.

n

Is It Worth It?u00a0

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The hazards of long commutes includeu00a0a drop in job satisfaction, an increase inu00a0carbon emissions, higheru00a0personal costsu00a0and tolls onu00a0physical and mental health.

n

In au00a0study fromu00a0Social Science & Medicine, then-University of Michigan public health professor Gilbert C. Gee examined whether perceived stress while driving affects oneu2019s health as much as a more objective measure of stress. Gee, now at the UCLA Fielding School of Health, stumbled on the idea while driving in Michigan.

n

u201cIn L.A., you kind of anticipate that you’re going to have a lot of traffic to deal with as you commute, but in Ann Arbor I didn’t have that expectation,u201d Gee says. u201cAnd I just remember one day driving home from work, and it took me two-and-a-half hours for what’s normally a 15-minute drive. And it just made me think, u2018Boy, I’m really stressed out sitting here stuck in traffic.u2019u201d

n

In addition to connecting traffic stress with depressive symptoms and an overall decline in health, the study also showed a correlation between driving-related stress and the number of vehicles on the road. Basically, the mere sight of traffic can be stress-inducing.

n

A MARC train pulls out of Union Station last week. Many area employers offer pre-tax dollars for public transit, including commuter trains and Metro.Eliza Berkon / WAMU

n

Time is another sacrifice. All the hours spent in transit u2014 whether streaming podcasts, scrolling through Twitter, or gripping the steering wheel as your eyes glaze over at the taillights ahead u2014 is a lost opportunity for face-to-face human interaction and productivity.

n

u00a0u201cThis commute is insane. Itu2019s just such a waste of time.u201du2014 Caroline Mohan, communications intern

n

Caroline Mohan lives with her parents in Haymarket and works in D.C. as a communications intern. Each day, she shares a car with her parents on a commute that takes 3.5 to 4 hours round trip. She hopes to move to D.C. when she can afford it.

n

u201cThis commute is insane. Itu2019s just such a waste of time, and I get anxious in the car thinking about how I could be applying for jobs or, I don’t knowu2014doing anything besides sitting in the car,u201d Mohan says.

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Making It (Slightly) Better

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While local commutes aren’t getting any shorter, many area employers are taking steps to ease the mental and financial burdens.

n

The District government, as well as a number of private employers, offersu00a0compressed and flexible work schedules, as well as teleworku2014a practice withu00a0myriad benefitsu00a0for employees, employers and the environment. Some jobs also offer Metro subsidies andu00a0flexible spending accountsu00a0for rail fare and parking. Federal employees in the area can take advantage ofu00a0a transit subsidy.u00a0However, au00a02010 law expanding telework optionsu00a0for federal employees has, in effect, beenu00a0rolled back in recent years.

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Some 35% of commuters surveyed in the 2019 State of the Commute study said they teleworked frequently or occasionally, an increase of 16 percentage points over the past 12 years. And 60% said their employer offered commuter-assistance services of some fashion.

n

u201cWe are more open to it than we ever have been before,u201d says Cindy Sutton, human resources managing director for the consulting firm Accentureu2019s Southeast region. u201cWork does happen everywhere.u201d

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Beyond telework, Accenture also moved an office from Reston to Arlington, in part to better accommodate the travel needs of both its employees and clients.

n

For Kirk Anderson, a shorter commute meant getting more of his life back. A decade ago, he lived in Reston and worked near Federal Triangle. Now he lives in Anacostia and works in Foggy Bottom. The move shaved 90 minutes off of his commute, and he noticed some other benefits.

n

u201cI was able to exercise, cook for myself. My friendships and relationships [were] better. I was able to volunteer, just kind of generally do things that I enjoyed,u201d Anderson says. u201cIt was all around a significant improvement to my life.u201d

n

The pie chart titled u201cHow Long Is Your Commuteu201d was updated to reflect that 16% of respondents spend 11-20 minutes commuting.

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More than a third of D.C.-area commutersu00a0travel 45 minutes or more to work every day.

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Some 35 percent of regional workers travel more than 45 minutes each way to work.

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Has Some Of The Longest Commutes In The Country. What Help Is Available?","audioFileID":5455103,"audioFile":"https://downloads.wamu.org/mp3/nw/20/01/web_longcommutes-berkon.mp3","audioLength":"4:25","audioOffset":"","postPermalink":"https://wamu.org/story/20/01/24/d-c-has-some-of-the-longest-commutes-in-the-country-what-help-is-available/","audioSlug":"WAMU"},"beat":"Transportation","beatSlug":"transportation","slug":{"name":"WAMU","permalink":"https://wamu.org/provider/wamu/","categoryName":"","providerClass":"provider-internal","flagSlug":"","flagText":""},"promoted":"","headMeta":{"title":"As The D.C. Area Grows Pricier, Can Picking Up A Side Hustle (Or Three) Make A Difference? | WAMU","description":"More than a third of D.C.-area commutersu00a0travel 45 minutes or more to work every day.","canonical":"https://wamu.org/story/20/01/24/d-c-has-some-of-the-longest-commutes-in-the-country-what-help-is-available/","featured_image":{"url":"https://wamu.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Harlan_WAMU_Affordability-30-1024x683.jpg","width":1024,"height":683},"image":"https://wamu.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/wamu-default-og-image.png"},"provider":{"term_id":561,"name":"WAMU","slug":"wamu","term_group":0,"term_taxonomy_id":562,"taxonomy":"wamu_provider","description":"","parent":0,"count":40879,"filter":"raw","permalink":"https://wamu.org/provider/wamu/"}},{"ID":5439164,"guid":"https://wamu.org/story/20/01/23/after-noma-encampment-cleared-d-c-expects-to-see-decrease-in-homelessness-count/","title":"More Single Adults Are Living On The Street, But D.C. Expects To See Decrease In Overall Homelessness","content":"

D.C. officials and volunteers have conducted this year’s census of the cityu2019s homeless population.

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The annual Point-in-Time (PIT) count determines how many people are homeless and why. Mayor Muriel Bowser, The Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness, and a group of volunteers conducted this yearu2019s count Wednesday night. They visited shelters and counted those they found on the streets.

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Last yearu2019s count found the number of people experiencing homelessness in the District had fallen by more than 5%, continuing a downward trend. The city expects to see a further decrease in homelessness when this yearu2019s numbers are tabulated. They will be made public in May.

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u201cWe know that we have fewer families in shelter now than we did last year and we expect to continue to see that the system reforms that weu2019re doing are working,u201d says Laura Zeilinger, director of D.C.u2019s Department of Human Services.

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According to District officials, family homelessness in Washington is down 45% since 2016, when the Mayor began implementing Homeward DC. The cityu2019s five-year strategic plan, which is drawing to a close, states that: u201cBy 2020, homelessness in the District will be a rare, brief, and non-recurring experience.u201d

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But while overall homelessness has dropped, in 2018 the number of single adults without homes rose 5%, from 3,578 to 3,761.

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And D.C.u2019s homeless population is facing new challenges. At least 117 homeless people died in the District in 2019, according to a recent investigation by The Washington Post. The unofficial tally of deaths maintained by advocacy organizations is lower, but no matter what data is used, the number of deaths reached a five-year high last year.

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Advocates say that the homeless population in this region is aging and that brings new health challenges that are contributing to the rise in deaths. As the shortage of affordable housing in the region continues to make headlines, many support organizations are struggling to find permanent housing solutions.

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Zeilinger says to combat the cityu2019s housing crisis, her team is focused on making changes to the entire system rather than any one program. She says theyu2019ve worked to improve the quality of local shelters and enhance the departmentu2019s outreach capacity. The PIT count, Zeilinger says, allows her staff to better target resources that can help break the cycle for the individuals affected.

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u201cThat said, we know that housing has not become more affordable and that we just have not kept pace with the cost of housing. It’s not a static number,u201d Zeilinger adds.

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In a news release issued Wednesday, Mayor Bowser touted spending in her fiscal year 2020 budget. The plan puts millions of dollars toward new and upgraded emergency shelters and permanent supportive housing facilities.

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This yearu2019s PIT count comes one week after District officialsu00a0permanently clearedu00a0dozens of people living on the sidewalks of K Street NE. News of the scheduled clearing spread when the city postedu00a0signageu00a0on January 3 signaling an u201cimmediate removal and disposalu201d of all property on the sidewalk.

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u201cSeveral of them are in a housing process receiving subsidies and support from the city. And others, weu2019re still assessing what they need and qualify for,u201d Zeilinger says. u201cAnd while staying under the overpass in a way that people canu2019t walk on the sidewalk is not sustainable in the long run, these are the things that are sustainable. That is shelter being available and connection to resources to help people get to a place of permanency,u201d she adds.

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u201cMy general sense of this is just sadness, that the city is following through with this when they know thereu2019s a winter storm coming,u201d Ann Marie Staudenmaier, with the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, told DCist after K Street NE was emptied.

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But Zeilinger says the city hasnu2019t lost sight of the issue at hand: that there are still too many people without a home, and prices continue to rise.

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To live modestly in D.C. itself, a family of four needs to make nearly $124,000, according to the Economic Policy Institute. Median household income is at a record high in the District>, but itu2019s still below that number. And the suburbs are in a similar situation: A family of four needs to make about $91,000 in Prince Georgeu2019s County, where the median income is below $80,000.

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Bowser says D.C. needs 36,000 new units by 2025 in order to keep up with the demand for housing.

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ntn","paginatedContent":[],"excerpt":"

The Point-in-Time count is an annual census of the city’s homeless population. This year’s was conducted Wednesday.

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A homeless encampment in NoMa during 2017. The city cleared dozens of people living under the overpass on K Street NE earlier this month.

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Residents of a Columbia Heights apartment building who are withholding rentu00a0over complaints about their building are due in court this week. The hearing could be an early step toward eviction, or it could offer a path toward reconciliation.

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Before launching the rent strike in December, tenants at 3435 Holmead Place NW complained multiple times about their living conditions to their landlord, Urban Investment Partners Property Management (UIP). Grievances include mold, rodent infestations and inadequate security.

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Along with organizers fromu00a0Stomp Out Slumlords, the DC Tenants Union and Georgetown Universityu2019su00a0Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor, a group of residents gathered outside the building on Dec. 6 to announce they’d be withholding their rent checks until the problems were rectified.

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UIP is challenging some of the striking residents in court after two months of unpaid leases. At 9 a.m. Wednesday, hearings will begin for residents at seven Holmead Place units at D.C.’s Landlord and Tenant Court. These hearings are part of the process of evicting tenants, but both sides are given an opportunity to work out their dispute before a ruling is issued. The residents willu00a0gather for another rallyu00a0Wednesday before the hearing.

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UIP declined to comment for this story.

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“Holmead Place serves as a home for hundreds of tenants who are predominantly immigrants or people of color. The poor housing conditions at Holmead Place are typical of the issues that working-class tenants face across the District,” says a press release from rally organizers. “That is why Holmead Place tenants are also joining other D.C. tenants, workers, and housing advocates in fighting for stronger, expanded rent control protections as part of the Reclaim Rent Control campaign so that families like theirs can maintain their place in their communities.”

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Juan Reyes, a Georgetown student and organizer with the Kalmanovitz Initiative, says the current goal of the residents on rent strike is to improve living conditions. But Reyes adds that residents could shift to invoking their TOPA rights (a D.C. law that gives tenants a say in the building’s future ownership) if the landlord threatens to sell the building.

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“We had a meeting on Sunday with the tenants that are going to court and some other tenants that want to just go and support,” Reyes says. “They seem pumped up, like they know how it’s been living there. They’re not scared, and they know that we’re going together.”

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The strike is part of the Reclaim Rent Controlu00a0campaign, an initiative that aims to expand protections for local tenants when the D.C. Council reauthorizes the rent-control law set to expire at the end of this year. The campaign is led by a coalition of dozens of tenant advocates in the region.

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What happens next for Holmead Place residents who are headed to court has yet to be determined. Reyes says organizers are prepared to submit evidence, such as photo documentation of units, as the proceedings continue. Organizers are also providing lawyers to the defendants pro bono.

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“We are confident tenants will not lose their case, due to the flagrant housing code violations. If a tenant loses their case, they will simply transfer their rent to the landlord and we will fundraise to pay back the late fees,” Reyes said via email, noting that striking tenants have been paying their withheld rent to an escrow account.

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As outlined in the court’s Case Management Plan, sometime after the initial court hearing, the court will enter a judgment “as a result of: default, confession, consent judgment agreement, breach of settlement agreement; or trial.” But what that process looks like, as well as its duration, can vary.

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Beth Mellen Harrison, Director of the Eviction Defense Project for the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia, says the outcomes for tenants in the eviction process can vary dramatically depending on the presence of legal representation. When tenants have lawyers, she says, theyu2019re more likely to request trials and enter negotiations about what tenants can realistically afford and what repairs need to be made.

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u201cOften, even though the trial might be six months or longer away, many of the cases settle in three or four months,u201d Harrison says. u201cSlowing it down that much just really changes the dynamic and makes sure that the tenantu2019s voice can be heard in the process.u201d

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Last month, residents participating in a nearly 14-month-long rent strike at 1320 Nicholson Street NW scored a victory when their building was sold to a developer chosen by tenants, exercising their TOPA rights.

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This story has been updated with additional comment from the director of the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia.

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When you give to WAMU, your tax-deductible gift helps make possible the award-winning reporting and programs upon which youu2019ve come to expect and rely, including Morning Edition, All Things Considered, 1A, The Kojo Nnamdi Show and many more!

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ntn","paginatedContent":[],"excerpt":"

Residents at a Columbia Heights apartment building will speak about their poor living conditions at an eviction hearing.

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Residents and activists rallied outside 3435 Holmead Place NW last month to announce a rent strike.

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Wohl","source_url":false},"postMeta":{"inCollectionId":"5204068","person":"5239680","secondaryImage":{"type":"","data":""},"titleOverride":false,"urlOrigin":false,"provider":"WAMU"},"audio":{"postPermalink":"https://wamu.org/story/20/01/21/d-c-tenants-who-went-on-strike-last-month-now-face-threat-of-eviction/"},"beat":"Business & Development","beatSlug":"business-development","slug":{"name":"WAMU","permalink":"https://wamu.org/provider/wamu/","categoryName":"","providerClass":"provider-internal","flagSlug":"","flagText":""},"promoted":"","headMeta":{"title":"As The D.C. 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Long-time business owners along the path of the Purple Line see the pending light rail project as a potential source of new customers and new income. But they’re also concerned their shops won’t be around to reap those benefits.

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Even the construction of the line, they say, poses a threat of gentrification.

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“There’s a general anxiety that this will be the project that forces them to shut down,” says Javier Rivas, manager of the Resilient Commercial Corridors program at the Latino Economic Development Center (LEDC).

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The 16-mile stretch of rail from New Carrollton to Bethesda in the Maryland suburbs is slated to open in 2023.u00a0Until then, there will be street closures, parking issues and other road work. The mostly immigrant entrepreneurs in the project’s path are looking for ways to keep business flowing during construction.

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“There’s a general fear that landlords or developers might buy their property and put up a condo where their business is,” Rivas says. “I think it ranges from that to not even knowing details about the construction itself.”

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Suzannah Hoover for WAMU

Jaha Hair Studio owner Susan Peterkin has owned the salon for over 20 years. She has transitioned to a co-op style booth rental model for the business, but is concerned the construction of the Purple Line light rail project will affect both her and those who work for her.Suzannah Hoover / For WAMU

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Rivas and his team meet regularly with business owners, arming them with tools to stay open for the next three years. LEDC primarily gives Latinos and other underserved groups in Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties help with getting access to loans, business advice and credit building. But for businesses along the Purple Line corridor, the group is pulling out all the stops.

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“We can say, ‘Okay, let’s work on a very specific marketing project for you,'” Rivas says. “We can design business cards, postcards, flyers … even a website.”

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Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow?

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Promotions on Facebook and Instagram have keptu00a0Jaha Hair Studiou00a0in Silver Spring on the minds of its customers.

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The salon, whichu00a0caters to a mostly African American clientele with natural hair,u00a0has sat on Bonifant Street for 22 years.u00a0Bonifant is like a Main Street for the surrounding community and low-rise apartments. Its eclectic businesses include multiple hair salons, restaurants and a thrift store.u00a0The Purple Line’s path goes right down the middle of the street.

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Construction has already taken away some of the street parking Jaha shares with about 20 other businesses on the block.

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“When the Purple Line actually comes we’re going to go from like 30-something parking spaces to like five,” says owner Susan Peterkin. “We’re not gonna be able to cross the road, there’s going to be no parking … what’s going to happen?”

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Suzannah Hoover for WAMU

Owner Susan Peterkin is worried that the construction of the Purple Line will affect her customers’ ability to get to her hair salon, Jaha Hair Studio, and find available parking.Suzannah Hoover / For WAMU

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Peterkinu2019s future on Bonifant is uncertain. She doesnu2019t have a current lease and is renting month-to-month for $1,900. She also wonders if the influx of new developments will drive up her rent, or inspire her landlord to sell the property and force Peterkin out.

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“Property owners are going to be like, ‘Hey, this is happening so let’s raise the rent,'” says Peterkin. “And the majority of us can’t afford if they’re going to triple the rent.”

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Peterkin has become a leader of sorts among her fellow shopkeepers on Bonifant. She prefers to call them ‘mom and pop’ shops rather than small businesses, highlighting the severity of what could happen if they failed. Peterkin has been attending community meetings, some hosted by Purple Line officials, since word of the project began to spread years ago. Peterkin was also instrumental in the formation of Discover Bonifant, a group of local merchants organizing to appeal to politicians and fight for their rights as the Purple Line construction continues.

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“They would have meetings with us to hear what we want, hear our fears, tell us what we could expect and what they can do for us to keep Bonifant Street viable,” says Peterkin.

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Purple Line Preparedness

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Some Maryland lawmakers have tried to get financial help for small businesses along the Purple Line corridor, to no avail. They sought after grants and tax credits to help with losses.

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Rivas of LEDC says small businesses along the Purple Line corridor are disadvantaged compared to the ones affected by the Wheaton Revitalization Project, for instance. Some business owners qualified for grants through Montgomery County to withstand the loss of hundreds of parking spaces and other potential impacts due to the construction of that mixed-use development. No such funding is available for the Purple Line businesses.

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Suzannah Hoover for WAMU

Susan Peterkin stands inside her salon, Jaha Hair Studio in Sliver Spring, Md.Suzannah Hoover / For WAMU

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But a $5 million grant from Chase Banku00a0last fall is helping organizations including LEDC ramp up their outreach efforts along the light rail corridor. With their cut, Rivas says, LEDC has hired staff to assist with the small business coaching and liaison work. The group also recently expanded its efforts to small businesses on the Prince George’s County side of the line.

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Carla Julian works with Purple Line Transit Constructors, the company building the line. She says itu2019s part of the contract to keep business owners and their customers notified of upcoming construction impacts.

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“We also provide open during construction signage for businesses, and we always have to maintain access for pedestrians and deliveries as we work through construction,” Julian says.

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But owners like Peterkin don’t think signs are going to be enough.

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While Julian acknowledges the inconvenience of construction and the fears of the local merchants, she says there isn’t much more that can be done to mitigate the impact. Despite some delays and spending over budget, Julian says the project is operating on scheduleu00a0with the first phase of the line expected to open in Prince George’s County in 2022.

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And the timeline, she says, calls for Bonifant Street to narrow to one lane by March 2020. That construction will last nearly two years.

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‘We Are Well-Informed, But It’s Still Superficial’

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A little over a mile away from Jaha Hair Studio sits El Gavilan, a Salvadoran restaurant with a Tex-Mex flair on Flower Avenue in Silver Spring. The family-owned business has become a staple in the community for 30 years and has been passed down to Ana Rivera.u00a0A vibrant atmosphere and karaoke setup keep customers coming back.

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Suzannah Hoover for WAMU

Joy McAddley styles client Jon Gregg’s locs at the Jaha Hair Salon in Silver Spring, Md. McAddley has worked at the salon for 15 years and hopes the Purple Line construction doesn’t affect business.Suzannah Hoover / for WAMU

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Rivera wonders whether the restaurant will eventually be bought out by developers. And though El Gavilan benefits from a parking lot it shares with other merchants at a nearby plaza, Rivera isn’t sure if it will be torn down during the Purple Line construction.

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“People are going to try to look around the way to detour and not come down the area anymore. It’s crazy,” Rivera says.

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Rivera is largely optimistic, however, and looking forward to the walking traffic and new customers the transit line could bring. But sheu2019s aware she isnu2019t serving the type of fare you typically find at a fast-casual restaurant near downtown transit stops.

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“How am I going to get these people to be interested in our food and our flavor, or have them come in and want to be curious to come and taste it?” says Rivera.

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Both Peterkin and Rivera agree: The Purple Line will be good for the area, better connecting the suburbs to the city. But, they say, what good is the multi-million dollar project if long-time businesses like theirs canu2019t stick around to reap the benefits?

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“We’re blessed that we’ve been here this long, but if the day does come and we can’t stay then we will have to really think about it,” Rivera says. “Then it will hit us, hit our hearts and we’re going to have to make a tough decision.”

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n","paginatedContent":[],"excerpt":"

The Purple Line is planned to be built down Bonifant Street and other roads in downtown Silver Spring and could affect small businesses along the corridor.

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Joy McAddley washes client Jon Gregg’s hair at the Jaha Hair Studio on Bonifant Street in Silver Spring, Maryland. Bonifant will soon be narrowed to one lane during construction of the Purple Line project, taking away customer street parking.

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Suzannah Hoover, For WAMU

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Joy McAddley washes client Jon Gregg’s hair at the Jaha Hair Studio on Bonifant Street in Silver Spring, Maryland. Bonifant will soon be narrowed to one lane during construction of the Purple Line project, taking away customer street parking.

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Fatima Miller has long impressed her friends with her cooking u2014u00a0everything from first-course cheese plates to decadent desserts. She wondered whether there might be more fans of her cooking, perhapsu00a0some who might even pay for it.u00a0

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u201cI really would like to give myself the chance to get started, test the waters, so to speak,u201d she says.

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But that’s not so easily done in D.C. Besides requiring the typical paperwork and inspections, the law limits the sale of homemade food to farmeru2019s markets or similar events. It also caps revenue at $25,000 u2014 a tidy sum, but not enough to live on.

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The District is now poised to lift those limits. For Miller, that means her small kitchen in Southwest D.C. could be the source of some extra money, or, eventually, a new workplace.

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u201cIu2019m a disabled vet u2014 and fortunately, I can work, but if there are times when my disabilities will hamper me being able to go into an office, I will have another source of revenue or stream of income,” she says. “That means so much more to have that available to me.”

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A Second Helping Of Cottage Food Law

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There are lots of cooks who want to test the same waters as Milleru00a0and are likely to encounter fewer hurdles outside the District. Maryland and Virginia, for instance, are among several states that do not currently have the same restrictions on where and how much individuals can sell.u00a0

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The USDA put the value of home-based food businesses u2014 called cottage food u2014 at $20 billion in 2016, up from $5 billion in 2008. And others have praised cottage food for helping to boost local economies and increase communities’ access to food

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u201cSurveys show that it’s particularly beneficial for low-income women to supplement their earnings,u201d says D.C. Council Member Mary Cheh.

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Cheh was part of the initial effort to legalize cottage food in D.C. in 2013. It was a time when the number of farmers’ markets in the countryu00a0was rapidly increasing (itu2019s still growing, though at a slower rate).u00a0Cottage food legislation was au00a0way for states to let individuals make money from the trend, and D.C. wasn’t alone in limiting sales to designated locationsu00a0or in capping revenue. But these requirements put some home cooks in a difficult position. A cottage food business is often a way of earning a little extra money or gauging interest in a brick-and-mortar location. Finagling a spot next to farmers and being there every week with enough goods to sell isnu2019t feasible for hobbyists hoping to go pro, while aspiring restaurateurs who find loyal customers might hit the earnings ceiling early.

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u201cIt turns out that the limitations that I had put in that original bill were actually kind of an obstacle for people to get into this in any particular numbers,u201d Cheh says.

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The D.C. Council unanimously passed an amendment in December that removes the financial limit and allows cooks to sell directly to customers. The measure awaits the mayor’s signature.

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“It’s an opportunity for people to ultimately kind of move up with their work,” Cheh says.

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Off The Books Baking

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The D.C. Department of Health says there are currently just seven approved cottage food businesses in the District operating under the current regulations. But this isn’t the entire local landscape of homemade food. Look around on Instagram or ask your neighbors and you may find someone selling homemade food off the books.

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u201cWe have now talked to hundreds of people across D.C., many of whom are running, to some degree, a cottage food business but maybe didn’t even realize that there was a registration they had to complete,u201d says Brooke Fallon with the Institute for Justice, a libertarian-leaning nonprofit that has lobbied in various states as well as D.C. to change cottage food laws. u201cIt didn’t even occur to them that this would be something you’d have to get approval for, because I think for so many people, it’s so natural.u201d

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Fatima Miller’s banana pudding is one of many homemade dishes that could soon be available to purchase in stores, or directly from the cook online.Gabe Bullard / WAMU

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In addition to pushing for local changes, the institute has worked with the Latino Economic Development Council and Dreaming Out Loud to host workshops to teach people how to start cottage food businesses.

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u201cThe seminar was packed,u201d says Ann Hammersmith, a lawyer in Northwest D.C. who attended the workshop to see if she could start selling her homemade cookies. u201cIu2019ve taken things to parties and people have said: u2018Oh, you could sell this stuff.u2019 I started thinking, maybe I could sell this stuff,” she says. But Hammersmith found the previous regulations too restrictive for her plans, and she hasnu2019t yet started selling cookies. She calls the revisions to the law “a game-changer.”

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Safety Standards

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As delicious as the cake a coworker brings into the office might be, is it something youu2019d feel comfortable buying?

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u201cI actually have a very good friend that I’ve talked to about this, and she seems a little nervous about a regulation that’s more lenient,u201d Hammersmith says. u201cShe’s concerned about people’s kitchens and cleanliness.u201d

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Previously, the cottage food lawu00a0said “The [Health] Department shall perform an inspection of the cottage food business before that business may sell its cottage food products.” The revisions replace “shall” with “may.” In a hearing on the legislation in November, Dr. Sharon Lewis, Senior Deputy Director of Health, Regulation and Licensing Administration for the Department of Health,u00a0raised some concerns about cooks selling across state lines (which isn’t allowed), and issues about lifting the requirement for mandatory inspections.

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Dr. Lewis told a Council committee in November that inspecting kitchens before approving a cottage food business “is a critical first step to ensure safe processing of cottage food products for public consumption and serves to protect operators and customers alike.” The Department referred to the doctor’s testimony when asked about a follow-up.

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But Cheh says the department can still inspect home kitchens.

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“The health department will be inspecting them,” Cheh says. “When we pass legislation, we often leave to executive agencies the flexibility and latitude to figure out how they’re going to conduct inspections, how often and that sort of thing.”

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And while the department doesnu2019t conduct routine reviews of home kitchens, they can inspect if any problems arise. Theyu2019ll know where to go if that happens: Cottage food businesses get an identification number, which they have to put on their food labels, along with ingredients.

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u201cIf there was ever any issue, and that number could be brought back to the health department and health department could look them up and figure out, okay, who was the person selling this good, and get to the bottom of whatever was going on,u201d Fallon says.

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Those ingredients also have to be filed with the city. Because the cottage food law restricts potentially hazardous foods like pickles or items that need strict temperature controls to stay safe, the city can also request the recipe before it approves an item for sale (cooks can file certain recipes as u201ctrade secrets,u201d though, so donu2019t count on being able to file a Freedom of Information Act request to find out how to make an alluring treat you buy).

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Coming To A Store Near You?

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In Milleru2019s kitchen on a recent Friday, her mise-en-scu00e8ne was set. Clean knives, spatulas and spoons sat on a cutting board that rested on her stovetop. Next to it, she used a hand mixer to work heavy cream to stiff peaks, then folded in a pudding sheu2019d prepared the night before. She layered it into an aluminum tray with vanilla wafers and fresh bananas. Itu2019s a new recipe for banana pudding. And while the dish is new, Miller’s love of cooking comes from her childhood u2014 when she watched cooking shows on PBS and saw how her grandma’s food always drew praise.

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u201cShe was an avid baker and she was into all kinds of baking contests. People from the church would pay my grandmother to make them certain types of cakes,u201d Miller says.

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Fatima Miller’s banana pudding is nearly ready for retail.Gabe Bullard / WAMU

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When Miller sets up shop and has people paying her for food, her business name will honor her grandmothers: 2 Ladiez Sweetz and Treatz.

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When our interview ends, Miller packs up the pudding and gives it to me to go. Itu2019s a treat. A rare one, too. Next time I see Milleru2019s pudding, it might have a price tag on it.

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Changes to the city’s cottage food law would lift the limits on where home cooks can sell their food, and how much money they can make.

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Fatima Miller prepares banana pudding in her home in Southwest D.C. She’s interested in starting a cottage food business so she could sell goods like this to make extra money.

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Fatima Miller assembles a banana pudding

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“Why is it considered a right to be able to afford to live in Arlington?”

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Thatu2019s what a listener named George emailed to WAMU’su00a0Kojo Nnamdi Show during a recent segment on Amazon and high home prices in Northern Virginia.

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In a recent Washington Post article about D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s goal to produce more affordable housing in the city, Chevy Chase homeowner named Santiago was quoted saying, “I would love to live in Beverly Hills, but I haven’t earned enough money to do so. I’m not asking anyone to give me a voucher or a way in.”

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Both comments reflect an idea that’s gained traction as Washington’s housing shortage has left many people priced out: If you can’t afford to live here, that’s your problem.

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Economists, housing policy experts and local officials disagree. They say high housing costs don’t only affect those who can’t afford them u2014 they also impact employers, local governments, your neighborhood coffee shop and even well-to-do homeowners in Chevy Chase.

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Here are a few reasons why:

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High Housing Costs Worsen Traffic

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Traffic is often cited as a reason not to build housing. Add more residents to an area, the logic goes, and you put more cars on the road. But there’s evidence that not building housing can make traffic worse.

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When people can’t afford to live near jobs, they move somewhere cheaper and drive to work.

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Think about the low-income workers who will be cleaning the future Amazon offices in Arlington, says Jenny Schuetz, a fellow in the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution. “If they have to live out on the edge of Prince William [County] and Spotsylvania and commute every day, everybody between where they live and where they work is going to have more traffic congestion and worse environmental impact,” Schuetz says.

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Housing affordability is “not just about your ability to afford housing versus someone else’s,” says Arlington County Board Member Christian Dorsey. “It’s how this all impacts the functioning of a community.”

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And when low-income people are pushed out of job centers, traffic can still worsen within that job center. That’s because high-income people drive a lot, even when they live near transit. A 2017 analysis by Portland’s public transit authority found that a drop in ridership stemmed from displacement of low-income workers from the Oregon city.

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“These low-income residents used transit for a diverse array of trips before moving to areas with lower quality transit,” the report said, “while the high-income earners taking their place use transit less frequently even though they live in some of the region’s most transit-rich neighborhoods.”

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That’s why a 2018 report by the Housing Leadership Council of San Mateo and “smart growth” organization TransForm urged officials in the Bay Area to view housing production as a partial solution to the region’s intensifying traffic congestion.

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“Reducing travel demand requires looking at what is causing the traffic,” the report said. “One of the most important factors is the scarcity of homes local workers can afford, that are close to jobs and high-quality public transit.”

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Employers Need Workers At All Wage Levels

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High housing costs are a major problem for employers u2014 from the federal government to your local hardware store.

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Both the public and private sectors rely on low-wage work. Fortune 500 companies and federal agencies employ low-paid contract workers like security guards and maintenance teams. Retailers need cashiers and restaurants need servers. The fast-growing hospitality industry depends on line cooks, room cleaners and bellhops.

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And wealthy homeowners in places like Chevy Chase? They’re affected by housing affordability when their gardeners, nannies and maids can’t afford to live anywhere nearby.

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Few like to admit that low-wage work is a fundamental part of the local economy, but that’s the reality, says Montgomery County Council Member Nancy Navarro (D-District 4).

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“We’ve got to take care of the continuum of income levels,” Navarro says. “We can’t ignore the notion that yes, we have folks working in restaurants.”

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The Washington region’s affordability problem has already begun to affect hiring, says Bob Buchanan, a real-estate developer who co-founded economic development association The 2030 Group.
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“A number of employers are having a very hard time filling jobs,” Buchanan says. “We have a lot of jobs that are unfilled because either people are moving away from the area because of high costs, or they’re leery of moving into the area, knowing that we have pricing issues.”

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The geographic divide between jobs and workers is what economists call “spatial mismatch,” and it can significantly affect economic growth. Basically, if people don’t have access to jobs, growth slows down. A 2019 report published in American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics showed that constraints on housing u2014 such as zoning codes that limit apartment construction u2014 lowered U.S. economic growth by 36% between 1964 and 2009.

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“Spatial mismatch” is affecting middle class workers, too u2014 including government employees. A 2019 report showed almost half of Montgomery County’s government workforce lives outside the county, where median home sales prices reached a record $465,000 in November.

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Cost-burdened People Buy Less Stuff

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Consumer spending accounts for about two-thirds of economic activity in the U.S. That’s another reason a lack of affordable housing can hurt local businesses and the regional economy, says Christian Dorsey, a member of the Arlington County Board. Dorsey is board vice chair of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, which recently called on local jurisdictions to build more affordable homes near jobs and transit.

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“Housing for many people is the most significant portion of their income,” Dorsey says, “so the more that is devoted to housing naturally means the less that can be devoted to other things.”

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Increasing housing supply u2014 and keeping housing prices in check u2014 “could result in greater consumption of other goods and services that stimulate growth and employment gains in other sectors, which could have a multiplier effect,” according to the Urban Institute.

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There are ethical arguments for building housing, too, Dorsey says. But winning public support for it can require a different approach.

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“You have to clearly show what’s in it for every individual involved,” the Arlington leader says. “We have to get people to understand that this is not just about your ability to afford housing versus someone else’s. It’s how this all impacts the functioning of a community.”

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ntn","paginatedContent":[],"excerpt":"

The D.C. area has a housing shortage that’s driving up prices. Here’s how it affects people who have already “gotten theirs.”

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If you think Washington’s high housing costs only affect people getting priced out, think again.

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Alex, a consultant and former Marine living in Alexandria, learned she was pregnant with her first child last year. She and her husband had been planning to start a family for some time, making spreadsheets of all the expenses that might come with caring for an infant. But their plans were scuttled at an early doctoru2019s visit.

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u201cIt hit the fan the minute he was like, u2018Oh, there’s two heartbeats,u2019u201d says Alex, who asked that WAMU use only her first name as she considers whether to return to her current employer.

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Not only was their first family addition now two, the twins were sharing the same amniotic sac u2014 a risky complication to the pregnancy. Alex required regular monitoring. She spent five weeks on bed rest before delivering her daughters at 32 weeks in September. The twins spent their first couple months in the neonatal intensive care unit.

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Alex’s military-provided healthcare covered her medical expenses, and her employer paid for several months of leave. But her workplace will not pay for child care once Alex returns to work in a few weeks u2014 expenses that could total as much as $4,000 per month, unrelated to any medical issues.

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u201cMy net income would be so minimal that it doesn’t make a lot of sense to even work anymore,u201d she says.

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Alex isnu2019t alone. As D.C.-area parents contend with some of the highest child care costs in the country u2014 annual fees in the District average aboutu00a0$24,000 for infant care and $19,000 for toddler careu00a0u2014 some are deciding to opt out of the workforce, forgoing a salary and avoiding high child care costs.

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The Cost Of Child Care

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Families in the region have several options when it comes to child care, but none come cheap. Lower-cost options include home-based centersu00a0(about $17,000 annually) andu00a0nanny shares ($20-$25 an hour, divided among participating families). On the higher end are au pairs (aboutu00a0$20,000 per year) and child care centers ($24,243 annually in D.C., $19,632 inu00a0Montgomery Countyu00a0and $24,390 inu00a0Arlington County). The cost isu00a0enough to make some couplesu00a0rethink having children.

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Kimberly Perry, executive director of DC Action for Children, says the cost of care has risen sharply in recent years, due in part to the increasingly recognized need for quality early education.

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u201cThis is a relatively newer industry u2014 as more women started to enter the workforce over the last 50 years, the work of caring for young children has essentially moved from the unpaid stay-at-home parents to salaried labor,u201d Perry says. u201cThis period of birth to age 3 is really critical for social, emotional and cognitive development. So the need for credentialed, trained and degreed professionals is really critical.”

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The cost of childcare in the District exceeds in-state tuition at a four-year public college.Economic Policy Institute

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Other reasons for high costs include theu00a0materials and facilities needed to care for kids, and even parking.

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In au00a0recentu00a0Atlanticu00a0article, staff writer Derek Thompson points to three reasons for the high cost of child care in the United States: salaries, regulation and rent. Spending on child care, he says, increased more than 40% between 1990 and 2011, while middle-class wages remained roughly the same.

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u201cPick whatever source and statistic you like, because they all point to the same conclusion: Child care in America has become ludicrously expensive,u201d Thompson writes.

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And despite the high costs to parents, many workers at D.C. centers are not well-compensated, reflective of au00a0larger trend nationwide.

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Leaving Work To Afford Children

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For Alex, her husband and their infant twins, none of the available child care options are ideal: The daycare in their neighborhood charges $1998 a month per child. An au pair would cost more than $2,000 per month and necessitate overhauling the first floor of their home and adjusting to an additional resident.

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And while they could place their twins in a center at a nearby military base where rates are closer to $700 per month per child, that would require Alex’s husband to stay in the military for longer than he had intended u2014 plus it would expose the twins to other children duringu00a0RSV season, which Alex says could be life-threatening to her prematurely born infants.

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For now, Alex plans to pay for a nanny share two days a week and have her mom u2014 who lives nearby and works full-time u2014 watch the children three days a week. Alex has to return to work for a short period or be required to pay back some of the medical and leave-related expenses her employer has paid, she says. But after that, she may decide to leave.

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u201cIu2019m going to have to see what happens when Iu2019m back at work,u201d Alex says. u201cIf itu2019s not manageable, and [if] now weu2019re looking at this and itu2019s just not looking like itu2019s fiscally sound any longer, then Iu2019m going to have to re-evaluate my career. My husbandu2019s going to have to re-evaluate his career.u201d

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The Toll Of Taking Time Away

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In any family where the cost of child care equals or exceeds one earner’s net wages, parents need to crunch the numbers to determine the viability of both partners working.

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Mary Ann Bronson, an assistant professor in economics at Georgetown University, describes the conversation this way: u201cu2018If I have a primary earner that brings home a certain income, and Iu2019m a secondary earner, and now we have to pay for child care if Iu2019m going to work as well, does it make sense financially for our household to do that?u2019u201d

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u201cThat calculus is actually even worse when you look at very low-income households,u201d Bronson adds.

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And it’s not just an immediate change in income that parents experience.u00a0For heterosexual couples, mothers tend to take a career hit when care is hard to find. Au00a0study on child care and the workforceu00a0found that 95% of fathers in couples who could not find care continued to work, compared to 77% of mothers.

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The disparities between mothers and fathers continue when both are working. In a Pew Research study, half of working mothers said being a working parent is an obstacle to their career advancement, while only 39% of working fathers said the same.u00a0Au00a02018 study found thatu00a0women who take longer maternity leaves can sometimes be seen as less dedicated to their work, eroding “perceptions of womenu2019s agency, job commitment and perceived suitability for leadership roles.u201d

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Bronson says taking one or two years out of the workforce can mean a 10 to 20% wage cut when parents return, and a lengthier break (as some decide to stay at home with their children until one or all are in grade school) may further lower wages. Parents taking extended leaves may also not be up-to-date on their field or eligible for the promotions they might otherwise have received in that time, Bronson says.

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So while staying at work could mean taking a short-term financial loss on child care, Bronson says it could also be a wise investment in a parentu2019s long-term career.

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“If you’re in a career where promotion rates are high [and] wage trajectories are steep, staying in is going to have a long-term payoff,” Bronson says.

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Dustin Fisher, a stay-at-home dad in New Carrollton, decided to leave his job in collegiate recreation seven years ago, after the birth of his daughter. He says the decision made financial sense, given his wifeu2019s career. He also didnu2019t want to leave his then-infant daughter with a stranger.

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Dustin Fisher has been a stay-at-home father for seven years. With his children now in elementary school, he is deciding on his next steps.Eliza Berkon / WAMU

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u201cWhy bother leaving her so I could go to a different job? To me, that says I don’t want to be there with my kids,u201d Fisher says.

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While navigating parenthood with one and then two children at home, Fisher started a blog (Daddy Needs a Nap, now Quote of the Dad)u00a0and wrote a memoir-ish book calledu00a0Daddy Issues. But with both of his children, ages 5 and 7, now in elementary school, he’s contemplating his next move.

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u201cI’ve been out of the workforce so long, there’s just such a huge hole in my resume that I haven’t really tested with employers,u201d Fisher says. u201cIu2019m just dabbling in things that I know that I would like to do.u201d

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Finding Affordable Solutions

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D.C.,u00a0Marylandu00a0andu00a0Virginiau00a0all offer child care subsidies to families with qualifying incomes. Some counties offer additional programs, including Montgomery County, where the Working Parents Assistance Program provides supplementary subsidies to eligible residents. Arlington County, which established au00a0child care task force in 2017, is also working with the Arlington Community Foundation to provide scholarships to low-income families.

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In 2018, the District passed theu00a0Birth to 3 For All DC act,u00a0whose components include raising teacher pay, providing pediatric support and broadening eligibility for child care subsidies.

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Perry, whose organization has pushed for funding for the Birth to 3 act, says local parents are thankful to have a solution for the u201creally complex challengeu201d of child care in the District. u201cParents want relief as soon as possible,u201d she says.

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Since 2009, D.C. has also offered free preschool to 3 and 4-year-olds, which had a positive impact on mothers in the local workforce. In the first decade of the program, the number of mothers in the workforce increased byu00a012%, u201cwith 10 percentage points attributable to preschool expansion.u201d

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The financial burdens of child care are on the national stage this year asu00a0Democratic presidential candidatesu00a0debate which proposals, including universal child care and tax credits for child care, are most viable.

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But for the time being, families who are struggling to afford it are left with only the available options, many of which are not affordable. It can be a shock to couples that have been careful with their money up until parenthood. Both Alex and her husband made sure their bacheloru2019s and masteru2019s degrees were paid for and that they were debt-free before starting a family.

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u201cUp until this point, weu2019d been doing the standard American Dream-type thing where you go to school, you get a good job, you buy a house and then you have kids,u201d she says.

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For some, delayed retirement is a sign of good health and satisfaction with their job. For others, it’s a sign of the times u2014 the high cost of living, the disappearance of traditional pensions and a shrinking of social security payments.

n

“If you look at someone age 65 or older now, that person is 75% more likely to be working than someone who was in the same age group a generation ago,” says Richard Johnson, senior fellow director of the Program on Retirement Policy at the Urban Institute.

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While the average American retires at 63, seniors in major metropolitan areas are continuing to work longer, often in fields that are amenable to older workers.

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“Some people are in better health, but also jobs are generally less physically demanding than they were in the past,” Johnson says.

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And for seniors in those jobs, retirement at 63, or even 65, seems more like a relic from the past than an achievable goal.

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Mapping Out The Future

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Laura Ehle is 64 and doesn’t think she can afford to retire until she turns 70.

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More than 40 years ago, Ehle was standing behind the counter, working as a cashier at Ginou2019s Hamburgers in Southeast D.C. In the late 1970s, she had enough of that.u00a0So, Ehle took a civil service exam that opened the doors to a new career that sheu2019s had ever since.

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“I just wanted out of the fast food joint,” she says.

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Ehle is a cartographic technician and works inside a printing company in Capitol Heights, Md. called Williams and Heintz Map Corporation. They make maps mostly for government agencies, including the Federal Aviation Administration. Ehle’s focus is on aeronautical and nautical maps and highway charts. She says she loves her job.

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“These maps you see here were done by hand,” Ehle says, pointing out some of her past work. “Now that we’re all digital,u00a0I download data from the internet and I just kind of put it together, weed through it and color it.”

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Ehle works at her desk inside Maryland printing company Williams and Heintz Map Corporation.Tyrone Turner / WAMU

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In another life, Ehle’s more than 30-year tenure at the company would now be winding down. But she can’t imagine retiring at age 65.

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“It would be an awfully limited life. I don’t even know if I could afford to have Wi-Fi,” she says. “Just some basic things that so many people take for granted would be hard to afford.”

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Ehleu00a0has a 401(k) but says she has very little in a savings account. And because she wasn’t married to her husband Ron when he retired from the Fairfax County fire department 13 years ago, Ehle is unsure what financial benefits she’ll get from his pension.

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But Ehle isn’t convinced her days in the workforce will be completely over even when she turns 70.

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“I might want to keep working or there might be something else I want to do,” she says.

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Delayed Retirement: The Bigger Picture

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Tens of millions of people rely on Social Security to make ends meet in retirement. And millions more count on earning it after the death or disability of a loved one.u00a0As important as Social Security is for those who receive the benefit, it doesn’t come without change. Each year, participants see adjustments (often small increases) to the amount they receive. But in 2020, Johnson says some of the changes could negatively impact future retirees.

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“They’re slowly cutting benefits. So, someone who’s retiring now is going to get 12% less each month than they would have had they retired back in 2000,” says Johnson.

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“I don’t even know if I could afford to have Wi-Fi. Just some basic things that so many people take for granted would be hard to afford.”

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And though pensions remain relatively common in government jobs, they have largely disappeared in the private sector.u00a0Nationally, 30% of workers over 65 say they have nothing saved in a retirement plan. Thereu2019s a growing number of seniors relying on Medicare and Medicaid. And, according to a recentu00a0Axios/Survey Monkey poll, boomers today have more debt than past generations.

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“When we look at who’s working longer overall, it’s people across the educational spectrum. It’s rich people, poor people and people of all races and ethnicities,” Johnson says. “They’re all working longer, but the motives are very different.”

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“The people who have limited income, limited wealth, limited education, predominantly people of color — those are the people who are basically being forced to work longer,” Johnson adds.

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‘I May Not Leave At 70. Who Knows?’

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There are financial benefits of working longer: If you keep working, you can get more money when you retire. And Johnson says there are social benefits, too. Work brings people friendships they want to continue and gives them a sense of purpose.

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Fairfax County resident John Bordeaux, who works as a policy analyst at a local think tank, is mulling his options. Heu2019s 60 now and, like Ehle, he planned to stop working at age 70.u00a0But turning 60 brought along a health scare.u00a0Bordeaux was diagnosed with bladder cancer and had surgery. This “changed the calculus a bit,” he says.

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“I would not have thought about retiring before 70, until the cancer stick came along,” says Bordeaux.

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Bordeaux, however, is hopeful he can continue working through treatments and beyond. He knows he and his wife Janet, who is already retired, will need to downsize when he retires. But he hopes to keep going until he’s 70, at least to buy some time and plan his next steps.

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“I tell myself it’s because of the finances because that’s something I can quantify, but it’s mainly giving me nine years to decide what I want to do in my life,” he says.

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The U.S. Economy Needs Older Workers

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Baby boomers are reaching retirement age rapidly, and the generationsu00a0to follow are thinning as the American birth rate sinks even lower. Last year, the Census Bureauu00a0reportedu00a0that by 2035, there will be more Americans over age 65 than there are children under age 18.

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Not only that, butu00a0fewer people in their primeu00a0have been working in recent years u2014 which is dueu00a0in part to theu00a0opioid epidemic, mass incarceration and unaffordable child care that forces many parents to stay home.

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“I really can’t afford to retire. But if I hated what I do for a living, life would be miserable. So, I consider myself very fortunate,” says Ehle.Tyrone Turner / WAMU

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Johnson says it’s also important to note that there are older people who have been laid off or can’t work longer, but really need to. These individuals often aren’t counted in most statistics.

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“For example, people who can’t afford to be retired, but they can’t find a job,” says Johnson. “And those are people who are really struggling and who don’t show up in these numbers about the old people who are working more.”

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He adds thatu00a0older people who are still in the workforce arenu2019t taking jobs away from younger people. In fact, many economists dispute this. Seniors on the job can boost regional economies. They help increase tax revenues, stimulate growth with more consumer spending and provide additional talent at a time of low unemployment, though economic stimulus might not be much comfort for seniors who want to retire.

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As for younger people who don’t want to work until they’re 70, Johnson says saving money early is just about the only way to ensure a comfortable retirement.

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He recommends more jurisdictions across the country implement state retirement plans to help residents boost their savings. Maryland, for instance, has set up an automatic-enrollment retirement savings program for the estimated one million Marylanders who work full-time but have no way to save for retirement at work.

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“It’s just a good way of getting people to save because let’s be honest: most people really only save when it’s automatic,” Johnson says.

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For some, delayed retirement is a sign of good health and satisfaction with their job. For others, it’s a sign of the times u2014 the high cost of living, the disappearance of traditional pensions and a shrinking of social security payments.

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Laura Ehle, a 64-year-old cartographic technician in Capitol Heights, Md., checks a proof of a map she’s working on before it goes to press. Ehle doesn’t think she can afford to retire until she turns 70.

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Area Grows Pricier, Can Picking Up A Side Hustle (Or Three) Make A Difference? | WAMU","description":"For some, delayed retirement is a sign of good health and satisfaction with their job. For others, it's a sign of the times u2014 the high cost of living, the disappearance of traditional pensions and a shrinking of social security payments.","canonical":"https://wamu.org/story/20/01/07/seniors-are-working-longer-out-of-choice-and-necessity/","featured_image":{"url":"https://wamu.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/20200103_SeniorWork_01-1024x683.jpg","width":1024,"height":683},"image":"https://wamu.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/wamu-default-og-image.png"},"provider":{"term_id":561,"name":"WAMU","slug":"wamu","term_group":0,"term_taxonomy_id":562,"taxonomy":"wamu_provider","description":"","parent":0,"count":40879,"filter":"raw","permalink":"https://wamu.org/provider/wamu/"}},{"ID":5372009,"guid":"https://wamu.org/story/20/01/06/a-radical-housing-proposal-is-forming-strange-political-alliances-in-virginia-and-maryland/","title":"A Radical Housing Proposal Is Forming Strange Political Alliances In Virginia And Maryland","content":"

In an attempt to address the region’su00a0housing shortage,u00a0local leaders have trotted out a series of incremental solutions. Theyu2019ve required developers to build more affordable housing. They’ve extracted money from Amazon. Theyu2019ve put more tax dollars toward housing construction, one budget cycle at a time.

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But now, two young legislators are proposing a more drastic solution, one that would reshape the look and feel of suburbs across Maryland and Virginia. They want to eliminate zoning for single-family homes.

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Virginia state Del. Ibraheem Samirah (D-Herndon) and Maryland state Del. Vaughn Stewart (D-Derwood) are introducing sweeping housing bills in their respective statehouses.AP Photo/Steve Helber; Friends of Vaughn Stewart

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The legislation comes from Ibraheem Samirah and Vaughn Stewart, Democratic state delegates on the precipice of their second terms in Richmond and Annapolis, respectively.

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Samirahu2019s bill calls for all single-family neighborhoods in Virginia to be opened to housing that accommodates two families, such as duplexes. The goal is to encourage landowners to build for multiple families on one lot, which could put cheaper homes on the market, reduce sprawl and make the suburbs more accessible to working people and young families struggling with high housing costs.

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Stewart’s legislation favors a lighter touch u2014 his zoning bill would allow more density only in certain “high-opportunity” areas, not the entire state. But he’s also calling for Maryland to finance a robust government housing program, modeled after the largely successful mixed-income “social housing” found across Western Europe.

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Their proposals are far bolder than the housing legislation that’s typical to either statehouse. Consequently, the bills’ futures are uncertain, at best u2014 a previous version of Stewart’s social housing legislation was practically laughed out of committee. Despite this, they’ve made a mark: Days before either state’s legislatures are set to convene for the new year, both proposals have already prompted reactions ranging from elation to outrage.

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And curiously, the bills have divided progressives, many of whom vehemently disagree over how to fix the region’s housing shortage. In the process, odd political alliances have begun to emerge, with some Democrats finding themselves in rare agreement with supporters of President Donald Trump.

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‘The Weird Politics Of The American Left’

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At first glance, both Samirah and Stewart’s bills seem like slam dunks for progressives who oppose socioeconomic segregation and embrace “smart growth” policies.

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“The housing crisis is so acute that you can’t begin to solve it with just one solution. You have to really throw the whole kitchen sink at it,” says Maryland Democrat Vaughn Stewart.

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Samirah, a 28-year old dentist who represents the Herndon area, says he was driven by recent decisions in Minneapolis and Oregon that made it easier to build denser housing types in neighborhoods long dominated by single-family homes. Those homes u2014 the most expensive type of housing per capita, and also the most land-intensive u2014u00a0 have become increasingly out-of-reach for young families and working people as land prices soar in urban areas nationwide.

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“It’s a topic of national discussion right now,” Samirah says. “I thought to myself, what a wonderful solution. One that comes at it from a market perspective … and offers a massive solution for the affordable housing crisis.”

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In Maryland, Stewart’s “Homes for All” package is a legislative triple-whammy that he believes attacks the housing crisis on multiple fronts. The package includes the “Modest Home Choices Act,” which would open transit-adjacent, jobs-rich neighborhoods to small-scale multifamily housing, like townhomes and clusters of cottages. It also includes the ambitious “Social Housing Act,” which would harness millions of state dollars to create an estimated 2,000 units of government-owned, mixed-income housing annually. Finally, there’s a broad renters’ rights bill that would make it easier for tenants to break leases due to unsafe living conditions, among other provisions.

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Stewart, who represents a swath of deeply blue Montgomery County, says he wants to bridge what’s become a profound divide over housing policy within his own party.

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The 31-year-old’s core supporters are Democratic Socialists, who tend to favor government-funded housing over regulatory options like upzoning, because they believe opening neighborhoods to more development would only supercharge gentrification and produce minimal affordable homes. But Stewart also wants to court the capitalist-leaning, typically Democratic “YIMBYs” (an acronym for “yes, in my backyard”) who argue that allowing denser development is an efficient way to boost housing supply and potentially bring down prices over the long term, without spending millions of public dollars.

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Those two approaches, Stewart says, work better together than they do in isolation.

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“The [housing] crisis is so deep and so acute that you can’t begin to solve it with just one solution. You have to really throw the whole kitchen sink at it,” Stewart says. “The only reason we think of [these approaches] as separate or as different is because of the weird politics of the American left.”

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Unexpected Alliances

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Those politics are on full display among Democratic-leaning civic groups like Arlingtonians For Our Sustainable Future, which opposes Samirah’s upzoning proposal in Virginia. One of the group’s founders is Peter Rousselot, former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.

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“When we saw Samirah’s bill, we saw that it was the ultimate, complete wipe-out of single-family zoning,” Rousselot says. “We thought that was a bad idea.”

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Arlington hasn’t shown that it’s ready for more housing, Rousselot says, and upzoning should be put off until the county presents a concrete plan for how to manage the population growth that’s already expected.

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“We’d like to see those plans before we do any significant changes to enable even more people to move here,” Rousselot says.

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Arlingtonians For Our Sustainable Future has found an unusual ally in Tim Hannigan, chair of Fairfax County’s Republican Committee and a supporter of President Donald Trump.

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“There very well may be the need for housing around some urban areas, to include the Washington D.C. area here,” Hannigan says, “but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you crowd out single-family housing areas.”

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The committee chair says upzoning is unlikely to win broad support in Richmond, despite Democrats’ newly won majority in the General Assembly.

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“I think it will run into significant opposition from everybody but the most rabid, far-left Democrats or socialists,” Hannigan says. “Almost regardless of what your political views are, people in this country … have always longed for their own private property … where their kids can just go out the back door and play.”
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Hannigan has compared Samirah’s bill to an “assault” on the suburbs, echoing rhetoric heard often from neighborhood groups in largely Democratic jurisdictions in Northern Virginia and Maryland.

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But resistance from Democrats comes as a surprise to Samirah, a political newcomer who won his first term to Virginia’s General Assembly in a special election last year.

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“I think we have to revise and understand what their [Democratic] principles are,” Samirah says. “If a Democrat is a representative of a party that wants to include everybody, then there needs to be a recognition that single-family zoning has caused exclusionary development to occur in our neighborhoods.”

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Tempered Expectations

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Samirah says his bill offers something for both Democrats and Republicans. Upzoning is essentially about giving property owners more freedom over how to use their land, he says, which Republicans theoretically support. And one among several selling points for Democrats, he says, is that concentrating housing could reduce sprawl and take cars off the road u2014 both pluses for the environment.

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“I view myself as somebody who finds solutions across party lines,” Samirah says.

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But Stewart acknowledges that his “Homes For All” package could face an uphill battle in Annapolis.

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When Stewart introduced the first version of his social housing bill last session, both Democrats and Republicans in the House’s Environment and Transportation Committee spent part of the hearing scoffing at its grand ambitions. The poison pill, it seemed, was how Stewart proposed to fund all that government housing: through a whopping $2.5 billion government bond u2014 and the reinstatement of Maryland’s millionaire’s tax.

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“In some way, I was deliberately trying to be incendiary,” Stewart admits. He wanted to “move the Overton window,” or expand the scope of ideas up for consideration in Annapolis.

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He’s become more pragmatic since then.

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The latest version of Stewart’s Social Housing Act proposes a different revenue source u2014 this time, the money would come from increasing certain real estate transaction fees. He still doesn’t expect the bill to pass easily, if it passes at all. But he’s been encouraged by what he’s heard from members of his committee since that first hearing.

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“[They] expressed what to me seemed like genuine interest in the topic. And that I was not expecting,” Stewart says. “Now that the bill has been tweaked, I think it’s really taken a step forward from an idea designed to move the Overton window to an idea that could actually pass the Maryland General Assembly.”

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ntn","paginatedContent":[],"excerpt":"

As two lawmakers propose reimagining the suburbs to address the housing crisis, progressives who oppose the idea are finding conservative allies.

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Reshaping the suburbs: Legislation in Virginia and Maryland would open up single-family neighborhoods to denser housing types. Opposition to the bill is launching unusual political alliances.

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Maryland","audioFileID":5385186,"audioFile":"https://downloads.wamu.org/mp3/nw/20/01/housingbillsschweitzer.mp3","audioLength":"4:13","audioOffset":"","postPermalink":"https://wamu.org/story/20/01/06/a-radical-housing-proposal-is-forming-strange-political-alliances-in-virginia-and-maryland/","audioSlug":"WAMU"},"beat":"Business & Development","beatSlug":"business-development","slug":{"name":"WAMU","permalink":"https://wamu.org/provider/wamu/","categoryName":"","providerClass":"provider-internal","flagSlug":"","flagText":""},"promoted":"","headMeta":{"title":"As The D.C. 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The federal minimum wage is $7.25. And that rate hasn’t changed in 10 years, even though the price of everything from housing to transportation has increased.

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But new reporting shows that wages around the country have grown, in part due to state and local measures which increase the minimum wage.

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In Washington D.C., paying a living wage means a rate of $14.50 an hour. But even then, some workers say it’s not enough to make ends meet.

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WAMU’s Sasha-Ann Simons spoke to Ed Lazere, the executive director of the DC Fiscal Policy Institute. He told her that in D.C., u201cthe minimum wage is a floor, and the living wage should be something that is much closer to what it really takes to live on,u201d and added, “weu2019re going to be at the weird point in a year where the living wage is actually the minimum wage, and thatu2019s clearly a bad place to be.u201d

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Is it enough? Are businesses or the government responsible for ensuring everyone makes a salary on which they can live?

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In partnership with our home station’s Affordability Desk, this is the beginning of our series on the cost of living around the country.

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We’re calling the series “Priced Out,” and throughout, we want to hear from you. What do you need to make every month to live in the U.S. and have your basic needs met? And who do you think is responsible for providing a living wage?

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Produced by Morgan Givens.

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Guests
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Adriana Kugler, Professor of economics and foreign policy, Georgetown University; former Chief Economist, United States Department of Labor (Obama Administration 2011 – 2013)

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David Cooper, Senior economic analyst, Economic Policy Institute; deputy director, Economic Analysis and Research Network; @metaCoop

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Sasha-Ann Simons, Race & Identity Reporter, WAMU 88.5; @SashaAnnSimons

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Who should be responsible for the cost of living?

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The federal minimum wage hasn’t gone up since 2009. But the price of almost everything else has.

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Who should be responsible for the cost of living?

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Inside a narrow room on the second floor of a brick building on U Street, exercise demos are played on loop while a couple dozen adults squat, hoist dumbbells and test the limits of their abs to the pulse of hip-hop-meets-EDM.

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This is F45, an Australian-born high-intensity interval exercise programu00a0thatu2019s taken off in recent years and counts actor Mark Wahlberg as an investor. Itu2019s just one of more than 100 high-end studios that now dominate the D.C. fitness landscape. F45 studio general manager Jason Vanterpool says it’s part of the region’s move away from “big-box” gyms.

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u201cD.C.u2019s very type-A,u201d Vanterpool says. u201cWe are all strong, independent people, we are very big thinkers. But when we leave work, we donu2019t want to think that much; we just want to go and get our sweat in and work out u2014 thatu2019s why the classes are getting so big.u201d

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The region has an extensive menu of boutique gyms and specialized group exercise classes offered in relatively small studios: Spinning? Check. Barre? Check. Kickboxing? Check. Aerial hoop movement? Got that too.u00a0But with individual class fees as high as $40 (close to what a big-box gym might charge for a month of membership), does getting a good workout in D.C. now require a healthy disposable income?

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The Big Business Of Small Studios

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Boutique fitness is a fast-growing sector in a profitable field. The U.S. health and fitness industry made more than $32 billion in 2018.u00a0A record 71.4 million people used gyms or exercise studios that year.u00a0In D.C., someu00a0107,000 residents use fitness facilities, generating $68.3 million in revenue for gyms and studios.

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Membership at boutique studios increased by 121% nationwide from 2013 to 2017u00a0(compared to a growth of 15% at traditional studios during the same period) and now makes up the largest share of the fitness market, at 42%, according to a 2019 report from the International Health Racquet and Sportsclub Association. Monthly membership fees are also highest at boutique studios, the report states, averaging $94 per month nationally.

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Boutique studios, which account for some 80% of the 135 commercial exercise facilities found in a Google search of the city, charge similar prices. At Barryu2019s Bootcamp in Dupont, a drop-in class costs $34 and a u201clegend membershipu201d (30 classes in 30 days) will set you back $475 per month. A single class during peak hours at the soon-to-open H Street Solidcore will run you $39.u00a0Regionally, the prices tend to be the same or slightly lower: F45 in Arlington costs $30 per class, and both the Falls Church Orange Theory and Barre 3 in Bethesda charge $28 per session.

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These increasingly ubiquitous boutique studiosu00a0have become a fixture at mixed-use retail developments, part of a national trend for fitness facilities in general.

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“The retail market has changed so substantially. There was a time that shopping-center landlords did not want fitness clubs of any kind occupying their retail space,” said Meredith Poppler, IHRSA’s vice president of communications, via email. “Now fitness facilities, whether as large anchor tenants (Lifetime Fitness is a key example) or smaller studios and boutiques, are sought-after tenants.”

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Several new studios are popping up in the city, including two additional Orangetheory locations, two new F45 locations and one new CorePower location opening this year. A new fitness hall,u00a0whose board includes former D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty, is soon to open, housing a handful of fitness studios, a juice bar and infrared saunas.

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But there could be a cap on the number of boutique studios one town can hold. Some small D.C. studios, such as Blastu00a0and Pulse House of Fitness, have closed in recent months.

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“There’s going to be a saturation point; there’s no question, there always is. I don’t know that we’ve hit it yet,” saysu00a0Shawn M. Arent, chair of the department of exercise science at the University of South Carolina. He says “time will tell” how many studios survive and how many will be forced to shut down when they can’t attract enough clientele.

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D.C.’s Gym Disparity

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Despite their rise, boutique studios haven’t set up shop evenly throughout the city, highlighting other disparities in health and access.

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A few years ago, D.C. gave up its title as fittest city in the nation and now sits in sixth place, according to rankings from the American College of Sports Medicine (Arlington is number one).u00a0Yet despite high marks for walkability and bikeability, vegetable consumption and access to parks, the city u2014 like much of the nationu00a0u2014 continues to struggle with obesity.u00a0Roughly 25% of adults and 14% of children ages 10 to 17 in D.C. are obese.

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Physical activity levels tend to vary widely throughout the city, with the lowest rates in Wards 7 and 8. In those two wards u2014u00a0which also have the most residents living below the federal poverty level u2014 obesity rates are 39.2% and 42% of the population, respectively, according to a 2014 report from the D.C. Department of Health. These are also the areasu00a0with the least access to commercial fitness studios,u00a0boutique or otherwise.

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The Appeal Of Boutique Fitness

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With many boutique classes, the size offers a sense of personalization. u201cIt’s such a small class that it feels like you have a personal trainer,u201d says Claire Chu, a 25-year-oldu00a0research analyst living in Columbia Heights who supports her interest in fitness and travel with a second job as a bartender. Chu says she spends about $340 per month on her Bodymass membership and a subscription to ClassPass, an app that allows users to pay for individual classes at studios throughout the region without requiring membership.

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u201cWhen I go to a big-box gym, [Iu2019m] laying there for a while or moving really slowly,” she says.

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A sense of community is another draw. Some studios aim for a downright spiritual experience between the physical environs and motivational language used, and even at-home, high-end fitness brands, such as Peloton, pride themselves on forging relationships u2014 albeit virtual ones u2014 among users.

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u201cThereu2019s a big community, both on Facebook and Instagram of other people that are also members at different franchises, so itu2019s kind of nice to be in that, even distantly through social media,u201d says Samantha Burke, a 25-year-old Silver Spring nonprofit operations manager and client at 9Round.

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And with clientele who work at high-stress jobs making high-stakes decisions throughout the day, Vanterpool says small studios offer a break from delegating.

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u201cWe have people who come here who are GMs at restaurants or big bosses in their company u2014 awesome, that’s great,u201d Vanterpool says. u201cu2018Now it’s class time; I’m in charge, you listen.u2019u201d

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“u2026We are the moneymakers. … You’re paying for that u2014 not to look pretty on Instagram afterwards.”

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Boutique studios tend to be rather spiffy, with chilled towels after class, artisanal hand soap in the locker room and built-in shops hawking pricey moisture-wicking wear. But some are light on frills, perhaps appealing to advocates ofu00a0discreet wealth.

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A 2015 Vogue article argues that wellness u2014 from organic food to boutique fitness to upscale athleisure u2014 is u201cthe new luxury status symbol.u201d

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u201cItu2019s like the only acceptable lifestyle brag,u201d one spinning client tells Vogue. u201cYou are a douche if you brag about your car or how much money you make, but bragging about how much you spin is normal, though still very annoying.u201d

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Essentially, some clients may be paying a premium for specialized classes because they are expensive.

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u201cThere’s also something to be said for the feeling of exclusivity if something’s really expensive,u201d Arent says. u201cSo now you belong to something very high end, because it’s expensive to do.”

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The studio at F45 is spare, with no swag shop or luxe locker room in sight. Vanterpool says thatu2019s because the brand focuses more on the quality of the workout than how closely the lobby mirrors a five-star hotel.

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u201cIf you have great facilities, thatu2019s awesome, but I can go to a class and be like, u2018Yeah, that wasnu2019t that tough,u2019u201d Vanterpool says. u201cWe train our staff to give the people the best experience possible. So we are the moneymakers. … You’re paying for that u2014 not to look pretty on Instagram afterwards.”

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Finding Affordable Fitness

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While boutique studios constitute much of the D.C. fitness space, less expensive workout methods can be found u2014 if you know where to look.

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Of the two dozen or so traditional gyms in the city, several charge $50 or less per month, including a $10-per-month membership at the cityu2019s two Planet Fitness locations. The D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation also operates 29 fitness centers in the city, including the newly opened Edgewood Recreation Center u2014 the DPR’s largest fitness center yet. In 2016, Mayor Muriel Bowser waived fees at the city’s fitness centers as part of theu00a0FitDC initiative,u00a0and access will remain free through 2020. Yet the centers have limited hours and classes often fill up fast.

n

Fort Totten resident Joshua Lunt spends $0 per month on fitness with a blend of DPR classes and riding his bicycle to work.

n

u201cI would be interested in using a boutique fitness center,u201d Lunt says. u201cIu2019ve contemplated doing that, but the cost for me right now is just so high. Iu2019ve got three kids and an older house, so I have my money being pulled in multiple directions.u201d

n

A Reddit post from WAMU on the cost of fitness in D.C. spurred some 120 comments from users, including several about ways to break a sweat without breaking the bank: dog walking, utilizing the office gym and teaching at studios in exchange for classes.

n

Boutique studios also often offer free introductory classes as well as occasional low-cost community classes. But as these studios typically benefit those with means, are they in effect gentrifying the market and making it more difficult for the rest of the population to get a good workout?

n

u201cIt’s an unfair assessment because it makes it sound like they’re making health and fitness exclusive, and so that they’re there moving away from the other populations,u201d Arent says. u201cMost of these boutique fitness places don’t have a huge membership. So to argue that that’s stripping from these larger facilities; it’s a pretty small amount when all is said and done.”

n

“Now of course you put enough of them together, thatu2019s entirely possible,” he adds.

n

While Arent is careful to mention that those who can afford to u201ctake care of themselvesu201d with high-end classes are admirable, he doesnu2019t see that sector of the industry as the saving grace for the countryu2019s health challenges.

n

u201cWeu2019ve got to get people moving,u201d Arent says. u201cAt the end of the day, all these boutique fitness facilities have certainly not solved the obesity problem.u201d

n


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Despite their increasingly ubiquitous presence, boutique studios haven’t set up shop evenly throughout the city, highlighting other disparities in health and access.

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Students train with resistance bands at a New York City boutique fitness studio. The specialized facilities are increasingly common in D.C., with classes costing upwards of $40.

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Matthews","source_url":false},"postMeta":{"inCollectionId":"5204068","person":"5239680","secondaryImage":{"type":"","data":""},"titleOverride":false,"urlOrigin":false,"provider":"WAMU"},"audio":{"audioTitle":"Is Exercise Now A Luxury Item In D.C.?","audioFileID":5375295,"audioFile":"https://downloads.wamu.org/mp3/nw/20/01/fitnesscost2w-berkon.mp3","audioLength":"3:55","audioOffset":"","postPermalink":"https://wamu.org/story/20/01/06/is-exercise-now-a-luxury-item-in-d-c/","audioSlug":"WAMU"},"beat":"Local","beatSlug":"local","slug":{"name":"WAMU","permalink":"https://wamu.org/provider/wamu/","categoryName":"","providerClass":"provider-internal","flagSlug":"","flagText":""},"promoted":"","headMeta":{"title":"As The D.C. 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As part of her goal to build 36,000 additional homes in D.C. by 2025, Mayor Muriel Bowser’s administration wants to require some new development to include more affordable housing.

n

Under current law, new residential development with 10 or more units must dedicate at least 8% of its square footage to below market-rate living spaces. That law u2014 called Inclusionary Zoning, or IZ u2014 has attracted criticism from some affordable housing advocates, who say it’s insufficient for a city that’s seen an influx of luxury apartments and displacement of low- to moderate-income residents.

n

Montgomery County, by contrast, requires at least 12.5% affordable housing in new construction, though it applies to buildings with 20 or more units.

n

The administration took a step toward stiffening its affordable housing rules on Friday when it asked the District’s Zoning Commission to consider requiring more affordable units from developers seeking to build bigger than current zoning allows. In a memo sent to the commission, staffers with the Office of Planning recommended mandating those developments include between 10 and 20% affordable housing.

n

The city’s goal, says Office of Planning Director Andrew Trueblood, is to capture more affordable housing from larger private developments. The tougher rules would only apply to projects that request zoning map amendments, which are currently subject to regular IZ requirements.

n

Trueblood acknowledges that the change, if approved, wouldn’t produce a wave of additional affordable housing, because zoning map amendments aren’t that common. “This isn’t thousands of units,” Trueblood says. “It’s probably in the hundreds of units” over five years, the period during which Mayor Bowser wants the city to add 12,000 additional affordable homes.

n

But the planning director thinks more map amendments could be in the pipeline as the Bowser administration seeks changes to the city’s Future Land Use Map, or FLUM, to accommodate more density.

n

“It is anticipated that requests for zoning map amendments may…increase at properties where the draft FLUM increases the land use designation to a higher category,” says the memo sent to the Zoning Commission.

n

The administration’s proposal could also yield more affordable housing in upper-income areas, where Inclusionary Zoning is the primary source of new below market-rate homes, the director says.

n

“Inclusionary zoning isn’t the biggest program that produces affordable housing in the city, but it is the biggest program that produces affordable housing in high-cost areas,” Trueblood says.

n

The new proposal is one of several actions the Bowser administration has taken to increase production of housing u2014 including affordable homes u2014 citywide. The Council recently approved Bowser-backed amendments to the city’s Comprehensive Plan that make it harder for residents to appeal zoning decisions, dealing a blow to activists who use the appeals process to delay new development. Bowser also pushed to increase affordable housing funds in the 2020 budget, winning a partial victory in the Council, though her pitch to fund middle-income housing fell flat.

n

The Bowser administration has also been trying to soften residents’ resistance to new housing, holding a public meeting in Tenleytown last month that aimed to educate residents about redlining and other exclusionary land-use practices that solidified segregation in the District.

n

Bowser sparked controversy last fall when she said at a real estate conference that residents who fight new housing should be made to look shameful.

n

The Office of Planning has asked the Zoning Commission to consider holding a public hearing on the Inclusionary Zoning proposal sometime this spring.

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ntn","paginatedContent":[],"excerpt":"

In Mayor Bowser’s quest to add more housing to the District, her administration is asking to increase the amount of affordable housing developers are required to include in certain projects.

n","permalink":"https://wamu.org/story/20/01/03/bowser-calls-for-more-affordable-units-in-new-housing-developments/","currentSlug":"bowser-calls-for-more-affordable-units-in-new-housing-developments","created":"2020-01-03T17:41:24","modified":"2020-01-03T17:41:24","time":"Jan 03","timestamp":1578073284,"timestampGMT":1578091284,"imageData":{"caption":"

In D.C., large residential developments have to include some affordable housing. Mayor Bowser wants to toughen those requirements for certain new projects.

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","canonical":"https://wamu.org/story/20/01/03/bowser-calls-for-more-affordable-units-in-new-housing-developments/","featured_image":{"url":"https://wamu.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Ted-Eytan-DC-District-1024x557.jpg","width":1024,"height":557},"image":"https://wamu.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/wamu-default-og-image.png"},"provider":{"term_id":561,"name":"WAMU","slug":"wamu","term_group":0,"term_taxonomy_id":562,"taxonomy":"wamu_provider","description":"","parent":0,"count":40879,"filter":"raw","permalink":"https://wamu.org/provider/wamu/"}},{"ID":5325227,"guid":"https://wamu.org/story/19/12/19/arlington-prepares-for-blowback-as-it-considers-adding-denser-housing/","title":"Arlington Prepares For Blowback As It Considers Adding Denser Housing","content":"

Like much of the Washington region, Arlington County is expensive u2014 and it’s dominated by single-family homes. Could building more duplexes and triplexes make the suburb more affordable?

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That’s the question Arlington plans to tackle in a forthcoming study of so-called “missing middle” housing, which refers to homes that fall between apartment-sized and single family-sized. The county expects to launch the study in April 2020, focusing on “how new housing types and forms could be introduced in Arlington that broaden the range and supply of housing,” according to documents presented to the county board this week.

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Nearly 90% of Arlington’s residential land is zoned for single-family detached homes. That’s contributed to a lack of housing diversity that prevents many young families, seniors and low- to middle-income workers from living in the county, leaders say.

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A constant drumbeat from local officials about the region’s housing shortage u2014 coupled with Minneapolis’ recent decision to eliminate single-family zoning u2014 has stoked fears that planners want to wipe out single-family homes.

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But officials are already preparing for blowback from residents who may believe the study signals a sweeping reimagining of the suburbs.

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The process of “upzoning,” or opening land to denser construction, has long been a third rail in suburban communities. But a constant drumbeat from local officials about the region’s housing shortage u2014 coupled with the recent decision in Minneapolis to eliminate single-family zoning u2014 has stoked fears that planners want to wipe out single-family homes entirely.

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That fear emerged during Montgomery County’s recent debate over accessory apartments, and it’s crept into conversations in the District about Mayor Bowser’s goal to create more affordable housing in affluent, low-density neighborhoods. Armed with lessons gleaned from neighboring jurisdictions, Arlington officials have started carefully crafting their message about the missing-middle housing study, months before it’s set to begin.

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The goal of the study “is not to eliminate single-family zoning or single-family housing” in the jurisdiction, says Richard Tucker, acting coordinator of the county’s Housing Arlington initiative. Single-family homes “will always be an option” in places currently zoned for them, he says. But county staff want to identify parts of Arlington that could be well-suited to other housing types, too.

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“We’re hoping to have an open conversation about the future vision for Arlington, understanding that we do have a housing crisis in terms of affordability and supply, and we’re trying to come up with mechanisms to address the supply problem u2014 which may, in the long run, impact affordability,” Tucker says.

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Home prices in Arlington have risen steadily over the last decade as housing supply has failed to keep up with demand. Today, the county’s median home sales price falls somewhere between $530,000 and $640,000, according to Zillow, Long & Foster and the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors. Other factors u2014 like the arrival of Amazon u2014 are driving prices even higher in certain neighborhoods.

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But restrictive zoning, Tucker says, is a big part of the problem.

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Too much single-family zoning is leading to au00a0proliferation of teardowns, Tucker says. In neighborhoods throughout the county, property owners are bulldozing smaller single-family homes to make way for mansions that swallow up entire lots. Teardowns are common in neighborhoods where zoning is restricted to single-family construction, Tucker says, but they’re expensive to build and own, so they don’t contribute affordable housing to the county. They also take up a lot of land that could be used more efficiently, he says.

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If owners had the option to build duplexes and triplexes instead of McMansions, Tucker says, maybe they would. “What we hope to do is identify other options for these property owners,” the planner says.

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Local governments often outsource research to private consulting firms, but Arlington’s missing-middle study will be conducted by county staff, and it will mainly revolve around community conversations, says Jessica Margarit, a spokesperson for Arlington’s Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development. The current plan is to hold public meetings, convene targeted conversations with community organizations, host online conversations u2014 and even launch a snail-mail campaign.

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County staff want to make sure residents understand what missing-middle housing is, how they can get involved and how to grasp the often technical language typical of zoning and housing policy. “The engagement piece is so critical,” Margarit says, “because we need as many voices in the conversation as possible, but we also need to level that playing field so residents can weigh in effectively.”

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Planning staff have been equally deliberate with members of the county board, making sure to explain what the missing-middle study is u2014 and what it is not.

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The study is a “community discussion,” said a slide presented to board members Tuesday. It’s not “a process to codify decisions that have already been made,” nor “a process that would lead to incompatible housing types (e.g. high rises) being built in single-family areas,” the presentation said.

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Several board members appeared to appreciate the clarification.

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“I think it’s important to let the community know not only what we are doing, but actually what we’re not,” board member Erik Gutshall said. “Because you hear over and over and over again, ‘Oh, are we going to do Minneapolis?’ And I think it can’t be said often enough, we’re not going to do Minneapolis, we’re going to do Arlington.”

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n","paginatedContent":[],"excerpt":"

Arlington County is dominated by single-family homes. But a new study of denser housing types u2014 aka “missing middle” homes u2014 is likely to fire up residents who fear it signals the end of suburbia as we know it.

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Denser housing types, like these attached homes in Maryland, could make Arlington more affordable, officials say. But a county plan to study “missing middle” housing is expected to generate controversy.

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","canonical":"https://wamu.org/story/19/12/19/arlington-prepares-for-blowback-as-it-considers-adding-denser-housing/","featured_image":{"url":"https://wamu.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/MD-rowhouse-AP-1024x679.jpg","width":1024,"height":679},"image":"https://wamu.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/wamu-default-og-image.png"},"provider":{"term_id":561,"name":"WAMU","slug":"wamu","term_group":0,"term_taxonomy_id":562,"taxonomy":"wamu_provider","description":"","parent":0,"count":40879,"filter":"raw","permalink":"https://wamu.org/provider/wamu/"}},{"ID":5321431,"guid":"https://wamu.org/story/19/12/17/for-small-d-c-area-businesses-the-holiday-season-may-be-make-or-break/","title":"For Small D.C.-Area Businesses, The Holiday Season May Be Make Or Break","content":"

Eric Stern’s great-grandfather purchased a small grocery store on Arlington’s Washington Boulevard in the 1940s. Today, it’s a destination for outdoor enthusiasts and youth athletes at risk of closing.

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“Thereu2019s several generations that have been here before me that had their own idea and concept of what this store should have been and would have been,” says Stern, Casual Adventure’s manager. “Every generation along the way has had their trials and tribulations and changes to make their vision sort of come to fruition.”

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In 2017, the family sold the property to local developeru00a0BCN Homesu00a0and announcedu00a0it would be closing, in part because “the old retail model no longer works,” Stern wrote at the time. Yet more than two years later, the store is still holding on, leasing the space back for the time being and conducting some of its sales online.

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Casual Adventure has about 15 employees, making it one of the thousands of small shops in the region. About 1,100 of the Districtu2019s 76,000 small businesses are retailers with fewer than 20 employees.u00a0In Virginia and Maryland, those numbers are 13,400 and 9,800, respectively. Survival for these businesses is tenuous, with many shuttering their doors due to rent increases, the growth of online sales and other challenges. More than 9,000 stores u2014 including both big-box retailers and smaller shops u2014 are expected to close this year.

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As the holiday shopping season nears an end, Casual Adventure and other small retail shops in the area may be counting on winter gift sales to stay afloat.

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Stern helps a customer with a product at the store’s front counter, where he says staff and patrons frequently get to know each other. “We know their stories, we know their travels.”Tyrone Turner / WAMU

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Small Businesses And The Holiday Season

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While Stern says Casual Adventureu2019s business is diversified enough to turn a profit year-round u2014 as the months move through ski season, camping season and softball season u2014 the store, like many, still counts the fourth quarter as its most lucrative and a sign of its continued health.

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“If the revenue isn’t there, the profitability isn’t there, then it doesn’t make sense for a business to continue,” Stern says. “If the revenueu2019s there and profitability is there u2014u00a0and we can continue to support the community and do all the things that we enjoy u2014u00a0then, by all means, we plan to continue.u201d

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The fourth quarter u201cis a dominant part of many retailersu2019 business activity because people are looking to purchase gifts,u201d saysu00a0Antonio Doss, district director of theu00a0Small Business Administrationu2019s D.C.-metro area office.

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In 2018, patrons contributed roughly $17.8 billion to the coffers of small retailers and restaurants on Small Business Saturday, and online sales during this year’s shop-local holiday totaled a record $3.6 billion u2014u00a0an 18% increase over last year. Holiday sales in general in 2019 are expected to increase by about 4%, higher than the average growth rate from the past five years.u00a0But these gains might not provide enough of a jolt to keep flailing businesses energized.

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There are more than 76,000 small businesses in D.C., employing nearly 250,000 people.The Office of Advocacy / U.S. Small Business Administration

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Keeping The Doors Open In The Age Of E-Commerce

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In 2002, Tara Palacios founded BizLaunch, a branch of Arlington Economic Development that has worked with more than 50,000 business owners in the region and across the country.

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u201cMy best bet for a small business to thrive and survive is to make sure to really understand the neighborhood that youu2019re going into, understand the target market,” Palacios says.

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While Amazon and other online retailers have put a dent in brick-and-mortar businesses, Palacios says local businesses can still be attractive. Not every shopper wants to buy everything from a big company’s website, after all.

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“Nowadays, especially looking at retail, in particular, people want to shop local; they want to know the business owner that they’re working with,” she says.

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Casual Adventure does offer some web sales, but 80% of its online customers live in a 7-mile radius, Stern says. This makes it all the more important for him to focus on those local advantages, like building relationships with customers and keeping up the store’su00a0civic engagement. It often sponsors local youth athletic teams and charities.

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“We can continue to reinvent ourselves. Just as we went from grocery to surplus to outdoor to sporting goods, online is sort of the next frontier,” Stern says. “Our twist is that personal interaction so that it’s never just tweeting at somebody or DMu2019ing somebody; there’s a person behind that interaction from our staff.u201d

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In 1955, Wagner’s Grocery became an Army-Navy surplus store before ultimately evolving into the outdoor-focused store it is today. Oscar Stern (far right in this photo taken in the 1960s) was the first in four generations of the Stern family to own the store.Courtesy of Eric Stern / Facebook Photo

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“I’d been coming here since I was maybe 5 or 6 to get kids’ shoes,” says Casual Adventure sales associate John Brennan, who has been with the company for four years.u00a0Though he studied economics and finance in college, he says he decided not to be an economist. He chooses employment at Casual Adventure to help serve the community, some of whom come in for gear to climb Mount Everest or to serve overseas.

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The shop is an institution for some of its customers. It’s a bit of a museum, too. There’s a framed American flag that traveled through Kabul, Afghanistan, to thank the store for supporting wounded service members, a currency wall with international bills collected from customers’ travels and a passageway filled with photos, including several of civil rights activist and Arlingtonian Joan Mulholland. Stern says she often swings by the store to drop off baked goods.

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Though Stern won’t say how long Casual Adventure will maintain its current lease, he is confident the store will continue on in some capacity and says he has no interest in “an online-only store.”

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Over the years, customers have brought in money from their international travels to add to the store’s currency wall.Tyrone Turner / WAMU

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As he considers the winter shopping season, Stern says profits are not the only focus.

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“For the holidays, we donu2019t always look at dollars,” Stern says. “But how can we use this as an opportunity to either give back or invite in people that we have relationships with?u201d

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This holiday season, for example, the store worked with A-SPAN to support homeless community members and hosted a gift-wrapping fundraiser for Arlington youth softball players.

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Many of the conversations inside Casual Adventure take place at the front counter, as staff members chat with customers they know by name about their upcoming travels.

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“Dave, our general manager here for 30 years, has a great motto, tag line,” Stern says. “u2018Itu2019s like Cheers without the beer.'”

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But keeping the doors open will rely on cash, as well as conversation.

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When you give to WAMU, your tax-deductible gift helps make possible the award-winning reporting and programs upon which youu2019ve come to expect and rely, including Morning Edition, All Things Considered, 1A, The Kojo Nnamdi Show and many more!

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ntn","paginatedContent":[],"excerpt":"

One longtime Arlington shop is pondering its future in the age of e-commerce.

n","permalink":"https://wamu.org/story/19/12/17/for-small-d-c-area-businesses-the-holiday-season-may-be-make-or-break/","currentSlug":"for-small-d-c-area-businesses-the-holiday-season-may-be-make-or-break","created":"2019-12-17T15:34:44","modified":"2019-12-19T08:29:21","time":"Dec 17, 2019","timestamp":1576596884,"timestampGMT":1576614884,"imageData":{"caption":"

Casual Adventure manager Eric Stern remains hopeful about the future of the longtime family business.

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Updated on Friday, Jan. 24 at 1:19 p.m.

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After more than a month of negotiations, Shoppers Food & Pharmacy workers who are affected by the recent store closures are finding some temporary relief. They reached an agreement with parent company, United Natural Foods, Inc. (UNFI), to provide an optional severance package. The deal includes:

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  • Separation pay commensurate with years of service
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  • Holidays and vacation time paid out
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  • Four months of continuing health care coverage
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The agreement comes after an announcement last month that more than 1,100 Shoppers employees will lose their jobs by spring 2020.

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Original story continues below.

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Seventeen grocery stores in Maryland and Virginia will close or be sold between December and January, while another 26 stores in the chain will continue to operate indefinitely. This leaves workers with an uncertain future and many parts of the region without access to grocery stores.

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At the December news conference, workers and the union representing them gathered to announce the pending closures. The event took place at a Shoppers store in Landover, Md. The group was concerned about pay and benefits owed to employees and were asking for UNFI to negotiate the terms and conditions of the layoffs.

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The employees’ actions are about more than paperwork and contracts. For single mother Amber Stevens, the work and the terms of the layoffs mean survival for her family.u00a0

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u201cIt pays my bills and provides healthcare for myself, as well as my daughter,u201d said Stevens, a bookkeeper who began working for Shoppers 11 years ago, immediately after high school. u201cIt’s very frustrating and it does weigh on my shoulders not knowing what the next thing will be.u201d

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Stevens said workers were told about the closures a week before the announcement. It’s unclear when her store in Forestville, Md., will close.u00a0

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u201cI started getting my resume together, trying to network and meet as many people as possible, and putting myself out there,u201d Stevens said. u201cBut I didn’t want to just leave, because I had invested so much time into this job.u201d

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In Prince George’s County, where the bulk of the stores are located, the loss of any supermarket would be felt especially hard. Roughly 15% of the Maryland suburb is deemed a food desert, and residents there have long complained about the lack of access to healthy food options.

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Representatives for Local 400 of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union said they intended to hold UNFI accountable under the law and the union contract. According to Jonathan Williams, communications director for UFCW Local 400, the two sides were scheduled to meet multiple times to discuss:

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  • u201cSignificantu201d severance payu00a0
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  • Continuing healthcare coverage after store closures
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  • Providing job search assistance and retraining
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  • Providing at least 90 days notice before store closures (as is suggested by Maryland law, according to the union)
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u201cOur members are going into the holiday season and not knowing where their next paycheck is going to come from, and what’s going to happen with their livelihoods,u201d Williams said.u00a0

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The unionu2019s demands, he said, come from the guidelines that Maryland provides to employers seeking to responsibly lay off large numbers of employees. Williams said the group attempted several times over the past year to meet with UNFI management, but hadn’t received a reply until last month.u00a0

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A UNFI representative could not be reached by WAMU for comment on the closures by publication time.u00a0

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u201cShoppers intends to wind down operations at these locations, including the sale of any remaining inventory and closure of the stores prior to reopening under other banners,u201d the organization said inu00a0a recent news release.

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According to reports, UNFI said in a regulatory filing it will incur $32 million to $42 million in costs and charges related to these sales and closures, including $13 million to $16 million in estimated severance and employee-related costs.

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Of the 17 Shoppers stores that will be affected initially, four (including locations in Alexandria and Manassas) are slated to close by the end of January, two Shoppers stores in Southern Maryland were sold to McKayu2019s Food & Pharmacyu00a0in December, six stores were sold to Lidl earlier this month, and five will be sold to Compare Foods.u00a0

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u201cItu2019s kind of been a waiting game. I have to wait until I hear something and then see whatu2019s next,u201d Stevens said about the pending closure of her store.

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This story was updated to include details of an optional severance package agreement that was reached between UNFI and UFCW Local 400, the union representing Shoppers workers.u00a0u00a0

n","paginatedContent":[],"excerpt":"

Shoppers Food & Pharmacy will sell all inventory as it winds down operations at these stores and closes the businesses, some of which will reopen under other companies.

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Shoppers Food & Pharmacy parent company, UNFI, has agreed to close or sell 17 of its 43 stores in Maryland and Virginia by January 2020.

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Washington’s flat and relatively uniform skyline is unlike those in most cities. Look down from an airplane and you can’t help but notice that only a handful of buildingsu00a0u2014 the Washington Monument, the U.S. Capitol, the National Cathedral, the Old Post Office u2014 pierce the skyline.

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That’s by design. For the past 110 years, a federal law known as the Height Act has set a limit on how tall buildings in the city can be. Supporters of the law say it has created an iconic and eminently livable city free of skyscrapers that can create concrete canyons and cast ever-present shadows along streets and homes.

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But for WAMU listener and former D.C. renter Matt Lashof-Sullivan, it instead prompted a question: “How much of a financial burden is that creating for people like me?”

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He is, of course, speaking of D.C.’s sky-high housing prices. Per the city’s chief financial officer, the median sales price in September for a single-family home was $775,000, $725,000 for a townhouse and $475,000 for a condo. The average rent for a two-bedroom apartment, according to Zillow, was $3,100 earlier this summer.

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Lashof-Sullivan, 32, believes there’s a link. If you limit how much housing can be built by dictating how tall buildings can get, he says, housing prices will push upwards as more and more people look for a place to live. Plenty of people agree with him, including a number of real estate experts and urbanists.

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But historic preservationists and some residents insist that the Height Act is unfairly blamed for the city’s high housing costs. Doing away with the law, they say, might not put much of a dent in housing costs but it could diminish the city’s singular character and a skyline that emphasizes its iconic buildings.

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First, A Primer On The Height Act

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When it was finished in 1894, Dupont Circle’s The Cairo was the city’s tallest residential building u2014 and a shock to many residents.Martin Austermuhle / WAMU

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Let’s first bust a common myth about Washington’s low-slung buildings and the federal law that governs them.

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“The Height Act is not based on the height of the Washington Monument. It is not based on the height of the Capitol dome,” says Andrew Trueblood, director of the D.C. Office of Planning. He’s also the author of “D.C.’s Marble Ceiling: Urban Height and its Regulation in Washington, D.C.,” a graduate thesis on the federal law and its impact on the city’s development.

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Instead, it’s The Cairo that’s to blame (or thank, depending on your point of view).u00a0The 12-story, 164-foot-tall residential building was built by developer Thomas Franklin Schneider in 1894. Owing largely to advances in construction technology, the building at 16th and Q Streets N.W. rose far above anything else the city had ever seen. District residents at the time were concerned about fire safety, aesthetics and public health issues caused by the building’s long shadows.

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That prompted Congress to act. It enacted two laws u2014 one in 1899, and a more detailed follow-up in 1910 u2014 specifying how tall buildings in different parts of town could be: 90 feet in residential areas, 130 feet in most commercial areas and 160 feet along a handful of roadways, including Pennsylvania Avenue.

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D.C. wasn’t alone u2014 many U.S. cities had similar height restrictions. But while most of those have since been repealedu00a0u2014 Los Angeles in 1957, Boston in the 1960s, San Francisco in 1967 u2014 D.C.’s are enshrined in federal law. The city gained an elected mayor and legislature in 1975, but there was little they could do to amend or repeal the law, other than ask Congress nicely.

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George Washington University’s Chris Leinberger stands on top of The Cairo. He says the Height Act has served to inflate land values in D.C., leading to high housing costs.Martin Austermuhle / WAMU

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‘You Can Either Go Up Or Out’

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Chris Leinberger marveled at how the city unfurled all around him as we stood on The Cairo’s roof recently. “Views are golden. They really add value. Views like this don’t exist in this town,” he said.

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Those views add value that cuts both ways, said Leinberger, who chairs the Center for Real Estate and Urban Analysis at the George Washington University School of Business. The sky opens up above Washington, largely because there’s virtually no buildings to disrupt it. But that can make the land upon which those short buildings stand so valuable. He points down at the street more than 160 feet below.

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“These townhouses down here, they all sell for about $2 million, and they’re on about 1,500 or 2,000 square feet for a 3,000 square foot townhouse,” he said. “The land underneath it is worth $1.4 million. The house itself, the sticks and bricks, are about $600,000. That’s what driving the affordable crisis u2014 the land prices going out of whack.”

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In other words, the land on which many D.C. buildings sit is worth more than the buildings themselves.

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Leinberger doesn’t hate the Height Act. He firmly believes it has created a unique urban form and given Washington a Parisian feel befitting of the Parisian who originally laid out the city u2014 Pierre L’Enfant. D.C. turned the corner and started growing after decades of losing residents u2014 its population grew by 20% this decade. And so Leinberger says the city has runu00a0head firstu00a0into a singular problem caused by the Height Act.

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“We’re running out of land, so at some point we’re going to have to deal with that,” he said. “We need more land, and you can either go up or out. Those are the only options.”

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He says D.C. is getting closer and closer to the point where going out simply isn’t possible anymore, and that’s partly why land prices have been rising so quickly. And, in some cases,u00a0the Height Act has already pushed neighborhoods out instead of up. While he was writing his thesis on the federal law, Trueblood says he analyzed the size of D.C.’s downtown relative to other similar cities. And what he discovered surprised him.

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“The downtown really takes up twice as much land area as a downtown in another American city might that has more height. And the neighborhoods that it has subsumed u2014 Foggy Bottom, West End, near Chinatown u2014 some of those are townhouse-dense neighborhoods, so what have we lost through those? We’ve gotten big, boxy commercial buildings and single-use building and maybe have lost some of the more vibrant mixed-use-type neighborhoods that we had,” he said.

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That’s why many urbanists u2014 Leinberger included u2014 say the Height Act should be loosened to allow at least some taller buildings to sprout up. That was the conclusion of one study from the Office of Planning in 2013, when D.C. was starting to see a consistent flow of new residents and a spike in development to accommodate them.

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“We actually analyzed what the future demand would be and determined and that absolutely the Height Act would provide a real constraint on our growth in the areas of the city that are best suited to accommodate our housing needs,” says Harriet Tregoning, who oversaw the study when she led the city’s planning office at the time.

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‘People Are Looking For Something To Blame’

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But defenders of the Height Act contend that scrapping it won’t suddenly bring down rents, and that any debate about loosening the federal law would have to consider the unique character it has brought to the city.

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As part of his graduate thesis on the Height Act, D.C. Office of Planning director Andrew Trueblood traced the skylines of a number of major American cities to show how distinct D.C.’s is.Andrew Trueblood

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Rebecca Miller counts herself as a strong proponent of the Height Act. She’s the director of the D.C. Preservation League, which advocates on behalf of historic elements across the city. She says the Height Act is an easy scapegoat for what’s otherwise a complicated topic.

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“As we get into more and more people are coming into the city and of course our housing prices are what they are, people are looking for something to blame,” she says. “And the Height Act being this law is now 110 years old, they’re pointing at things.”

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Miller says she’d rather the city start by building on undeveloped parcels of land it already owns. And D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson adds that the city has another lever it could adjust before asking for any changes to the Height Act: zoning. In many parts of the city, zoning rules u2014 which are set by local officials u2014 impose lower height limits than what even the Height Act does. In some cases, developers don’t even build up to what zoning rules allow.

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Mendelson also pushes back on the idea that taller buildings alone would somehow solve the city’s housing-cost woes.

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“If the issue is the only way we’re going to get more housing is by repealing or substantially modifying or reducing the Height Act, I think it misunderstands the economics of development,” he says. “Look at Manhattan, which has very high buildings and yet has very high prices. Height does not necessarily translate to affordable housing.”

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More Height, More Leverage?

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Trueblood agrees that it’s too simple to assume that merely allowing taller buildings wouldu00a0bring down housing prices. The housing market is complex, he notes, and doesn’t always respond to the usual rules of supply and demand. “Creating more supply is necessary, but not sufficient to address our housing needs,” he said.

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History bears this out: while D.C. has seen record residential construction in recent years, the addition of new housing units alone hasn’t done much to noticeably push rents or sales prices downward. And plenty of that construction has been of taller buildings (well, as tall as the Height Act will allow.) According to a recent study from RENTCafu00e9, residential high-rises (think The Wharf or NoMa) accounted for 13% of the new multifamily construction in the last decade, up from 9% in the 2000s.

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Mayor Muriel Bowser has pledged to build 36,000 housing units by 2025u00a0as part of a regional plan to address housing supply and affordability u2014 12,000 of them affordable. Trueblood says he and the mayor are looking at any restriction that may complicate or block the construction of new housing u2014 and that includes making slight changes to the Height Act in certain parts of town.

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That could give D.C. the opportunity to use additional height as leverage with developers for things like more affordable housing, Leinberger says.

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“You let that developer go up, say, 20 stories at the Minnesota Avenue [Metro] station, when they could only go up to 10 stories. We have now doubled the land value underneath him and we own that increase. Now we negotiate with that developer how we split it with them,” he says.

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“Having the capacity does something good for land prices. That would keep them down if we had the capacity. You could add an increment of housing at a relatively low cost,” offers Tregoning.

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An Emotional Debate

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Still, any debate around the Height Act has to contend with the fact that many people are emotionally invested in how the city looks and feels. That includes Mendelson, who in 2013 led the opposition to a symbolic Council resolution that asked Congress to give D.C. more control over the height of the city’s buildings.

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“Our skyline is a defining characteristic of our city. We are different than any other city in the country,” he says. “It is a beautiful skyline and we should endorse that.”

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When the D.C. Office of Planning studied possibly loosening the Height Act in 2013, it produced mock images of what the D.C. skyline would look like with 200-foot-tall buildings.D.C. Office of Planning

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But proponents of loosening the Height Act insist both the city’s low-slung skyline and slightly taller buildings can co-exist. When the Office of Planning proposed changes to the Height Act in 2013, Tregoning says there was a suggestion of New York-style skyscrapers. In fact, she says most of the changes would be relatively gradual u2014 a building that can currently be 130 feet tall would be able to rise to 160 or 200 feet, depending where in the city it is.

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“It might be a story in terms of some buildings, it might be several stories in terms of other buildings,” she says.

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If changes were made to the Height Act, there would still be other tools the city could use to maintain its historic character.

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“We have historic districts, we have zoning. Removing the height limit would enable places that would be more acceptant of having taller buildings,” says Aaron Landry, an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner who lives on the top floor of The Cairo and enjoys its sweeping views of the city below. “It would not make Dupont and Logan and Georgetown suddenly have skyscrapers.”

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Leinberger thinks possible changes to the Height Act are worth studying again, with a particular emphasis on how much value there could be in adding additional floors. He said that could be leveraged to produce not just more housing, but housing that is broadly affordable to many people. Rebecca Miller of the D.C. Preservation League doesn’t oppose any type of study, but wants it to be as broad as possible.

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“I think the goal is admirable to get to this many more units in hopes of bringing down the cost of housing in D.C. But it has to be a really big-picture approach. It can’t just focus on one specific thing or one specific neighborhood,” she says.

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Still, Leinberger worries that unless D.C. officials can come to some sort of compromise u2014 and then pitch it to Congress with the hopes that it would be accepted u2014 the city’s expected growth in the coming decades could mean that housing prices only keep going up.

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“There is a question,” he says. “Can that growth continue 20 to 30 years into the future if we limit ourselves as far as height?”

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The Height Act has helped create D.C.’s iconic low-slung skyline. Critics say it has also fueled the city’s high housing prices.

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A century-old law keeps D.C.’s buildings from getting much taller than 160 feet, creating the city’s iconic skyline.

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D.C.?","audioFileID":5319081,"audioFile":"https://downloads.wamu.org/mp3/nw/19/12/web-wwwbuildingheight-austermuhle.mp3","audioLength":"5:05","audioOffset":"","postPermalink":"https://wamu.org/story/19/12/17/low-skyline-high-prices-would-taller-buildings-help-make-housing-cheaper-in-d-c/","audioSlug":"WAMU"},"beat":"Business & Development","beatSlug":"business-development","slug":{"name":"WAMU","permalink":"https://wamu.org/provider/wamu/","categoryName":"","providerClass":"provider-internal","flagSlug":"","flagText":""},"promoted":"","headMeta":{"title":"As The D.C. 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Last week, the Trump administration changed the rules regarding the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — or SNAP — potentially cutting off 16,500 District residents from receiving their food stamps. And it’s prompted some recipients to take matters into their own hands to try and avoid the risk.

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The rule makes it harder for states to waive the federal programu2019s work requirements in areas where jobs are scarce. It targets a group of people who the government refers to as ABAWDs — u201cable-bodied adults without dependentsu201d — and who are between 18 and 49 years old.

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Since 1996, those individuals have been limited to participating in the SNAP program for just three months in a three-year period, unless they are working or volunteering for at least 20 hours per week. But states have been able to waive the time limit as some people struggle to land and keep jobs.

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Nationally, the rule, which will take effect on April 1, 2020, will impact how roughly 688,000 low-income people purchase food. That includes thousands across the Washington region. In Montgomery County, of the 27,071 people receiving food stamps, 3,522 of them are at risk. And officials are still figuring out how many of the 79,369 SNAP recipients in Prince Georgeu2019s County and 43,224 recipients in Fairfax County will be affected.

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‘It Would Be Devastating’

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Sarah Hicks, 37, lives in Southeast D.C. and has benefited from food stamps for the past two years. Coupled with housing assistance, Hicks says SNAP was just the boost she needed after withstanding difficult times. She fits into the category of an ABAWD: though Hicks is a parent, her children do not live with her. The family is, however, in the process of reunification.

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“Losing food stamps would impact me tremendously because I don’t have the funds to be able to go out and purchase my food on my own,” Hicks says.

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Hicks has been working on and off as au00a0licensed caregiver. She’s currently in between jobs andu00a0fears the new rule could cut her off from the benefit before sheu2019s able to support herself.

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So, Hicksu00a0has ramped up her search efforts through the District’s SNAP Employment and Training Program. The voluntary program is helping nearly 1,300 SNAP participants in D.C. gain skills, training, or work experience on their path to obtaining regular employment and self-sufficiency.

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“We really want to be mindful and respectful of what the individual needs, where they want to go long term, and how we can help them get there,” says Geoff King, the program manager.

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One week after the new SNAP rule was announced, Hicks attended the program’s job fair and was pre-screened for opportunities in her field. King says given the recent changes, he’s hoping others in need will enroll in the program for help to find employment.

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What If The Economy Goes South?

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Research from the Brookings Institution suggests that SNAP is designed to expand during economic downturns,u00a0and in doing so,u00a0itu00a0offers nutrition assistance to low-income families and also providesu00a0economicu00a0stimulusu00a0to communities.u00a0Accordingly, researchers say, the new SNAP ruleu00a0has greatly weakenedu00a0a crucial part of the safety net for vulnerable populations.

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“I know that a lot of people think that we should be limiting access to the safety net, or are disappointed when enrollment levels are high,” says Lauren Bauer, a Brookings fellow who focuses on the economy. “But during a recession, to help stop the fall, we want to make sure that as many people as possible who are eligible are on the programs.”

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Bauer says President Donald Trumpu2019s idea of cutting SNAP to encourage employment is counterproductive. She says food stamps were designed so that recipients can get the help they need, while also spending quickly and helping their local economy. Bauer and other critics of the new rule note that work requirements have been shownu00a0to not help unemployed people find work and to make it more difficult for them to feed themselves.

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“Looking forward, I would be very worried about how the final rule would work if we were to suddenly see ourselves with an economy that was taking a turn for the worse,” Bauer says.

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SNAP Rule: Who Else Is Affected?

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Under the new rule, states can no longer ask the federal government to temporarily waive the work requirement restrictions unless itu2019s for an area with an unemployment rate of 10% or higher or if the state can otherwise prove a lack of sufficient jobs.u00a0The rule will impact states differently, depending on which states are currently utilizing a waiver, but eventually, the policy has the potential to impact each state.

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People with a proven disability, children and the elderly will not be impacted by the new rule.

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The rule change doesn’t account for the fact that some people aren’t working 20 hours a week because their employer isn’t giving them enough hours, or people who are actively searching for work.

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And once the rule is implemented, the Capital Area Food Bank expects to see an increase in people relying on its services. CEO Radha Muthiah said on WAMU’s The Kojo Nnamdi Show the varying unemployment rates across the wards in the District could further complicate things.

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“Inu00a0Wards 8, 7 and even Ward 5, for that matter, they have unemployment rates that are far higher than the average. So the District would not be able to just request a waiver for certain wards — you do it for the entire District,” Muthiah says. “And so this would disproportionately affect those who are already finding it difficult to find close to full-time employment.”

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In the case of Sarah Hicks, the new rule is already having an impact. Hicksu00a0says she’s doing her best to ensure the result isn’t more hunger and hardship for the family she’s working to reunite with soon.

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“I mean, everyone needs a crutch in life, but you don’t want to continue to use it,” Hicks says. “You want to be able to help yourself and be able to use it to the best of your benefit, to be able to work and not have to use it at all.”

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The Trump administration’s new rule means roughly 16,500 District residents will lose their access to the critical benefit, plus thousands more in surrounding areas of the region.

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Sarah Hicks, left, talks with an employee of the District’s Department of Human Services during a job fair. A new Trump administration rule will cut food assistance for nearly 700,000 Americans, also affecting many of their families.

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Simons","source_url":false},"postMeta":{"inCollectionId":"5204068","person":"1627341","secondaryImage":{"type":"","data":""},"titleOverride":false,"urlOrigin":false,"provider":"WAMU"},"audio":{"audioTitle":"Local SNAP Recipients Prepare To Lose Food Stamps In The Wake Of New Rule","audioFileID":5309196,"audioFile":"https://downloads.wamu.org/mp3/nw/19/12/web_snapcuts-simons.mp3","audioLength":"4:10","audioOffset":"","postPermalink":"https://wamu.org/story/19/12/13/local-snap-recipients-prepare-to-lose-food-stamps-in-wake-of-new-rule/","audioSlug":"WAMU"},"beat":"Race & Identity","beatSlug":"race-identity","slug":{"name":"WAMU","permalink":"https://wamu.org/provider/wamu/","categoryName":"","providerClass":"provider-internal","flagSlug":"","flagText":""},"promoted":"","headMeta":{"title":"As The D.C. Area Grows Pricier, Can Picking Up A Side Hustle (Or Three) Make A Difference? | WAMU","description":"The Trump administration's new rule means roughly 16,500 District residents will lose their access to the critical benefit, plus thousands more in surrounding areas of the region.","canonical":"https://wamu.org/story/19/12/13/local-snap-recipients-prepare-to-lose-food-stamps-in-wake-of-new-rule/","featured_image":{"url":"https://wamu.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/SNAP-1024x577.jpg","width":1024,"height":577},"image":"https://wamu.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/wamu-default-og-image.png"},"provider":{"term_id":561,"name":"WAMU","slug":"wamu","term_group":0,"term_taxonomy_id":562,"taxonomy":"wamu_provider","description":"","parent":0,"count":40879,"filter":"raw","permalink":"https://wamu.org/provider/wamu/"}},{"ID":5301716,"guid":"https://wamu.org/story/19/12/12/how-to-limit-gentrification-along-the-purple-line-according-to-housing-advocates/","title":"How To Limit Gentrification Along The Purple Line, According To Housing Advocates","content":"

The Purple Line is coming. But how can Maryland leaders make sure the rail line is a boon for suburban residents, and not an engine of gentrification?

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That’s the question explored in a plan released Thursday by the Purple Line Corridor Coalition, a group of nonprofit leaders, planners, developers and others convened by the University of Maryland’s National Center for Smart Growth to advise local leaders and organizations as the light rail project gets underway.

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The coalition’s new Housing Action Plan recommends steps that officials and advocates can take to preserve affordable housing and reduce displacement along the path of the 16-mile light rail, which is expected to transform economically distressed neighborhoods in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties when it begins service in 2023.

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“Evidence from other regions where new transit lines have opened demonstrate that home values, rents and land speculation can increase rapidly after service starts, bringing opportunity to some and displacing others,” the plan says. “Preserving affordability and the distinctive character of the neighborhoods around the rail requires us to be thoughtful and act now.”

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The plan makes 12 recommendations for the next three years u2014 most are focused on how to foster housing construction, preserve existing affordable homes and protect vulnerable renters along the Purple Line, which will run between New Carrollton in Prince George’s County and Bethesda in Montgomery County.

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In part, the plan calls on leaders and advocates in Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties to:

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  • Increase public funds for affordable housing construction;
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  • Ramp up efforts to buy and redevelop land for affordable housing;
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  • Deploy low-cost loans and down payment support to help residents purchase or maintain homes;
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  • Assist existing renters by strengthening tenant protection laws and enforcing housing codes;
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  • Guide developers through regulatory and bureaucratic challenges to building in the Purple Line corridor; and
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  • Encourage developers to focus on transit-oriented development with at least some affordable housing.
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Members of the coalition say the group is “committed to preserving at least 17,000 units currently affordable to households earning 60% of the area median income,” which is roughly $73,000 or less per year.

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Almost half of all renter households in the Purple Line corridor are considered “cost-burdened,” the plan says, meaning they spend more than 30% of their income on housing. Incomes are especially low on the far east side of the line near New Carrollton, where 60% of households earn an annual income of $70,000 or less. Incomes are similar in the East Silver Spring/Takoma and Langley Park areas, where multiple Purple Line stations are slated for construction.

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The Purple Line is a planned 16-mile light rail network linking Prince George’s and Montgomery counties. It’s expected to open service in 2023.Maryland Department of Transportation

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JPMorgan Chase Bank recently announced it would offer $5 million in grants to support affordable housing and small businesses along the light rail. The bank also helped fund the Housing Action Plan.

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The Purple Line Corridor Coalition received more than 600 responses to a housing survey it conducted earlier this year. “The surveys conveyed strong consensus to prioritize housing actions that benefit low- and middle-income residents,” the plan says. About 20% of survey respondents “opposed or strongly opposed” dedicating public funds to support affordable housing.

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Robert Goldman, president and CEO of the nonprofit Montgomery Housing Partnership u2014 a PLCC member u2014 says the coalition will be urging local officials to consider the plan’s priorities in upcoming budgets.

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“It will be a big loss if we build the Purple Line and the folks who live there now can’t find a way to stay,” Goldman says.

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But with construction of the transit line already underway, the plan calls for leaders, nonprofits and private sector leaders to start implementing some of its recommendations now.

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“The next three years u2026 are a critical time to act in anticipation of market dynamics that will accelerate once service is open,” the document says. “Simply put, this is a plan that cannot afford to sit on a shelf.”

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When you give to WAMU, your tax-deductible gift helps make possible the award-winning reporting and programs upon which youu2019ve come to expect and rely, including Morning Edition, All Things Considered, 1A, The Kojo Nnamdi Show and many more!

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ntn","paginatedContent":[],"excerpt":"

A new plan from the Purple Line Corridor Coalition outlines steps local leaders and organizations can take to prevent mass displacement along the light rail line, slated to open in 2023.

n","permalink":"https://wamu.org/story/19/12/12/how-to-limit-gentrification-along-the-purple-line-according-to-housing-advocates/","currentSlug":"how-to-limit-gentrification-along-the-purple-line-according-to-housing-advocates","created":"2019-12-12T07:34:23","modified":"2019-12-12T08:35:02","time":"Dec 12, 2019","timestamp":1576136063,"timestampGMT":1576154063,"imageData":{"caption":"

Apartment dwellers in Langley Park, Maryland, are at risk of rent hikes as the Purple Line spurs development in the area, say members of the Purple Line Corridor Coalition.

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Over the past two years, there’s been an uptick of District workers accusing their employers of wage theft.

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D.C.’s Office of the Attorney General (OAG), which helps to file legal claims, has opened more than 30 investigations against local companies since 2017. And given the increase of wage violations, thereu2019s now a push to heighten awareness among residents.

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So, how does wage theft happen, and what can you do about it? Here’s a quick guide on identifying and fighting wage theft.

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What Is Wage Theft?

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For starters, you should know itu2019s illegal.u00a0Wage theft happens when employers fail to pay employees what theyu2019re owed or do not pay their workers on time. It can rear its ugly head in several different ways, including:

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  • Paying less than the $14/hour minimum wage or $4.45/hour for tipped workers (the two rates will increase to $15 and $5, respectively, on July 1, 2020)
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  • Making you work “off the clock”
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  • Not paying you for overtime hours
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On Tuesday evening, nearly two dozen community members — some with their recent pay stubs in hand — attended what was dubbed a “Pay Stub Clinic” to learn how to combat wage theft. The event, held in a meeting room at Bread for the Cityu00a0in Northwest D.C., was co-facilitated by DC Jobs with Justice and the Washington Lawyersu2019 Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, both groups working with the OAG.u00a0 Organizers put up a giant sample paycheck on a projector screen as part of the 90-minute session and taught participants how to read them more closely.

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“Knowledge is a big part of the solution, because when workers know their rights, they’re able to confront their employers to hold them accountable and they’re also empowered to report it to authorities or folks like us who are able to act on their behalf,” said Randy Chen, co-acting chief of the OAG’s Social Justice Section.

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How To Spot Wage Theft

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According to Chen, whenever employers pay employees, D.C. law requires the employer to provide the workers with a statement that shows:

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  • The date of wage payment
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  • Gross wages paid
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  • Deductions from and additions to wages
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  • Net wages
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  • Hours worked during the pay period
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  • Beginning and ending dates of the pay period
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  • The employer’s name and address
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In addition, attorney Daniel Katz said employers are required to pay employees all wages due at least twice per month. The exception to that rule is when an employer, by contract or custom, has historically paid wages less frequently. A handful of attendees seemed surprised by that information.

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“What the employer cannot do is change the pay period check to check. That’s something to keep an eye out for,” Katz said.

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Overtime, Katz explained, must be paid at the rate of 1.5 times the employee’s regular pay rate when they work more than 40 hours in a week. If you are a tipped worker and the amount of tips that you receive over a pay period does not average to the minimum wage, your employer must make up the difference.

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“It’s the employer’s job to make sure that they are following the wage laws, but oftentimes they are not,” Chen added.

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Organizers said they see issues regarding paid sick leave occur most often. That’s when employees are able to take time off work for personal or family health, doctor’s appointments and services related to domestic violence — and still get paid. A chart that can be found on the OAG’s website shows the rate of paid sick leave for companies, based on size.

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Misclassification cases, Chen said, are also common.u00a0Attorney General Karl Racine released a report in September demonstrating how District construction companies “hurt workers, cheat taxpayers and undercut law-abiding competitors” when they illegally misclassify workers as independent contractors. Worker misclassification is a form of payroll fraud where employers categorize workers who should be considered direct employees as independent contractors.

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The report also showed that companies that misclassify workers unlawfully avoidu00a0at leastu00a016.7% in labor costs, and their savings at the expense of workers can exceed more than 40% if the company is engaged in other forms of wage theft.

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How To Protect Yourself From Wage Theft

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The facilitators recommend that workers keep all records of hours worked and wages paid, such as timesheets, pay stubs and check receipts. And they said workers should write down:

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  • First and last name of your supervisor
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  • Name of company/employer
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  • Addresses of the location where you worked and the company’s headquarters
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  • The dates and exact hours you worked (use a calculator or an app on your phone to track your hours)
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  • When and how much you got paid
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Employers who engage in wage theft can be liable for up to four times the amount of unpaid wages, plus administrative penalties, attorneyu2019s fees and costs. This was the OAG’s first time hosting a pay stub clinic with plans to schedule more.

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“We’re pleased with how it went and we’re exploring doing this clinic on a regular basis in other communities around D.C.,” Chen said the next morning.

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When you give to WAMU, your tax-deductible gift helps make possible the award-winning reporting and programs upon which youu2019ve come to expect and rely, including Morning Edition, All Things Considered, 1A, The Kojo Nnamdi Show and many more!

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ntn","paginatedContent":[],"excerpt":"

Training sessions are taking place in the District for workers interested in learning more about D.C.’s labor laws and how to defend themselves and others from wage theft.

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D.C.’s Office of the Attorney General says it is increasing efforts to protect workers’ rights to fair wages, overtime pay and sick leave.

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Apartment Building. Will It Work?","content":"

Julia Flores has lived in a rent-controlled apartment in Columbia Heights since the 1990s u2014 a small studio where she raised both her daughters.

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u201cWeu2019ve always had problems in this building, forever,u201d Flores said in Spanish at her apartment Thursday morning, as local activist and Georgetown student Juan Reyes translated. u201cThe landlord has changed, theyu2019ve sold the building to numerous companies, and nothing changes u2014 the managers just come, they donu2019t fix anything and they just collect our rent.u201d

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On Friday night, Flores and residents from more than a dozen homes in the 101-unit building, 3435 Holmead Place, will gather to publicly launch a rent strike, withholding their rent until their grievances are addressed.

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Some residents of a Columbia Heights apartment building are launching a rent strike Friday night.Eliza Berkon / WAMU

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The Path To A Rent Strike

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With the support of organizers from local chapters of the Democratic Socialists of America and its Stomp Out Slumlords project, the D.C. Tenants Union and Georgetown Universityu2019s Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor, residents have circulated petitions and communicated with the landlord, Urban Investment Partners Property Management (UIP), for the past few months. UIP declined to comment for this story.

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Maresa Hernandez, who lives across the hall from Flores and has called Holmead home since birth, has raised concerns with both the central office and building manager.

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u201cWe didnu2019t want it to just be just word and talk; we wanted to see actions,u201d Hernandez says. u201cThey have responded, but we feel like it hasnu2019t been enough because thereu2019s still rats and cockroaches.”

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On Nov. 5, tenants of Holmead Place sent a letter to UIP management listing their complaints, including mold, lead and the cost of air conditioning. It states:

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“We have reported these and other issues to management on multiple occasions, and none of them have been adequately corrected. Management has a responsibility to take reasonable measures within its power to ensure our habitability in our building and to reduce risk of living there. By failing to provide basic measures of habitability, our landlord breached the warranty of habitability which is implied into all residential leases in the District of Columbia.

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This letter is intended to serve as a final notice. If these issues are not corrected in the next 30 days, we will begin to pay our rent into an escrow account and withhold it from the landlord pending correction of all housing code violations.”

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UIP has made recent efforts in units to make repairs and control pests, Hernandez says, but some residents feel they havenu2019t yet gone far enough. A notice from the management posted in the building enumerated several areas where management is attempting to make progress.

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u201cUIP values all residents at Holmead Apartments and have pledged to work hard to provide a clean and comfortable living environment for all,u201d the letter to residents reads.

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The company, which purchased the Holmead building eight years ago, operates dozens of residential properties across the city. UIP has been criticized for some of its practices, including its use of voluntary agreements to essentially convert rent-controlled units to market-rate housing by either buying out tenants oru00a0allowing current tenants to raise the rent once they depart. Landlords will sometimes incentivize rent increases by promising tenants renovations.u00a0

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Flores raised her two daughters in this studio bedroom, where she fits two beds, a treadmill and a dining area in one room.Eliza Berkon / WAMU

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‘A National Trend’ Of Rent Strikes

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In recent years, residents at several other housing developments in D.C. have engaged in rent strikes, including an ongoing strike at 1454 Irving Street NW and a successful strike in Brightwood, where the owner decided to sell the building weeks after tenants launched a strike.

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Rob Wohl, an organizer with Stomp Out Slumlords, has been involved in a handful of local rent strikes. The effort, he says, is a revival of strategies used in D.C. in the 1960s and 1970s, and one thatu2019s grown more common in cities grappling with the impact of gentrification on affordable housing, including Houston, Cleveland and Los Angeles.

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u201cItu2019s part of a national trend of more militant tenant activism in response to the deepening of the housing crisis in major cities,u201d Wohl says.

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Wohl points to a 1964 rent strike at 1414 Girard Street NW (less than a mile from 3435 Holmead Place) as a “watershed” local rent strike. Though the striking tenants were evicted after a legal struggle, according to a 1983 study from the University of the District of Columbia, the actions set the stage for local strikes occurring throughout the next decade.

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From the study:

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“Between 1964-1974, dissatisfied with the lack of progress, tenants turned to direct action and a battle erupted as rent strikes spread across the city. With the assistance of various organizations, tenant groups fought landlords in the courts and before the D.C. Council. And as inflation increased after the mid-1960s, rising rents led to a demand for controls on rents and on cooperative and condominium conversions.

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By 1974, tenant victories began to multiply: a local rent control law with expanded tenant protections, a major judicial decision which established the lease as a contract, and the development of city-wide organizing.”

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Are Rent Strikes Legal?

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In D.C., tenants are permitted to withhold rent if housing-code violations theyu2019ve expressed to their landlord have not been dealt with, and landlords are not allowed to retaliate, says a representative for the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development. Residents may also file complaints with the DHCD and the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs.

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The u201cimplied warranty of habitability,u201d a legal precedent followed in many jurisdictions, says tenants can withhold rent when landlords are not complying with local housing codes, a tenet also included in the D.C. Tenant Bill of Rights:

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“The landlord must ensure that your unit and all common areas are safe and sanitary as of the first day of your tenancy. This is known as the “warranty of habitability.” The landlord must maintain your apartment and all common areas of the building in compliance with the housing code, including keeping the premises safe and secure and free of rodents and pests, keeping the structure and facilities of the building in good repair, and ensuring adequate heat, lighting, and ventilation.”

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Fifty-oneu00a0property-code compliance complaintsu00a0have been filed with DCRA against the building since 2004, 31u00a0of which were submitted since UIP took over the building; some have been resolved, others remain open. Neither Flores nor Hernandez have filed complaints with D.C. agencies, and Flores expressed skepticism about being treated fairly as a Spanish-speaking, Latina woman.

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Instead, she and Hernandez say they prefer working with other tenant leaders and activists, some of whom are active at developments throughout the city.

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In July, a coalition of organizers and residents formed the D.C. Tenants Union to help assemble groups of residents in D.C. who want reform in their buildings. And tenant leaders advocated for stronger local housing laws at a D.C. Committee on Housing & Neighborhood Revitalization hearing last month. The cityu2019s rent-control law is up for renewal in 2020.

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As Hernandez looks to Fridayu2019s rally, she says sheu2019s more excited than scared.

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u201cIu2019m just really positive and excited about the whole situation.u201d

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Residents at a Columbia Heights apartment building publicly launched a rent strike protesting substandard living conditions.

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Julia Flores (left) and Maresa Hernandez have lived at 3435 Holmead Place since the 1990s.

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Area Grows Pricier, Can Picking Up A Side Hustle (Or Three) Make A Difference? | WAMU","description":"Residents at a Columbia Heights apartment building publicly launched a rent strike protesting substandard living conditions. 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The average person will spend $121,082.40 on dating in their lifetime. Sounds excessive, doesn’t it? That’s according to a recent survey of 2,000 Americans conducted by market research firm OnePoll and banking and budgeting app Simple.

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And finding The One doesn’t lead to cutting any costs. The poll found that, on average,u00a0single people spend an average of $168.17 a month on dates, while married people spend $185.65 to keep the spark alive.

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“If you are a parent and you have to find a babysitter, if you have to take public transportation, if you have to Uber both ways, if you have to pick up the tab u2014 those things add up for sure,”u00a0says Callie Harris, a senior matchmaker at Three Day Rule in D.C.

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More than half of those surveyed also say they spend on romantic nights out even though they canu2019t really afford it.u00a0In fact, 62% of respondents blame their finances for not allowing them to have a robust dating life.u00a0Nearly 30% of those studied revealed they would be willing to go into debt to date.

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So in an expensive region like ours, how do locals keep their hearts full without emptying their wallets?

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‘We Don’t Like To Spend Money Willy-Nilly’

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Elena Vernikos and Aaron Misner, who live in Silver Spring, regularly go on dates at local museums. Perhaps their favorite one is the National Portrait Gallery, where they met for the first time in 2017. Interesting exhibits and free admission keep them coming back.u00a0

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Otherwise, the pair prefers to keep the costs down on their dates by going for walks or sharing meals. Misner says the two frequent a Lebanese Taverna restaurant near their home.u00a0

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“It’s $12 for us to get enough food for the both of us. I mean, why would we spend $30 on a meal at a fast casual place when we could just split something and have that moment,” Misner says.

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Because they are young, frugality is necessary. Misner is a senior at Towson University. And Vernikos, who’s a recent college graduate and full-time employee at a trade association in the District, says until her student loans are paid off, she simply can’t splurge.

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“I feel like most people my age that are living in this area have some form of debt they are struggling with, so we’ve always kept it relatively inexpensive,” says Vernikos.

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Vernikos and Misner are also in the habit of saving money. The couple keeps an emergency savings fund and plans months ahead for vacations.

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The Dating Budget

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According to the previously mentioned OnePoll and Simple survey, spending on romance starts well before the actual date. On average, dating Americans pay $64 per month for grooming u2014 even if they are in a relationship.

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And there are several other factors to consider when it comes to the cost of dating:

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  • Is this the first meeting?
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  • Is the relationship u201cofficialu201d?
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  • Have you met each other’s parents or friends?
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  • Can you split the check?u00a0
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When out on a date with either someone new or a current partner, 51% of people surveyed argued over who will pay the check. And with the burden of paying for dates looming large among Americans, itu2019s no surprise that 47% of those studied reveal theyu2019ve had to get creative when it comes to paying on a date because they were strapped for cash.

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Harris and her business partner Jaime Bernstein launched the D.C. branch of Three Day Rule five years ago. They say more than 10,000 Washingtonians (a combination of paying clients and members who sign up to be in a free pool of potential dates) have signed up to find love. And though their clients have various budgets, Harris says the matchmakers tell them not to spend too much.u00a0

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“We definitely don’t want people to drop hundreds of dollars on a first date. That adds financial pressure on top of all this other pressure that comes with the first date,” Harris says. “Itu00a0doesn’t necessarily have to cost money, but the easiest way to get to know someone is to sit across from them u2014 and usually it helps if you have a drink in your hand.”

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‘Maybe I’m Spending Too Much’

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But, for some, forking out a little extra on a date isn’t such a big deal.

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Take Fairfax resident Ryan Wincott, for instance. Wincott says when he started dating again after a divorce, he went on a series of sushi dates that each cost him nearly $200.

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“I had money, and I didn’t really think about it. It was just until I was at that $700 to $800 mark and then I was like, ‘This is not working out u2014 and this is bad,'” Wincott says.

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The lawyer gets most of his dates through mobile apps or online. He says he ends up spending big on the outings because itu2019s easier than figuring out a more affordable option.

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You can have fun, you can meet, you can talk, you can do things without spending money, but it’s still harder because you have to be more creative,” Wincott says. “You have to be more imaginative and you have to spend more time planning it.”

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For some, at least, a few successful dates might lead to spending slightly less on a relationship. The survey says 36% of people say they stop spending to impress once they have sex with a partner, while another 35% said they need to have their first kiss with someone for money to no longer be a factor.

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And for everyone else? They’ll always have the free museums.

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In an expensive region like D.C., how do locals keep their hearts full without emptying their wallets?

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Aaron Misner, 22, and Elena Vernikos, 21, of Silver Spring, enjoy a frugal dating lifestyle. On this night, they returned to the National Portrait Gallery, where they went on their first date two years ago.

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can put a strain on already stretched budgets.","inCollectionId":"5204068","person":"1627341","secondaryImage":{"type":"","data":""},"titleOverride":false,"urlOrigin":false,"provider":"WAMU"},"audio":{"audioTitle":"Love Don't Cost A Thing -- Except It Does","audioFileID":5281800,"audioFile":"https://downloads.wamu.org/mp3/nw/19/12/web_costoflove-simons.mp3","audioLength":"4:32","audioOffset":"","postPermalink":"https://wamu.org/story/19/12/06/love-dont-cost-a-thing-except-it-does-how-locals-afford-to-date/","audioSlug":"WAMU"},"beat":"Arts & Culture","beatSlug":"arts-culture","slug":{"name":"WAMU","permalink":"https://wamu.org/provider/wamu/","categoryName":"","providerClass":"provider-internal","flagSlug":"","flagText":""},"promoted":"","headMeta":{"title":"As The D.C. 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Area Canu2019t Afford It","content":"

The average cost of a 10-person Thanksgiving dinner this year is anu00a0estimated $48.91, just one cent more than last year’s total. And for many area households, that grocery tab is too high.

n

An estimated 11.4% of Washingtonians, 10% of Alexandrians and 13.3% of Prince George’s County residents are considered food-insecure,u00a0or without access to enough food for healthy living for some or all of the year.u00a0Several organizations in the District, Virginia and Maryland are helping to meet the need this holiday.

n

D.C. Council member Trayon White Sr. (D-Ward 8)u00a0isu00a0distributing turkeys to ward residents this week for the fourth-straight year, continuing a tradition begun by late D.C. Mayor and Ward 8 Council member Marion Barry.u00a0

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“Marion Barry started this initiative. So when he passed, as a mentee of his u2026 I’m obligated to keep it going, ’cause the needs are so great,” White said as a council member-electu00a0in 2016.

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Since 1996, the Edlavitch Jewish Community Center has organized Thanksgiving meal-preparation sessions, billed asu00a0Everything But The Turkey. They’re partnering with D.C. Central Kitchen to add turkeys and distribute throughout the city. And on Wednesday, the 20th annual Feast of Sharingu00a0at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center will provide community members with a Thanksgiving meal, health screenings and clothing, all gratis.u00a0

n

In Virginia,u00a0Operation Turkeyu00a0offers Thanksgiving food packages and gift cards to hundreds of families in greater Prince William County each year. In 2019, the program is expected to provide food to about 820 area families but could serve more, says Northern Virginia Family Service staff member Navara Cannon.u00a0

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“We get email after email and phone call after phone call after we’ve made our distribution, of people who are still trying to find services and trying to find a way to get these things for their family,”u00a0Cannon says.

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The Arlington Food Assistance Center added turkeys to its weekly grocery pickup last week, serving more than 2,500 families. Hunger Free Alexandriau00a0will be co-hosting a free Thanksgiving mealu00a0on Thursday in Old Town.u00a0And Fredericksburg Regional Food Bank is distributing 1,000 turkeys and 500 boxes of holiday sides donated by Giant.u00a0

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In Maryland, FISH of Laurel, a meal kitchen offering daily food to local residents, is offering Thanksgiving meal packs to qualifying residents. And a church with locations in Upper Marlboro and Landover partnered with the Prince Georgeu2019s County Department of Social Services to hand out holiday basketsu00a0last weekend.

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Supplies for these programs derive from a wealth of sources, Cannon says, including corporate sponsorships, private donations and school food drives. But while donations tend to be high during the winter holiday season, she mentions the need to keep them coming year-round, especially in the slower months of the summer.

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“Even if you go grocery shopping, and you just pick up one more item u2014 just one extra can, one extra loaf of bread, one extra thing u2014 and take it to your local food pantry, that would be greatly appreciated,” Cannon says. “The same families that we are feeding for Thanksgiving will continue to be hungry after Thanksgiving.”

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Several organizations in the District, Virginia and Maryland are helping to meet the need this holiday through free food initiatives.

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Operation Turkey is providing Thanksgiving meal kits to more than 800 Northern Virginia families this year.

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","canonical":"https://wamu.org/story/19/11/26/the-price-of-thanksgiving-dinner-has-barely-budged-but-thousands-in-the-d-c-area-cant-afford-it/","featured_image":{"url":"https://wamu.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/NVFSOperationTurkey1-1024x682.jpg","width":1024,"height":682},"image":"https://wamu.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/wamu-default-og-image.png"},"provider":{"term_id":561,"name":"WAMU","slug":"wamu","term_group":0,"term_taxonomy_id":562,"taxonomy":"wamu_provider","description":"","parent":0,"count":40879,"filter":"raw","permalink":"https://wamu.org/provider/wamu/"}},{"ID":5235717,"guid":"https://wamu.org/story/19/11/25/is-montgomery-countys-top-official-practicing-nimbyism-in-disguise/","title":"Is Montgomery Countyu2019s Top Official Practicing u2018NIMBYism In Disguise?u2019","content":"

As Montgomery County councilmembers prepared to adopt a sweeping resolution to address the county’s acute shortage of affordable housing, the jurisdiction’s top leader was lobbying against it.

n

That’s according to County Council President Nancy Navarro (D-District 4), who spearheaded a resolution that went on to win unanimous support in the council, despite private objections from Democratic County Executive Marc Elrich.

n

Friction over the issue has prompted concerns from some county officials, including Navarro, who worry that the executive u2014 with his long record of opposing various development projects u2014 stands in the way of addressing one of the most pressing economic issues facing the jurisdiction.

n

“We understand that we have a lot of families, and a lot of our own county employees, who cannot afford to live here,” Navarro says. “That’s why it’s been difficult to understand exactly why he’s resisting this.”

n

But Elrich says he agrees the county needs more affordable housing; just not as much as some think.

n

Disagreement Over The Details

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The resolution introduced by Navarro calls for Montgomery County to add an additional 10,000 housing units by 2030, most of them near transit and priced for low- to moderate-income residents.

n

Right before the council planned to vote on the resolution, Navarro says, Elrich contacted her to argue against it, saying its goals were based on inaccurate estimates of how many low-income residents will live in the county over the next decade.

n

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich says he’s “trying to be realistic” about the cost of building affordable housing, but critics say he’s out of touch with the jurisdiction’s needs.

n

Elrich’s objections were “strange,” Navarro says, because she’d previously discussed the resolution with members of his administration and had no reason to believe they did not support it. Additionally, she says, the housing shortage is not a new issue in the county, and Elrich dealt with it extensively during his previous years on the council.

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“We’ve all had these conversations many, many, many times,” Navarro says.

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But Navarro’s resolution draws upon new recommendations from the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments u2014 also known as COG u2014 that call for urgent action on the housing shortage. A lack of homes, the organization says, is pushing up prices, deepening segregation and worsening congestion as residents move farther away from job centers in search of lower-cost housing.

n

Around the same time that COG finalized its recommendations for local leaders, the Urban Institute released projections showing a net increase of more than 20,000 low-income households in the county by 2030.

n

Those projections did not inform COG’s affordable housing targets. Regardless, Elrich has used them to cast doubt on COG’s recommendations u2014 and by extension, Navarro’s housing resolution u2014 saying they call for more affordable housing than he believes will be necessary by 2030.

n

“We’re working very hard to change the incomes of people who live here,” Elrich says.

n

During his time on the council, Elrich led a successful effort to eventually raise Montgomery County’s minimum wage to $15. As executive, he’s co-hosted a series of conversations with local business owners about how the jurisdiction can make it easier to do business and create jobs in the county.

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But there is skepticism that raising incomes alone could meaningfully reduce the need for affordable housing u2014 if the executive manages to raise incomes at all.

n

“I don’t think Marc Elrich is capable of implementing a plan to grow high-wage jobs,” says Councilmember Hans Riemer (D-At Large), who has frequently clashed with Elrich over economic development issues.

n

Riemer calls Elrich’s opposition to the housing resolution “NIMBYism in disguise.”

n

“NIMBYism” refers to “not in my backyard,” the position taken by some affluent homeowners in Montgomery County that new development is unwelcome in their communities. Elrich, who identifies as a progressive Democrat, has historically sided with that view. Most recently, he opposed a measure u2014 also passed unanimously by the council u2014 that made it easier for residents to build tiny homes and other accessory apartments on their property.

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“All he’s doing is saying we don’t need more housing,” Riemer says. “And he somehow managed to talk himself into the position that we don’t need more housing for low-income people, which is crazy.”

n

Montgomery County Planning Board Chair Casey Anderson says the Urban Institute numbers don’t appear misleading to him. But even if they overestimate low-income household growth, he says, the county still faces a severe housing shortage affecting residents across the income spectrum.

n

“We don’t have enough housing units, period,” Anderson says. “Whether or not we have higher or lower-wage jobs, we still have people here who need a place to live.”

n

‘We Don’t Have The Money’

n

Montgomery County’s housing resolution is nonbinding, as are the regional targets recommended by COG. But both have taken on symbolic importance as the region struggles to meet soaring demand for housing amid high land prices, restrictive zoning and the aftereffects of a recession-induced construction slowdown.

n

In D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser has followed COG’s lead, setting a goal to add 36,000 additional housing units to the city by 2025. The cities of Takoma Park, Gaithersburg and Rockville have also expressed support for the organization’s regional housing goals.

n

Resolutions passed by the county council cannot be vetoed by the executive, but Navarro says Elrich could find other ways to block new housing construction.

n

“It will be difficult when we start talking about utilizing public land, for example, to further these goals, if the executive does not agree,” the council president says.

n

Meanwhile, Elrich says he has no plans to block affordable housing u2014 but he is concerned about how to pay for it.

n

“If we committed to subsidizing those number of units, I’m not sure how [the Department of Housing and Community Affairs] would do it,” Elrich says. “We don’t have the money to pay the subsidies. I’m trying to be realistic.”

n

The executive says the private sector should play a bigger role in helping defray those costs. He has called to increase fees on new construction in the county, and he says he plans to introduce a measure that would tighten requirements on developers to create low-cost housing.

n

Rob Goldman, president of the nonprofit Montgomery Housing Partnership, agrees that meeting the full extent of the county’s housing needs would be expensive. But he believes the executive should focus on creative ways to meet the challenge.

n

“I think he may be caught up in the weeds of numbers and what is the target and all that,” Goldman says. “And I think at this point, we should be looking at the big picture and saying this region has a monumental task ahead of us.”

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A debate in Montgomery County has reignited criticism that County Executive Marc Elrich is standing in the way of fixing the county’s housing shortage.

n","permalink":"https://wamu.org/story/19/11/25/is-montgomery-countys-top-official-practicing-nimbyism-in-disguise/","currentSlug":"is-montgomery-countys-top-official-practicing-nimbyism-in-disguise","created":"2019-11-25T09:32:38","modified":"2019-11-25T09:32:38","time":"Nov 25, 2019","timestamp":1574674358,"timestampGMT":1574692358,"imageData":{"caption":"

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich has criticized a resolution to create more affordable housing in the county, saying it’s based on overinflated estimates of low-income household growth. His remarks have attracted scrutiny from those who say it’s a veiled attempt to discourage new home construction.

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much-needed housing development.","inCollectionId":"5204068","person":"24","secondaryImage":{"type":"","data":""},"titleOverride":false,"urlOrigin":false,"provider":"WAMU"},"audio":{"postPermalink":"https://wamu.org/story/19/11/25/is-montgomery-countys-top-official-practicing-nimbyism-in-disguise/"},"beat":"Business & Development","beatSlug":"business-development","slug":{"name":"WAMU","permalink":"https://wamu.org/provider/wamu/","categoryName":"","providerClass":"provider-internal","flagSlug":"","flagText":""},"promoted":"","headMeta":{"title":"As The D.C. Area Grows Pricier, Can Picking Up A Side Hustle (Or Three) Make A Difference? | WAMU","description":"A debate in Montgomery County has reignited criticism that County Executive Marc Elrich is standing in the way of fixing the county's housing shortage. ","canonical":"https://wamu.org/story/19/11/25/is-montgomery-countys-top-official-practicing-nimbyism-in-disguise/","featured_image":{"url":"https://wamu.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/180720_Elrich_Turner_01-1024x576.jpg","width":1024,"height":576},"image":"https://wamu.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/wamu-default-og-image.png"},"provider":{"term_id":561,"name":"WAMU","slug":"wamu","term_group":0,"term_taxonomy_id":562,"taxonomy":"wamu_provider","description":"","parent":0,"count":40879,"filter":"raw","permalink":"https://wamu.org/provider/wamu/"}},{"ID":5236462,"guid":"https://wamu.org/story/19/11/22/d-c-breaks-ground-on-first-affordable-assisted-living-facility-in-ward-8/","title":"D.C. Breaks Ground On First Affordable Assisted-Living Facility in Ward 8","content":"

Construction has begun on a new assisted-living facility for low-income seniors, the first such developmentu00a0in Ward 8.u00a0

n

Slated to open in early 2021, Livingston Place at Southern is a roughly $67 million 5-story project that will provide 152 units of housing for seniors age 60 and above, whose income is 60% of the area median income or less. Itu2019s also geared toward residents who need assistance with at least two u201cactivities of daily living,u201d health-care parlance for tasks such as bathing, walking and eating.

n

The complex will join The Marigold at 11th Street in Columbia Heights as an assisted-living residence in which 100% of the units are deemed affordable, says Todd A. Lee, executive director of the District of Columbia Housing Finance Agency, which helped fund the project. Marigold, he notes, has a 10-month waiting list.

n

“When we talk about seniors housing, generally there are three levels of acuity; there’s independent living, there’s assisted living and there is the nursing-home solution,” Lee says. “What was missing in the District of Columbia was the assisted living u2014 that intermediate level of care.”

n

Monthly costs at area market-rate facilities can climb as high as $7,000 to $9,000 per month, Lee says. Nationally, the monthly median cost of assisted living is roughly $4,000.

n

Though the rates at Livingston have not yet been set, they will fall within guidelines set by the U.S. Department ofu00a0Housing and Urban Development,u00a0and residents can use a blend of funds from Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, long-term care insurance and savings to cover them. In the District, residents 65 and over comprise some 12 percent of the city’s population, with a median income of about $41,000, according to a 2012 report from the D.C. Office on Aging.

n

Americans currently in their mid-60s are more likely than not to need long-term care in their later years. Seniors 65 and up are also the fastest-growing population in the country, with one in five Americans projected to be retirement age by 2030.

n

Dantes Partners, which has also developed several other affordable housing properties in the city, collaborated with Gilbane Development Company and the H Street Community Development Corporation on the project. H Street chief executive Kenneth J. Brewer Sr. says that partnership is likely to continue on future senior developments in the District.

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Livingston Place at Southern offers 152 units and on-site services for D.C. seniors.

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A 152-unit affordable assisted-living facility breaks ground today in Ward 8.

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As Amazon carves out a new home in Arlington, the county is continuing its search for new solutions to a growing problem: the shortage of affordable housing. One possible answer? Redeveloping underused religious spaces.

n

u201cLand is one of the prime cost factors in housing,u201d said Judith Meany, a clinical associate professor in architecture and planning at Catholic University. u201cAnd itu2019s not one that many people understand is frankly driving the housing affordability crisis.u201d

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As the county considers feasible ways to create more affordable units, underused churches u2014 in part a symptom of an overall decline in attendance at religious institutions u2014 present one possibility in a patchwork of housing solutions, with the added benefit of onsite services.

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Last week, a new affordable housing development opened off Columbia Pike, built on the site of Arlington Presbyterian Church. Gilliam Place, named for church elder Ronda Gilliam, aims to marry the needs of the church with the needs of the local community, offering a new worship space, a forthcoming cafe with a bilingual culinary training program and 173 affordable units, 15 of which are accessible to residents with mobility impairments.

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Lloyd Wolf / Courtesy APAH

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“Gilliam Place provides a model for how congregations faced with declining membership, but still driven by faith to serve the community, can ensure their sustainability and [transform] the lives of many through affordable homes and opportunities to advance their careers,” wrote Arlington County Board Chair Christian Dorsey to WAMU via email.

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About six years ago, the church met with the nonprofit Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing to discuss new ways to maximize its local impact.

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u201cThis congregation, which was declining in its average Sunday attendance, decided to do a spiritual deep dive and figure out how they could be more relevant to their community,” said APAH chief executive Nina Janopaul. “They came to a discernment that what they could do with their asset, their 1.5 acres on Columbia Pike, is turn it into affordable housing.”

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APAH purchased Arlington Presbyterian Church for roughly $8 million (a $2 million discount on its appraised value) and went to work on constructing a six-story, 9,000-square-foot property,u00a0Janopaul said. The $71 million project was funded by a handful of public and private entities, including the Virginia Housing Development Authority, Capital One and $18.1 million from Arlington Countyu2019s Affordable Housing Investment Fund.

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Already, there are some 2,000 people on Gilliam Placeu2019s waiting list in a county that has not met its annual goal of creating 600 new units of affordable housing, Janopaul said.

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u201cWe are, no question, in a crisis u2014 weu2019ve been losing 1,000 units of market-affordable housing per year since 2000,” Janopaul said. “The county did an Affordable Housing Master Plan in 2015 that basically said, ‘We donu2019t have enough housing to house the people that live here now, not to mention new people we think are moving in with new jobs.'”

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The Columbia Pike development is not the first to be re-purposed from an underutilized local church. In 2012, another APAH-backed housing complex, vPoint, was constructedu00a0atop a Baptist church in Clarendon, with 70 affordable units.

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u201cThese sites are in our urban corridors, and the trend appears to be not just adding affordable housing in these sites proximate to transit and services, but to provide some services and other amenities on-site,u201d said Elizabeth Gearin, professor of sustainable urban planning at George Washington University and the vice-chair of the Arlington County Planning Commission.

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Itu2019s a concept that has taken hold both regionally and nationally. In D.C., St. Martin of Tours Catholic Church opened affordable housing units in 2008 on the site of its elementary school, with the help of private, city and federal funds. Earlier this year, D.C. mosque Masjid Muhammad applied for a zoning map amendment on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE for a development that would include 85 affordable homes. And similar developments have also popped up in other cities facing housing shortages, including Chicago and Oakland, California.

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Some faith-based housing developments, as they’re sometimes called, have been subject to lawsuits. The church behind vPoint, for example, was sued for potentially violating the separation of church and state.

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And not every attempted project has come to fruition. In 2017, Arlington County approved plans for Central United Methodist Church in Ballston to be redeveloped into a complex offering daycare, new church space, public art and affordable apartments. Janopaul said the development has since shifted from affordable housing to market-rate housing, due to the difficulty APAH and another developer had in securing low-income housing tax credits.

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Indeed, the costs associated with transforming a religious space into a housing development are many, from the price of the land itself, roadwork or other infrastructure, the “sticks and bricks” costs and administrative costs such as zoning-application fees, Meany said. Itu2019s a lot for jurisdictions to bankroll.

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u201cTheir affordable housing funds are not limitless,u201d Meany said, who also serves on a citizen committee in Loudoun County dedicated to housing needs. u201cSo we have to come up with more than one strategy.u201d

n","paginatedContent":[],"excerpt":"

As Amazon carves out a new home in Arlington, the county is continuing its search for new solutions to a growing problem: the shortage of affordable housing.

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Gilliam Place, an affordable-housing development built on the site of an Arlington church, opened Thursday.

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Wolf","source_url":false},"postMeta":{"inCollectionId":"5204068","person":"5239680","secondaryImage":{"type":"","data":""},"titleOverride":false,"urlOrigin":false,"provider":"WAMU"},"audio":{"postPermalink":"https://wamu.org/story/19/11/18/is-redeveloping-religious-spaces-a-solution-to-d-c-s-housing-crisis/"},"beat":"Business & Development","beatSlug":"business-development","slug":{"name":"WAMU","permalink":"https://wamu.org/provider/wamu/","categoryName":"","providerClass":"provider-internal","flagSlug":"","flagText":""},"promoted":"","headMeta":{"title":"As The D.C. 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With the District’s rent control law up for renewal next year, tenant advocates are calling for changes that would deepen protections for the city’s most vulnerable renters.

n

But it’s not yet clear whether most members of the D.C. Council are on board to revise the law, rather than simply renew it.

n

During a committee hearing Wednesday, advocates with the Reclaim Rent Control campaign testified that the existing rules limiting annual rent increases are full of loopholes. They argued in favor of not just renewing rent control through 2030, but expanding and strengthening the law by applying it to more buildings and eliminating exceptions that allow landlords to increase rents above the rate established in the law.

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The city’s law u2014 officially the Rental Housing Act of 1985 u2014 limits rent increases to the rate of inflation plus 2%. The law only applies to buildings constructed before 1976. And landlords who own four or fewer housing units are also exempt.

n
n

What’s In The ‘Reclaim Rent Control’ Platform

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    n
  • Cap annual rent increases at the rate of inflation, instead of the current rate of inflation + 2%
  • n
  • Require rent stabilization at housing built before 2005, and make newly constructed homes enter rent control once they’re 15 years old (currently only buildings constructed before 1976 fall under rent control)
  • n
  • Apply rent control to landlords who own four-unit buildings (currently they’re exempt)
  • n
  • Eliminate vacancy increases, which advocates said reward landlords for displacing tenants
  • n
  • Scrap voluntary agreements, which landlords can use to phase out rent control in their buildings
  • n
  • Continue to let landlords raise rents to pay for major repairs, but make those increases temporary, not permanent
  • n
  • Lower the minimum profit margin on rent-controlled buildings from 12% to 5%
  • n
  • Allow owners of non-rent-controlled buildings to raise rents only once per year
  • n
n

What Industry Groups Want

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    n
  • Allow rent control to be reauthorized, but only for five years instead of 10
  • n
  • After five years, study the impact of rent control on the District’s housing market
  • n
  • Focus on government programs that subsidize landlords who rent to low-income residents
  • n
n
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“The cost of housing in D.C. is growing at a rate that is untenable,” testified Elizabeth Falcon, executive director of D.C. Jobs With Justice. “Even in controlled units, rents rise faster than wage growth, poor conditions go unchecked and loopholes are exploited against tenants’ needs.”

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On the other side were real estate and industry groups, which offered the landlord’s perspective. None of them called for the dismantling of rent control u2014 a tacit acknowledgment of political reality in the District, where an estimated 45% of all multifamily rental units are rent-stabilized, according to the Urban Institute.

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Instead, industry representatives asked lawmakers to extend the law for five years rather than 10, to study its impact on the housing market and increase government funding for housing subsidy programs.

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“We are not advocating for an immediate halt to rent control,” testified real estate agent Bonnie Roberts-Burke on behalf of the D.C. Association of Realtors. “[But] we have new challenges today, and I believe that new challenges require some new solutions.”

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The Apartment and Office Building Association of Metropolitan Washington, the leading voice against strengthening rent control in D.C., has said its members are facing rising utility costs and property taxes, in addition to regular maintenance expenses. Rent increases allowed under the law, they said, are squeezing landlords’ profit margins.

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Before testimony began, Committee Chair Anita Bonds (D-At Large) asked witnesses to focus on whether to reauthorize existing rent control protections until 2030, rather than delving into amendments. Tacking amendments onto the bill u2014 which is virtually guaranteed to pass as-is u2014 would only complicate the passage process, she explained.

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Bonds’ request was roundly rebuffed, as advocates detailed their wish lists for amendments, including applying rent control to all residential buildings once they reach 15 years old and slashing rent increases to just the rate of inflation.

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“I’m really trying to get to the essence of whether or not this panel is in support of reissuing rent control,” Bonds said, addressing a panel of advocates. “Because that’s the bill that’s before us.”

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In a separate interview with WAMU, committee member Brianne Nadeau (D-Ward 1) said she’s open to amending the city’s rent control law, especially if it means offering assistance to both landlords and tenants.

n

“I believe that a straight reauthorization, without considering any of the things raised in today’s hearing, would be a missed opportunity,” Nadeau said.

n

The council member said she’s “intrigued” by tenant advocates’ proposals, because rent hikes often outpace wage growth. But costs are rising for property owners, too, she said, and the city could consider providing relief to rent-controlled buildings in the form of subsidies or tax abatements.

n

“I suspect that we’ll have some amendments to help both tenants and landlords,” Nadeau said. “I don’t think the right posture here is, ‘You win, I lose.'”

n","paginatedContent":[],"excerpt":"

A packed hearing at the D.C. Council found tenant advocates calling for sweeping changes to the city’s rent control law.

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Older buildings in the District, such as Waterside Towers in Southwest, fall under rent control protection in D.C. A debate is now raging about whether to strengthen rent control in the city.

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Area Grows Pricier, Can Picking Up A Side Hustle (Or Three) Make A Difference? | WAMU","description":"A packed hearing at the D.C. Council found tenant advocates calling for sweeping changes to the city's rent control law.","canonical":"https://wamu.org/story/19/11/14/with-rent-control-likely-to-stay-in-d-c-tenant-advocates-urge-stronger-legal-protections/","featured_image":{"url":"https://wamu.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/waterside-towers-dc-1024x768.jpg","width":1024,"height":768},"image":"https://wamu.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/wamu-default-og-image.png"},"provider":{"term_id":561,"name":"WAMU","slug":"wamu","term_group":0,"term_taxonomy_id":562,"taxonomy":"wamu_provider","description":"","parent":0,"count":40879,"filter":"raw","permalink":"https://wamu.org/provider/wamu/"}},{"ID":5224596,"guid":"https://wamu.org/story/19/11/07/new-york-offers-half-price-train-and-bus-rides-to-low-income-residents-why-doesnt-d-c/","title":"New York Offers Half-Price Train And Bus Rides To Low-Income Residents. Why Doesnu2019t D.C.?","content":"

Since the start of the year, New Yorkers who live below the federal poverty line have been able to ride public transit for half price.

n

The city program is an effort to alleviate the struggle for those who have trouble affording New Yorku2019s highu00a0cost of living. So far, nearly 80,000 people have purchased the discount MetroCards. And the city isu00a0preparing to expand the program to even more people, as lawmakers, advocates and residents realize that access to affordable transit provides myriad benefits and could help reduce fare evasion.

n

This raises a question: u201cWhy isnu2019t there something like this in D.C.?u201d

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u201cTwo words: political will,u201d says Katherine Kortum, a member of Metrou2019s Riders Advisory Council.u00a0u201cThere’s a lack of desire to significantly change the fare system, as far as I can tell.u201d

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Metro does offer some discounts. Seniors and people with disabilities pay $1 for regular Metrobus routes instead of the standard $2. And students going to school get free rides on Metrobus, DC Circulator, and Metrorail within the District.

n

But even with Washingtonu2019s high cost of living, thereu2019s no program focused on helping low-income residents pay transit fares.

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u201cWe will be considering all kinds of programs in the approach to my budget, but we donu2019t have a particular plan to make transit free for everybody,u201d D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser told WAMU in response to a question about New York’s program (it doesn’t make transit free for all).u00a0

n

What Would It Take To Offer The Discount In The District?

n

Already, it can be confusing to figure out how much a trip will cost and to budget accordingly. While Metrobus fares are steady u2014 $2 for regular routes and $4.25 for express u2014 Metrorail fares vary by time of day and the distance between stations.

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These rates could change soon. And if there was any hope for income-based discounts, itu2019s now dwindling.u00a0

n

Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld is proposing a budget for the coming fiscal year that would increase peak fares, offer a flat weekend fare of $2 and expand late-night service for the first time since 2016. The plan would also make transfers between bus and rail free, instead of the current $1.50.

n

u201cNone of us like to raise fares and charge more, particularly during this period where we’re still proving to the community that Metro should be an option of choice,u201d says Christian Dorsey, a Metro board member and chair of the Arlington County board. u201cWe have to recognize that several years ago Metro was underperforming u2014 it was unreliable and certainly wasnu2019t as safe as it should be u2014 and we don’t want to be in the business of pricing people out.u201d

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Dorsey says heu2019d like to see each jurisdiction in the region come up with its own plan to subsidize transit for low-income riders. For instance, he says, some of Arlington Countyu2019s Department of Human Services clients already receive pre-loaded SmartTrip cards, depending on their level of need.

n

u201cI think what makes it easier in New York is that you’re talking about one governmental entity and a transit agency. Easy conversation,u201d says Dorsey.

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Inside D.C.’s Capitol South Metro station.Friscocali / Flickr

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The Benefits Of Support Programs

n

Economic security programs can have a long-term impact on low-income individuals and families. According to research by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, federal and state safety net programs lift an estimated 82,000 Washingtonians above the poverty line each year, reducing the poverty rate from 33% to 19%. u201cMeans-tested programs,u201d which tie eligibility to a personu2019s income u2014 such as SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) and housing assistance u2014 also reduce poverty considerably, especially among the non-elderly.u00a0

n

Dorsey says it would be a muddy path forward implementing a transit subsidy program in the District. Metro would need to figure out details like who is eligible to participate and which department is best suited to run the program. But the overall idea, he says, u201cisnu2019t out of the realm of possibility.u201d

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u201cWe are going to have the conversation at Metro. Let’s just put it that way. It is going to be something that’s on the agenda. I get to say so with confidence,u201d Dorsey says.

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How NYCu2019s Half-Priced MetroCard Program Works

n

According to city officials, New Yorku2019s pilot program was created with its most vulnerable residents in mind.

n

u201cFor families who might be working one or even two or more jobs just to get by, we wanted to make sure that transportation wasn’t the cost that made it even more difficult for them,u201d says Isaac McGinn of the New York City Department of Social Services. As the agency that administers public benefits and other resources to low-income residents, McGinn says his office works in partnership with the city council to operate the transit discount program.

n

To be eligible for the half-priced cards, participants are required to be employed while receiving SNAP or Cash Assistance benefits from the city. The program was recently expanded to include students, and come January, more New Yorkers who live at or below the poverty level will be able to apply through an open enrollment process.

n

u201cExpanding our understanding of what u2018making ends meetu2019 means, I think is absolutely part of what motivated this process,u201d McGinn says. u201cAnd believing that this is a priority, hearing it right from our clients and hearing it from our constituents.u201d

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Other Ways To Help Low-Income Transit Riders

n

Low-income riders in D.C. often find themselves scraping funds from other household budgets to afford transit or skipping fare boxesu00a0at train stations and on buses altogether.u00a0Still, it seems a half-off transit discount is not on the District governmentu2019s radar.

n

The mayor has made recent efforts to help low-income residents manage their transportation costs. She removed the $1 fare for the DC Circulator from last spring through the fall and Bowser also launched a pilot program that gave Ward 7 and 8 residents free taxi rides to Metro stations and nearby grocery stores.

n

According to Katherine Kortum, riders have long protested the $1.50 transfer fee from bus to rail and welcome Wiedefeldu2019s proposal to eliminate it. And she says until the measure is approved, many residents will continue taking longer bus trips to avoid the added cost of connecting to a train.u00a0

n

Kortum says u201cfare cappingu201d should also be considered: the concept of charging SmartTrip card users until they reach the equivalent of what their weekly or monthly pass would cost u2014 and then all trips beyond that point would be free.u00a0

n

u201cEssentially, youu2019re paying for your pass over time since a lot of people donu2019t have the money up front to pay for a weekly or monthly pass,u201d says Kortum. u201c But if you can have them build up to the cost of it, then that makes it possible for them to have the same benefits that are available to the higher income person who does have the money up front to go ahead and pay for the pass.u201d

n

u201cAnd if you can encourage more and more people to be shifting to the monthly pass, whether it be an upfront cost or by virtue of doing it across the course of the month, then it makes the marginal cost of their trips essentially zero,u201d Kortum adds.

n

n","paginatedContent":[],"excerpt":"

Any hope for half-priced Metro fares to be offered in the Washington region seem to be dwindling, with a fare hike included in the transit system’s budget proposal for the coming fiscal year.

n","permalink":"https://wamu.org/story/19/11/07/new-york-offers-half-price-train-and-bus-rides-to-low-income-residents-why-doesnt-d-c/","currentSlug":"new-york-offers-half-price-train-and-bus-rides-to-low-income-residents-why-doesnt-d-c","created":"2019-11-07T07:38:02","modified":"2019-11-07T14:37:51","time":"Nov 07, 2019","timestamp":1573112282,"timestampGMT":1573130282,"imageData":{"caption":"

Fair Fares NYC is a city program to help New Yorkers with low incomes manage their transportation costs. It includes a 50% discount on subway and bus fares. Could a similar program work in the Washington region?

n","description":{"rendered":"

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II","source_url":false},"postMeta":{"inCollectionId":"5204068","person":"1627341","secondaryImage":{"type":"","data":""},"titleOverride":false,"urlOrigin":false,"provider":"WAMU"},"audio":{"audioTitle":"New York Offers Half-Price Train And Bus Rides To Low-Income Residents. Why Doesnu2019t D.C.?","audioFileID":5225131,"audioFile":"https://downloads.wamu.org/mp3/nw/19/11/web_lowincomemetro-simons.mp3","audioLength":"5:12","audioOffset":"","postPermalink":"https://wamu.org/story/19/11/07/new-york-offers-half-price-train-and-bus-rides-to-low-income-residents-why-doesnt-d-c/","audioSlug":"WAMU"},"beat":"Transportation","beatSlug":"transportation","slug":{"name":"WAMU","permalink":"https://wamu.org/provider/wamu/","categoryName":"","providerClass":"provider-internal","flagSlug":"","flagText":""},"promoted":"","headMeta":{"title":"As The D.C. 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Lawmakers For Financial Relief","content":"

A well-attended public hearing in the D.C. Council sent a clear message to lawmakers: Small and minority-owned businesses need help staying afloat.

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Dozens of witnesses testified before members of the Business and Economic Development committee Wednesday on a trio of bills introduced by committee chairman Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5) and member Charles Allen (D-Ward 6) that would offer financial assistance to small and “legacy” businesses facing high rents and intense competition from national retailers.

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What’s In The Bills

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  • The “Protecting Local Area Commercial Enterprises (PLACE) Amendment Act,” introduced by Council member Kenyan McDuffie, would establish a Legacy Business Program to issue grants to longstanding, financially healthy businesses that “would be likely to continue operating but for rising rent.”
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  • The “Small and Local Business Assistance Amendment Act,” introduced by Council member Charles Allen, offers a tax credit to eligible local businesses to offset rent and property taxes. It would also guarantee rent payments to landlords if qualifying tenants become unable to pay, which could encourage landlords to lease to local businesses instead of national chains.
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  • The “Longtime Resident Business Preservation Amendment Act,” also introduced by Allen, would offer longstanding local businesses grants and low-interest loans to pay for capital improvements and operating expenses. It also would supplement rents u2014 up to 10% u2014 paid to landlords who sign long-term leases with longtime resident businesses.
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Proprietors, local business advocates, ANC commissioners and others described a crush of challenges facing small business owners in the District, including rent-gouging landlords, high property taxes, excessive regulations and a lack of small commercial spaces, in addition to larger forces like consumers’ migration to big box stores and online shopping.

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Some of those challenges are visibly impacting commercial corridors like lower Georgia Avenue, testifiedu00a0Jennifer Kuiper, neighborhood director of the area’s Main Street program. Despite its prime location near U Street and Howard University, the neighborhood has a 20% commercial vacancy rate, she said u2014 something she attributes to property owners’ unrealistic rent expectations.

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“We are right now looking at losing a business that’s been [here] almost 10 years because their lease is up for renewal, and it’s going up from $6,000 to $10,000,” Kuiper said during an exchange with Council member Allen. “The current owner asserts that this is market-rate, because he’s convinced two other less experienced businesses to move in at that rate. And both of those businesses are at risk of closing.”

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One of the bills, Council member Allen’s “Longtime Resident Business Preservation Amendment Act,” would supplement rents paid to landlords who sign long-term leases with longstanding businesses. Another, the “Small and Local Business Assistance Amendment Act,” guarantees rent payments to property owners if their tenants become unable to pay. The goal, Allen says, is to encourage landlords to rent to local businesses instead of deeper-pocketed chains perceived as less risky.

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The legislation follows the Council’s recent approval of a 10-year tax abatement for Sankofa Video Books & Cafe, a longstanding black-owned business on Georgia Avenue NW that asked the city to help pay its hefty tax bill. Both lawmakers supported the tax break, but they have since acknowledged that granting individual tax breaks is not the most sustainable way to aid small businesses in the District.

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Most witnesses who testified Wednesday agreed that small businesses need support to prevent job loss, a takeover of chains, cultural erasure and deepened economic disenfranchisement of black residents. But many proposed tweaks to the bills and alternative ideas.

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Raj Aggarwal with Think Local First D.C. and BBQ Bus owner Che Ruddell-Tabisola both floated the idea of an inclusionary zoning-type program for commercial property, similar to what the city already has in place for new residential development.

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“Rising rents and property taxes alone don’t force businesses to close. It’s also because our neighbors don’t support us,” said hardware store owneru00a0Gina Schaefer.

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“We require developers building these condos and things to put aside some affordable housing,”u00a0Ruddell-Tabisola said. “What would it look like if we required them to put [aside] some affordable retail space?”

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McDuffie responded that he’s considered a program like that before, and remains open to the idea. But developers view it as a “tough pill to swallow,” the committee chairman said.

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Other ideas raised in testimony included a commercial real-estate version of the city’s Home Purchase Assistance Program (HPAP), which gives financial assistance to eligible homebuyers; a new zoning category for small retailers; and, ambitiously, an overhaul of the way the District assesses commercial properties.

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At one point during the hearing, economist Yesim Sayin Taylor contended that McDuffie and Allen’s bills would amount to little more than bandage solutions if larger changes aren’t made to the city’s business climate.

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“D.C. consistently falls behind Fairfax, Loudoun and Arlington counties in terms of business creation, business retention and business survival,” said Taylor, who leads the business-backed think tank D.C. Policy Center.

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Taylor pointed to findings that D.C. business owners are more likely to attribute low profits to slow business or lost sales, not high rents. District establishments also tend to pay higher wages than employers in the suburbs, Taylor said, and the city’s frequently changing tax regimes have created uncertainty for business owners.

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“If the committee wishes to support these small, local and legacy businesses, it should consider policies with a broader lens,” the economist said.

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Lurking within some testimony was an acknowledgment that consumer behavior is changing, and local businesses are feeling the effects of that, too. Consequently, said hardware store owner Gina Schaefer, the District should consider helping market small businesses.

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“Rising rents and property taxes alone don’t force businesses to close. It’s also because our neighbors don’t support us,” Schaefer said. Massive companies like Target, Walmart and Amazon “sell many of the same things our small businesses do, and people just need to know they have an alternative option.”

n","paginatedContent":[],"excerpt":"

Should small businesses receive financial assistance from the District to stay alive? Proprietors and local business advocates supported that idea in a hearing before the D.C. Council’s business committee.

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Small and “legacy” businesses are facing big challenges in an increasingly expensive D.C. New legislation from two council members would offer them financial assistance.

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The upcoming Purple Line light rail project through the Maryland suburbs is expected to bring new development and opportunities to the area. It will also bring a risk of gentrification as new businesses and housing threaten to push out long-time, often non-white, residents and business owners.u00a0

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Now, these business owners have found a possible ally in JPMorgan Chase. The bank will give out $5 million in grants tou00a0ensure that the Purple Line does not displace existing residents and small businesses. It’s part of the bank’s $25 million, five-year commitment to the Washington region.

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Many local officials welcome Chase’s interest in preventing gentrification. But some wonder whether $5 million is enough, and they hope other wealthy corporations will pitch in.

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Here’s a look at how this initial investment will be spent, and where future investment may be needed.

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Grants For Small Businesses To Open

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Chase says more than 200 small businesses will get support through the $5 million grant. And $1.2 million of it will be managed by the Latino Economic Development Center (LEDC), which serves Latinos and other local underserved groups.

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“$900,000 of that is loan capital to be disseminated to businesses along the Purple Line and $300,000 is to fund our operation which is delivering technical assistance to those same small businesses,” says Marla Bilonick, LEDC executive director.

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Bilonick says the investment is timely, as Latino residents, including some who are undocumented, are opening businesses at “a very high rate.” Rather than taking on an entry-level job or a position where they’re being paid under the table, these individuals are instead choosing to build their own businesses from the ground up.

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LEDC, she says, is there to work with families from the very beginning. The first step is assessing the viability of the business idea.

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“Is this a highly capital-intensive business idea or can it be started with very little capital? What is the status of their formalization of the business u2014 meaning, is it a business that requires licenses and permits? If so, have they obtained those?” Bilonick says. “And if not, can we help them understand what the requirements are?”

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The nonprofit also helps entrepreneurs of color with their business planning needs. Bilonick says LEDC employees walk them through the necessary steps, putting emphasis on how they will reach clients, how they’ll staff those outreach efforts and how they’re going to pay for it.

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Money For Maintaining Existing Small Businesses

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The Purple Line is three years away from opening, but activity is underway around its 21 stations in Prince George’s and Montgomery County.

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The most growth is expected along the eastern side of the Purple Line u2014 between College Park and New Carrollton. There’s more room in this area to add new development without disrupting existing neighborhoods. To the west, areas closer to Silver Spring and Bethesda will likely see more moderate change.

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And that change comes immediately after construction begins. David Harrington, President and CEO of the Prince George’s Chamber of Commerce, says the $5 million is helpful at this time, but the money is not going to last forever.

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“It’s a good first step when you think about the Purple Line and the reduction in foot traffic that may occur for businesses because of the construction,” he says. “But there’s going to have to be more investments so that businesses can be sustained.”

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Chase could not be reached for comment.

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While Harrington is hopeful that the excitement around the Purple Line project will encourage more banks to chip in, he’s calling their attention to small businesses in neighborhoods where getting capital has been difficult.

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“There has to be a maintenance of the quality of life in those communities, particularly along the corridor of New Hampshire Avenue and Adelphi [Road], which I think is going to be the most affected,” he says.

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Keeping Housing Affordable

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It’s not just businesses that are expected to pop up along the Purple Line’s path. As new apartment buildings go up, so can rent u2014 and keeping an eye on prices is key to moderating gentrification.

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Bozzuto Development is planning au00a0new mixed-use projectu00a0in College Park. The $150 million development, which hasnu2019t broken ground yet, will be the first major non-student housing in the area, with room for nearly 400 residents, Bozzutou2019s Jeff Kayce said last spring. He added that he hopes it attracts a mix of university staff, graduate students and young professionals.

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Chase executives have said they want their grant to help create or preserve 1,000 affordable homes along the Purple Line, and to turn neighborhoods into places where residents of various incomes can find opportunity. For that, they’re working with the national nonprofit Enterprise Community Partners (ECP).

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“When we speak and we think about opportunity, we think in terms of access to good transit, good education, good healthcare and good economic mobility and jobs,” says David Bowers, ECP’s vice president and Mid-Atlantic market leader.

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ECP will manage the distribution of the money from Chase, splitting it with LEDC and the National Housing Trust.

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Bowers says local governments do not have sufficient resources to support low and middle-income communities, so he welcomes Chase’s spending. But like Harrington of the Chamber of Commerce, he hopes more money will follow. He says there is an urgent and growing need for more public and private partners to support the region’s most vulnerable, especially in the face of large-scale projects like the Purple Line.

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One grant from one business at one time won’t be enough.

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“When we think of capital investment, land use policy, and how to be smart about potentially reducing costs, it really has to be an ‘all hands on deck’ approach,” Bowers says.

n

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JPMorgan Chase recently announced a $5 million, three-year commitment to help expand access to economic opportunity for local residents and small business owners along the Purple Line light rail corridor.

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The donation by JPMorgan Chase is the largest grant so far for efforts to combat gentrification that could displace residents along the 16-mile route of the light-rail line linking Bethesda and New Carrollton.

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Area Grows Pricier, Can Picking Up A Side Hustle (Or Three) Make A Difference? | WAMU","description":"JPMorgan Chase recently announced a $5 million, three-year commitment to help expand access to economic opportunity for local residents and small business owners along the Purple Line light rail corridor.","canonical":"https://wamu.org/story/19/11/04/how-chase-bank-is-spending-5-million-to-fight-gentrification-in-marylands-suburbs/","featured_image":{"url":"https://wamu.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/DIT_1RlXcAAteQ6.jpg-large-1024x768.jpeg","width":1024,"height":768},"image":"https://wamu.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/wamu-default-og-image.png"},"provider":{"term_id":561,"name":"WAMU","slug":"wamu","term_group":0,"term_taxonomy_id":562,"taxonomy":"wamu_provider","description":"","parent":0,"count":40879,"filter":"raw","permalink":"https://wamu.org/provider/wamu/"}},{"ID":5221823,"guid":"https://wamu.org/story/19/10/31/new-program-offers-d-c-teachers-help-with-down-payment-on-home/","title":"As D.C. Gets Pricier, New Program Offers Teachers Help With Down Payment On Home","content":"

Real estate in D.C. is expensive, and government employees can be some of the first people who are forced to live miles away from where they work. But a new privately funded program promises to lend teachers in D.C. public and charter schools money for half their down payment on a house or condo u2014 up to $120,000.

n

The money comes from Landed, a San Francisco-based financial services company that aims to increase homeownership among public employees, primarily teachers. Landed works in San Francisco, Seattle and Denver, and D.C. is its first location on the East Coast.

n

“Landed tries to be an alternative to that bank of mom and dad that a lot of people have to rely on to access homeownership,” said Alex Lofton, the company’s co-founder. “A lot of folks, including those who work at [D.C. Public Schools], may make enough to afford rent on a month to month basis, but doing that and saving up to get to the 20% down payment is just too challenging.”

n

But in hewing to the adage that there’s no such thing as free money, there is a catch to what Landed is offering: if a teacher decides to sell their house, Landed gets their share of the down paymentu00a0plus 25% of the home’s appreciation. For a house sold at $500,000 that appreciates by $100,000, Landed would get $75,000 u2014 the sum of its $50,000 down payment and $25,000 from the home’s appreciation.

n

But the opposite also applies. “If you end up having to sell in a down market, we’ll take that loss,”u00a0Lofton said, referring to what Landed does as “risk-sharing” and “co-investment.”

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The cost of home buying in D.C. has increased dramatically since the end of the recession, so much so that in August the median price of a freestanding house was $792,000, an attached single-family house was $735,800 and a condo was $461,000, according to data compiled by the D.C. Chief Financial Officer. Of the city’s 37,000 employees, fewer than half live in the city, and the rate is higher for teachers: 65% live in D.C. (There is no comparable data available for charter school teachers.)

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On average, DCPS teachers make $86,644 a year. But according to a study published by real estate firm Zillow in August, teachers in the city pay between 32% and 54% of their salary toward rent, depending on how many years of experience they have, and between 22% and 37% on a mortgage. Thatu2019s slightly lower than cities like San Francisco, San Jose, Denver, Seattle and Boston, but still in the nation’s top 10 most expensive cities for teachers.

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D.C. already offers its workers help buying homes through the Employer Assisted Housing Program, which can provide up to $5,000 in matched funds for a down payment and a deferred loan of up to $20,000. And earlier this year, the District announced a partnership with EagleBank on new mortgage options for employees looking to buy.

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As part of her 2020 budget, Mayor Muriel Bowser also tried to create a $20 million fund to build housing for nurses, police, firefighters and teachers, but the D.C. Council instead converted it to a $14 million package that gives developers who build housing for middle-income workers a break on property taxes.

n

Other cities have gone further: in Newark, New Jersey, there’s a residential development built specifically with teachers in mind. And in San Francisco, the city offers a number of home-buying assistance programs for educators, including a down-payment loan program known as Teacher Next Door.

n

Bowser said Tuesday that Landed’s program will give city workers one more way to cover the cost of a down payment u2014 one of the toughest obstacles in purchasing a home. She also said that there’s significant value in keeping teachers, and all government employees, in the city.

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“We love people to live closer to work and the people they serve, so that they have better context for the work that they do,” she said. “We want them to live closer to work for themselves, too, because we don’t want them to spend so many minutes and hours of their lives in a car. Being closer to work is good for the District, it’s good for them, it’s good for the environment, it’s good for a whole host of reasons.”

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Landed said it has helped 250 teachers across the country buy houses and hopes to grow that number in D.C. Andrew Katz-Moses, a former D.C. teacher who now does financial consulting for educators, said Landed’s program could be valuable for many teachers who struggle to save for a down payment. But he said giving up a share of future appreciation gives him pause, and he would advise teachers to consider all their options.

n

“What could we expect would happen if you just put 10% down and paid private mortgage insurance until you hit 20% equity and you were able to get rid of the PMI?” he said. “We’d want to look really closely at all of those details.”

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Buying a house in an expensive market like D.C. can be tough for a public school teacher. A new program offers up to $120,000 toward a down payment u2014 but there is a catch.

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The median price for a detached single-family home in D.C. approached $800,000 in August, while a rowhouse went for $735,000. That can be far out of reach for most public school teachers.

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If you Google, “How much money should I save for emergencies?” you’ll get a lot of results telling you to set aside between three and six months of expenses. You may also see articles dictating how much money you should have saved by certain points in your life.u00a0

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But according to new research, the bare minimum you need in case of an emergency is much lower than a quarter of a year’s costs: It’s $2,467. That number comes from economists fromu00a0the University of Colorado and Diego Portales University in Chile who looked at 70,274 low-income households across the country.

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Why Save $2,467?

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It amounts to roughly one month of income for lower-income households.u00a0Of course, it won’t protect you from all risks, and it’s not enough to retire on, but saving at least that much significantly lowers a person’s chances of experiencing financial hardship (like skipping rent and bill payments and taking out high-cost loans) if an unexpected expense occurs.

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For the purposes of this study, “low-income” is defined as anyone whose annual income is at or below 200% of the poverty line. Economists focused on these households because behavioral studies suggest they see other savings models as unachievable, discouraging and counterproductive.

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This comes after a Federal Reserve survey said almost half of U.S. households couldn’t easily handle an emergency expense of $400. This is true for more than a third of Washingtonians.

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“Within the District of Columbia, we estimate that more than 40% of households are ‘liquid asset poor’ — meaning that they are only one economic crisis away from falling under the federal poverty line,” says Joseph Leitmann-Santa Cruz, executive director of Capital Area Asset Builders (CAAB),u00a0a nonprofit organization helping low to moderate income District residents save more money.

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Challenges To Saving Money

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While many District residents who participated in a recent focus group conducted by the Urban Institute are saving money for emergencies as well as long-term financial goals, nearly all noted that it was a struggle to save. Respondents listed various reasons for this: transportation expenses, student loan payments and high housing costs are especially hard on budgets. Others said unreliable income and unpredictable employment and hours have left them living paycheck to paycheck.

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“Life happens, and we know that sudden expenses do occur in everybody’s life. So, we need to set ourselves up for success, rather than knowing that we will fail,” Leitmann-Santa Cruz says.

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Families with young children face significant, ongoing child-related expenses u2014 such as daycare, diapers, and formula u2014 that can strain household budgets. Pair these with unexpected shocks and a lack of emergency savings and itu2019s easy to see how these families struggle with financial instability.

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Some employers, the survey found, offer small emergency loans and salary advances, but none of the participants were aware of such programs at their workplaces.

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Leitmann-Santa Cruzu00a0says communities of color fare even worse. Fewer than 60% of those households have savings accounts, while 90% of D.C.’s white households do. That racial disparity is the largest in the country.

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“We know that more than 63% of African Americans and more than 69% of Latinos have not even designated one penny for retirement,” says Leitmann-Santa Cruz. “Those two racial groups within the United States will form more than 50% of the population by 2050. Then it will not be a brown or a black problem, it will be an American crisis.”

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Programs To Help You Save Money

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As families across the Washington region struggle to stay above water, CAAB is working with the D.C. government on a matched savings program to assist the city’s most vulnerable. It’s one of several toolsu00a0CAAB uses to empower residents hailing predominantly from Wards 5, 7 and 8. Other nonprofits, like AARP Foundation, have introduced programs to help their clients stash away money and plan for retirement.

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Theu00a0DC Opportunity Accounts program helps locals build their nest eggs with matching contributions to savings accounts. Participants make regular deposits of up to $1,500 in a savings account for a maximum of 18 months. In exchange, the city and private funders match up to four times that amount, up to $7,500. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced a $1.3 million investment in August.u00a0

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“The [program] empowers residents to pursue their goals of going to college, starting a business, or purchasing a home, which in turn can provide them with pathways to the middle class,u201d Bowser said in a press release.

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The 130 current program participants also take part in financial training sessions. The hope is theyu2019ll walk away with an altered mindset on savings and apply the skills they learn for life.u00a0

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“Some folks may have a hard time with credit, so it helps them improve their credit and helps them with saving and budgeting — not just for a house, but for all the other expenses that come along,” says Stephen C. Taylor, commissioner of the District’s Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking. Taylor’s team oversees the program.

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For many people, of course, the debate over how much money to save is strictly academic. Inflation-adjusted wages remain broadly stagnant as the cost of living continues to rise. When just making ends meet is a struggle, an emergency savings fund might not be a high priority, experts say not having one at all could lead to a dangerous and irreparable domino effect.u00a0

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n","paginatedContent":[],"excerpt":"

Researchers studied lower-income households to see how much money it takes to lower the risk of financial disaster in the event of an unexpected expense.

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Two economists crunched the numbers on more than 70,000 lower-income households nationwide, and theyu2019ve come up with what may be the magic number for emergency savings accounts: $2,467.

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Artists Strike Deal To Open Affordable Studio Space In Northeast","content":"

At first glance, Randolph Place Northeast doesnu2019t seem like it has much going on. An uneven sidewalk is lined with a few rowhouses, a nonprofit bike shop and an empty-looking warehouse.

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But there’s one two-story brick building at the end of the street that seems like it dropped in from a more prosperous future. Its fresh coat of gray-blue paint, newly-installed windows and glass doors contrast starkly with its surroundings. Three prominent D.C. artists u2014 Tim Doud, Linn Meyers and Caitlin Teal Price u2014 greet me at the door.

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For the past two years, the trio has been working to convert this century-old building into studios and an exhibit space for local artists, called STABLE. The building used to be a horse stable for the Nabisco cookie company, and the evidence is still there: a hay pulley here, an early 20th-century wooden beam there.

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Minor architectural oddities aside, STABLE is a space in which most artists would dream of working. It has 21 individual studios, an exhibit space, a shared kitchen and lounge area and a WeWork-style space that eight creatives currently share. The nonprofit’s co-founders said they received about 150 applications for 24 studio slots (some of the 21 studios are shared by two artists).

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“Itu2019s been really wonderful to be in such close proximity to so many amazing artists. It feels like school u2014 Iu2019ve learned so much every single day,” said Mojdeh Rezaeipour, who pays less than $300 for her second-floor studio. (Artists pay by the square foot, and her studio is on the smaller side.) She said she almost didnu2019t apply to STABLE because she didnu2019t think she could afford a newly remodeled studio in D.C.

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D.C. has a vibrant arts scene, but artists here often struggle to find affordable spaces to work. There are only a few buildings devoted to artist studios in the area, including 52 O Street Studios in Truxton Circle, DC Arts Studios in Takoma and Red Dirt Studio in Mt. Rainier, Maryland.

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By contrast,u00a0New York has a vast network of artists, galleries and museums, and other cities like Baltimore and Richmond have cheaper rent and plentiful warehouse space that can be easily converted into studios. Up-and-coming D.C. artists often work out of their houses or suburban studios to save money, which can make it harder for them to connect with fellow artists.

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“Partially because of the architecture of the city, we were invisible,” Meyers said.

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Co-founders Linn Meyers, Caitlin Teal Price and Tim Doud stand in STABLE’s gallery space.Mikaela Lefrak / WAMU

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STABLE’s co-founders began working on their idea for an affordable artist space nearly five years ago. The project gained momentum in the fall of 2017, when the real estate developer Boundary Companies purchased the 12,000-square foot building for about $5.5 million. The company made the STABLE founders a tantalizing deal: It would pay to renovate the building to the artists’ specifications if they could raise $250,000 to launch the nonprofit. They raised the money and were granted a 10-year lease at a below-market rate, which is how STABLE’s co-founders said they can offer artists a more affordable workspace.

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“It speaks to the faith that the developers had in us because we don’t have any track record,” said Price.

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“This is a repeatable model,” Doud added. “Often people haven’t really understood how to work with developers, and we actually did it.” He said thatu00a0Boundary is also developing two apartment complexes nearby.

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Developers often use trendy, vibrant artist spaces like STABLE as a way to attract residents to underutilized areas, but that can also mean that artists find themselves on the front lines of gentrification.

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“I love it here. I come here and it feels like my space,” said Shauntu00e9 Gates, STABLE’s first artist-in-residence. He grew up in the area and still lives nearby. He thinks au00a0community like STABLE, one that supports locals, has been long overdue in his neighborhood u2014 and it directly supports locals like him.

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“Itu2019s been wonderful having a space outside of home to come and work, especially because I have a family now. Itu2019s just helpful for the whole family,” he said.

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So for now, things are looking up. But even though STABLE is just getting started, its founders are already thinking about where to go after their 10-year lease expires. Itu2019s D.C. after all, and in a decade, who knows what the rent here will be.

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D.C. has a vibrant arts scene, but artists here often struggle to find affordable spaces to work. STABLE aims to address that issue.

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Shauntu00e9 Gates is an artist-in-residence at STABLE, a new space for artists in Eckington.

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Artists Band Together To Launch","audioFileID":5218248,"audioFile":"https://downloads.wamu.org/mp3/nw/19/10/web_stablearts-lefrak.mp3","audioLength":"4:37","audioOffset":"","postPermalink":"https://wamu.org/story/19/10/21/d-c-artists-strike-deal-to-open-affordable-studio-space-in-northeast/","audioSlug":"WAMU"},"beat":"Arts & Culture","beatSlug":"arts-culture","slug":{"name":"WAMU","permalink":"https://wamu.org/provider/wamu/","categoryName":"","providerClass":"provider-internal","flagSlug":"","flagText":""},"promoted":"","headMeta":{"title":"As The D.C. Area Grows Pricier, Can Picking Up A Side Hustle (Or Three) Make A Difference? | WAMU","description":"D.C. has a vibrant arts scene, but artists here often struggle to find affordable spaces to work. STABLE aims to address that issue.","canonical":"https://wamu.org/story/19/10/21/d-c-artists-strike-deal-to-open-affordable-studio-space-in-northeast/","featured_image":{"url":"https://wamu.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/ARTIST-1-1024x718.jpg","width":1024,"height":718},"image":"https://wamu.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/wamu-default-og-image.png"},"provider":{"term_id":561,"name":"WAMU","slug":"wamu","term_group":0,"term_taxonomy_id":562,"taxonomy":"wamu_provider","description":"","parent":0,"count":40879,"filter":"raw","permalink":"https://wamu.org/provider/wamu/"}},{"ID":5215988,"guid":"https://wamu.org/story/19/10/15/heres-where-d-c-mayor-bowser-wants-to-put-new-affordable-housing/","title":"Hereu2019s Where D.C. Mayor Bowser Wants To Put New Affordable Housing","content":"

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser set a goal this year to add 12,000 new affordable homes to the city over the next six years. Tuesday, she unveiled her administration’s plan for where those homes will go.

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Bowser wants to significantly increase dedicated affordable housing options in Rock Creek West, which encompasses some of the city’s highest-income neighborhoods. Her administration has set a goal to bring 1,990 affordable housing units to that part of the District by 2025 u2014 more than four times its current amount of 470 affordable homes.

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Where D.C.’s existing dedicated affordable housing is located, by planning area.Provided by D.C. Office Of Planning

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Capitol Hill and Near Northwest are also targeted for big increases because they have the second and third largest shortages of affordable units, according to city data. Meanwhile, large swaths of Northeast, Southeast and Southwest D.C. are considered “on track” to meeting their affordable housing production goals.

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According to a report released Tuesday by the Office of Planning, D.C. has a larger goal to make sure at least 15% of all housing in each planning area is affordable. Rock Creek West, Rock Creek East and Capitol Hill have the most catching up to do to reach those goals, the report says.

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Areas with the biggest shortages of affordable housing are targeted for the biggest increases by 2025.Provided by D.C. Office Of Planning

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Adding 12,000 dedicated affordable units is part of Bowser’s larger goal to produce an additional 36,000 homes in the city u2014 including market-rate units u2014 by 2025.

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How Is “Affordable” Defined?

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In this context, the mayor defines “affordable” in a very particular way: The term refers to homes where rents are subsidized so they don’t exceed 30% of household income. Generally, federal and city affordable housing funds target households earning up to 80% of Median Family Income, which is defined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The D.C. region’s Median Family Income u2014 for a family of four u2014 is currently $121,300.

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The federal government defines the D.C. region’s Median Family Income (MFI). Generally, federal and local affordable housing funds target households earning between 0 and 80% of MFI.D.C. Office of Planning

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How Will The City Pay For All That Housing?

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The mayor hasn’t released a specific plan for how to fund thousands of new affordable units, but the housing report released Tuesday by the Office of Planning says the money will have to come the same way it already does: from a combination of public and private resources.

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The report identifies city subsidies, such as the Housing Production Trust Fund, as a primary means of constructing new affordable homes and preserving what “naturally occurring” (read: non-subsidized) affordable housing remains in D.C. It also mentions “expanded land use incentives and requirements,” like the Inclusionary Zoning program and Planned Unit Developments, which allow developers more density in exchange for community benefits, including affordable units.

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Public land partnerships and “expanded and enhanced voucher programs” are other options, according to the report.

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But without a substantial increase in public funds, the cost of adding or preserving 12,000 affordable units is likely to exceed budget allotments. Buying and preserving a 20-unit apartment building as subsidized affordable housing can run between $8 and $10 million, according to a nonprofit developer WAMU interviewed in 2018. Meanwhile, the Housing Production Trust Fund has a $116 million budget for the 2020 fiscal year.

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What About Neighbors Who Fight Affordable Housing?

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Figuring out the finances is just one of the enormous hurdles standing in the way of solving D.C.’s affordable housing crisis. Another obstacle comes in the form of residents who fight development u2014 aka NIMBYs.

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At a press conference Tuesday, multiple reporters asked Bowser administration officials how they plan to approach the NIMBY (Not in My Backyard) problem. To date, officials have mostly given vague answers to this question (except for that one time the mayor suggested using shame), and they didn’t stray far from that on Tuesday.

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But officials have been taking steps to reduce litigation that jams up housing construction. The biggest step so far was the recently approved amendments to the city’s Comprehensive Plan, which, the administration hopes, will reduce ambiguity in the planning document that allowed activists and residents to file successful appeals of zoning decisions.

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With that achievement under her belt, the mayor urged developers Tuesday to not let angry neighbors scare them away from building housing.

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“I’m discouraging any developer that has the opportunity to build more units so that we can have more affordable housing, to be scared away from the process,” Bowser said. “These units have been held up for too long, and we can’t continue to hear residents across our entire city be concerned about affordability without doing everything that we can to get more units.”

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D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser wants to add 12,000 affordable homes to the city over the next six years. Now she has an idea of where to put them.

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D.C.’s mayor wants to add thousands of affordable housing units to the city by 2025.

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Area Grows Pricier, Can Picking Up A Side Hustle (Or Three) Make A Difference? | WAMU","description":"D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser wants to add 12,000 affordable homes to the city over the next six years. Now she has an idea of where to put them. ","canonical":"https://wamu.org/story/19/10/15/heres-where-d-c-mayor-bowser-wants-to-put-new-affordable-housing/","featured_image":{"url":"https://wamu.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/cairo-dc-ben-schumin-1024x768.jpg","width":1024,"height":768},"image":"https://wamu.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/wamu-default-og-image.png"},"provider":{"term_id":561,"name":"WAMU","slug":"wamu","term_group":0,"term_taxonomy_id":562,"taxonomy":"wamu_provider","description":"","parent":0,"count":40879,"filter":"raw","permalink":"https://wamu.org/provider/wamu/"}},{"ID":5215357,"guid":"https://wamu.org/story/19/10/15/is-it-time-to-tax-teardown-homes-in-montgomery-county/","title":"Is It Time To Tax u2018Teardownu2019 Homes In Montgomery County?","content":"

This story was updated at 10:50 a.m.

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They’re the enemy of historic preservationists and the scourge of otherwise quiet, construction-free neighborhoods. And now, newly built “teardown” homes could become the target of a new tax in suburban Maryland.

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On Tuesday, Montgomery County Council member Evan Glass plans to introduce a bill that would impose new fees on builders who demolish older single-family homes and replace them with new, often much larger ones. The fees would help fund school construction and affordable housing in a jurisdiction that sorely needs both, Glass says.

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“When a $700,000 home is taken off the market and turned into a $1.75 million home, that contributes significantly to the unaffordability of certain communities,” says Councilmember Evan Glass.

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Currently, builders of replacement homes don’t pay the same impact fees as those who build other types of housing, including single-family homes on new lots. Glass estimates that taxing teardowns u2014 which are largely concentrated in wealthy downcounty neighborhoods u2014 could yield an additional $10 million per year.

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The county has issued more than 2,000 demolition permits for single-family homes since 2010, according to Glass’ office.

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“When a $700,000 home is taken off the market and turned into a $1.75 million home, that contributes significantly to the unaffordability of certain communities,” Glass says. “What I’m trying to do is use some of those resources for that new $1.75 million home and contribute to our affordable housing crisis.”

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But critics of the bill say teardowns already contribute plenty to county coffers u2014 and layering on new fees is the wrong move in a county struggling with a housing shortage and sluggish job growth.
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“If you do the math, these new taxes make no sense and wi