Housing Vacancy Crisis in DC

Housing Crisis vs 30,000 Vacancies in DC What is Going On?

The vacancy information is based on the American Housing Survey (AHS)1 conducted biennially by the U.S. Census. The survey asks landlords about vacancy status in terms of the categories below: This table (B25004) represents the 5-year estimate from the AHS for Washington, D.C. This timeframe reflects 60 months of collected data and is the most reliable metric for estimating how many housing units fall into each of these categories. There are also 1-year and 3-year estimates, explained here. The Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) is the smallest level at which the survey reports data.

https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/acs The American Community Survey (ACS) of the US Census provides estimates of vacant units by type of vacancy and calculates estimates of rental and homeowner vacancy rates. Surveys 3 million addresses per year (mandatory survey).

How can there be 30,000 vacant units when we have a housing crisis?

This belies the assumption that building more luxury housing will eventually result in lower cost units trickling down. Luxury units for investment (lots of it foreign) results in developer demand for upzoning to increase density without providing housing to be lived in. What is the good of new housing being kept uninhabited by investors? It stifles free market supply-anddemand and keeps prices of housing high, while allowing bankers and the construction industry to profit.

U.S. real estate remains attractive for illicit money from all over the world. It’s a stable investment that generally maintains or grows in value – and it gives corrupt oligarchs and dictators a potential escape route if they’re ousted from their home countries. But this money drives out honest purchasers and makes cities hotbeds for dirty, unproductive cash. In one part of New York City, for example, the Census Bureau estimated that 30 percent of apartments are unoccupied most of the year.

Legislation is needed to require habitation of units built. After all, owners are not permitted to keep houses vacant on the streets of DC. Why should it be different with condo or apartment buildings?


The Washingtonian, August 3, 2020 — NoMa and H Street apartments are experiencing an 8.2 percent vacancy rate, while developments in Navy Yard and Southwest are seeing 7.7 percent vacancy. The vacancy rates in those areas were less than 5 percent at the same time last year. District-wide, the average vacancy rate in luxury apartments is currently 6.8 percent, compared to 4.1 percent last year.

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