Even Cheap Neighborhoods In Expensive Cities Are Expensive

A blog about business and economics.
April 16 2012 5:42 PM

Even Cheap Neighborhoods In Expensive Cities Are Expensive

Lydia DePillis writes about efforts to spur revitalization in Anacostia, the historic east-of-the-river neighbohrood that's become synonymous in many people's minds with high crime and dilapidated conditions. She concludes:

Lumen8's long-term impact will be measured my how many of those newbies, having learned that Anacostia's not so scary after all, come back. It's doubtful that they will, unless there's something to attract them, like a critical mass of bars, or a great restaurant, or a music venue that plays shows on a consistent basis. Once those arrive, the cycle builds on itself: Gathering places complete the housing affordability equation.
Then, of course, you have to deal with the next problem: Housing un-affordability. At this point, though, that's probably not something Anacostia has to worry about.
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This is perhaps the saddest aspect of the rent is too damn high phenomenon. In too many parts of the United States, lack of amenities and high-quality public services has become the main affordable housing policy. That means that if you succeed in improving living conditions in the places where poor people live, suddenly the poor people can't live there anymore. But another point I would make is that a neighborhood like Anacostia is affordable only relative to even-less-affordable neighborhoods in a very low-affordability city. You can rent an 850 square foot place near the Anacostia Metro Station for $1,300 a month. You can get a slightly larger apartment in downtown Phoenix for $990. Or check out these modern luxury rentals. Even the neighborhoods that Washingtonians are used to thinking of as cheap are in fact expensive, which reduces the disposable incomes of people who live in them and that in turn makes it difficult for businesses in low-income areas to succeed.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

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