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In last week’s Housing Complex column, Aaron Wiener looked at a practice that’s slowly eroding D.C. affordable housing: “voluntary agreements,” deals between developers and tenants that convert rent-controlled apartment units into market-rate ones. Numerous readers lamented the decreasingly affordable housing market, but Will made the case that rent controls are actually distorting the market for everyone else. “The often large share of rent-controlled units in a market mean any new units (or units with a rent control ‘reset’ at current market rates) are scarce, and rent for higher than they would if no covenants or restrictions were in place in the market,” Will wrote, adding, “The best justification for rent control seems to be insulating a population from unplanned displacement and disruption of their lives caused by changes to their housing costs…but we shouldn’t be blind to the negative effects, which are deadweight loss to the economy, and preference to existing tenants at the expense of those who might like to move to a given area.”
Will probably doesn’t hang out with commenter Mario, who wrote, “God I long for the days when most people were too frightened to come into D.C. let alone live here…I’ll take less restaurants, less services, and more crime if it’d mean a decent apartment close to downtown could be had for $1,000. Not likely. The most desirable central cores of cities are now the playgrounds of the rich that have very little soul.”
One of the subjects of Wiener’s story was Adams Morgan resident Jose Sueiro, who opposes the voluntary agreements that are allowing his building to jack up some rents—and who also sees something missing in modern-day Washington. “Good writing,” Suerio tweeted, “but I remember CP used to have more bite to it.”
Sela, Oy Vey
Last week’s cover story by Rachel Baye on Sela, D.C.’s first Hebrew language immersion charter school, inspired the usual spasms of class anxiety and parental oneupsmanship on the DC Urban Moms and Dads message board. “I’m ready for the DC Vatican City Academy,” snarked one anonymous commenter who apparently is skeptical that a secular curriculum can include Hebrew instruction and lessons about Israeli culture. “While it teaches Latin and engages with the Vatican City culture, your child will learn about the lives of nuns from India, cardinals from Latin America, and the Swiss Guards. Math is taught through coverage of the Vatican Bank scandal! Catechistic topics are covered to gain an understanding of why Vatican citizens do what they do. However, it is in no way a Catholic school.”
Mayor Vince Gray’s plan for D.C. United to build a new soccer stadium at Buzzard Point received mostly plaudits when it was announced. But in last week’s paper, Mike Madden argued that the deal—which involves a series of swaps of city properties for land on the stadium site, where United will pay for the actual construction—only looks like a victory compared deals in which local governments fork over cash to build splashy new sports venues (“Ballers and Cents,” Aug. 2). Reasonable people may disagree on whether a stadium ought to receive any public assistance at all, but reader AMT argued that the deal has more to do with the other properties involved: “The mayor and amenable councilmembers are using the political cover of a stadium deal to dispose of some assets they’d rather be producing tax revenue for the city…The Reeves Center site is one of those, and 300 Indiana Ave NW might be one too. It’s hard to say if the city could have sold these assets straight up…By structuring the deal as land swaps, there’s no cash on the line.”