Dear PoP – Housing Advice on the Hill (by Nichole)

U.S. Capitol, originally uploaded by NearDC.

“My daughter will be interning from January 12th-May 09 in the Senate building, and we have been trying to locate reputable, temporary housing for her, via the internet. This is quite challenging, since we live in Tennessee, and she will not be traveling to D.C. until two days before she reports to work. Do you have a community bulletin board that is available to the public, which might list rental property? What communities are considered safe and offer a short commute to the Senate building? Any info would be appreciated.”

I was going to take a crack at this but decided to punt it to Nichole who lives on the Hill. So below please find Nichole’s advice.

The first thing I’d recommend is Craigslist for temporary housing. With the transition, rentals are moving quickly with so many new people coming into town. As for neighborhoods, the first I’d recommend is Capitol Hill, which is definitely walking distance to the Senate. The Senate offices are on the Northeast side of the Hill, but really, it’s all walking distance. (I live on the NE side at the corner of 10th and Constitution NE, and one of my neighbors works in the House, the other in the Senate and they both walk to work) The Hill has been experiencing a great rennaissance, and the “safe places” are expanding every year. The “Hill East” area (which is roughly east of 12th St. SE/NE) is becoming a great neighborhood, with several restaurants and the new Harris Teeter grocery store, and easy access to the Potomac Avenue metro.

A little north of Capitol Hill is the H Street area. You might see it called “Atlas District” in listings. This is another great neighborhood, and the demographic is a little younger than Capitol Hill. Prices there should be a little cheaper than on the Hill, and it’s still an easy walk to the Senate buildings. I will be very honest though: a single young girl should be very cautious walking at night. This rule is true of everywhere, even in the nicest of city neighborhoods – but I will say that both the Hill East and H Street areas are constantly evolving and are considered “transitional.” That said, I’d still highly recommend both areas because of their proximity to amenities and the Senate and I don’t think they are unsafe areas.

I took a quick look at craigslist and found a couple of postings that looked promising, depending on your price range: (Continues after the jump)

Some landmarks to consider (a lot of posts will say “near x” which means nothing if you don’t know where “x” is):

Stanton Park (close to Union Station and Senate; the Western part of the Hill; NE quadrant)
Lincoln Park (the Eastern end of the Capitol Hill historic district; very nice and close to bus routes, metro and about 11 blocks from the Capitol; NE and SE quadrants)
Eastern Market (about 8 blocks from the Capitol; a lot of ads say they are near Eastern Market – be sure to ask their address and check google maps; SE quadrant)
Results Gym (on the South side of the Hill; near the highway. Close to the Capitol though, and a pretty nice area – the gym is a neighborhood landmark for the Southeast part of the neighborhood; SE quadrant)
Union Station (on the North side of the Hill; the city’s main Amtrak station and a Metro stop – also close to the H Street area; NE quadrant)
H Street (North of the Capitol; about 9 blocks from the Capitol on the west end of H ST NE. People use H St as a landmark, as in “x blocks off of H St”; NE quadrant)

I don’t like to say, “Oh, that’s a bad neighborhood,” or “Don’t live beyond x street” because our side of the city is constantly changing and there are lovely neighborhoods everywhere. However, I’ve been in the situation where I’m moving to someplace I don’t know very well so I know those kinds of rules can be helpful. While not hard and fast, I’d say, the area bounded on the East by 15th Street (NE and SE), the North on I Street (NE), the South on Virginia Ave. SE (stay north of the 295 overpass) is a safe bet. To the West is downtown, which is very nice too – it’s just a little farther and can be a lot more expensive.

I’d also recommend joining these two yahoo groups that focus on neighborhoods in and around Capitol Hill:

People on there could be helpful.

Of course, there are many other really lovely neighborhoods in NW DC, if she doesn’t mind the additional time commuting, these are just a few ideas near the Hill. Good luck!

23 Comment

  • nichole we’re neighbors! I’m 9th and Constitution!

    Yarmouth Management has been a great resource and they specialize in rentals on the hill and may know of someone in need of a roommate. There is also a young women’s Christian home/dorm thingy nearby who name escapes me that offers temporary lodging and meals. There is also the Heritage Dorms depending on party affiliation. Also WISH (Washington Intern Student Housing) its not cheap but its definitely safe and right on the hill less than 2 blocks from the senate side.

  • In moving to a neighborhood…or the hood as many call it, first, get to know the neighbors who grew up there or lived there for generations, or have social, business, or faith based organizations, churches, that can help in the process, in unsafe areas especially, whether or not one is an intern of staffer on the Hill, there is still unsafe areas especially at night, remembering Georgetown was considered a slum.

  • When I first moved to the Hill and needed clean, reliable, furnished housing I stayed with WISH housing. It is a group house life style and I made great friends. I highly recommend it to anyone.

  • First off congratulations to your daughter on what hopefully we be a wonderful experience. My honest recommendation is to spend the money to take a family trip to DC to see the museums, etc, but at least see what the city is like. Depending where you’re from in Tennessee, DC can be expensive, seem dangerous and in some neighborhoods literally be dangerous, and lack the amenities that you might take for granted.

    I am reminded of a story from my relatives in St Louis who wanted to move to the area and buy a house with about a half acre of land and a pool for $100,000. This was many years ago but even then my jaw dropped because that much land w/ a pool close to the city ran about $600k back then.

    This is where I’m going to diverge from the accepted wisdom here:

    My suggestion to you is that if you’re in or near Memphis, Knoxville, Chattanooga or Nashville that you could handle living in downtown DC in Capitol Hill, BUT if you’re from a more rural suburb and definitely if you’re from a farm, seriously think about a rental in Crystal City or Pentagon City, VA. They are semi-urban, a few subway stops away from downtown, and the people renting space there are quite often military guys from the south and midwest. It isn’t going to be walking distance to work, but if you fear a culture shock of going from a farm sitting on 10 acres to 15,000 people living on 10 acres, then it might be easier to do it if an NCO from Huntsville, AL lives down the hallway in an apartment building and they can commiserate on the lack of BBQ. Your daughter might not get the “full experience” of living and working near the capitol, but I think it might go easier.

    I would also listen carefully to the post above listing the blocks to stay within, not because outside of that area is truly dangerous in a dangerous sense, but I myself can’t live in an area where my neighbors take certain kinds of civility too loosely and they would just drive me crazy if the music was blaring at 11pm.

    But if you’re from the city of Memphis, my concerns are probably overblown. I don’t think anyone here wants someone to return to TN, run for office 20 years later, and have a grudge against DC.

  • A word of advice, if one is from out of town, after dark, stay in well lit areas, avoid dark corners, alleys (unless you live there).
    With panhandlers, refer them to Catholic Charities…they’re on G Street downtown across from the library, and don’t hesitate to read “Street Sense” whose vendors have firsthand knowledge about the streets, in other words, don’t let your guard down in an unfamiliar settings.

  • It’s only for a few months so you can only go so wrong, but getting a place on line is a tough gig, given the block-to-block variation in Hill/DC neighborhoods. As the father of a 16-year-old girl I have a hard time imagining that someone not used to the city would be pleased to have their teenage (?) daughter running around the Atlas District, for example. I mean, my daughter does it, but she’s a hardy vet of DC’s gentrification wars.

    Given the existence of the Metro, it’s easy enough to expand the search to Mt. Pleasant, Columbia Heights, Petworth and so on. I never liked the Hill much (personal prejudice, I admit) and for the money I’d rather spend a little time on the metro and have all the services and delights of Northwest at my doorstep, rather than the slim pickings (especially if the daughter is too young to drink) of Northeast.

    FWIW, if there’s a way to arrange it via this board, my 20-year-old political hack son might have some advice, and maybe a contact or two, if there’s a way to touch base.

    And, speaking as someone who would rather throw themselves in front of a bus than than live in Crystal City (and whose dad was a noncom in Huntsville, AL — 45 years ago) for more than nine consecutive hours, allow me to respectfully disagree with Neener (as much fun as a flame war might be 😉 and suggest that the risks of city living — even if it’s bizarre and frightening — are worth it.

  • Working on the Hill I have to agree with Irving Streete. To me the Hill seems sort of cut off from the rest of the city and deader than a roadkill armadillo after 6PM. Don’t get me wrong, I like Eastern Market and I’m sure there are plenty of swell places to live on the Hill, but it reminds me a lot of the tip of Manhattan — go-go-go in the daytime, abandoned in the night.

    I also agree with Neener, if she’s not used to living in an urban environment, and like a lot of fellow southerners expects folks to say “how-do” when you meet ’em instead of staring blankly or grunting, my guess is she ends up in NOVA. DC isn’t probably an easy city for a city-beginner from the south (although it is small, comparatively).

    Forgive me a bit. I just returned from Texas to the East Coast Zone of Contempt and Disgust and it takes me a while to get re-used to the sourpuss, a-pushin’ an’ a-shovin’, dead-eyed stare culture here.

  • Obviously I’m biased, but the Hill is not dead after 6. It’s so funny to me that you think that because it’s just so wrong. (no offense or anything – but it’s like saying up is down or something) There are so many new (and old) restaurants and bars, and shops (even a mom and pop toy store; every gentrifier’s dream establishment – ha!) and on the H St. side, arts and theatre, and of course, more bars and restaurants. I’m not trying to sell anyone on my neighborhood, but if she reads this and thinks, “Oh, huh. There’s nothing there; I guess I shouldn’t live there,” that’d be a shame b/c it’s simply not true. But again – I’m biased. I love the Hill and didn’t even consider NW the last time I moved back to DC (I’ve moved back to DC a lot).

    The Crystal City/Arlington argument does make a good point though. It’s just so far on the metro, which is annoying only b/c it’s actually really close to the Hill (in my car, it takes me less time to get to Crystal City than to Mt. Pleasant), but the metro route makes it so damn far away. I will say that the Hill (I can’t speak for H St. or Hill East in this case) doesn’t feel “big city.” I know most of my neighbors (though, I don’t know if I know clearbluewater33 – do you have a dog?), people do say hello on the street etc., and when I’m out on my patio in nicer weather, plenty of people stop by just to say hi and have a chat about our dogs, goings on in the neighborhood, or the weather. When my place was broken into, it seemed like the whole block stopped by to see what was going on and make sure everything was okay. I think that’s the same though as any other residential neighborhood.

    But, my point stands – there is stuff going on here after 6! You should stick around and check it out!

  • I think living on the hill could be really great, but the biggest barrier is probably finding a decent place for a good price. A good alternative could be Takoma Park near the metro – a few stops from Union Station (maybe a 15-20 minute ride) and a nice walkable downtown.

  • Nichole, no dog unfortunately, my building doesn’t allow them and I often have trouble feeding and watering myself let alone a pet. Someday when my job doesn’t own my life! I’m on 9th right on the Corner and i love it. The only thing I hate about my apt/location is the 7th day Adventist church on Saturday and the lack of parking if i move my car.

  • Oh, I know right where you are – I always wondered if that was a building or a really weird single family. I have a question for you though – the people who live diagonally across from you (if you’re where I think you are – they’re on the Northeast corner) – do they sell drugs out of their basement window, or something? Their house and yard always look like crap and their are always undesirable looking people milling about. I called 311 to complain that someone was sleeping in their yard once. It was so weird and out of place in this neighborhood – I don’t get it.

    I also have major issues with that church. Once, they put up cones and said we (the people who live here) couldn’t park! (this was years ago) They also used to come to my door at the crack of dawn on Saturday before church and wake me up to preach. They’ve since stopped that – I think one too many pleas of “too hungover for the Lord.” But, they’re not bad neighbors the rest of the week; especially the caretakers. They know my dog by name and are pretty nice.

  • Um, there’s a “their” up there that should be a “there.” I never make that mistake. Damn.

  • WISH (Washington Intern Student Housing) is a scam — way overpriced and poorly run — but Yarmouth is fine for Hill rentals.

  • Another good Hill rental website to check out is

  • Nicole: It’s almost 6PM.

    I’m outta here!


  • That’s a shame Odentex! Stick around someday and I’ll buy you a beer! (although, I’m NW bound this evening… stupid zoo all the way across town!)

  • “Forgive me a bit. I just returned from Texas to the East Coast Zone of Contempt and Disgust and it takes me a while to get re-used to the sourpuss, a-pushin’ an’ a-shovin’, dead-eyed stare culture here.”

    up here in ledroit park people are super friendly – I never experienced strangers greeting you on the street, waving from their porches, etc until I moved here.

  • saf

    Eric in LD – I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks people are friendly here. In my little corner of Petworth people greet you on street.

  • I am if you’re standing in the middle of the intersection of 9th and Constitution facing C street i’m in the SW corner. Its a 4 unit building 2 3 bedrooms and 2 2 bedrooms with 9 people total living there all 20 somethings. The Blue house on the NW side is 3-4 college fratty boys who play a lot of beer pong and never ever close their big picture window so I can watch their TV while im on the toilet and i’m not aware of drug usage at least not blatantly.

    The NE corner is an old lady and her husband and the old lady keeps getting taken to the hospital. I have yet to see anything unsavory and my bedroom window faces that side, but i think that they are just really old and dont have anyone to take care of the house and yard.

    The SE corner is a really nasty lady, i haven’t really interacted with her much but over the summer a girl rang the wrong door bell at about 6ish pm (she wanted our building instead) and the lady screamed at her about having the wrong house. It was odd.

  • Eric & SAF: Where are you from originally? Because DC is not especially friendly to me. This is not to say DC is the worst by a long shot, but on the sliding scale with New York on one end and, say, Savannah on the other, DC is much closer to New York as far as attitude. Granted, you can get a howdy out of most neighbors and people over 50 years old, and some vestiges of southern hospitality remain[*], but just try and get 2 out of 3 store clerks in DC to say “good morning” or “thanks, come again!” — or even to grunt favorably. These sorts of things are not universal, but when you go back to a place where the vast majority of folks are friendly and helpful you do notice it.

    I’ll give you an example: every morning and evening I say “good morning/evening, sir/ma’am” and “thank you, sir/ma’am” when I get on and off the bus and I am joined in this by about 15-25% of the other riders (almost always older folk). To me, failing to say this to the driver is just plain rude (and on the times I forget to, I feel guilty), to others it’s just part of living in a city where you ignore everyone else. Intellectually I know that they aren’t intending to offend anyone, but it still seems very rude. I also understand that some eastern people view overt friendlness, opening doors, holding elevators, as some sort of insult in itself. C’est la vie.

    [*] When I hear DC characterized as a “southern city” it always seems funny to me and reminds me of the joke “DC has the efficiency of a southern city and the personal warmth of a northern one.” I think neither is completely true, BTW, but I wouldn’t call DC a southern city anymore.

  • Suggesting H Street for a 18 year old girl from out of town is outright CRAZY. I stopped reading right there. That is one horrible suggestion.

    That said, I don’t know why anyone would ask for recommendations without stating their budget, and willingness/unwillingness to deal with roomates.

    Personally, I would recommend GWU summer housing (in the dorms). Sure, you can do better, but if you are out of town you can’t tell much by looking at the pictures and you certainly can’t judge your potential roomates over the phone. With GWU housing, you are in a safe ‘hood, close to the Hill, and among other young people in similar situation.

    Capitol Hill is OK as well, but it may be a pain to find a decent place. Lots of interns and low level hill workers live in filth and substandard run down housing here. At least it’s safe, but the housing that is reasonably priced is very hit and miss.

  • I know that WISH housing has been around for a while and alot of people have used them, but when I stayed this past fall it was awful. The properties are run down, no heat service (during winter), at times no water services, old furniture and appliances etc. I know that some of other residents had compliants too, the problem is that it is conveniantly located. But the price vs the quality is ridiculous.

    Just say no… and save yourself money and the headache.

Comments are closed.