Dear PoP – Recommend an Affordable Neighborhood

Photo by PoPville flickr user Mylar Bono

“Dear PoP,

After 4 years of paying for overpriced, run-down rentals, I think I’ve finally had it. I love living in DC and would like to continue living here, but paying 60% of my salary towards rent obviously isn’t a long term solution. I’m hoping that someone may have an idea of a neighborhood or part of town that I haven’t yet considered. Are there any affordable neighborhoods out there?”

Back in June we talked about rentals for $1000 or less. But in general, where do you guys think the most affordable but still pleasant places to live are? At a certain point does it just make more sense to live in a group house?

67 Comment

  • Brookland.

  • I can’t say it enough–Brookland!

    And group houses, bleh. Some people are good at it, others aren’t. After two years of living in group houses I realized I just can’t do it. There was always an argument, be it about cleanliness, who is using the kitchen when, who is doing the cleaning, who is taking out the trash, who is in the bathroom when, who is taking up too much space on the DVR, the refrigerator, whatever it is. I was able to pay off a LOT of consumer debt and for that, I don’t regret it, but I now have a wonderful 1 bedroom basement apartment in a single family home in Brookland and I couldn’t be happier!

  • anacostia.
    michigan park
    fort totten

  • If you’re going to look for an affordable neighborhood I would suggest you consider buying. You might be surprised at how cheap you can get in.

  • After searching (and searching and searching) for a new apartment, I gave up on Craigslist and reached out to management companies directly. They will often offer deals and show you apartments that haven’t been advertised yet. Shaw, Brookland and the Convention Center areas are still relatively cheap, but NE is definitely the cheapest option…16th Steet Heights is an inexpensive area, and if you live on the S-bus line, trekking up and down wouldn’t be terrible.

    Trust me, I feel your pain–rent is incredibly overpriced in the DC area. Who can afford a 1-bedroom in Chinatown for $3,000/month?!

    • I saw a 3-bedroom recently for $8000. Really, who what kind of person is willing to pay almost $3000/month to live with roommates?

    • I wholeheartedly second this suggestion and posted as such when the housing for $1000 or less question was debated. You can find better deals, more easily when you skip ads and go directly to management companies. I agree there needs to be more context here with regard to income … what does affordable mean to the OP? For me (staff attorney at a large non-profit) affordable means def under $1000 with most utilities included, no roommates. Found a 1BR in CoHi that fit all of those criteria two years ago and I love it!

      • How do you suggest learning about/contacting management companies?
        to the OP: maybe try 16th St Heights/Shepherd Park/Brightwood/Takoma

  • try the Massachusetts House at 1234 Massachusetts. The apartments are decent sized. They start around $1000 with all utilities included. They are 4 blocks from McPherson Metro and 4 blocks from Logan Circle.

  • I think Mt. Rainier, MD is pretty cool and affordable.

    • It is, but God forbid you mention even the inner suburbs around here!

    • I tried to love Brentwood but the drive/bus ride down Rhode Island Avenue every day was soul killing. The “cool” coffee house at the Brentwood Circle wasn’t cool and staff seemed surprised when a customer ordered coffee. That said there are TONS of affordable whole house rentals in the Cottage City/Brentwood/Mt. Ranier/Hyattsville area. Also possibly Bunker Hill? I’m down on Brookland lately since a friend of mine got clonked on the head from behind walking home from the metro and woke up in the hospital.

    • I live in Mt. Rainier and love it, yes it is not DC but I have my doors open and windows open and zero worries. Awesome neighbors and can afford to pay my mortgage. Yeah, I do not have metro close by but something has got to give and I wanted to continue putting food on my table.

  • I paid 675 a month for a huge 1BR in Congress Heights for a year, paid of bills and now I own a house over here,3 blks from the metro, 3BR 2BA with off street parking and a huge back yard for 110k. I’ve been here for 3 years now with no episodes at all.

    Drawback – You will have to travel 10 min to Cap Hill for groceries, gas, convenience etc

    Dept of Homeland will help this area in the future, but right now its affordable.

  • Affordable means absolutely nothing on it’s own – what’s affordable for a big firm lawyer is not the same thing as affordable for a recent college grad working at an NGO. Some context really would help answer the question.

  • dreas – I’m paying about $1200 (plus utilities) for a 2 bedroom in a great neighborhood. I want a place to call my own…group house is out. Safety is a concern.

  • Fort Totten Square apartments – right next to the metro (red, green, yellow lines – and next year the blue line, too) … I think a 2 bedroom is about 1600… and it’s a new building…

  • To the Ft. Totten commenters, what is crime/safety like in the neighborhood? Car required?

    • car? not REQUIRED, but i would prefer to have one there. its rather suburban, though it is serviced by two train lines, Green and Red, and bus lines. theres no walkable commercial area.

      • Well, Silver Spring is a 5 minute metro ride, so is Columbia Heights. Brookland is coming along quite nicely and there developments going in along SD Ave – but that’s not going to change much for a while…
        I live in Fort Totten and didn’t have a car for the first year and it’s o.k. unless you want a grocery store in walking distance…
        Re: crime, well, it’s pretty safe. it’s really a suburb in the city

        • Also quick Metro ride to U Street Gallery place, Nats Park. I typically park and ride Metro to meet friends.
          Pretty quick drive (via Missouri to Military) to upper NW shopping dining.

        • Could be alleviated by using Peapod, I guess

          • I second Fort Totten. I lived in those apartments last year and liked the area so much that we bought a town house three blocks away. The area is substantially cheaper than other areas of the city, and with two seperate metro lines I can get almost anywhere in DC very easily. As for crime, besides a group of ten year olds who were trying to cause trouble I have never had any problems. And for groceries I would either do Peapod or get a granny cart.

    • Going to the grocery store without a car is a bitch, but depending on exactly where you are there are a few corner stores and markets and such on Kennedy and New Hampshire. Also the number of buses around there is great. My boyfriend lives up there and I’m a rather small girl and I feel perfectly comfortable walking around up there (even the big park, if you have to walk through it usually has an officer sitting there at night.)

  • Yeah, what would folks here define as affordable? Plus, there are a ton of other factors consider:

    —whether you’re a single male or female
    —whether you have a car
    —how much being near a Metro matters to you
    —preferences as to living alone or having roommates
    —proximity to nightlife, arts, etc.

    People have different priorities.

    Also, buying doesn’t make sense for everyone. Homeownership costs money aside from mortgage payments and then there’s the constant responsibility. Again, it depends on the person.

  • I’ll get lynched for suggesting the suburbs, but my friend lives in Cheverly (just north of the metro stop), and it is affordable to purchase, neighborhood is friendly, and the lots are relatively large. The homes are older so many are renovation worthy. You have an easy metro ride in, but forget walking/biking.

    I agree with above poster, Brookland is still affordable.

    • Also forget driving. Terrible traffic congestion on all roads in and out of Cheverly.

    • And if by chance you have kids some day, in Cheverly you will need to consider private school tuition….I do not think they have as many charter school options as DC!

    • I have a couple friends who recently bought houses in Cheverly. Places are huge, though need updating throughout, and have big yards. The whole area is very nice looking, almost quaint, and there’s a very strong sense of community.

      Drawbacks: Cheverly Metro isn’t really all that convenient to Cheverly itself. There are buses, but the walk from the Metro is all uphill and starts out on a really busy, pedestrian-unfriendly road. If have to drive into DC (especially downtown), you’ll have to deal with NY Avenue/Route 50. You’ll need a car to do any grocery shopping, and really the closest retail is in Bowie (new Wegmans opening soon nearby, though).

      • My friend who has lived in Cheverly for 25 years says the neighborhood has changed from a commuter bedroom/family community hidden just over the DC line to a slightly scarier/more rentals/more drugs and crime community. As folks age maybe it will make the full circle and be reinvigorated?

        • You can buy a whole lotta house for not a lot of money in Cheverly.

          Too bad the schools are ghastly (on the same level as most DC schools), and that there’s zero retail to speak of nearby. As people have said, you’re either going to Bowie or schlepping into the District to shop for anything.

      • Yea, I second Park View. I pay 595 and I live alone. Park Rd. and Georgia, about 5 minutes from the Metro station. Can’t beat it. I previously lived next door to where I currently in a group house and my rent was 360. That group house actually has an opening coming September.

        The key is to find a neighborhood that has the outward signs of being crappy and crime ridden (drug dealers, housing projects, decrepit houses) but actually. I think I hit a homerun with Park View.

  • I pay $750/month + half utilities in College Park. Metro is a short drive away from my house.

  • I’m having a similar issue… compounded by the fact that I have a (cute, housebroken, 40-lb) dog. I feel like pulling my hair out. Living by myself would be ideal, but I don’t have a car and I can’t afford more than $900-950. Seems like affordable, dog-friendly options are few and far between.

    • Capitol Hill’s good for dog-friendly and affordable options.

      • There’s an apartment complex at the apex of H ST, Benning, Minnesota and Maryland Ave that’s sub $1000.

        • And if you’re looking to buy, you could buy in Rosedale: south of Benning and East of 14th. That’s the next neighborhood ready to pop.

          • If you like TINY TINY houses.

          • Some houses in Rosedale are “small” (2 bedroom) but there are plenty of 3 bedroom rowhouses in that area. I agree Rosedale is ready to blow up.

          • Sorry, since the OP was talking about inexpensive houses in DC I assumed that 4BR/4BA detached houses were off the table.


    • I know exactly what you mean – sometimes I feel like my only option (I have two cats) is to move to a burb like Takoma Park and buy a car.

      • Ha! Why would you need to buy a car to live in TP? Grocery, restaurants, Metro, all right there.

    • I have three rescue pits in Eckington. I rent an entire house on the cheap with a HUGE, fenced-in backyard. It’s so easily accessible to everything, I can never figure out why the neighborhood isn’t more in demand.

  • There are a lot of affordable apartments around Petworth, plus there are also buildings like where the new Yes Organic Market is located that have income restrictions – something like you can’t make over $45K and live in a 1BR. These can be a great option for a recent college grad, or professionals working for a non-profit, etc. Several of my colleagues at work live in building like this – there are several new ones near the metro in Silver Spring as well.

    Silver Spring and Takoma park have some reasonably-priced apartments. A friend is renting a 1BR close to the Silver Spring metro for $1100/month (just rented so this is a 2010 price). Her apartment is newly renovated, central air, dishwasher, etc and from the 11th floor she can see the monuments all the way from MD.

    If you would be OK with a group rental Petworth can offer a really good deal – maybe $600-$800/month per person to share a rowhouse. Since the real estate market has been bad there are many people in the area who are renting out their houses rather than selling them, and there are a growing number of group houses, which should make the area (esp near the metro) popular with younger renters.

    Last, I second the votes for Brookland – there are a lot of apartment buildings in the area, so many to choose from.

  • Come on up to Sixteenth Street Heights! Lots of quasi-legal but supernice basement rentals up here.

  • I rent a whole house right near 13th and H for $1020 a month. The cheaper places aren’t going to be online, they are usually rented by older folks who put signs up. Find a place you like, find some for sale signs with just phone numbers, and call. As soon as something goes on cragislist/etc, it’s going to be overpriced.

    • Great tip. I like the old folks with handwritten signs idea.

      • This does sound like a great idea, especially since it indicates the handwritten sign folks live in the area. I just responded to a CL ad, and the owner of the house said he was on a “mission from God” out in West Africa, so we wouldn’t be able to see the inside of the house before moving in and would have to coordinate everything through a third party… no thanks.

  • Years ago I came up with an idea…get 5 folks $400 each to go in on 2 rental houses, one in the city, one in the mountains. Back then $1200 for city house and $800 country spread worked, would be bit higher now. Ran the country group house for 12 years, got some individual shares down to as low as $100-150/mnth. The City Paper was key to finding the right folk. I am surprised there aren’t more who try such methods to line up nice digs. Multiple House Co-ops + Artist Reteat! If we could just find some equity investors and then sell shares!

  • How about cooperative daycares in Petworth/Parkview/CH to boot, the income could help pay for the retreat.

  • Im happy with eckington, we are in a cool restored/updated rowhouse each payn 700 (3 total) and huge backyard. two of us share the upstairs w 3 bedroom and the 3rd has the finished english bsmt. have deck and tons of yard with monster size garden, even growing corn. its easy to park although i mostly ride my bike. diggin the new bike trail along the metro so i get to h st in a snap. otherwise downhill on rhode island gets me everywhere else. its even still affordable to buy in. been there since 03 and it keeps getting better & i like that its easy to get from there to most other hoods, to cap hill or dupont or up n cap to petworth. everywhere has some bs but good deal for the money a variety of folks.

  • Near Northeast.. basement rentals are cheap. We rent ours for $800 with a parking space.

  • 14th St. corridor north of Arkansas is a great neighborhood with decent apartments for rent.

  • I don’t know what prices are like but what about SW and SE below 395? SE’s development is newer and I think some of the newer places were/are offering some good deals like the 2 Capital Yard project(Axiom is offering 3 months free Jefferson is offering 2 months free – both still pretty pricy,) but places like Onyx may still be pricy. There is a place at 400 M St.

    I can’t speak to some of the older buildings especially in SW, but there is quite a bit of stock. Both are close to various metro stations

    • Those large buildings around the Navy Yard are surprisingly pricey. You can get some good deals renting one of those older rowhouses, but you’d have to consider the crime in these areas. A few years ago I rented a house in SW and there were always crackheads with guns roaming the street. Eventually these crackheads decided to break into my apartment (which I had erroneously assumed was well-protected with bars on the windows/doors and a security system) and destroy or steal almost everything in it.

  • I moved from Fort Totten recently because I wanted to be a bit closer to restaurants/nightlife, but I can’t say enough good things about the building. Rent was REALLY cheap, especially since you’re right across the street from three metro lines, parking included, pool, gym, game room. I never felt unsafe, and often jogged around the neighborhood during the day or walked to the Giant on Riggs and Eastern (about .75 miles away), without feeling uncomfortable. I felt fine walking across the metro parking lot to get home, but wouldn’t roam around by myself late at night, though that’s true in most neighborhoods.

    Our one-bedroom with balcony was just under 1200, and 2 bedrooms started at under 1500-a great deal for someone willing to live with a roommate.

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