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“The practice of DC not picking up our trash and reducing our property tax bill by only a token amount is not fair, and I think this needs to end”

by Prince Of Petworth March 29, 2016 at 1:00 pm 116 Comments

Photo by PoPville flickr user Phil

“Dear PoPville,

As you know it’s the time of the year when the DC government mails new property assessments. Not unexpectedly, my tax is increasing by the maximum allowable this year, like last year and the year before that. I understand prices are rising in the city, but what incenses me is the lack of services I actually get for my property tax. I’m not sure how many people know this, but if you live in a building that has 4 housing units or more, the city doesn’t pick up your trash. Your building has to arrange for private trash pickup, paid for by a portion of your condo or coop fee.

Our 4 unit building pays about $140 a month for trash and recycling pickup, $1680 a year. If we have bulk trash, we have to pay extra to the private trash company for each instance and the price depends on the size and weight of the item(s). Periodic bulk trash collection is a service owners of rowhouses receive.

The DC government reduces my property tax bill by $150 a year (IIRC) due to the fact that they are not picking up my trash, but this doesn’t even cover 1/4th of my share of private trash fees, and I highly doubt that our building is paying on the high end. I assume the other units in my building are receiving the same deduction. As far as I know, condo dwellers pay the same property tax rate as owners of rowhouses (as a % of assessed value), but we are obviously not receiving the same services.

So consider the ridiculousness of an owner of a $600K condo paying more in property tax than the rowhouse owner next door (with the rowhouse being lived in by a family of 4 generating trash or being rented to a group house with 5 inhabitants) who paid $350K for a rowhouse bought 20 years ago, whereby the city won’t pick up the trash of the condo unit.

I feel like we are getting hit with a double whammy – as condo dwellers are also less likely to have children attending public schools (another debate entirely). And by the way- before anyone chimes in – I’m fine with paying for public schools … at least in this case, DC doesn’t deny condo dwellers the right to send their children to public school.

The practice of DC not picking up our trash and reducing our property tax bill by only a token amount is not fair, and I think this needs to end. Either DC should pick up our trash or reduce our tax bill by what we actually have to pay for private trash service, or at least by a meaningful amount like the city-wide industry average. (I’m willing to bet that the average isn’t $150/year a condo).

DC government operates with a surplus so it’s not like they can’t afford to pay us back.”

  • Doc

    Does anyone know the origin of the 4 unit cutoff? I’m assuming this exist because the regular DC trash trucks are not equipped to handle dumpsters and it isn’t cost effective to have an additional set of trucks to handle large condo buildings. However, I would think that with a building with up to say 10 units, each unit could have regular trash and recycling cans which would be put out in the alley in a orderly fashion on trash day. Obviously, the building would have to have a place to store the cans when not in use, but I’m guessing a dumpster takes up just about as much room.

    This obviously doesn’t help people who live in 50 unit buildings, but it seems odd that a 4 unit building and a 100 unit building are treated them same.

    • navyard

      I live directly behind and share my alley with two 3-unit buildings. So on trash days, there are 6 trash cans and 6 recycling supercans in the alley from those two buildings, plus all the individual bins from the other rowhouses. On trash days, I often cannot pull my car out of my garage because all of the bins in the alleyway. So, I don’t agree with the idea that each unit should have its own bin in a building with “up to 10” units. And putting them in an “orderly fashion”? Ha! My next car will be a bumper car due to all the times I’ve hit those bins to get into or out of my own garage.

  • I only pick up Cash.

    I quote from the good website Wikipdia:

    “Kleptocracy, alternatively cleptocracy or kleptarchy, (from Greek: κλέπτης – kleptēs, “thief”[1] and κράτος – kratos, “power, rule”,[2] hence “rule by thieves”) is a term applied to a government seen as having a particularly severe and systemic problem with officials or a ruling class (collectively, kleptocrats) taking advantage of corruption to extend their personal wealth and political power. Typically this system involves the embezzlement of state funds at the expense of the wider population, sometimes without even the pretense of honest service.”

  • GBinCH

    I 100% agree with the OP. Same issue here – I’m in a small condo building and we pay a lot of our trash removal. I pay my taxes just like the owner of a row house but I’m being denied a basic city service. I imagine the argument for this was that condos increase population density and, therefore, tax city services (only so many trucks, etc) to a greater degree. So maybe my taxes should go towards more trucks/salaries, etc.

    • anonymous

      I always assumed it was because condos are a fairly new form of ownership, having only been around a few decades. And multifamily buildings before that were mostly for-profit enterprises, where the owner was responsible for the trash as a cost of doing business, just as a commercial business would. Coops, which have been around a lot longer excepted, obviously, but there were always far less of them than rental buildings, and even they likely seemed more like corporate entities (which they are), more similar to rental buildings.

      • textdoc

        I think when it comes to trash pickup, condos aren’t differentiated from multifamily apartment buildings.

      • annonny

        I previously lived in a DC co-op and it was the same raw deal the OP writes about. I live in a house now, but agree with OP that the “rebate” on the taxes for condos and co-ops should be adjusted to close to market rate for trash collections.

  • Anon Spock

    The govt would have to get trash bills from how many buildings? How would we know they aren’t artificially inflated?
    For my building, we play less than 150/unit/year for trash service

    • [rrrrr]

      Well don’t keep us in the dark, who is your company?
      Tenleytown Trash for a four unit condo building is $139/month, right in line with OP.
      My tax credit is higher than OP, works out to be about half of the total.

  • anon

    Just for reference….I recently moved to PA and I pay $189/ year to our township for pick up 1 trash can every week, XL trash cans or mutiples are charged more. My property/school taxes on a $400k house is $6700/year.

    • Anon Spock

      Dc folks don’t appreciate how cheap property taxes are here. It would half that here.

      • dcd


      • BookaholicAnonymous

        +1. I think it’s easy to forget how good DC residents have it when it comes to property taxes. My sister and her family live in a town in Massachusetts where the property tax rate is much higher than DC and my brother-in-law loads up the family trash and drives it to the town dump himself. And they pay a yearly fee *on top of* their already high property taxes for the privilege of hauling their own garbage in the family car.

      • Dc

        Yeah but property values are high, as are income taxes

    • Fredinando

      How are the public schools in PA? Do you get good services for your tax dollars? I’m not seeing the ROI with my DC taxes.

  • anon

    The $150 deduction isn’t enough to cover your private cost of obtaining trash pickup, but maybe it is the city returning to you of the actual public cost of providing this service, which might be cheaper due to economies of scale. I hear you on the 4-unit cutoff, and maybe the city should be picking up trash for smaller buildings where trash is in individual cans. But for larger condos why should the city pay for the private cost of a dumpster-pickup service?

    Of course I could be totally wrong and the $150 deduction could be too low by any reasonable measure.

    • textdoc

      These seem like good points.

    • swootang

      This is my guess as well. I don’t think the city should take a loss for condos, just refund the amount that they city would otherwise pay for collection on that building.

    • This. At best the argument is that you should get back what it costs the city to do the rowhouse next door, not what it costs you to have private pickup.

  • BookaholicAnonymous

    The four-unit limitation was in place when I bought my first place in 2005 (if not sooner), and while it wasn’t the highest item on my priorities list, I did consider it as a factor when weighing condos in different-sized buildings. Unless you bought your place more than 10 years ago, did you not consider this when you moved? And have you reached out to either your council member or an at-large member to see if you can get this law changed?

    • +1
      I knew this when I bought my condo. I was thankful I even got a slight break as there are tons of services DC provides thru property taxes that not all property owners receive.

  • john

    And then there’s this….. we as a condo have to pay a private plow company to clear the public alley so our private trash collector can reach our dumpsters

    • Anon Spock

      No alleys are plowed, so homeowners just aren’t getting trash service if it’s done via alley.

      • PetworthMom


        I live in a rowhouse and didn’t have trash service during the blizzard as our alley wasn’t cleared.

        That isn’t specific to condos.

    • ZetteZelle

      Whereas no-one plows our alley, and we don’t see any city trash pickup until the snow melts (we went 3 weeks once). It’s debatable which of us has it better.

      • dunning-kruger

        This is one of the main reasons why as a building manager I’m ok with the current system even though I’d rather not pay. Doesn’t matter whose responsibility it is, if I didn’t get trash picked up for 3 weeks it would be a huge mess both literally and figuratively. I’m sure this is not unique to my building but we barely have room for 2-3 days of overflow let alone weeks.

      • pacerguy00

        Not to mention the fact that when the Government shuts down, trash collectors are non-essential personnel, so we don’t get our trash picked up then either.

        • Nothere

          Actually, this is not correct DPW employees shift from trash collection to snow removal when it snows.

    • It’s just me

      Our alleys aren’t plowed. Our trash was picked up (4-unit condo building) and our neighbors were left for well over a week with no city trash pick up. So, we got better service.

  • Tig

    I find OP’s perspective a bit narrow. No individual citizen uses every single city service — it’s a package of programs that make sense for the city as a whole. You wouldn’t ask for a refund of your portion of library spending just because you chose to buy all your books. In the case of trash, the cutoff is necessarily arbitrary, but it reflects the reality that picking up trash from a bigger building is more operationally complicated. I lived in a condo building for 5 years, and I found the fact that I got a property tax credit for trash to be a little silly.

    • dcd

      Well said. This is really the best point in the entire thread.

    • textdoc

      +1 to Tig.

    • Emmaleigh504


    • MtpleasantResident

      The difference is this though – anyone can go to the library and borrow a book. The city doesn’t ask you if you live in a condo and then deny you a public good based on your status as a condo owner. Or go to a park. Or use a road. Why should your status as a condo owner deny you access to a service? Especially one that you have paid for?

      • BookaholicAnonymous

        But you’re not paying for the city to pick up your garbage–the city refunds the amount that it would have spent on your trash collection. The fact that the refund isn’t enough to cover private trash pickup is likely an issue with economies of scale. Small buildings could work with private property management companies to get a rate for several buildings at once (my building’s overall cost went down considerably when we worked with a new management company to piggyback onto contracts they already had in place for other buildings nearby). If a condo doesn’t want to work with a management company, they could try to get together with other small condo buildings in their neighborhood to negotiate a better per unit rate.

        • dcd

          “the city refunds the amount that it would have spent on your trash collection.”
          Yes. Here’s the city’s thought process: We have decided not to pick up trash at a defined category of buildings. It would have cost us $X per unit to pick up that trash; therefore, we’ll credit that amount to the homeowner.” They’re not going to determine the amount of the credit on the homeowner’s out of pocket costs.
          Now, “the credit should be higher,” is a reasonable position. Even better, “the amount of the credit was decided 28 years ago (I’m making that up), and really should be revisited, or indexed with inflation” is a good argument. That said, the level of outrage here seels a little misplaced. “Incensed?” Really?

      • CHGal

        “Your status as a condo owner” is something you chose. Just like someone who chooses not to have children, read books, or use the metro.

    • ET

      I don’t have kids but since moving to the city and then buying a house I pay have put out a lot of money for public schools.

    • DC_Chica

      +1 I’m curious to know whether the OP really thinks they’re making a valid argument, or if they just wanted to start a discussion

  • Renee

    Related but off topic, have others actually had their tax assessment go down this year? Each of the condos in our building have had their assessment go down yet neighboring buildings have gone up. There is nothing to indicate that our building was singled out for any reason. I’m not complaining and don’t want to ask the tax office directly for fear they will say it was an oops but I’m curious.

  • dcd

    First, I’m having trouble harmonizing these two sentences:
    “As far as I know, condo dwellers pay the same property tax rate as owners of rowhouses (as a % of assessed value), but we are obviously not receiving the same services.”
    “an owner of a $600K condo paying more in property tax than the rowhouse owner next door (with the rowhouse being lived in by a family of 4 generating trash or being rented to a group house with 5 inhabitants) who paid $350K for a rowhouse bought 20 years ago,”
    Why would the rowhouse owner pay less in property taxes? Taxes are periodically reassessed. The taxable value for that rowhouse almost certainly isn’t $350,000.
    To your larger point, though, the city isn’t going to start picking up all residential trash (see comment above re dumpsters), nor are they going to start reimbursing actual cost (what an administrative nightmare, and one ripe for fraudulent claims). Perhaps upping the amount of the reduction would work, but at the end of the day, the city is going to credit you the cost (or a little less) it saves by eliminating trash pickup, not the cost you incur. Sorry.

    • PetworthMom

      I was also trying to wrap my brain around this concept.

      The only thing that makes sense is if the rowhouse are still assessed at a lower price level. Perhaps they aren’t rehabbed or as large?

      • Adriana

        Yes.. people don’t realize that our property taxes can be significantly different on 2 properties with identical assessments. This is because if you have a homestead exemption, your rate of property tax increase is capped at 10%. per year. So it basically benefits established types, but young people entering the market are hosed and pay more than their fair share.

        • HaileUnlikely

          Think of it this way: people who bought recently knew how much they were paying and what the tax would be on it. Thus I think it is by definition fair that they pay that tax. In contrast, somebody who bought the house next door in 1980 for $50K bears little responsibility for hipsters and developers bidding property “values” up to the obscene levels where they now are, so it would be kind of unfair to allow their tax to increase by a multiple of 10 in a span of only a few years. Also realize this: no neighborhood ever has, nor is ever likely to, have real values increase by 10% every year, year after year, for multiple decades. The taxes of the “established types” will catch up to those of the new owners. The point of the 10% cap is to protect non-rich people from having their taxes increase from like $2000/year to like $10,000/year in the span of only a couple of years. Let’s be serious here: what would *you* do if your property taxes quadrupled next year, and quadrupled again the year after that?

    • ZetteZelle

      For properties eligible for the Homestead deduction, tax increases are capped at 10%/year (and senior citizens receive a further discount). We’ve been in our house 10 years, and thanks to the caps are paying taxes on an assessed value $50K less than the actual assessment ($120K less if you include the Homestead deduction).

      • dcd

        Condo owners get the Homestead deduction, too. Also, that’s got nothing to do with OP’s trash frustration – it was just a little gratuitous griping about other sections of the tax code.

    • anon

      Reading between the lines on the $350K stmt–OP is a typical newcomer jealous of the gains appreciated by old time owners, and likely also looking down on the types of people that purchased in the area when prices were lowers.
      Also, there are yearly percentage limits to tax reassessments. It is possible that long time owners are not paying taxes on market value rates in areas that have rapidly appreciated.
      It does boggle the mind that this OP can afford a $600k condo, and likely has the requisite education/income to access such capital, and not understand that the credit is the actual cost incurred to the district.

      • llucas


  • Chris

    If you just paid $600k for a condo, I suggest you suck it up and pay the extra $270 a year for private trash pickup.

    –Guy next door who paid $350k for his rowhouse.

  • Morton

    Heck, I’d take a $150 tax credit NOT to have DPW pick up my trash. At least if I paid a private hauler, they might actually empty my can rather than just taking a single bag off the top and leaving the rest to rot…

  • textdoc

    OP, your paragraphs with the $600K condo/$350K rowhouse comparison and about the issue of children attending public schools are not doing your argument any favors. If you elevate this to your councilmember, etc., I’d recommend taking them out.
    The fact that some people bought earlier and others people bought later — and that some people have school-attending kids and some don’t — just isn’t relevant here. You can stew silently to yourself, but those particular arguments aren’t going to win you any sympathy (except perhaps among libertarian types).
    (I say this as a person who bought 5 years ago and has no kids.)

  • anonymouse_dianne

    This was a Jeopardy clue last night – What is taking Umbrage?

  • neighbor

    Counterpont: The availability of trash services is incorporated into the value of your condo by the market. Changing the way the city calculates property tax would just be a huge subsidy to existing condo owners.
    Generally, DC property taxes are very low compared to other similar size cities and you know what you were getting into. Chill out.

  • wdc

    An analogous situation might be, I bought a house that is far from public transportation. I must therefore own a car, drive everywhere, and pay to park downtown. DC should return to me the portion of my taxes that are propping up metro. Since *I* don’t use it. Because I chose to buy somewhere I can’t use it. Right?

    • annonny

      Umm, I don’t think that’s analogous. The city specifically requires multi-unit buildings to use trash haulers. If somebody living far from metro choses not to walk/bike/whatever to the station, that’s not something the city *forces* them to do.

    • Anne

      No an analogy is me trying to get on a bus that stops block from my house And being told I’m not allowed to use it for whatever reason even though I’m a taxpaying resident willing to pay fare.

  • KLB

    As a DC taxpayer I think we all agree that the most important use of surplus funds held by the District is to pay back condo owners who purchased a property knowing these were the rules but feel aggrieved.

    • dcd

      Absolutely. Let’s call it the Hipster/DINK Equity Act of Nevergoingtohappen.

    • Anon

      Right on

    • DCtaxpayer

      As a DC taxpayer, I think that surplus funds should be given back to the taxpayers in the form of reduction in tax. Or at least improvement of service. The government should not be in the business of taxing the hell out of us and then simultaneously providing crappy service.

  • Timebomb

    What a fascinatingly small thing in the world to take umbrage over. Incidentally, this is probably a better and better deal the more units in your building (since cost of private trash pickup probably doesn’t go up all that much from four units to 10 units). Having only four puts you in the worse possible position, which is still a pretty good position in life, all thing considered.

  • Gladys Cravitz

    Ford’s trash removal / hauling – excellent service and price. 202-345-3071

    • dunning-kruger

      This is my guy as well. Ford family is great.

  • also anon

    I don’t really have much sympathy for someone that chose to live in a condo when looking for a place to buy and then complaining about the taxes and city services you do/don’t receive. This should have all been outlined before you bought the condo. If you thought it was unfair you had the option not to buy.

  • As someone whose job involves government budgeting/spending/fees, I think I might have some perspective to offer here. I think at base OP is conflating a “tax” with a “user fee.” User fees are when the government charges you for a service, and you can expect to receive the service you paid for. Taxes, however, the government imposes in all sorts of ways that might appear unfair and unrealted to “what you get out of it”. The reason is that the government doesn’t just use taxes to raise revenue for operational expenses related to the thing which is taxed, but also to either encourage or discourage certain behaviors, as well as redistribute burdens throughout society in a way that they think is politically palatable. Maybe the council views single home ownership as more desirable and thus worth encouraging. Or maybe their constituents tend to be single dwelling home owners. Also, as you alluded to with respect to schools, your property taxes have to do with a lot more other things than just trash pick-up. In general, user fees rarely have any direct relation to how taxes are calculated. I think I see what you’re proposing here — that maybe taxes and user fees *should* be calculated in relation to one another — but I just don’t think that’s a proposal that’s realistic.

    • Now that I think about it an entire government based on a fee-for-service model would make an interesting bureaucrato-dystopian novel.

      • Farragut

        My grad school classmate’s SF novel sort of has that where her city contracts out crimes to be solved to an independent police force. She doesn’t get too much into it, though, since the novel’s themes tend more towards revolution. :-)

        • Ah, I was thinking about that other book you were reading… the bureaucratic fantasy something.

  • ExWalbridgeGuy

    I tried to get worked up about this but ehhh… you win some you lose some. Probably nobody’s tax bill precisely aligns with the services they receive.

  • Cho

    Really a non-issue. Everybody has a gripe with taxes in generally and we can all feel aggrieved in some way. At the end of the day, the Op has chosen to make DC home and its a small price to pay to live in this wonderful city

    • Meh

      Okay fine. But consider this situation. A retiree on a fixed income that just moved into a small condo building has a tax bill of $2k a year. A multimillionaire living in an expensive rowhouse also has a $2K property tax bill due to having bought a long time ago. The multimillionaire gets his trash picked up while the retiree on a fixed income pays for private trash removal.

      All in all, yes there are worse things going on in the city. I just find it odd that the city is allowed to selectively provide a public service.

      • dcd

        ” A multimillionaire living in an expensive rowhouse also has a $2K property tax bill due to having bought a long time ago.”
        How would this happen? Are you under the impression that property tax assessments do not go up over time? I can assure you that isn’t the case.
        This is common. Some kids are bused to school; others aren’t. Some bus routes run with greater frequency than others. Some elementary schools have PS3 and PK4; others don’t. Some streets are swept; others aren’t. The list goes on . . .

        • Meh

          Apparently you don’t understand how property taxes work.

          DC, like many places, caps the rate at which your property tax can increase on your primary residence (10% a year). So even if you leave in a $5M house, but you bought it 30 years ago, you can be paying the same property tax as someone who bought a $800K house today. The $5M house is basically paying the tax rate paid 30 years ago plus a nominal 10% rate in tax per year.

          As for the other examples you’ve brought up, those aren’t good either.

          • dcd

            I understand perfectly, thanks. The 2016 property tax rate is $0.85 per $100 of assessable value. If you subtract out the homestead deduction ($71,700), the assessable value is $728,300, and that new homeowner is paying $6190 in property taxes. In order to have the assessable value of that $5 million property be $728,300, it would have to have been sold for something like $50,000 in 1986. I know prices have gone up, but not like that. But don’t let facts or math intrude on a perceived injustice. Lemme guess, you’re a Trump supporter?
            “As for the other examples you’ve brought up, those aren’t good either.”
            You make a compelling argument. You’ve convinced me.

          • HaileUnlikely

            Apparently you don’t understand how exponential functions work. Anything that today is a $5M house would have still been at least a $200K house 30 years ago, just to lowball the heck out of it. I don’t care enough to look up the marginal tax rates, so I’m just gonna lowball it again: taxes on $200K would be at least $1200/yr (certainly more, but for the purpose of the example, nothing wrong with lowballing it). So take $1200/yr, and increase it by 10% per yer for 30 years. What are the annual property taxes, 30 years later? Almost $21K. Does the owner of an $800K house pay $21K in property taxes? Nope. Thanks for playing, though.

          • math

            All of you suck at math.
            If we want to find the price a house would have to have been 30 years ago for the current assessment to be 5M assuming maximum annual growth of 10% just divide by the annual increase:
            5000/(1.1^30) = 286.5k

          • HaileUnlikely

            You suck at reading. You misunderstood the question.

      • Again, you’re assuming all public services should be universally available, and that taxes should always accurately reflect the level of service, and that just doesn’t happen. Looking at the retiree and the multimillionaire’s property taxes alone it might seem unfair, but that’s too myopic a view to take because the multimillionaire is presumably also paying much more in income taxes.

        • Meh

          Well whatever. I do think all public services should be universally available. It’s called equality under the law.

          • dcd

            Really? Think that through to the endgame and get back to us.

        • Meh

          Oh sorry. How entitled of me to think that because I’m a taxpaying AND fee paying resident that I could use public roads, call the cops, take the metro, flush the toilet etc.

  • Brightwoodian

    On a slightly different note and one I’m sure has been run into the ground on Popville, has anyone ever had success disputing a tax assessment that places your home over 200k higher in value than the rowhouses around it? There are not 200k in improvements between my house and my neighbors. The only difference is that I bought it a 5 years ago vs 30. I’ve tried unsuccessfully to point that out for the last few years. It makes no sense to me but DC doesn’t seem to care what the improvements cost or what they are valuing my neighbors homes at when they calculate my property value. I’ve lost 3 appeals.

    • petworther

      Is that the actual assessment or the taxable assessment? Recall that taxable assessment increases are capped at 10% annually so they could still be on their way up from their 50k 2002 assessment. Also are they unremodeled houses? Frankly 450k would be pushing it for a house that needs a lot of work in Brightwood, and remodeled houses sell for 650 regularly. I wouldn’t call a 200k difference unreasonable.

      • eva

        Exactly. Conversely, my house is assessed at 200k below my next door neighbor’s house. That house was sold last year and because it changed hands the assessment reset. Because my house hasn’t changed hands for nearly 10 and there is a statutory limit to how quickly it can catch up, it will be artificially low for a while (assuming prices remain stable/rise gradually instead of the insanity my neighborhood has seen since I bought).

    • dcd

      How does your assessed value align with your purchase price 5 years ago?

      • Brightwoodian

        I’m way late on responding but my assessed value is 250k higher than what I paid for my house 5 years ago. I have to admit, I was lucky and bought at the bottom of the market. However my house has not appreciated that much in such a short period of time. And I am talking about the actual assessment. My taxable assessment has gone up the max annually at least the last few years. I didn’t pay close attention the first time I received my tax assessment. I noticed the following year. That is the first year I disputed the assessment.

        Also, while I am glad it works out in your favor Eva, it does not make tons of sense to keep your taxable assessment artificially low because your home has not sold in 10 years. I could live with my tax assessment being so high if my neighborhood was assessed at that value. I don’t want to see people taxed out of their homes but the property tax burden should be distributed based on the actual value of the home, not when you moved to the neighborhood. Especially since they put a 10% cap on what the taxable assessment can increase.

        Also my home was partially renovated. For example, I still have old wood floors from the 50s.

  • Jules

    While the property taxes here are low by comparison to other jurisdictions, near and far, the number and quality of services provided is also equally low. The roads and bridges here are grade D- , the schools are very poor in most of the city, the ambulance and fire service are poor, the police are not effective and often seem disinterested in combating crime, it takes FOREVER to get the city agencies (DCRA, DPW, DDOT) to act on commonplace issues, and with all this the city runs a surplus.

    • Brightwoodian

      I hate hearing surplus. The city can’t give money away quick enough to special interests, the poor and soon criminals. We owe around 9 billion in debt. The mayor recently pointed to DC’s poor money management as a justification for all the money she wants to give away to campaign contributors. She basically told us we cant afford a good deal on temporary housing for the homeless because we have so much debt so lets spend more money. The city does not only have a problem with how it distributes tax paid services. The city has a spending problem.

  • Duh

    Your reduction should be equal to the cost the city would incur to remove your trash, not the cost you incur having private trash service.

    You have to get private trash if there are over three units in your building. This isn’t a novel idea. And if you have to get private trash service, you don’t pay tax for public trash service.

    • MtPleasantResident

      fair enough. But if every taxpayer is receiving a service, I should have the right to get my trash picked up as well. It’s ridiculous. On top of that I believe that if $150 is what other residents “pay” for trash pickup, then at the very least, it’s heavily subsidized by the city.

      Why should one population get subsidized goods while the other has to pay market rate. And in the case of DC, condo owners (on the whole) have a lot less money than rowhouse owners.

      • eva

        I would like to see an analysis of this. Many rowhouse owners in DC are elderly and surviving on a combination of social security and small pensions (because they had relatively low paying civil service jobs or worked as something like a teacher or a postman). I would think it’s equally likely that it’s the opposite (condos being in many cases newer and therefore more likely to be purchased by people currently employed at higher rates than the fixed income levels of a retiree).

        And plenty of people buy condos because they prefer to not have to deal with the maintenance of a house–not because they can’t afford one.

        • HaileUnlikely

          I don’t have time to delve into it, but one could investigate this using data from Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. I’d love to see the result if somebody is willing to invest the time to do the analysis.

      • HaileUnlikely

        It costs less for an individual resident because of economies of scale, not because it is being subsidized. I.e., the truck is already there to pick up the garbage from the house before yours and the house after yours, so the incremental cost of also picking up yours is very small. Contrast this with hiring a private service. They are making a special trip to your neighborhood to provide the service to you personally. If not to service you, they wouldn’t even be over there. That’s why it costs more per resident for a 4-unit condo to purchase private trash collection than it costs to add a single house onto an pre-existing DPW garbage truck route, and similarly, why it costs less per resident to pick up trash from a building with 200 units than a building with 4 units.
        Also, I don’t think it’s even approximately true that condo owners on the whole have a lot less money than rowhouse owners. The condo glut is a recent phenomenon. Most condos in DC are owned by people who bought them relatively recently, after the insane spike in property values. Most rowhouse owners have lived in them for a lot longer, paid less for them, and would not be able to afford to buy their own house today if they didn’t already own it. I bought my house a few years ago for a little less than $300K. My next-door neighbor bought her house in the 1970’s for less than $50K. Neither of us could afford to buy our respective houses today, and I really doubt we have more money than most of the owners of the new condos down the street from us. Sure, most people who bought a rowhouse in DC in the past couple years have more money than most people who bought a condo in DC in the last couple years, but that’s an altogether different and irrelevant matter. For the purpose of a discussion about garbage collection, where recency of purchase is irrelevant, I don’t think it’s true that most condo owners have less money than most rowhouse owners.

        • DCresident

          It’s true that from a cash flow perspective you, the rowhouse owner, can have less money than a condo owner. But from a net worth + cash flow perspective, my guess is that rowhouse owners have a lot more than condo owners.

        • anon

          Sorry. If your house appreciated, then that is money you have access to. Maybe you are house poor and have minimal income, but that is your choice to invest all your wealth in a rowhouse.
          If you have more than 20% equity on property west of the river you likely have over 100k in assets–rich. I get that this wasn’t always the case, but at least understand that the housing market has made you rich in a society where most people have zero savings.

          • HaileUnlikely

            Given that the mechanism by which you convert the value of your house into cash is by making it not your house anymore (i.e., either selling it or taking out a home equity line of credit, which you need to have sufficient income to repay in order to get one), I think income is more relevant than non-liquid assets in the context of a discussion about people with sufficient income and assets to buy a DC condo b!tching and moaning about how the city picks up my garbage but not yours.

          • textdoc

            +1 to HaileUnlikely.

      • llucas

        “DC condo owners have a lot less money than row house owners”. Seriously that has to be the most ridiculous out-of-touch comment I’ve read all day. In the meantime, I think I’ll sell my row house in Ft Totten and move to a condo at City Place. Obviously that would be so much more affordable.

        • textdoc

          +1 re. the out-of-touch comment.

        • Anonymous

          Most condos and co-ops in DC are 1BRs selling for $300K or less. Condos =/= Shaw, U Street, Logan, and Dupont. There are tons of condos all over the city. They are certainly selling for significantly less than SFHs.

          • HaileUnlikely

            You’re missing one big detail: many houses in DC have been in the same family for many decades. The financial situation of those families is absolutely nothing like that of people buying houses today. Many of them literally could not buy a $200K condo.

  • Interesting hypothetical question: Does anyone believe that property taxes should be scaled proportional to the number of school-age children that live at the property? Debate.

    • J Street

      Not me. An educated populace is a public good.

      • I agree. I was just pondering the idea that OP seems to be advocating — that taxes should be scaled to the service used/received, and what could happen if that concept is taken too far.

        • dcd

          It’s a great idea! I’m not poor, so I shouldn’t have to pay for government aid to those less fortunate than I. Let the people who use the service pay for it. Also, I’m not old, so let the senior citizens pay for their own programs. I also don’t metro or take the bus, so my pro rata portion of the WMATA subsidy should be returned to me. As someone who pays a boatload in taxes, I wholeheartedly support this idea.
          (Not really. It’s absurd.)

          • Anne

            No. If I try to take the metro tomorrow and I’m told ‘no sorry your kind is not allowed to take the metro but don’t worry – here’s $1 for your trouble. It’s up to you to find alternative transportation’ damn right my tax money shouldn’t be going to metro at all.

            You’re absurd.

          • MtpleasantResident

            DCD – you’re conflating two different things. The point isn’t that I shouldn’t pay for something I don’t use. My taxes also pay for metro, which I don’t use. Or the zoo. Or most roads. But the thing is – I CAN at some point. If rules change where I’m not even ALLOWED to use the metro all or any other public srrvie – and then only given back a token amount to find an alternative.. Well then, that is absurd and unfair.

      • textdoc

        +1 re. an educated populace and on taxes not being a fee-for-service thing.

    • wdc

      Nope! We need to incentivize having kids. We do not want our population growth rate to fall any further. Very bad, economically. And practically, when fewer workers are supporting a larger non-working population. (I’d be totally fine with keeping our numbers up via immigration, but whew, that’s a hard battle these days.) And it’s in everyone’s interest to educate them once they’re here.

      • textdoc

        I don’t think population growth per se is a big deal at the municipal level… but I believe strongly in everyone paying taxes to support public education.

        • textdoc

          With exceptions like Detroit, where the dwindling population has made it harder for the city to provide city services.
          But the issue of having fewer young working people to balance out a larger population of retirees is more of a national-level concern (and perhaps a state-level one too).
          The District has benefited from an influx of young residents who don’t have kids and (largely as a result, IIRC) contribute more to the tax base than what they receive in city services. That’s fine, and the younger/condo/childless residents shouldn’t be whining about it.

  • Anne

    Trash collection is a basic public good like public roads and a court system. It’s silly for the city to deny it to some residents. But DC sucks anyway and this is low on the list of crappy shit DC does.

  • Math

    Let’s do some math here. DPW’s budget is $140M and DPW handles trash and parking enforcement. Assuming parking tickets don’t go back to the DPW, let’s say the trash collection portion operates at $70M a year. Divide $70M and you get 466,000 households. But DCs population is about 600K and there’s no way in hell around 150K people live in apartments while the other 466K people each live in a house. So let’s say 2 people live in single family households so there’s really 233,000 households. In that case the cost per household is $300 a year for trash collection. That’s a minimum as really there are a lot of households housing more than 3 people. So $150 a year is definitely too low as an estimate of the cost of public trash collection per household.

    • More Math

      Sure, based on totally arbitrary numbers, $150 is too low. But based on my arbitrary numbers, only $20M of that $140M DPW budget is for trash collection. Based on that and your equally arbitrary 233,000 household count, trash collection costs $85 per household, so the OP is getting a deal.
      While we’re on the topic of math, if the OP pays one-fourth of the $1,680 in annual trash collection fees, their portion is $420. The tax rebate of $150 would therfore be approximately 35% of their cost rather than less than 1/4 as stated. This doesn’t change the OP’s core argument, but this stuff bugs me. I agree with everyone else though that property taxes are not a fee for service situation.

  • ThatGirl

    Has anyone considered that condos are a relatively recent housing option in DC, but apartments are not??? That being said, apartment buildings are businesses, and businesses in DC provide their own trash removal. So while it’s possible that 4 unit condos bear an undue burden of an outdated trash removal policy, any condo owner knew this before they purchased said condo and sometimes life isn’t fair. Also, if there were an association/collective of condos/HOAs they could negotiate bulk trash removal, thus making their collection fees lower… but that would mean they didn’t get to bitch and moan about being luxury step children.


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