“The 20010 zip code made up by Park View, Columbia Heights and Mt Pleasant is actually paying 62% of their take home income on rent!”

by Prince Of Petworth August 17, 2016 at 3:45 pm 30 Comments

via RadPad

From an email:

“As D.C. rents continue to rise as fast as anywhere in the country, what D.C. residents are feeling it the most in the wallet?

RadPad, the apartment search and rent payment startup, decided to take a look. To do this, it examined thousands of active one-bedroom listings across zip codes in D.C. to get a median one-bedroom apartment price for each postal number.

It then utilized 2015 U.S. Census Data with help from Income by Zip Code to get median household income numbers for each of the same zip codes. From there, RadPad was able to calculate what percentage of monthly take home pay residents from each zip code (after taxes for a single filer) are spending on rent.

And here are some highlights:

  • Middle-class Park View & Mt Pleasant are Being Hit Even Harder in the Wallet than D.C.’s Lowest Income Areas: While thoughts may turn to the lowest income brackets (and rightly so), it’s actually a few middle-class neighborhoods that are feeling it the most in the wallet with rent payments. The 20010 zip code made up by Park View, Columbia Heights and Mt Pleasant is actually paying 62% of their take home income on rent! Compare that with the recommended notion of spending less than 30% of your take home pay on rent.
  • Low Income Areas East and South of the City are Feeling the Rent Pain Though: As you can see from the graphic above, the highest percentage of take home income being spent on rent is largely in the zip codes and neighborhoods that make up the east side of the District of Columbia. This is especially noticeable in the southeast side of the city, in areas including the 20032 zip code (53% of income on rent). Out of all the zip codes we looked at, this area of Congress Heights and Washington Highlands, had the lowest median household income ($34K). Rent price issues for low income households isn’t isolated to D.C. of course. Data released by the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University earlier this year illustrated that 60% of all renter households earn less than $50,000. Furthermore, a third of all renter households earn less than $25,000 a year. 
  • Those in Friendship Heights, Chevy Chase and Penn Quarter are Paying the Least Amount of their Take Home Income on Rent (20%): These areas also make up some of the highest income neighborhoods in the greater D.C. metro area. 

Again the full analysis on the data is here.”

  • Jess

    This is a very misleading analysis. I live in this area, and there is a stark economic divide between long-term residents who are lower income and young professionals who are much higher income living in fancy new places. The people who are renting one bedrooms are the newcomers with the higher incomes. Those in the area with lower incomes/incomes closer to the median, are much more likely to be longer term residents who own their homes or rent bedrooms in homes.

    • Ben

      How people use numbers to lie…. Excellent starting comment and probably has a lot of truth in it. Besides I know of a friend who has a 1BR, makes well below the median income (~63%), signed a lease in the past year (meaning not a long time resident), and pays well below that % in park view.

  • 11th

    Lies, damn lies, and statistics.

    This is laughably bad. I don’t think the people making $66k in Columbia Heights are the same ones renting $2,300/mo. one-bedroom apartments.

  • Jess

    Just to clarify, when I saw lower income, I meant relatively. The neighborhood has many middle class families

  • dcd

    I mean, where to start? There are too many specific criticisms about this “analysis” to enumerate. I’ll just say I immediately thought of the great quote, variously attributed (but I always think of Vin Scully): “People should not use statistics as a drunk uses a lamppost: for support, rather than illumination.”

  • anon

    This data is too crude to draw much of any conclusions at the zipcode level. The only notable takeaway is that areas that uniformly rich (WOTP) are areas where most people can easily afford their rent. Otherwise, everyone’s hovering around the 55ish% mark, give or take a few percent, with the center of the urban core because a little worse off among EOTP+WOTR neighborhoods. EOTR neighborhoods are bleak, as they are on most metrics.

    • dcd

      “Otherwise, everyone’s hovering around the 55ish% mark”
      C’mon, that’s obviously not true.

  • BaileyDog

    But most people don’t live in one bedroom apartments, and many that do have a partner.

  • LGinMtP

    I’m not! :D (and I don’t make very many dollars)

  • jsauri

    If someone making an average salary for his zipcode was looking to rent an average 1 BR, then yes, this is a good rough estimate. But how much of housing is made up of 1 BR rentals, and how much of the population is made up single renters?

    • anon29

      More than you’d think. The majority of the people I know all are single and live in 1BR apartments. Iv’e lived in the DC metro area for 35 years and the past 5 in the city itself.

      • Anon

        I know lots of people who rent 1BRs by themselves. More and more people are choosing to be uncoupled, or in LDRs, and by the time they’re in their late 20’s or 30’s they’re willing to spend more to not live with a roommate.

    • Anon

      The zip code encompasses Mt. P and a good portion of Columbia Heights, including the buildings around DCUSA. There are a ton of one bedroom units in the area. I think the numbers are interesting- they serves as a reminder that housing is crazy expensive in DC and people either have to spend a very large percentage of their income on rent or get creative with their living situation.

      • bruno

        Or bring in more money.

      • Anonymous

        You can find this data on the US Census website. For 20010, the average household size for rental units is above 2. As you pointed out, however, this ZIP code covers some nice homes on the western end and some more dicey areas on the east end.

  • textdoc

    This looks methodologically suspect in a number of ways. It sounds like the Census figures for income aren’t broken down by owners vs. renters, so that’s one significant problem.

    I don’t know if they were browsing listings across (say) Craigslist or if they were looking only at their own listings — I believe RadPad charges a fee, so its listings are likely to be skewed toward more expensive properties.

    Same deal applies if they were looking at rental listings in MRIS. Most rentals don’t involve the services of a real estate agent, and the ones that do are pricier.

    They also don’t seem to have taken into account the phenomenon of group houses, or other room-rental situations (e.g., owner of a two-bedroom house has one tenant).

    Nor does there seem to be any consideration of what a neighborhood’s housing stock is like — numbers of single-family houses (owned or rented), numbers of condo units (owned or rented), number of apartment-building units, etc., etc.

    It’s true that rents in D.C. are high, but I suspect this “study” makes them look higher than they really are.

    It also doesn’t take into account apartment buildings that don’the actually advertise buthe instead list their website/phone number on a sign outside the building.

    • Anon

      The American Community Survey does identify renters v. owners, which is considered Census data and is probably where the numbers originated.

      • also anon

        Right but the post says that they took the median income of the zip code not “median income of the zip code’s renters”.

  • HaileUnlikely

    This does not even deserve to be taken seriously. No need to drive ourselves insane trying to pick apart all of the methodological flaws either. They compared the median of some variable A to the median of some variable B, and concluded something about the mean of (B/A). You can’t do that. That’s not how math works. Details about how income is measured, how housing units are distributed, etc., do not even matter.

    • DC_Chica

      +1 to “That’s not how math works”!

  • victoria

    Wow – I need to raise the rent!

  • neighbor

    The only conclusion I have based on this is to never hire radpad’s analytics team for anything, ever.

    • DC_Chica

      agreed!! I would be fired if I tried to pass this off as “analysis.” (ok, I work for the government so probably not fired, but definitely ridiculed by my colleagues.)

  • revitalizer

    The graphic they prepared has a column for “salary” when it, more accurately, should say average household income. And for the monthly take home pay, I could be wrong, but it looks like they calculated the monthly take home pay using a single tax filer profile when the actual number in the “salary” column is average household income (i.e. likely more than 1 person).

    Also, I’d be interested in seeing more detail about how they derived the 1-bedroom rent number for each zip code. Did they use active listings for just market rate 1-bedroom units? How did they handle the (lower rent) affordable units/subsidized units/IZ units?

    • Anon

      You’re thinking too much. This “report” is altogether meaningless – there’s no point in trying to make any sense out of it.

      • revitalizer

        You’re right! I was attempting to bring some sense to it for my own mind. It’s not worth it as many variables used in this report are misrepresented. Thanks for the reality check.

  • Former Kenyon dweller

    Nah. When we lived in Columbia Heights before Target opened and we paid $3400 for 2 bedrooms, two bathrooms and two parking spaces at the building right at the plaza. We made about $21k per month, but the building only required income of $8500. The data on this article is meant to cause panic.

  • FJ

    Radpad says: based on our thorough analysis of the data on -Radpad!- rent is expensive! Fear not, you can save money by searching Radpad today! This viral “study” and its questionable methodology is brought to you by….

  • Petworth Landlord

    This is not a plug, as I’m not providing my address (nor do I have any vacancies), but I rent a few 1BR with off-street parking in the south end of zip code 20011 for HALF the avg 20010 1BR rental price. I post this often on here: Move up the hill, folks. All the wonders of zip code 20010 are short downhill bike ride from 20011.

  • figby

    I live in an older, rent-controlled apartment in 2005, I was wondering why my rent didn’t go up this year. Does anyone have an idea? Certainly didn’t want to ask the management company. I am way below the going rate.


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