Morning Notes

by ARLnow.com March 12, 2013 at 9:00 am 1,910 52 Comments

The demolition of the former Navy Annex on Columbia Pike

Arlington Man Sues Uber — An Arlington man is suing Uber, the online car service reservation company, after he says a driver verbally abused him, spit on him and kicked him out of the car last year. The driver allegedly told the man that he “hates Americans and homosexuals.” [WTOP]

Parents Speak Out Against Boundary Plan — Parents spoke out against proposed elementary school boundary changes at a meeting organized by Arlington Public Schools last night. Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy is expected to present his boundary change recommendation to the School Board on March 21. [Patch]

D.C. Area High on Home ‘Affordability’ — Homes in the D.C. area are more affordable than the national average, according to new figures from the National Association of Home Builders. Of the homes sold in the last quarter of 2012, 78.7 percent could be considered “affordable” to those making the area median income of $105,700, compared to the national average of 74.1 percent. [Sun Gazette]

WWII Spy to Be Buried at ANC — A highly decorated, Swiss-born World War II spy will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery later this month. The family of Rene Joyeuse was initially denied a burial at the cemetery, but the military reversed its decision after a letter-writing campaign by intelligence service veterans. [WJLA, NY Daily News]

  • DeportEmAll

    Interesting stats on the “affordability” issue…

  • G Clifford Prout

    Hamza Abu Sharia better go back home. There are plenty of Americans and homosexuals in America.

    • Theocracies by any other name

      Yes, but Pat Robertson Christianista is hoping to put a halt to the latter.

    • Guest

      He has freedom of religion, so he can say he hates homosexuals and has every right to spit on that man. Good for him!

      He should be sent home to his sand hut if he hates Americans!

      -Official RNC party platform

      • Sherriff’s Gonna Getcha

        on a less hateful note- I had an uber driver take home a group of us one evening and this man kept telling our group how much he hated America. He was from Iraq, his name was Mushtaq and boy was he a bitter Iraqi. He made it seem like he was some political elite over there or something and now in America, everything was so expensive or some crap like that. needless to say, we wont be riding with that man again.

  • Fun with stats

    DC area home “affordability” stats – a great example of misleading statistics. No cross-correlation between WHO is making the median income, WHO is buying the homes, and WHERE they are. The people making the median income and above consist of a small percentage who can afford SFHs in nice areas and a huge bulk of people who are renting. Yet the statistics don’t talk about what percentage of people overall actually bought. They just say of the homes bought. Well, that’s a self-selecting population. What percentage of people are actually buying? Probably pretty low. And that $310k average home price correlates to either places way, way out in the sticks or in not-so-nice areas. So you have a duality of statistics here – the high-income people are bringing up the median income but largely can’t afford to buy where they would like, whereas it’s a whole different subset of people – people buying in Manassas, Stafford, and SE DC – who are making the place look “affordable”.

    • Josh S

      Let’s not forget WHO is providing the statistics and accompanying press release. The NAHB is not exactly a neutral party on this issue.

      • Fun with stats

        Absolutely! I was actually going to add an addendum to my post noting that, while I couldn’t find the actual methodology used (surprise surprise!), I’d bet dollars to donuts that they assumed the 28/36 rule which I personally find to be way aggressive.

        • ARL

          The method is right there – they compare median income to median home price. That’s it. Nothing about qualifications or percentage of income. It simply assumes that the richer you are, the more you can afford to spend on a home.

          • speonjosh

            No, that’s not it. There are still more hidden assumptions. Interest rates, debt to income ratios, how they come up with median home price, etc.

          • ARL

            No, there are no hidden assumptions.

            They simply compare income with home prices. The assumption, which is not hidden, is that people with more income can afford higher priced homes, and those with lower incomes need cheaper homes. Pretty good assumption. The interest rates, etc. don’t change that.

          • speonjosh

            Hokey dokey.

      • thoughtfultoday

        also they do not include cost of transportation. Many middle income people here “drive till they qualify” taking on long and costly commutes in order to have lower housing costs. This adds $$ costs, as well as impacting lifestyle, and imposing costs on the rest of us.

    • GoodOmens

      You also have to realize the 310k price includes condos. Not everyone buys a single family home. Plenty of options available inside the beltway if if you make anywhere near the median income.

      • Fun with stats

        Really? Even using the aggressive 28% rule and median income figure provided here, I get about $2466/mo debt. Assuming an easy but not entirely accurate $500/100k financed you’re talking $493k. Not chump change, and one can certainly find things, but that’s still not going to buy you much in any safe, desirable area inside the beltway.

        • GoodOmens

          I guess it depends on what you are looking for. One or two bedroom condos good enough for a young single person or a young couple? Yes. Three+ bedrooms for a family with school age kids – no.

          Places like Petworth, Ekington etc are all in that price range as well for small family size homes and are becoming safer every day as well.

          I agree you won’t find that dream home in Clarendon for that price but if you are willing to venture a little bit things change dramatically.

          • thoughtfultoday

            “Places like Petworth, Ekington etc are all in that price range as well for small family size homes and are becoming safer every day as well.”
            most any townhouse in Eckington or Petworth for under 500K is going to need major, costly, work, AFAICT. Even on a “bad block” in Petworth.

          • Fun with stats

            Agree with thoughtful. Goodomens is talking about the Petworth and Eckington of 2 years ago. Prices there today absolutely blow my mind.

          • GoodOmens

            These comments I’m posting are getting all out of order. Anyways yes, a single family home can’t be had sub 500k in the areas I listed – but plenty of 2~3 br condos that would make nice family starter homes are available for that price. Remember this is a major city – there are trade offs to living in the city. If you can deal without a yard there are lots of options. If not then yea way out is the only way to go.

          • Thoughtfultoday

            500k is a lot for lots of families with incomes in that range – esp if they can’t afford a substantial downpayment, or have student loans, or whatever (and again, condos come with condo fees). yes this is a big city – so are Chicago and Philly where condos and small THs are much cheaper, and generally more affordable.

          • Sherrifs Gonna Getcha

            Generally also, salaries in Chicago and Philly are lower here as well. Prices in real estate are set by the market, supply & demand. There are many people here that are well compensated, DINKS (duel income, no kids) that can afford to throw cash & income at properties.

            That is also why there are plenty of rental units available. Markets work pretty well in this area.

        • GoodOmens

          Also tons of 2br “condos” in Shirlington for sub 350k.

          • thoughtfultoday

            Redfin shows two listed, both in Fairlington, one is only 1 bath, and they are listed for 335k, which is more expensive than 310k. Oh, and you have to add on the HOA fee to get the total cost in the case of condos.

          • GoodOmens

            You realize I’m replying to a person that would consider 500k affordable with the median salary? I agree you won’t find much sub 310k if you are looking for a 2br.

          • thoughtfultoday

            well then. I thought we were discussing the article, and the meaningfulness of the median unit price (310k) in the article. I agree that households earning the median income can put a roof over their heads in a safe neighborhood inside the beltway. That seems like a low bar for saying the area is affordable to me (what cities are there where someone earning the median area income can’t afford a 1 BR in a decent close in area – NYC maybe – but where else?) , but whatever.

          • GoodOmens

            Arlnow cherry picked from the article. It goes on to state “The Washington area’s affordability was higher than the national average
            of 74.1 percent, although the Washington area placed in the lower half
            of the pack: D.C.’s affordability ranked 155th out of 226 metropolitan
            areas across the nation.” So yea lots of more “affordable” places – but you seem to already know that.

      • thoughtfultoday

        can you find a 2br condo anywhere inside the beltway OR outside the beltway near a metro station in a safe area for 310k or under? Even a 1BR with den and one bath? under 310k either means outside the beltway with no metro, OR a small 1 BR or it means EOTR DC or PG county. Even thats probably optimistic.

        • GoodOmens

          Sub 310k you’re mainly looking at 1br’s and studios. You have to have some tradeoffs if you want to live close to the city.

    • SamW

      Agreed. My boyfriend and I bring home the median income and cannot afford to buy a condo, let alone a SFH in this area.

      • Number_Cruncher

        I did some research for you.

        Median household income in Arlington is about $95,000, according to a
        2012 article here:

        Using a very conservative debt-to-income ratio of 20% (lenders often let
        you go up to 36%), that gives you $1600/month to service your debt.

        Here’s a sense of what loan scenarios you could afford with $1600/month
        to service the debt at current 30-year fixed rates (bankrate shows them
        around 3.45% today, so I’m estimating high):


        Assuming you can afford 20% down, that’s a $431,250 property you could
        buy using my conservative estimates. (When you factor in condo fees,
        taxes, insurance, etc, you’d still almost certainly fall below 25%
        debt-to-income.) Even at 10% down, which is totally doable with a 2nd
        trust, you’re talking about a $380,000 home price.

        Are you saying you can’t find a decent condo in an Arlington ZIP code
        for $380,000-$430,000? There are currently a few in 22201, and many
        more if you’re willing to look in other ZIP codes.

    • ARL

      I don’t get your point.

      The study is about what someone could afford to buy, not what they are actually buying. Are there barriers to buying besides income and price that you think matter?

      Yes, it’s true that home price varies by location. We already know that. Nobody expects many affordable homes in Georgetown or North Arlington. It refers to the entire DC area. Nobody is under the impression that it means the affordability is uniform across the area.

      Your points are excellent, but they don’t make the article misleading.

      • Fun with stats

        I’m obviously not saying everyone SHOULD be able to to afford Gtown or N Arlington – that’s a whole other argument (subsidized housing). What I am saying is that the article fails in its simplicity of painting the whole area with a single broad brush stroke. I do not think that it is accurate to say that a place has a high median income – buoyed by the salaries of people living and working inside the beltway – yet imply that that same area is also affordable, when in fact the affordability statistics are based on home prices from a completely different area. It’s having your cake and eating it too.

        • ARL

          A completely different area? It’s all DC.

          I think most people understand that it’s a crude measure. We all know that not all affordable housing is desirable.

  • Josh S

    Unfortunately for the parents who spoke out against the school boundary reorganization, doing nothing is not an option. And no matter what plan you present, there will be those opposed to it. So, the school board would be well-advised to pick the best plan and get on with it.

    • ArlMom

      I agree. Enough with the town hall meetings. Just make the decision already!

      • ARL

        The town meetings are there so people don’t whine that they didn’t get to speak out about it. Which some will say anyway, of course.

        • Alex an Dria

          In the end it will be “Murphy’s Law” that rules.

    • Soon to be New ES Parent

      That Patch story is pretty amazing: “Several Arlington schools are close to the county’s edge, meaning more
      centrally located elementary schools like Glebe and Taylor are more
      likely to be affected by any change.”

      The Glebe and Taylor walkers are a vocal minority, but a minority nonetheless. Fewer TOTAL Glebe and Taylor kids are affected than just kids leaving Nottingham. And they make up less than half of those moving.

      The idea that we should talk about this more and dismantle the neighborhood schools is absurd. First, unless you add seats, it is a zero sum game that does nothing to address overcrowding. Second, the most overcrowded areas (N. of Lee, W. of Glebe) aren’t going to get any benefit by changing the choice schools. Third, stalling for another year or two isn’t going to fix the fact that folks are going to have to move. The idea that Nottingham and Tuckahoe, with 1 in 5 kids in trailers now, should wait until 1 in 3 are in trailers before we start acting is insulting.

      Personally, I’d be happy to let the vocal minority stay in their schools if they want to. They can have our old “leaning cottages,” and see how they like crushing overcrowding.

      • Confused

        I’m really perplexed by these plans that leave Ashlawn so underenrolled compared to the rest of the schools. Why isn’t APS utilizing the space created by the addition?

  • Jessica

    Really? $750,000 in damages? These types of lawsuits need to stop.

  • novasteve

    So did the passenger file a complaint with the police or report the incident?

  • JohnCullen

    I wonder if those Nazi spies are still buried under the DC water treatment plant in Blue Plains.

  • Craggie

    While the DC area is less affordable than, say, the Baltimore area, there is a long list of metropolitan areas on the east and west coasts far less affordable than the DC area. The Boston area, for example, has arguably had very low affordability ever since the baby boomers started flooding the housing marking during the mid-to-late 1970s. Many are still waiting for 1973 prices.

    • ElExigente

      I don’t think there is a “long” list that is “far” less affordable. I’ll give you Boston, NY, and San Francisco. How long is your list after that?


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