Tuesday, March 25, 2008

dc rents are ridiculous, or where is my big gulp?!

As my one-year anniversary of living in lovely, retardulous Washington, DC, quickly approaches, I'm faced with a fairly major decision. Should I move? Oh no! Of course I don't mean move to a different city (my work here is not even close to done), I mean should I move to a different apartment.

See, under DC law, my rent is slated to go up 5 percent come May, which means I'd be paying over $1,000 a month (plus utilities) to live in a studio the size of a Super 8 motel room. Zoinks!

And while I don't mind Super 8-sized rooms, it can get a little clausterphobic if that's the only room you've got. OK, I also have a bathroom, which, again matches that found in a Super 8. It's nothing special, but it's clean and I get decent water pressure. I'm wondering, however, am I getting ripped off? Can my $1,000+ per month stretch to pay for, say, the luxuries of a Holiday Inn Express in DC?

Sadly, after a quick perusal of Craigslist, it seems I may actually be getting a good deal. With keyword parameters limiting my search to my current neighborhood, Columbia Heights, and capping my price limit at $1,050, I found that my only choice if I want to move to a bigger place and still live alone is to move to a basement. Oh, I'm sorry, I mean "English basement." Now what's the difference between a regular American basement and a special English basement? Accomodations wise, I have no clue, but the former is clearly more patriotic than the latter, meaning I'll see "English basements" in hell (USA!). Moving on...

I tried to check the roommates section, but honestly, the idea of moving in with a stranger via Craigslist (even though I did it successfully in Manhattan) makes me a little nervous, especially after nearly a year of living alone. I mean, would I have to start wearing pants around the house again? That's just not for me.

And so, I think I'm resigned to keep my Super 8 lifestyle for at least another year, which I must say makes me a little angry. I mean, seriously, DC is not Manhattan. Hell, DC isn't even Boston. So when I see the rents here edging up closer to the rents in those cities, it quite honestly makes me angry. (For the record, a 2005 survey ranked Washington, DC, the ninth most expensive place to rent an apartment. It's more expensive than Chicago, Minneapolis, Miami, Austin and Seattle, which are all arguably objectively much cooler cities than DC.) Seriously, what the f*ck are we paying so much money for here? The hot nightlife? Um... The spectacular shopping? Uh... Well, then what about the convenience of a well-stocked corner store? I wish! Seriously, can someone please explain to me why it's so hard to find a goddamn Big Gulp on 16th Street? Is this a major city or not!?

So basically, we're paying ridiculous rents for sh*tty apartments so we can be near others also paying ridiculous rents for sh*tty apartments. (Conclusion: Whoever was in charge of zoning in DC was an idiot.)

The rental market here truly makes no sense. Unlike New York and Boston, there isn't a housing shortage here, so there is no excuse for prices to be going up. I should probably just buy. Oh, wait! Thanks to the Feds' meddling and George Bush's being "on top of" the economy, I can't! Several of the buildings I was thinking about purchasing into have now been reslated to become rental units. Yay! More apartments I can't afford!

I think the lesson to be learned here is that I need to start a pyramid scheme. Who's with me?

Anyway, on a very quick and very different note, my little McLaughlin Group post has been singled out for its awesomeness again, this time by Washington City Paper. Now if only I got paid for that. Dammit.


Shannon said...

That's what you get for living among the hipsters -- come on down to Southwest. The rents are a bit cheaper and often include utilities. Plus you can bask in my aura of awesome.

Marissa said...

Lest you forget, I, apparently, am a hipster. Although I was thinking of hightailing it to the so-called "NoMa" area, where I can hustle NPR employees at street dice.

C said...

I use to live in Southwest-- my girlfriend and I each paid $800 a month to live in a spacious rowhouse, and I could walk to work! It was pretty sweet until someone broke into our house and completely trashed the place. We had bars on the windows and an alarm system and everything.

When we went back there to gather our remaining possessions, there were a bunch of crackheads loitering in front of the house, and one of them flashed a gun at us. Absolute nightmare.

Moral of the story: You're better off sucking it up and paying the extra money. And yes, $1000 a month is about as cheap as you can get living on your own (I've done serious research on this). The suburbs are just as expensive unless you want a 2-hour commute.

Shannon said...

C, I betcha Columbia Heights is just as, if not more, full of street crime than Southwest.

I'm annoyed with this whole "NoMa" things -- I'm a local, and I can hardly keep the neighborhoods straight with folks inventing a new one every week.

capitulatenow said...

Living in a Columbia Heights english basement ain't so bad. I mean, sometimes I'll go entire Sundays without experiencing any natural light, but I have enough room to roll around in my piles and piles of extra dollar bills. Like Scrooge in his gold coin vault, except more hipstery

Marissa said...

Crime is what it is, if you will, everywhere here. But I don't think I could leave my neighborhood, at least as long as I'm renting. The location's just too good for me. And as long as there are hipsters rolling around in gold in English basements, I mean, who could leave a magical land like that?

But really, what is an "English basement?" How is it different from, like, just a basement? I had this same issue when dealing with "studio" and "efficiency" when I first moved here. They're also the same, no?

capitulatenow said...

I think to be an "English basement," it has to have windows and only be accessible from the outside. But basically all basement apartments fit this description. Hmm. So, clearly, listings for a plain basement are all written that guy from Silence of the Lambs, who wants you to come live in his dungeon. omg be careful!

Shannon said...

The difference between an efficiency and a studio? About $75 a month. ("Studio" apartments sound fancier and therefore cost more.)

Marissa said...


Thanks for the clarification. If it doesn't say English, I will assume he's looking for Clarice.


Ah, the beauty of marketing. One day I'll learn...one day.

Righteous (re)Style said...

DC used to be really affordable to live in. Until the government starting giving a sh*t about the roads and trash collection and crime. Then, all of the sudden, all these people from FAIRFAX (tone of disgust) started moving into the District. And, whoosh, we are in condo hell and the prices are ridiculous. I'll take my average, every day mugger over Brett, the recovering frat-boy, who just started his job at State and loves to drink too much on the weekends.

PS - check out LeDroit Park.

Shannon said...

Ooh, I just figured out there may actually be a difference between an efficiency and a studio! According to the floor plan printouts my soulless high rise gave me when I moved in, my place is an efficiency, clocking in at 481 square feet. But a studio has 525+ square feet. So the difference? $100 and 44 feet.

Marissa said...


I was actually looking at a place possibly to buy in LeDroit. But I have yet to explore the neighborhood. Um, or save money to, you know, make that kind of purchase.


If I had a concept of what 44 square feet was, this would all be easier to understand. It's hard being remedial sometimes. *sigh*

Anonymous said...

Come July, my rent is going up $85 -- which seems a bit excessive. $1335 buys you a very nice house in some parts of this country -- or a ho-hum one-bedroom in the lovely D.C. metro.

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