Back in 2005, before the new apartments went up in NoMa, and along 14th Street, and near the Nationals’ ballpark, there was more housing in D.C. renting for less than $500 a month than for more than $1,500*. In the decade since, fortunes at the top and bottom of the city’s housing market have swiftly flipped. By 2012, the most expensive rental units outnumbered the cheapest ones — by more than a three-to-one ratio.
The changing shape of the city’s housing over this short time reflects two powerful trends that are playing out in other big cities, too: Housing that was once more affordable has grown less so, while most of the new housing that’s been built has catered to wealthier (and newer) residents.
The below chart, from a stark new data visualization of the city’s housing market by the Urban Institute, tells the rental side of this story. It shows that, yes, the city has more rental housing today than a decade ago. But those gains have been to the benefit of people able to pay more than $1,000 a month for housing — and at the expense of residents who can only afford substantially less than that:
“We want to provide people with some context and some more hopefully objective information about the changes happening in the city, because everyone knows the city is changing — it’s very visible,” says Peter Tatian, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute who worked on the project. “But people experience and perceive that change in different ways depending on their point of view.”