Housing crisis: DC area needs 320,000 new homes by 2030, group says

September 12, 2019

AP/J. David Ake

Business is booming in the Washington region. And the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments says the D.C. area needs 320,000 housing units by 2030 to keep up — 75,000 more than originally forecast.

And 75% of them need to be affordable.

The push Wednesday from the group of local government leaders comes amid a widespread shortage of affordable housing in the D.C. area.

Housing targets were set in a resolution approved by the COG board.

The recommendation follows a yearlong effort into trying to figure out how much new housing is needed, ideal locations and what housing costs should be.

It also says that if the majority of new housing is near transit hubs, the area could see a 20% reduction in traffic congestion.

A total of about 413,000 new jobs area expected to come to the D.C. region between 2020 and 2030, but only 245,000 new housing units over the same period are expected to be built.

Construction permits have also declined, according to COG data.

The council released its findings in a report: The Future of Housing in Greater Washington.

“Today’s vote signals the beginning of a new chapter in our housing crisis where we are partnering across the region with governments, nonprofits and the private sector to meet our housing needs,” said COG Board of Directors Chair and D.C. Council Member Robert C. White, Jr. in a statement. “Now that we have worked together to set our housing goals, we can continue working together to ramp up housing production in ways that ensure all our communities benefit.”

COG says employment growth is outpacing housing growth in the area — spurred, no doubt, by Amazon’s incoming HQ2 “National Landing” in the Arlington-Alexandria area of Virginia.

But while COG members are elected officials (roughly 300 local, state and federal elected officials comprise its membership), the council holds no actual power to enforce its findings.

Amazon’s move has also made it increasingly tough for people looking to buy a home.

“Yeah, the investors have made it really difficult for the first-time buyers,” said Redfin realtor Marcia Burgos-Stone.

In her 18 years of experience, Burgos-Stone said she’s seen this kind of market before, but it has been amplified by Amazon. The competition is especially felt by buyers looking for condos, which are often listed low enough for investors to offer cash.

“In general, if you’re a first-time buyer or any condo buyer in Arlington, Alexandria and Falls Church, and you’re buying a condo that’s $500,000 or less, chances are you’re going to be competing with an investor for your property,” Burgos-Stone said.

Compounding buyers’ woes, fewer sellers are listing properties in hopes the market will continue to rise as Amazon moves in. Long and Foster’s July market numbers show inventory is down by nearly 60% from last year in Arlington and Alexandria.

At least it’s a good time to sell.

Though not everyone in the area is willing to.

Listing service Bright MLS said metrowide, the median price of a home that sold in August was $465,000. That’s up 5.1% from a year ago, and the highest August price in a decade. Closed sales were down 3.1% from a year ago. New listings were down 6.8%.

WTOP’s Megan Cloherty and Jeff Clabaugh contributed to this report.

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Will Vitka

William Vitka is a Digital Editor and reporter for WTOP.com. He's been in the news industry for over a decade. Before joining WTOP, he worked for CBS News, Stuff Magazine, The New York Post and wrote a variety of books—about a dozen of them, with more to come.

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