Tips on affordable housing in/near Washington DC.
October 2, 2015 9:08 AM   Subscribe

Hi HiveMind, I am a young professional relocating to Washington DC. I am looking for affordable housing. I will be working in DC, but I think that my best bet is to live outside of the city and commute. I am looking for tips on housing hacks.

For example, I recently lived in Boston, in an area that I felt completely safe in (Roxbury), but was not a trendy/popular neighborhood so my rent was very low. I am open to mature roommates, grad students or working professionals, so if you have ideas on how to find roommates- university housing sites, or facebook housing groups, that would be very appreciated.
My housing budget is $1500-$1800, it is really closer to $1200-$1500, but I don’t know that I will be able to find something in this range. I am open to having a 45 min to 1 hour commute to work.
Can you suggest neighborhoods that might fit this criteria. I visited a friend in Anacostia in 2001, and did not feel safe there, maybe things have changed since, but I am not open to living somewhere where I hear gunfire, which I did when I visited my friend.

posted by TRUELOTUS to Home & Garden (25 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Hi, welcome to the area! Best bet for roommates in D.C. is Craigslist. I live in D.C. proper and have a 1br under the range you are describing, so it is possible -- but it can be difficult. It depends on where you are working // what metro lines you would like to take. I would also recommend being open to buses -- they are usually convenient.

Up and coming neighborhoods include Petworth, Brookland, Bloomingdale. You could also go slightly out of range of D.C. -- Takoma Park, for example.

The stereotype about crime right now is that you should not live very far southeast (and 2001 was a long time ago in D.C. years) but honestly I would check the crime statistics for each area and decide what you are comfortable with. Here is the MPD's map:

Please memail me if you want specifics or more detailed recommendations!
posted by tooloudinhere at 9:34 AM on October 2, 2015

What Metro station(s) are most convenient to your office? That will have an effect on people's recommendations.
posted by slenderloris at 9:34 AM on October 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

I think if you stick to some of the burgeoning neighborhoods (Petworth, Brightwood, Eckington, Brookland, Bloomingdale, Hill East, etc.), you shouldn't have too hard a time finding housing in your budget. Basically, a basement studio runs about $1500, you can find 1BR sometimes between 1700-1900. If you find a room in a group house, that can drop your price substantially to where might be able to pay just > $1000. If you don't mind taking the bus, you can get even better deals.

With that budget, I wouldn't worry about trying to find places too far outside the city. The Metro sucks these days, and sucks more as you get further out. Commutes also can be often more expensive than the difference in rent.

Also, Anacostia (and the rest of the neighborhoods on the east side of the river—Anacostia is only one small neighborhood), are a LOT safer than they were in 2001. The city is an entirely different place than it was 15 years ago.
posted by General Malaise at 9:36 AM on October 2, 2015

If you want to get a feel for what's available, there are some listings at PoPville, which is basically a (sometimes offbeat) DC blog. You can also get a feel for what's going on and where if you follow the blog a little (although mind the comment sections, they can get...hairy).
posted by General Malaise at 9:40 AM on October 2, 2015

Response by poster: My job is near to the Foggy Bottom area
posted by TRUELOTUS at 10:16 AM on October 2, 2015

I don't know Virginia, but the near suburbs in Maryland fit your bill. Hyattsville, and other places in PG County, and along the Red Line (Silver Spring, Wheaton, Glenmont) all have places in that price range.

Some of this depends on what you want to do in your off time, where you will end up in the city for work, and how you are planning to commute.

Virginia is also an option, although it has a major road named "Jefferson Davis Highway."
posted by OmieWise at 10:23 AM on October 2, 2015

Admittedly I don't think I've spent time in Anacostia proper but 2001 is a lifetime ago in a lot of the city, including southeast. I moved to DC in 2004. When I went to a club near Navy Yard that spring, I saw a girl get carjacked a few blocks away from the Metro. Since then, that club has been replaced by condos. The baseball stadium is nearby. Last summer, I went to an outdoor concert by a Dave Matthews cover band on the water. The crowd was all late 20s - early 40s professionals and their children. 2004 - carjacking; 2014 - Dave Matthews cover band/young professional convention. So again, not endorsing Anacostia specifically but DC is a lot different today than it was in 2001.

If you're new to DC, I encourage you to go the roommates route and Craigslist is your best bet there. Are you planning to come to DC to line up your housing situation? Most roommates will want to meet someone so you should plan on that. Maybe do a short term sublet or AirBnB for a few weeks or a month while you find a place with roommates. And I'd encourage you to try to live in DC especially if your job is in DC. Knowing that home is a long walk away if/when Metro goes to hell if a good place to be. That said, I never paid more than $1500 for a place (one bedroom or studio). I have never rented from these people but they frequently appear to have listings that are reasonably priced in good neighborhoods.

Regarding specific neighborhoods, I used to live in Shaw and loved it. If you're super skittish about crime, maybe look for a place in Cleveland Park (here's one - again, I've never rented from those people). If I worked in Foggy Bottom and lived in Cleveland Park, I'd probably take the red line to Farragut North and walk or see if a bus got me closer to my office.

Off-topic: Don't be scared of the bus. A lot of people, especially when they just move to DC, limit their public transportation options to Metro, then find out that a lot of the places where they want to go are more easily accessed by bus. Buses are obviously more dependent on traffic not being catastrophic and some buses are certainly better and come more frequently than others but check them out.
posted by kat518 at 10:26 AM on October 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

I used to volunteer near Foggy Bottom. It's on the orange line, so yeah check out the VA areas of Court House and Clarendon - about 20min on metro? Good for the bus too as mentioned above. Loads of young professionals, house shares, and nth-ing Craigslist for finding out about them. (I seriously found everything on Craiglist when I lived there - house, furniture, even my job). Definitely should find places in your price range there.
posted by atlantica at 10:30 AM on October 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

Other people will have advice about the District proper, but you may want to at least consider a look at some of the northern PG County suburbs. There are a lot of places in PG county where you can get a 1-BR for $1,200----Hyattsville, Greenbelt, Langley Park, etc. For a commute to near Foggy Bottom I'd look at Bladensburg, Landover Hills or New Carrollton, which are near the last two stops on the Orange line. In general I'd say the areas around the Orange Line in PG are nicer than the areas around the Blue Line which lays farther south. My guess is that PG County gets overlooked sometimes in housing discussions because most places don't have the urban/walkability vibe that people who live in the District proper may want, and it doesn't have the decent schools that people looking to move out to the suburbs may want.
posted by drlith at 10:32 AM on October 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks folks, not skittish about crime- lol.Just saying I draw the line at gun shots, but sounds like that is no longer the case. Where I lived in Boston, the urban legend was that cabs would not go there.
posted by TRUELOTUS at 10:35 AM on October 2, 2015

Foggy Bottom is the first Metro stop in DC on the Orange / Blue / Silver line, so look at Arlington / Clarendon / maybe even Falls Church in VA. There are lots of apartments around Tyson Corner, which is well within your commute limit, but not the most happening area to live for a young single person.
posted by COD at 10:57 AM on October 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

You have plenty of options at that budget for a studio/1BR in Ballston, Clarendon, Courthouse as long as you're not in a brand spanking luxury building.

You need to know if you are interested in living in a walkable area or if that's not important to you.
posted by sandmanwv at 10:59 AM on October 2, 2015

Response by poster: Great point! Yes, a walkable area would be ideal. Close to a Whole Foods would be the dream!
posted by TRUELOTUS at 11:19 AM on October 2, 2015

I work further downtown than that and live in a new (planned) mixed-use, walkable neighborhood by the Dunn Loring station on the Orange Line in Virginia, and it would probably fit in your price range. We have a one-bedroom for about that, but there are also studios around. A lot of people in the neighborhood also seem to have roommates, and the population seems to skew pretty young. It's new, so prices are bound to go up over time, but we've got transit, grocery options (including a weekend farmer's market and an organic grocer), restaurants, proximity to one of the major artery bike trails in the region, and lots of other good stuff, so I think it's worth paying for. My husband and I share a car, but generally I only use that (or a Zipcar) maybe once or twice a month, because it's easy enough to get around without one. I take the Metro (which has its problems, to be sure) to work, but we're also close to the Beltway and other major roads to get downtown, if you drive.

There's a number of new buildings in that general vicinity - memail me if you want more specifics on the neighborhood. I've never loved a place I lived this much and I am happy to share details.
posted by bowtiesarecool at 11:50 AM on October 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

You may want Silver Spring. Walkable to a degree (or at least places to walk), not far from Whole Foods, not quite as expensive as downtown, and I've never (personally) heard gunshots there. There are bus options from there as well as metro.

I'm sure my fellow mefites aren't trying to steer you wrong, but I've heard (and seen) gunshots in DC, in NW, in recent years. Last time I was in Shaw also coincided with someone getting fatally shot nearby (did not hear/see). So if that's really a never-ever for you, check the crime maps. However, I feel relatively safe in most of DC, except in the wee hours.
posted by zennie at 11:59 AM on October 2, 2015

There's a lot of good advice in these comments from people who are taking "affordable housing" at face value and trying to find a nice, non-creepy-basement 1BR place for you in your range, but $1200-1500/month for a room in a shared place is really, really normal (I'm well within that range, even after utilities and cable, and I have a room in a huge 3BR/3BA in Adams Morgan which is very central, very safe, and a desirable neighborhood). If you want to be close to Whole Foods, I'd aim for Dupont Circle (Foggy Bottom itself is a weird mix of GW students and expensive condos). And I agree with others, Craigslist is the way. Housing gets snapped up very quickly here and you want to be responding to a posting within a few hours of it going up, so check frequently or set up an alert.
posted by capricorn at 12:41 PM on October 2, 2015

Also, this may sound weird, but "gun shots" is not an effective measure of crime rate/overall safety in DC. There were 2 or 3 (non-fatal) shooting incidents in Woodley Park when I lived there last year. To clarify, Woodley Park is safe to the point of being staid and suburbanesque. East of the Anacostia river, including the Anacostia neighborhood, is still not well gentrified, but the best way to gauge your personal safety level is to just visit a place and walk around.
posted by capricorn at 12:48 PM on October 2, 2015

There are two specific condo communities in Arlington that I'd recommend: Colonial Village and Palisade Gardens. They're both historical areas with kind of small living spaces and the rent is lower because of that. It can be tough to find something at your price range close to the metro otherwise (ie within a 10 minute walk).

As others mentioned, housing gets snapped up quickly around here so when I'm looking at apartments I only follow up on things posted within the past day or two.

I've only ever lived along the orange line and I feel like you should also be able to find something in falls church or fairfax in you price rangr easily, but I really like the Clarendon/courthouse area, personally.
posted by _cave at 2:41 PM on October 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

This might be a longshot, but if your income is in the right range (ie under $61,152 for a single person, but not TOO far under) you might qualify for the inclusionary zoning program. I did this when I first moved to DC a few years ago and ended up in a beautiful one-bedroom apartment in a brand new building a ten minute walk from my work right by Union Station (I still regret leaving that place, as I will likely never move to an apartment like that without the subsidy). I paid $1547 for a unit that would normally cost $2100, plus I was exempt from certain fees and utilities. When I applied all you had to do was enter a lottery; now you also have to take a class in DC so it's harder to do from afar. I "won" the lottery for three or four new, downtown buildings before choosing one, and I think I was the first person in the city to actually move in to a place under the program. I don't know if it's more competitive now, but a cursory glance at the listings looks like there may be quite a lot available if you qualify.
posted by exutima at 3:03 PM on October 2, 2015

Since no one has mentioned it yet, I'll point out that there's a Whole Foods right in Foggy Bottom. There's also one on 14th St NW. If you can find a place nearby in your price range, that's a great area - it's just pricey. There's also Whole Foods in Glover Park (great area but inconvenient transportation-wise) and there's one coming to Shaw though I think it will be a while. Silver Spring is affordable. I haven't spent much time there but I've heard more than one person describe it as soul-less. YMMV.
posted by kat518 at 3:15 PM on October 2, 2015

Hah, I am just moving out of my 1 br near Chevy Chase circle, in a super-safe walkable area, on a frequent bus line and 15 min walk from Friendship Heights metro station. I worked in downtown DC for the last 3 years and the metro/bus options are great, or I would just walk back home the 4 miles in the evenings, it was a nice exercise and I could jump back on the bus/metro anytime on route. Grocery stores nearby (Safeway; Whole Foods near the metro station), close to Rock Creek Park. My rent is currently $1440 (though it might go up a little for a new tenant?), and it's a lovely place with great views and lots of sunlight.

I'm moving out next week in order to move to... tada!! Boston! (Though not Roxbury...) So memail me if you're interested; I'd love it if my apartment could go to another MeFite :)
posted by Ender's Friend at 3:36 PM on October 2, 2015

Glover Park (great area but inconvenient transportation-wise)

Not true... at all. Glover Park does not have a Metro stop, but it has ample bus routes, including several that go right to/through Foggy Bottom. It's not quite as cheap as it used to be, but I think you could absolutely find something in your price range there. There's a good selection of restaurants and bars (and yes, a Whole Foods) and there are also plenty of trees which is nice.

Personally, I live one neighborhood north of Glover Park - Cathedral Heights. I'm a reasonable walk from two Metro stops, and there are plenty of bus routes nearby. Lots of new restaurants are cropping up, and there are plenty of parks. I like it up here a lot. Closest grocery is a Giant, but there are two Whole Foods within walking distance.

I've found my last few DC apartments on Craigslist, including my current 1-bedroom, for which I pay less than $1,000/month. It's a great resource here in DC.

Good luck - and welcome!
posted by schroedingersgirl at 4:06 PM on October 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

Also there are often deer and chipmunks near my apartment complex. My friend who lives in Glover Park sees them too. So if you like nature... I highly recommend Upper NW.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 4:08 PM on October 2, 2015

(As someone who commutes to Glover Park every day, I respectfully disagree regarding public transportation. I run or bike most days because it's faster and I am basically the slowest person alive.)
posted by kat518 at 6:33 PM on October 2, 2015

(Commuting TO Glover Park is extremely different from commuting FROM Glover Park, though. OP is asking where to live - his/her office is already lined up in Foggy Bottom. I recently made that commute for years and it was reliably quick and relatively painless.)
posted by schroedingersgirl at 5:21 AM on October 3, 2015

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