Monday, July 17, 2006

Arlington Redevelopment Strikes Again

Only seven weeks after being forced to move from my single-family house in Ballston so the owners could turn it into a McMansion, I will once again be on the hunt for affordable housing in North Arlington. Yesterday afternoon the owner of my building stopped by to ask if he could renegotiate my lease such that it would terminate at the end of next April. The reason; every single building and house on my block, except for the 14-unit garden apartment in which I reside, has been purchased by a developer and he is feeling the pressure to sell. Anyone care to guess what will soon stand in their place? You got it, a high-rise building full of million-dollar condominiums. Fuck.

I really thought I had dodged all of this property-flipping by moving down to Courthouse and finding a building that has had a single owner for over twenty years. The property is gorgeously maintained, we have a resident superintendant, and many of the residents have lived in the building for at least ten years. But none of that could withstand the ridiculous amount of money that is being thrown at the property owner. And it is hard to blame the guy (he was practically in tears as he explained to me what has been going on with the ensuing development) who very much wants to stay in the housing business and sees an oppotunity to take the money and buy a building that will be at least somewhat safe from future development predators.

I am not upset so much as I am confused and exasperated. I studied economics at that hotbed of libertarian free market thought, GMU, so I am pro-development and understand the law of supply-and-demand. But what I fail to see is from where the demand for this type of development is coming. The direct demand is obvious; developers are competing for post-war houses and rental properties clustered together near metro stops along the Orange line (East Falls Church, Ballston, VA Square, Clarendon, and Courthouse). As far as the current owners are concerned, all they see is large holdiong companies bidding to make obscene offers on properties they have controlled for 30+ years. What I don't get is who is driving the demand for these developers to come in and build high-end condos.

Across from my building are two identical high rises each full of condos that probably start at around $800k. At the end of my street are two smaller condo complexes all in the million-dollar price range. Several blocks up in Clarendon there have been a rash of condos and townhomes that have shot up, all of them catering to upper middle class incomes. And just down the way on Lee Highway, the Lyon Estates condo complex is finishing up and advertising prices "from" $800k and up. So now in the middle of all this some development group thinks that there is a market need to level my entire block and put in more expensive condominiums. Who is buying all of these condos? The target demo seems to be single people or childless couples who apparently have no problem affording a $3000/mo. mortgage (while still having money left over to pay $300 a month in condo fees and purchase a $30k parking stall). Are there really that many people in the metro area who fit this profile, because North Arlington isn't the only place where this is happening.

What's really wild is that I should be their target demo. I'm (relatively) young, wish to live in a developed urban area, have a good job with a salary that probably puts me toward the upper income percentile for persons my age, and yet there is no way in hell I could afford to buy into one of these new developments. Who the hell else is out there with so much disposable income that it makes good business sense to plow under what's left of the "old neighborhoods" in Arlington? Somebody please tell me.


At 7/17/2006 2:36 PM, Anonymous Chris said...

You are discounting the droves of people who have purchased somehting old and or in need of repair in the last 10 years. These people have either put a little sweat into it or just go lucky with the location and now have half a mil in their pocket. Those people can pick up a beautiful new joint in a happenen place and still only have a 1000 to 1500 dollar payment.

Face it the only thing worse than a developer is a homeowner that is looking for a hip-er place to live. He/She has the supply of cash that the devlopers are lusting after.

At 7/18/2006 4:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I sold and made good money on a couple of places, but I still cannot stand the idea of paying so much for a condo. I think it is because I remember when prices were reasonable - like 5 years ago. Call me old fashioned, but I can't seem to adjust to these new prices as fast as others, and I know that my income has not adapted to these prices. I'll give it until the end of '07, and If I don't see substantial decreases, then I am out of here. Not looking to spend 50% of my take home income on a place to live


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