The Rent Is Too Damn High

Make sure you check out the actual map version.

I’m keeping my eyes on the housing market this year. So when I saw a heat map of apartment prices in Boston (created by a Google employee and shared on Github) I thought that such a thing could be useful for me personally. So I made it. DC isn’t Boston, though.

DC’s enormous splotch of red (covering almost all of Northwest, and loosely tracking the Red Line) seems darker than Boston’s central red blob does. For this map I kept the colors chosen for the original Boston map, which makes it useful for comparisons but less useful for distinctions at the higher end. Since similar maps have now been made for San Francisco and Chicago as well, I’m leaving it.

I have added selectable layers for Metro stations and Bikeshare docks (both sourced from the DC Data Catalog). As in the Boston map, prices come from Padmapper. In DC, Arlington county, and Bethesda there are clusters of high prices near Metro stations, and by comparison the lack of transit-oriented development in Prince Georges county is made plain.

As for me, I’ll probably be sticking around Petworth, but maybe Brookland wouldn’t be such a bad place after all.

Nerd note: I have some ideas for future developments to this map (extending the borders beyond the rough bounds of the Beltway, better color selection for DC’s prices, another layer for sale data and not just rentals, and so on) but the first version was interesting enough I decided to post it as is.

Fedward Potz moved into the District in 1999 with a four year plan and never left. He enjoys good food, craft cocktails, photography, music, and long walks on the beach.

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19 thoughts on “The Rent Is Too Damn High

  1. The gradient through Trinidad is amazing. And accurate. People who say you can’t get cheap rent West of the River are actually saying “you can’t get cheap rent in the highly desirable building you want to live in.”

  2. IMGoph – they’re actually saying “you can’t get cheap rent in non-stabby parts of town.”

  3. Why are Children’s Hospital and the Rehabilitation Hospital listed in as being a rental area?

  4. “…there are clusters of high prices near Metro stations, and by comparison the lack of transit-oriented development in Prince Georges county is made plain.” That is true, but the center of Hyattsville, on Rte 1 but not super close to Pr Geo Plaza or W Hyattsville metro stations, goes against this theory. That is because there is burgeoning arts-related development, which stretches from Hyattsville south through North Brentwood, Brentwood, and Mount Rainier. These up-and-coming areas are the “poor man’s Takoma Park.”

  5. This is a very cool map. Thank you! And of course walkable, bikable, transit accessible places are more expensive. But are they really more expensive if you don’t own a car? When figuring out how expensive a place is to live, the high costs of owning and operating a car should also be taken into consideration. If you add a net cost (car ownership vs transit/bike/walk costs) of $400 to $700 per month on the areas that aren’t transit accessible I’m sure the map might look different. Would love to see you do that.
    Chris Hamilton
    Commuter Services Bureau Chief
    Arlington County DOT

  6. I thought this was very interesting. I live now in AU Park but spent almost two decades on Cap Hill. The Cap Hill map beyond Stanton Park showed an interesting gradient. I thought the map tended to mislead more than inform in some areas around upper NW. For example, rent is reasonable in Spring Valley…???? Well, there’s almost nothing for rent there. That led me to ask what about overlaying density of rental units rented or listed “for rent” with montly rental ranges?

  7. I wonder if the data points are dense enough to draw any meaningful conclusions about actual rent prices in some areas. For instance, near Lincoln Park in Capitol Hill there are two points in the $1100+ range and four blocks away a data point in the $1700+ range. In between, it seems to average out to $1400+. And it’s possible that the new condos on Maryland Avenue east of Trinidad are skewing the whole area since there are fewer places available nearby on Padmapper. Maybe the higher rents in the Dupont area are due to the number of studios available vs. group houses. I’d like to know more about how the creator of this map deals with these uncertainties. I think one can look at general trends in relative terms. It’s clear that living near transit is more expensive. I’m surprised to see Bethesda in the same range as Downtown.

  8. It seems to me that using the metric “$/bedroom” to determine the heat of a rental market tends to make areas with more 1brds appear more expensive, and areas with lots of large SFRs cheaper, because you generally pay less per bedroom the more bedrooms a place has.

  9. “We Love DC” but “The Rent is too Damn High”….OH, the irony. Lived in DC for a few years and got the hell out of there. Problem is, the city has all the downsides of a major city (traffic, high cost of living, concrete everywhere you look, filth) without many of upsides. Just my opinion. Bad energy there, also.

  10. The more desireable the neighborhood, the higher the tax assessment. So that means higher the property taxes the owner has to pay. The higher value on the property, the higher the insurance. The higher the crime rate, the higher the insurance. And repairmen, electricians, and plumbers, who live in areas where rents are high charge more, and municipal fees are high. Then there’s the trend to add security systems with monthly fee. Repairs, like new roofs, etc. add to costs. Add interest on the payments on the loan for the property. Lastly, tennents sometimes move into freshly painted places with new carpets, and move out in a year or so, without cleaning anything well, or only doing a little and a DD is to low to cover it all. So hidden in rent is extra to pay to clean, and to cover all the above. Taxes of $5000 + on a building can add $400 to $500 to rent each month.

  11. Wow Anonymous, your view of our city is so very different than my daily experience. I live in Bloomingdale and work in Arlington and don’t own a car. I see no traffic, no trash or filth and I see a beautiful urban oasis everywhere I walk. And the energy in our city is amazing. Its bright and buzzing and happening. The rent is high because it is becoming such a wonderful, easy to get around without a car, with lots of fun and interesting things to do kind of place. Just my opinion.

  12. Like this map a lot. I did notice in areas where sales are hot like bloomingdale and capitol hill there aren’t a lot of supper hot rental areas. I am not sure if this is because there are fewer rentals because of the nature of the house or what the reason would be.

  13. If we could just build up instead of out to the burbs, imagine how much simpler to commute, cheaper to rent, and economically stimulating it would be.