Thursday, August 18, 2016

Today in bogus Columbia Heights "news": we spend 62% on rent? According to only 3 apartments from one website, yes.

Another day, another dumb article about how Columbia Heights sucks. The latest installment comes from something called RadPad, which I think ought to suggest to you that perhaps they aren't the best at analyzing things.

Their study, which got picked up various places, claims breathlessly that Columbia Heights is the most expensive place in the city because residents here spend 62% of their income on rent. If that seems oddly high to you, you're not the only one.

Now I'm sure some people spend a whole lot on money on rent, and that is unfortunate. Affordability is an issue here, as it is in most of the city. But the study, if you want to call it that, has a lot of issues.

For one, it's actually about the 20010 zip code, which isn't just Columbia Heights: it's also Mt. Pleasant, Park View and over to the Washington Hospital Center. In fact, the zip code stretches from about Irving Street on the south to about Quincy on the north, which means it doesn't even include the southern half of Columbia Heights.

Also, their methodology is simplistic and pretty bad, to be diplomatic about it:
we examined thousands of active one-bedroom listings across zip codes in D.C. on our marketplace to get a median one-bedroom apartment price for each postal number. We then utilized 2015 U.S. Census Data with help from Income by Zip Code to get median household income numbers for each of the same zip codes. From there, we were able to calculate what percentage of monthly take home pay residents from each zip code (after taxes for a single filer) are spending on rent.
So let's break that down. They took the zip code's median household income from the Census, then calculated what they call take home pay by apparently using the average taxes for a single filer -- which is already apples to oranges: households (which are often more than one person) versus single person taxes, which are higher than if they were jointly filed.

But it gets worse! For the apartments, they used only those listed on their site, then of those, only the one bedroom apartments.

And if you look at their site, there are a total of 3 one-bedroom apartments in all of the 20010 zip code. Three!

See the map above -- just the ones between Quincy and Irving would count.  And even if you take out the "apartment" part of the filter, that's still just 8 one-bedroom places.

And that's not even to take into account that people live in all kinds of different arrangements in our area -- group houses, basement apartments, studios, two and three bedroom apartments, crummy townhouses, nice townhouses, new and old condos, subsidized apartments, and on and on. And none of those are included in this "analysis" (or even listed on their site.)

So basically, you are extrapolating the entire area -- three or four whole neighborhoods and more than 30,000 residents -- based on three (!) one-bedroom apartments from one website, and then using take home pay calculated with apples-to-oranges taxes. Now I'm no scientist, but that seems completely ridiculous.

So while the area is certainly expensive (which is an issue, again, like most of the city) please don't just take what some random site and their attention-grabbing headlines have to say at face value.

This is clickbait, basically.


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