Benning Road: The Last Refuge of Streetcar Apologists

Washington City Paper’s Housing Complex blogger Aaron Wiener has an unintentionally hilarious article on the slow-motion implosion of the D.C. Streetcar. But before I get to Wiener’s piece, let’s recap:

To Wiener’s post, the streetcar boosters are now conceding what opponents (like your author) have been saying for years: H Street, N.E., does not need a streetcar. But they aren’t giving up yet; rather, it is Benning Road that needs the streetcar more than anything. Wiener closes with this: “But first, the streetcar has to start running. The ball’s in your court, Bowser and Dormsjo. And the future of Benning Road hangs in the balance.”

Apparently, the D.C. neighborhoods of sleepy Kingman Park and former notorious drug-warzone Trinidad are in dire need of public subsidies to boost property values. I found this hilarious because when I was looking to buy a home a year ago, I looked in both neighborhoods and found myself priced out.

Thanks to the magic of the Internet, I was able to look up the “future” Wiener and his political comrades, delusional D.C. Councilmembers Yvette Alexander (D-Ward 7) and Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5), were looking for me to subsidize. A property at 1835 Benning Road, N.E., caught my eye.

NEW BUILD!!!!! 2 br / 1 ba quaint & comfortable condo offers beautiful hardwood floors, open floor plan, Galley kitchen, Granite counters, SS appls, CAC, washer/dryer. Steps to H St hotspots, Trolley, Union Market, Metro, Florida Avenue, U street & New York Ave. Don't miss this one! New construction all around! Now Accepting Reservations. Permit for condo conversion is under review by DCRA.

Two bedrooms, one bathroom, 700 square feet. Asking price? $349,000. This is not an exception to the rule. Many of the row houses in Kingman Park, which typically run around 1,300 square feet, are selling for over $500,000. Is the promise of the streetcar inflating these prices? Perhaps, but an understanding of urban economics 101 tells me that these prices in Kingman Park and Trinidad probably have much more to do with the fact that their 1,300-square-foot counterparts in adjacent neighborhoods are fast approaching the $1 million mark.

Maybe more government subsidies to property owners of Benning Road isn’t such a great idea. I certainly don’t understand how Wiener’s frequent handwringing about urbanism and economic justice squares with government-subsidized $350,000 700-square-foot yuppie micro-palaces.