Housing in DC—from single-family residence to a ‘dorm for grown-ups’
Perhaps there is no greater example of income inequality during the Gilded Age than Biltmore, the Vanderbilt home in Asheville, North Carolina. Known as the largest private residence in America, the extravagant mansion was constructed during a time when the majority of the US population still resided in tenements or small farmhouses. A series of housing laws passed during the first half of the 20th century set the US on a path toward greatly improved housing for middle and working-class Americans and new housing projects for the poor and working poor.
The post-World War II housing boom led to the great expansion of suburban developments with larger homes and yards for middle class families; in cities, extensive urban renewal plans attempted to replace tenements and slums with housing projects. Both of these factors led to the emptying out of many urban centers, and the populations of many US cities fell dramatically. By the 1980s, some cities began to see renewed interest and historic preservation laws helped protect some of the existing housing stock from demolition or renovation beyond recognition.
In recent years, many US cities have seen a resurgence as the millennial generation discovered the bounty of urban living, with walkable neighborhoods, nightlife, and cultural institutions not found in the suburbs. The increased demand for housing has led to greatly increased housing costs, and cities likes San Francisco, New York, and Washington, DC routinely stand atop lists of the highest cost-of-living cities in the country. The higher costs have led to even smaller average square footage for many rental units. This former Gilded Age mansion in DC’s Dupont Circle neighborhood is a prime example.
By Roxanne Roberts
The Washington Post
July 7, 2017