For More Suburban Families, Affordable Housing Elusive

The gulf between rich and poor grows wider, especially in the D.C. suburbs, where even the working middle class can't afford housing:

"A report by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments last year found about 5,600 people in homeless families in the region -- 56 percent of them in the suburbs. Fairfax, despite being one of the wealthiest counties in the nation, was the highest among the suburbs, with about 1,300 homeless residents."

Hey look, it's yet another example how Washington, as a city/metropolitan area/whatever, somehow manages to encapsulate every nightmare I've ever had about living in a big city. Yes, a lot of cities have these same problems; rent in New York is through the roof, and the rich-poor gap and homeless problem in Miami is probably even worse than it is here.

But both of those cities have other redeeming qualities. Miami's housing is slightly more affordable than in D.C.; plus it has those incredible beaches and the best pretty-people-watching in the country. New York obviously has a vibrant and diverse culture; it's impossible not to find something interesting going on there. Both cities have a strong creative/artistic community. So even if you are living in a crappy studio apartment in those cities, at least you'll have something interesting to do when you need to get out for a while.

That's something sorely lacking in Washington; the few things that are fun or interesting to do are difficult to reach. Back in Atlanta, I could say, "I'm driving down to Little Five Points," or wherever, and quench my thirst for something Bohemian. Or I could drive downtown at will, park in my usual lot for $3, and go to Mama Ninfa's for some great, inexpensive Mexican food. Here, Dupont Circle has some interesting places to visit, including a decent Kemp Mill Music, the (too-cramped) Visions Cinema, and the unpredictable flavors of Larry's Ice Cream. (Kramerbooks is overrated and tiny.) But my hopes of driving there whenever I feel like it are slim; I've found parking spaces several blocks away, but it hardly seems worth spending half and hour walking through the poorly-lit streets of D.C. just for the privilege of looking through some used books. The senses-deadening Metro goes there, but often takes longer than driving and operates very infrequently when it gets late or on weekends (and doesn't run at all past midnight on weekdays).

Yes, my own laziness is a factor here, as is my hatred for the District, but it's just not worth going to all that trouble for one or two interesting things. Bottom line: New York, Atlanta, and Miami are worth the troubles that come with living in a big city. D.C. is not, because the upside is nearly non-existent. I could tolerate it if I could afford a decent place to live. But I, and many other non-homeowners, cannot.

Well, it's been a prolific day of hate for me already. I'm going home to my bug-infested, Civil War-era, two-bedroom apartment that costs me $1,035 a month in rent, and then I'm going for a bike ride. See you later.

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