Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Scare Tactics, Part 1

A young woman reached out to me a couple months ago about her interest in moving to Anacostia. I get these emails frequently, and try to be as honest as I can about the neighborhood, its potential, and why I think it's a good investment. This particular person ended up buying a house and is getting really excited about moving in.



However, the usually-untold story in cases like hers (and mine, and probably many of you who have recently moved to Anacostia or neighborhoods like it), is that her friends have now taken it upon themselves to convince her to back out of the deal. Here's one email, from a DC cop friend of hers:

[Please read with a Huge grain of salt, as clearly this person is more concerned with statistics than with any kind of nuanced understanding of the neighborhood.]
I don't want to preach, pile-on, or come across in a negative way, as I am sure [person's name] has been trying to get you to reconsider, but I would feel bad if I did not offer my opinion on you plans to move.

The area you are moving to is bad, and it is not getting better. After they changed the section 8 housing rules a few years back, and forced many of the criminals who were in subsidized housing out (into PG), there was a brief decrease in crime. That was short-lived and now crime is rebounding, with no anticipation of any similar programs to provide such relief again. But even at it's best, that area was still the worst.

I am sure you are aware that 7D has the highest frequency of car-jackings, stolen cars, home invasions, domestic violence, sexual assaults, shootings, etc, but you should also know that many of the crimes throughout the city are linked back to people from your neighborhood. And you will be viewed as a target, someone with money, valuables, a car (an old car that is easy to steal). Those hood-rats will see you as someone they can beat down quickly, or intimidate, and take whatever they want. It happens every day.

The only reason any other areas have comparable stats is because of club zones (drunken crimes), and reporting differences. Much of the crime, probably the majority of it, is not reported. It happens everywhere but the lack of crime reporting is notoriously high in 7D. Simply put, many residents hate the police down there, and don't call them (for a number of reasons I wont get into). There are some bad people down there, who think in ways that you don't understand.

I am sure the people who want to sell that house are giving you a distorted view of the area. They obviously don't have your best interest at heart. And anyone who would encourage you to move there is either ignorant of the reality of the area, or they don't give a shit about you. Some people want to see the glass half full, and be optimistic about the area turning around, with development, Homeland Sec. moving in, etc., but those people are idiots. That area will not turn around, the subsidies maintain the status quo. The only people who truly know the reality of crime are criminals, police, and victims. I'm telling you, you are on your way to learning about crime.

I could go on and on, but you have to let the information in. It sounds like your mind is made up, but I beg you to reconsider. I have no reason to bullshit you, I have no stake in your decision aside from the fact that I don't want to see you hurt. You must ask yourself if any of your other influences may have an angle that you are not yet aware of. There are plenty of other options, and deals to be had, please back out.
I remember when I first bought in Anacostia, I had friends that never even came to see the house. The fear was too deep. Of course, after being there for a few years, I was able to turn a lot of those perceptions around ... but the fear is still alive in a lot of people. Is this experience similar to yours? What's the proper response?

33 comments:

kooks said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brian said...

I live in Congress Heights. I get the gasps and the 'nice to know you' gestures too.

Be smart. I've lived in CH for 3 years now with no problems.

daplushman said...

Welcome to the Neighborhood!!! I was born and raised in Anacostia and there is no other place I rather be.

Critically Urban said...

Geez Louise. What a Debbie Downer! You moving to the neighborhood is in and of itself a marker of it getting better. Good luck, be smart, be safe, and join the neighbors and future neighbors in strengthening the community and putting a damper on crime!

Anonymous said...

My nephew just moved into the neighborhood on Saturday. I was very honest about all the negative and positive attributes about our community. Sent him all the emails that were floating around about the crime that was taking place. Including my own car and house being broking into. But he loves this area and is very happy to have purchase a home on Payne Terrace. So I say to my nephew and Kooks "Welcome to the Neighborhood"

kooks said...

Thanks. my grandparents settled in Anacosita in the 40's and my mom and aunt and uncle grew up here. I am very passionate about the community and cleaning up the river as well. Can't wait to meet you all.

IMGoph said...

kooks: we got (and still get) some of the same reactions when it comes to our neighborhood, trinidad. people only know about the shooting spree of two summers ago, or maybe about rayful edmonds back in the 80s.

keep your head about you, everywhere in the city has its problems, but the "peace officer" who wrote this letter is also a "fear monger."

have fun in the new place!

HABA said...

Hey Kooks,

We welcome you to Historic Anacosita! Please join us at our Historic Anacostia Block Association Meeting (www.habadc.org). We'd love to bring you into the fold...

kooks said...

thanks everyone. I will join you for your meeting next month!
i have lived in DC over ten years, in bad neighborhoods that are now nice and no one has ever bothered me.

facegirlz said...

Wow! What do you say to that, except one less guess at the housewarming! No really, welcome to the community and hope to see more people choosing east of the river as home because as i am sure you have found out there are GOOD people here in spite of the BAD rap we get.

Ms. V said...

@Kooks... welcome to the neighborhood. I've lived in the Ward 7 section of SE for 5 years. I've lived in cities and suburbs all over the country and this is the FIRST community that I feel safe in. The biggest reason is my neighbors are the greatest. If they don't see me for a few days they call to check on me. They all know me by name. When I come home late, they are more than willing to look out the window to keep an eye on me.

All that to say East of the River has some great people.

Ward 7 Citizen said...

@Kooks...
You know, there are perceptions of areas that are either underdeveloped and undiscovered-for the lack of a better term, or up and coming. People are going off of the perceptions of the community in the state that it was in the past. And some refuse to look at the positive possibilities that are on the horizon of a turn around within these communities, in other words, they would rather keep a negative stigma and perspective on this region of the city, for many various known and unknown reasons. What many people fail to realize that there were periods of times in this city where all but (Upper Northwest and Georgetown) have had either a bad stigma or a bad period in sections of the city. Look at what Columbia Heights, U Street, H Street, SW, Shaw, Chinatown, Trinidad, Rhode Island Avenue, Parts of Brookland, Georgia Avenue, 7th Street NW,
14th Street, NW. used to be before growth and development came about. This city is still growing and will continue to grow and change. I am a Ward 7 resident/homeowner and have been for 3 years now. My first perception was much of the same, but as I've learned more and more daily about my community as well as my neighbors, I'm glad that I've made the decision to purchase here. This is the "Last Frontier" and I am a pioneer. I just recently has a serious discussion with someone that I knew for a long time, who grew up in the city also about the state of change in this city. Her statement was on a negative aspect of the city is changing due to greed. Which from what I've witnessed on several blogs, are disturbing evidence of an attitude of greed, and disregard for "everyday working people", by those who've obtained more economic wealth. However, my outlook on the city is that things don't stay the same forever. It's life and every aspect of life has a moment of change, I also don't let other peoples prejudgements about "average citizens" and the Ward/Region of the city that I currently reside in, affect me, because I know how far this city has come from what it used to be. So with that being said, Do be alert,aware and take all safety precautions, because crime is everywhere - even in the burbs. Also get well acquainted with your neighbors and law enforcement and involved in the community. You won't regret it because you will benefit and have a far greater outcome in the next few years. You've already invested or consider to invest in a growing community. You will see its rewards.

Natalia said...

Thank you for your post. I moved to Anacostia two years ago after living in the 'burbs for most of my life. There were many intentions for my move that most people couldn't understand at the time (too lengthy to post) and still don't. Mostly,though, I decided to stop caring what other people thought for once in my life, and it's been a positively transforming experience ever since.

In the past two years, I have come to love the area, especially historic Anacostia, where I currently reside. And, I've learned to anticipate the surprised looks, gasps, and concerns for my safety from folks that typically follow the mention of my neighborhood. One thing for sure, it's been a good exercise at patience and swallowing my pride before responding to their comments (because at one time, I, too, misunderstood the beauty and hope that exists in neighborhoods similar to ours).

As for safety, well, you just never know what you'll get or who you'll run into. I've ridden a bus that was robbed, yet I still consider the buses a viable source of transportation. And, after standing dumbly (and helplessly) on my front porch while a young man, chased by several armed police and a helicopter flying above, ran toward me and my house, all I could do was pray that he didn't have a gun.

Such incidents daily remind me of the darkness and desperation that continue to exist in our part of the city. But there are also groups of people currently living and working here who inspire me to continue hoping for transformation, renewal, and reconciliation in this community. It's been a joy to join the effort, and I intend to continue investing my time, education, and other resources for the benefit of the community and its residents.

RoHS said...

I'd love to have my own house too.

Ward 7 Citizen said...

@ RoHS,
There are plenty of homeownership programs and incentives here in the District that could aid in the puchase of a home. Try programs with Manna Inc., Habitat 4 Humanity, Ameridream, Homefree USA, just to name a few. Definitely do your research on different types of loans and make sure that you get a very clear a precise understanding of each loan product available. I think what lead to the Housing Bust was that there were just alot of people who were not well educated in mortgages and mortgage products. In other words, they did not do the research extensively or they did not get the full grasp of understanding the different economic outcomes of different loan products concerning the impact of living expenses, which resulted in alot of people losing their homes. So definitely do the research until you understand the loans that are out there and how they will impact your finances. Second, make sure that you choose a home where you can live comfortably, within your means-in other words, look at how much home that your income will allow you to afford and live comfortably within budget-without breaking the bank. Third, always get a reputable home inspector, because you do not want to jump into purchasing a home just to find out that there were some underlying issues of structural, electrical, or cases of mold that has not been addressed by the builder/seller of the home. Last, make sure that you do your research about the areas in which you are considering to buy. I believe that Wards 7 and 8 are the Last Frontiers and the best places to buy in DC now, due to its growth and development are in the early stages, because once that growth and development takes flight, housing prices will rise, which will make it more expensive and in some cases, harder to purchase a home. However, there may be affordable homeownership opportunities in other areas in the city as well that you may also want to consider. And as I suggested to kooks, always have the mindset of being alert, aware and to take safety precautions and measures concerning your home and life anywhere you may choose to live, because crime is everywhere-even in the burbs. With that being said, I hope that I've answered or at least addressed in inquiries concerning how to do your research concerning mortgages, where to seek homeownership assistance concerning programs, and what to look for concerning the search for a home inspector and the type or amount of mortgage that will be best suitable for you, the neighborhoods to consider, and the safety measures to take. I also suggest that you get involved in any community that you decided to claim your stake in, as well as to know your neighbors in your community and to support local businesses within that community as best as possible. Yes, homeownership is a process. Just getting through all the research, paperwork, and expenses are or can be an obstacle. But if homeownership is what you truly seek and desire, then those obstacles can be overcome. But you will definitely see the return on investment (ROI) in the future because it is an investment. There is nothing like coming home and knowing that it is your own, and you can decorate it, paint the walls, change lighting fixtures, or perhaps even tend to your yard or install a deck for the back yard (if your are going for a single family/townhome),in your own style and know that its yours. I hope that this has helped. Good lock and God Bless you on your journey.

Ward 7 Citizen said...

@ RoHS,
There are plenty of homeownership programs and incentives here in the District that could aid in the puchase of a home. Try programs with Manna Inc., Habitat 4 Humanity, Ameridream, Homefree USA, just to name a few. Definitely do your research on different types of loans and make sure that you get a very clear a precise understanding of each loan product available. I think what lead to the Housing Bust was that there were just alot of people who were not well educated in mortgages and mortgage products. In other words, they did not do the research extensively or they did not get the full grasp of understanding the different economic outcomes of different loan products concerning the impact of living expenses, which resulted in alot of people losing their homes. So definitely do the research until you understand the loans that are out there and how they will impact your finances. Second, make sure that you choose a home where you can live comfortably, within your means-in other words, look at how much home that your income will allow you to afford and live comfortably within budget-without breaking the bank. Third, always get a reputable home inspector, because you do not want to jump into purchasing a home just to find out that there were some underlying issues of structural, electrical, or cases of mold that has not been addressed by the builder/seller of the home. Last, make sure that you do your research about the areas in which you are considering to buy. I believe that Wards 7 and 8 are the Last Frontiers and the best places to buy in DC now, due to its growth and development are in the early stages, because once that growth and development takes flight, housing prices will rise, which will make it more expensive and in some cases, harder to purchase a home. However, there may be affordable homeownership opportunities in other areas in the city as well that you may also want to consider. And as I suggested to kooks, always have the mindset of being alert, aware and to take safety precautions and measures concerning your home and life anywhere you may choose to live, because crime is everywhere-even in the burbs. With that being said, I hope that I've answered or at least addressed in inquiries concerning how to do your research concerning mortgages, where to seek homeownership assistance concerning programs, and what to look for concerning the search for a home inspector and the type or amount of mortgage that will be best suitable for you, the neighborhoods to consider, and the safety measures to take. I also suggest that you get involved in any community that you decided to claim your stake in, as well as to know your neighbors in your community and to support local businesses within that community as best as possible. Yes, homeownership is a process. Just getting through all the research, paperwork, and expenses are or can be an obstacle. But if homeownership is what you truly seek and desire, then those obstacles can be overcome. But you will definitely see the return on investment (ROI) in the future because it is an investment. There is nothing like coming home and knowing that it is your own, and you can decorate it, paint the walls, change lighting fixtures, or perhaps even tend to your yard or install a deck for the back yard (if your are going for a single family/townhome),in your own style and know that its yours. I hope that this has helped. Good lock and God Bless you on your journey.

AnacostiaQUE said...

In my mind, I think Most naysayers are probably spiteful - on some level - wishing it were them. Think about it. Homeownership is what will CONTINUE to turn our area around. I love it here so much that - when it was time to upsize - I purchased AGAIN in Anacostia. I too lived in NW and parts of MD. Welcome to the neighborhood and like anywhere, be careful and not oblivious of your surroundings.

Ward 7 Citizen said...

I agree with AnacostiaQue, there are people who will verbally prejudge or say negative things about Wards 7 & 8 because they themselves wish to be a part of a up and coming area. They also prejudge because the are going off of what they've either read in the paper, or what they've seen in the media, what they've heard by "hearsay"or the reputation that these areas used to uphold in the past. What these people fail to realize is that areas such as; U street, 14th Street, Georgia Avenue, and even H Street used to have these same reputations. These people also do not bother to actually venture outside of their neighborhoods and visit over here and the only way that they could even have knowledge of where anything in this area is located is via the media (print or broadcast) or via GoogleMaps or GoogleEarth. People fear and make assumptions on what they don't know. However, in a few years when development takes off, these very same people will see it as a "Great Livable Place" with potential. Look at the lable of the blog about SW-"The Little Quadrant that could". However, a few tears ago, that very same quadrant was "unheard of" or "un-thought of" as a viable place to work,shop or live, by these very same people who praise it now. With that being said, I believe that growth and development could make a very positive impact in both of these Wards. On an end note- I will suggest what I've suggested in the past couple of responses that I've posted concerning this topic. Get involved in your community! Go to the neighborhood associations and the ANC Meetings. This can be the means in which you will get much needed info about changes and events in the community as well as a means of giving input into the growth and development that will be coming to the area.

Nicole said...

I moved to Anacostia in November. After living in DC for 7 years I finally feel a part of a community. People told me ALL the bad, and tried to scare me off, but I fell in love with my house and the neighborhood. My neighbors are all kind and welcoming. I am just as cautious as I would be anywhere in the city. I look forward to getting involved in the new year to help build our community!

AnacostiaQUE said...

MLK and Good Hope need a little investment, but I think the housing situation will be what developers look to for support.

Many properties need a lot of fixing up and most new homeowners are intimidated by the thought of dealing with contractors and the 203K process.

I don't think there is enough housing in the historic section to net the change we want to see on a larger scale. Many are reluctant to "fix up" a historic home and there is just not enough selection.

I think if some developer were to put up some brand new, 3 level + basement, ALL BRICK, move-in ready, row houses in Anacostia or greater SE, at 500+, those houses would sell.

Hopefully, W St will deliver.

kooks said...

the home i'm purchasing is a fixer upper but is not too bad. i am getting a 203K loan, a smaller one and its a great program. it is complicated and stressful but in the end it should be worth it. its nice to see all the positive responses about Anacostia. go team!

kooks said...

oh and i know a great reliable affordable contractor if anyone needs one. he is great! i have many friends who have used him and i've heard no compliants. and he is very familiar with the 203K process.

Darrin D. Davis said...

Wow, what a distorted view of the facts. As someone who has lived, worked and sold real estate in Anacostia for the past 8 years, the experience you describe has not been my realty. Thank goodness.

Anonymous said...

God Bless! But the neighborhood is still a decade away!

Anonymous said...

As a renter in Congress Heights I am thinking about buying property in Ward 8. Originally from the south I would have never expected that DC would have an area with such a sense of community. It is that community that will allow me to see it through this transition period as long as it takes.

Maria said...

Kooks:

Welcome to Anacostia! You will not regret your choice. Anacostia is a great place to live as are many other neighborhoods east of the river. The people and homes are amazing and the amount of green space in wards 7/8 is a true gift. I concur with the other posters here - enjoy your home, be safe and smart, and you will be fine.

And, please check out the Anacostia Watershed Society. AWS is a great organization with a mission of protecting and educating the community about the Anacostia. It would be one of many great ways to get involved in protecting DC's river.

kooks said...

thanks Maria!
I am a member of AWS and looking forward to getting more involved!

Jeff said...

I appreciate this blog and have appreciated learning more about the area. However, I do think it would be appropriate at this point, in this thread, in the interest of full and honest disclosure to mention that, unless I am mistaken, David does not live in Anacostia. Furthermore, as a developer/real estate flipper he has a direct financial interest in the continued improvement of the neighborhood. In fact, it could be argued that your home improvement investment and movement into the neighborhood marginally benefits him. Just saying, he does seem to have a sincere care for the area and has "skin in the game" but it's not as though he is impartial.

kooks said...

I agree with you Jeff. but david is not the reason I am buying this house. He is a great source of information on the area. I have been considering buying here for over 5 years and now the time is right. Its nice that someone is so enthusiastic about the area. He used to live in Anacostia and I don't blame him for wanting to live in another neighborhood as Anacostia was the 1st area he lived in in DC. I have lived in several neighborhoods in the past 10 years and I am finally ready to buy a house in Anacostia. However, if Anacostia was the first area I had lived in when I was younger I probably would want to explore other areas as well as David is doing.
I have not met many more people with such passion for the area as he has and I think its great.

DG-rad said...

@Jeff,

I have not hidden the fact that I no longer live in Anacostia. And though I hate to de-scandalize the situation, I must admit that my interest in the neighborhood is far deeper than any (very marginal) financial interest I have in seeing it improve. I lived there for three years, still own a home there, and want to support anyone who is interested in doing the same. I'm doing my best to buy and restore old abandoned houses because I think it will lift the neighborhood. Believe me, if there was big money to be made in the neighborhood at present, there would be a lot more people doing what I'm doing.

I don't think it's fair to the neighborhood's history or it's children to let it rot away. If I can help promote, restore, and drum up interest in its revival, then I'll consider what I'm doing a success.

..then again, maybe I'm just trying to lure people into the neighborhood so I can make gobs of cash at the expense of everyone's safety. One or the other.

Jeff said...

Again, I appreciate the blog and what you're doing for the area. I'm not trying to start a beef or make you feel bad or anything, and I hope I'm not. But if you're going to refer to someone who has only kooks safety and security in mind as using "scare tactics", then it's only fair to point out the two points I did. It doesn't mean that you are lying or manipulating facts, but a response to these "scare tactics" utilizing objective, verifiable crime stats to dispel the myth that it's more dangerous in Anacostia would be more effective than the testimonials of folks who already have a stake. I'd love to read that response and I'm sure your readers would too!

Maria said...

Jeff thanks for keeping this thread alive. Its an important topic, so I'll add my two cents.

I think what David and some of us who have commented are saying is that this fixation on crime statistics doesn't reflect a true picture of the neighborhood. Do those numbers show more crime than other parts of the city? Maybe. But to get a true "objective" sense of how that crime plays out and who is being targeted, you need to dig deeper. Many of us who have lived in the neighborhood have never been victimized. Not once. I suspect that those numbers reflect some random violence, and a lot of targeted violence where the victim and perp know each other.

And I've got no motive other than to share my experiences with some one like Kooks who is open to looking beyond labels and stereotypes. A neighborhood cannot be viewed objectively based on a sole criterion. Anacostia -- like any neighborhood -- should be viewed subjectively based on several factors. Crime is just one of them. What makes Anacostia a wonderful place is its people, history and sense of community. That is something you won't often find in a new development in suburbia, but there's no shortage in Anacostia. "Objective" crime stats can never capture that, nor can a well-meaning officer's recitation of them particularly if s/he doesn't live there.

And I will second what David wrote about making money and housing values. Anacostia is not gold mine of housing stock at all. Not even close.

In the end, what makes Anacostia great now -- not years down the road when it "turns" -- are its people and history. So long as woefully ignorant and uninformed stereotypes about the neighborhood persist, people who have never lived there or even been there will continue to view Anacostia only as a collection of crime (and other negative) statistics.

Ward 7 Citizen said...

@ Maria,
The last post was wonderfully put. People who are not familiar with,
Knowledgeable about or who've never lived or visited this area are the ones who are most likely to go on the assumptions of the past reputation of this community in addition to judging the area based solely on crime statistics and what they've seen or read in the media or in publications. Yes, crime exists. But it exists everywhere, not just in certain areas of the city, the goal is to be smart and aware regardless of where you live. Also, the same thing was said about the 14th Street/U Street, H Street, SW Corridors almost a decade ago, but look at it now. But what makes a neighborhood/community significant is not only the amenities that are made available or accessible (although it helps), but the sense of community from the neighbors, people in the community, businesses that come together with the common goal of making that community unique, safe and viable. A place where neighbors know each other and not just co-exist in the same building or block with each other. A building or community can be newly built from the ground up, retail can be strategically placed in order to make any place "accessible" or "walkable", and I am okay with that concept. However, what truly makes a community are the people and the people's involvement in their community to make it a viable community. With that being said it is up to us to continue to get involved and uplift our communities as well as to educate outsider about our communities an challenge (extend an invitation) those not from this region of DC to visit the communities of Wards 7 & 8 and to learn (do more research) about this area and what our community have to offer.