Raising Washington’s height of buildings..

A nice short article on woes of price of real estate in Washington DC.

The height of city buildings in the city are governed by a act called height of buildings act:

Thanks to a decade-long economic boom in Washington, D.C., the median monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the nation’s capital is now $2,190, making it the fourth-most expensive American city for renters, behind New York, San Francisco, and Boston. Commercial tenants are also feeling the pinch. Asking rents for D.C. office space are second only to those in the Big Apple. Meanwhile, after decades of stagnation and decline, Washington’s population is growing steadily, promising a tighter housing market and even higher rents in the future.

An increase in the supply of leasable square footage in the district would solve the problem. But D.C. real-estate developers are constrained by a 113-year-old federal law, the Height of Buildings Act of 1910, under which no city building can be taller than the width of the street it faces plus an additional 20 feet. The maximum building height on a commercial thoroughfare—with a few minor exceptions—is 130 feet. The maximum height in a residential neighborhood is 90 feet. The district also has its own municipal height limits; and in many neighborhoods, the local limit is actually lower than the federal one.

Building cannot be taller than width of road? Some logic for this given here? On this basis, most buildings in India are really tall..

Policymakers are contemplating changing the act. Economic debates have begun:

A district-commissioned analysis suggests that the economic benefits from relaxing the height limit could be considerable; it projects the creation of thousands of jobs from even a small height increase. Nonetheless, many still oppose changes to the law, and the debate has scrambled traditional ideological lines. Christopher Leinberger of the Brookings Institution argues that lifting the limit will help in the fight against global warming (he holds the height limit responsible for the region’s suburban sprawl and, consequently, increased traffic-related emissions). Kaid Benfield, director of the Sustainable Communities program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, opposes lifting the height limit because, he says, “[D.C.] suburbs look like everywhere, USA. Let’s not let that happen in our central city.” Public meetings have spawned similar debates. Many argue that repeal of the height limit will spur development and help drive down rents. Some longtime residents oppose altering the limits because, in their view, Washington is too crowded already.

In truth, even if Congress repealed the Height of Buildings Act tomorrow, some local restrictions on building heights would remain in force. So this whole battle, which is ostensibly about architecture and development, rent and horizontal skylines, may be about something else: how sovereign the nation’s capital city should be. Like so much of what happens inside the Washington beltway, the skyline battle may really be a fight over who decides.

Crazy to think we have an act like this..

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