Home Values in Broad Decline
Few Neighborhoods Are Exempt From Downward Trend

By Nikita Stewart
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 27, 2009

For the first time in recent years, the vast majority of residential neighborhoods in the District will see a decrease in their property assessments, with double-digit drops in seven communities, according to data city officials released yesterday.

Even the Crestwood neighborhood, where Mayor Adrian M. Fenty lives, was not immune, experiencing a 13 percent fall -- second only to Michigan Park in Ward 5, where property values decreased nearly 16 percent.

Looking at declining property values across the country, however, the District is "very fortunate" that overall assessments have not fallen more sharply, said Richie McKeithen, director of real property tax administration in the Office of Tax and Revenue.

The average decrease in residential property assessments for fiscal 2010 is 3.67 percent, compared with a 2.3 percent increase for fiscal 2009. Homeowners are supposed to get tax bills based on fiscal 2009 assessments by Monday. The new assessments will be applied when homeowners are billed in March 2010.

Petworth and Riggs Park in Ward 4, Eckington and Woodridge in Ward 5 and LeDroit Park in Ward 1 rounded out the areas that saw double-digit declines.

Gale Black, advisory neighborhood commissioner for Crestwood, in Ward 4, said she was surprised by the numbers. "That's really amazing," she said, especially when homes are still selling for more than $1 million. "They're still looking pretty high," she said.

Crestwood residents might have had something to do with the drop. A few years ago, many complained of high assessments and filed appeals, she said.

City officials said this week that property owners, mostly those with commercial holdings, are aggressively appealing assessments and are winning -- a trend that is adding to the District's financial woes.

Yesterday, the preliminary numbers for commercial property showed assessed value rising by 1.38 percent. But McKeithen said he expects that the final numbers will show an average decrease of 2 to 5 percent.

The early numbers do not reflect appeals, which will probably lead to reductions in assessments, he said.

Residential property values rose significantly in one spot: Bolling Air Force Base. Assessments of privately owned housing there rose by more than 10 percent, outpacing gains in seven other areas. Forest Hills, Palisades, Kent and Berkley in Ward 3 and Foggy Bottom, Burleith and the Central District in Ward 2 saw gains between 0.43 and 1.82 percent.

The jump in assessed value on the Air Force base can be attributed to new housing, McKeithen said.

The new development is called the Landings at Bolling, according to a Web site about base housing. It's part of the $750 million redevelopment and privatization of military family housing at Bolling, Langley Air Force Base in Virginia and Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, the Web site says.

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