STAY AROUND the District long enough and you will notice some familiar refrains. One of those is called Accumulated Deficit. This is what city officials try to pay off every year around budget time. For a city that ultimately wants to govern itself without congressional oversight, strict belt-tightening along with payments on the deficit could be a way to demonstrate sensible fiscal policy.

Unfortunately, there always seem to be wasteful practices -- procurement and printing costs, for example. And now comes news that the District is going to pay nearly $1.1 million to lease an apartment building as a "transition house" for young working adults seeking to become financially independent of city help.

The space, in a building that some real estate experts say requires far more renovation than others that might have been chosen, will cost the city $3.21 per square foot per month. That works out to $38.52 per square foot per year. Some of the most stylish office space in the city rents for less, in the low thirties per square foot per year. One particularly posh building does so with a bonus: the owners throw in flourishes such as hand-finished oak on columns in the offices. Residential space comes even cheaper.

With the abundance of vacant buildings in the city, one also wonders whether other, cheaper deals could not have been made. The size of the effort, for 70 young adults who will get 90 to 120 days in the building in which to try to get settled into a career, poses another question: Why not try the program on a smaller scale first, to see if it works well in practice?

It is admirable that the District government is concerned about giving young people the support they would not otherwise receive in their quest to become financially independent (they will be expected to pay some rent). The building, located at 1009 11th Street NW, will house offices, a cafeteria, a medical room and counseling and training rooms as well. City officials say this type of plan centralizes services instead of stringing them out around the city. But cannot the same program be carried out as effectively in a building that would require less renovation and would charge far less in rent?