House prices in the District of Columbia increased more steeply than anywhere else in the region last year, with the median sale price rising 33 percent, according to a Washington Post analysis based on city sales records for single-family houses and townhouses. Condominiums were not included.

The numbers give new evidence of the increasing popularity of the District, at a time when demographic numbers show that the D.C. population has stabilized after decades of decline.

The District's median sales price rose to $250,000 last year, up 33 percent from 2001. The number of sales increased 19.4 percent to 3,412.

The D.C. Office of Tax and Revenue is shifting from triennial to annual property tax assessments of all properties. Assessments for triennial groups one and two, also assessed last year, were on average 12 and 20 percent higher, respectively, according to the city. Triennial group three, last assessed in January 2000, had an average increase of 46 percent. That group of assessments in particular has led many residents to complain of huge increases.

As in other parts of the region, low mortgage rates boosted the market, but in the District prices also gained because of a perception that the city has become more livable.

Take Zip code 20009, for example, an area that includes the Adams Morgan, Dupont Circle and Columbia Heights neighborhoods. The median sales price here soared 45 percent to $419,000. The number of sales jumped 62.3 percent to 125. This area has increased in popularity in part because of the Columbia Heights Metro station, which opened in September 1999. Victorian rowhouses are popular here, though many are being converted into condos, often at a steep profit, according to Tsegaye Tadesse of Re/Max Capital.

Immediately to the north, the more affordable Zip code 20010, which includes Mount Pleasant, saw prices increase almost as much, with the median rising 38.7 percent to $240,000.

More expensive neighborhoods farther west also saw significant price increases. The median price in Zip code 20007, which includes Georgetown, Burleith, Glover Park and part of Foxhall, rose 33.3 percent to $700,000.

"Georgetown has always had a great panache," said Yolanda Mamone, senior vice president of Randall Hagner Residential. "People love Georgetown because of the history, the charm and just being able to say 'I live in Georgetown.' "

There's also plenty of panache in the leafy neighborhoods of Zip code 20016, which includes Wesley Heights and American University Park. Median prices there rose 23.5 percent to $630,000.

With lower interest rates, more people can afford to buy in expensive areas. "People can basically buy twice the house that they could have afforded two or three years ago," Mamone said.

Statistics show that some neighborhoods on the eastern side of the District shared in the precipitous price climb. Median prices in Zip code 20002, which extends north from Capitol Hill to the southern edge of Brookland and east past Gallaudet University, rose 30.8 percent to $170,000. Prices in the more expensive southern part of Capitol Hill, Zip code 20003, rose 36.4 percent to $300,000.

"The housing market is pushing east in this city," said Peter Clute of Coldwell Banker/Pardoe. A shortage of affordable housing in traditionally desirable neighborhoods is driving renewal in areas such as Brookland and Howard University.

But the smallest increases were also on the eastern side. Prices rose just 2 percent in Zip code 20018, the part of Northeast that includes Woodridge.

Of the three Zip codes on the eastern side of the Anacostia River, two of them, 20019 and 20032, had median price increases of less than 10 percent. These two also had the lowest median prices in the District, less than $100,000. In the third Zip code east of the river, 20020, where there has been a spate of new construction, the median prices rose 15.5 percent to $127,000.