Is DC Becoming a Land of Singletons?

by Shilpi Paul

Is DC Becoming a Land of Singletons?: Figure 1
Courtesy of Delta Associates.

Two news items earlier this week only bolstered the thinking that DC is becoming a town of single people. The first was a report on Tuesday that revealed sales for homes smaller than 800 square feet skyrocketed between August 2012 and August 2013 in the city. The second was a report that the number of single tax-filers in the District has increased significantly over the last decade.

These two things alone do not prove the thesis, so we went about compiling statistics and anecdotes that show DC is increasingly turning into a land of singletons:

  • According to 2010 Census data, 45 percent of the households in the District are now single-person households, the highest percentage in the country (tied with Atlanta). Arlington and Alexandria also cracked the top ten.

  • In 2011, 63 percent of all tax filers in the city were single, an increase of 38 percent compared to 2001. Between 2001 and 2011, 65,900 new residents filed taxes for the first time in the District; 87.5 percent of these new filers were single.

Is DC Becoming a Land of Singletons?: Figure 2
Rendering of a micro-unit at The Wharf. Courtesy of PN Hoffman.

  • While we don’t have exact stats, a number of the new residential projects being built in the city have a much higher percentage of studio and one-bedroom units than two-bedrooms. For example, more than half of the units at The Aston, on the 14th Street Corridor, are studios or one-bedrooms, and at Northern Exchange, almost 90 percent of the units are studios or one-bedrooms. The Irwin and 1919 14th Street will almost entirely be composed of studios and one-bedrooms.

  • Accordingly, sales of studios and one-bedrooms are increasing significantly in the city. There were 227 sales in this segment in August, representing a 43 percent spike from the 159 sold in August last year. 30 percent of sales in the District were 0-1 bedroom units, up from 26 percent in August 2012.

  • As a Greater Greater Washington article pointed out earlier this year, DC used to have many many more households with children than single-person households. In 1960, married couples with children outnumbered singletons three to one; in 2010, singles outnumbered married couples with children at a rate of 5.57 to one.

Will the singles trend continue? If so, what impact will this have, if any, on the folks who want to partner up, have children and expand their households while living in DC?

See other articles related to: editors choice, dc singles

This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/is_dc_becoming_a_land_of_singletons/7542


  1. Robert said at 3:26 pm on Friday September 13, 2013:
    Some of those real estate stats are pretty telling. As a single DC resident who largely has single friends, I feel like it is indeed becoming more of a single town. Still, I still see a ton of families in my section of Dupont Circle and suspect that a lot of my friends will stay here when they end up having kids.
  1. saladman8283 said at 3:44 pm on Friday September 13, 2013:
    Not surprising - it comes down to the schools. If DC had a public school system that is comparable to those in the 'burbs, you'd see families flocking back in. I say this as someone who has owned property in several DC neighborhoods and who, after investigating the public and charter school options, moved to a close-in suburb once my kid reached school age. We wanted to stay in town, but frankly, the neighborhood schools were awful and it was not in our child's best interest.
  1. Vicente Fox said at 4:26 pm on Friday September 13, 2013:
    This is a nationwide trend. In 1960, one-person households comprised 13.4% of all households in the US. In 2010, the percentage had doubled, to 26.7%
  1. 20011 said at 5:14 pm on Friday September 13, 2013:
    Just you wait. Once, if ever, DCPS gets turned around, then the city will become unaffordable to EVERYONE not wealthy.
  1. kob said at 7:24 pm on Friday September 13, 2013:
    Is this DC Metro or DC-specific data? However. DC has always struck as singleton town. So many of the units are small, and studios are very common. But I love this new micro-unit trend. The Wharf unit design, above, is very attractive.
  1. Judith Claire said at 8:03 pm on Friday September 13, 2013:
    All parents can and do help make change in their neighborhood schools. When parents step in and show interest, raise money for special projects with the PTA and share ideas...schools get better. Running away does not change schools.
  1. Will said at 8:24 pm on Friday September 13, 2013:
    As a parent of two small children and current owner of a house in DC I would prefer to live there and raise my children in the city. Instead I rent my house out and moved to Arlington because of the schools. And to the previous commenter who said we can change the schools. You are correct but my kids are too important to allow them to suffer scholastically while the change happens. Almost everyone I know either moved or sent their kids private. DC needs to use some of its extra cash on the schools if they want families to stay. My DC local school has a 50% standardized test pass rate, my Arlington school has a 98%. That is simple math.
  1. s. Johnson said at 9:02 pm on Friday September 13, 2013:
    I am a single DC resident but DO NOT wish to live in a micro unit -- I have a piano. However, it is virtually impossible to find in the District a 1200sf BR in a new building that is AFFORDABLE. So I remain in my beautiful, but older apartment, with a balcony and a lovely view. However, I would like for developers to offer more choice. Perhaps, if DC's officials provided incentives for developers to construct more affordable housing and also improved the quality of public schools in the District, the town would be more diverse demographically.
  1. Juanita de Talmas said at 9:45 pm on Friday September 13, 2013:
    <i>the town would be more diverse demographically</i> The town <i>is</i> more diverse demographically now than it has been in the last twenty years.
  1. Youandmeandwalliemakethree.com said at 4:09 am on Saturday September 14, 2013:
    There also happen to be a lot of couples who live in studios and 1 BRs bc this city is outrageously expensive and some folks just don't want to or cant afford to foot the cost of a larger space. Looking at single tax filers is one thing but examining sales and rentals of even small houses of 800 sq. feet is speculative. 15 years ago, a single person could buy an entire house in many parts of DC for half the cost of what a studio or 1 BR costs today in some of those same neighborhoods.
  1. Payton said at 2:18 am on Sunday September 15, 2013:
    All these complaints about schools, moving to Arlington... and yet didn't anyone catch that Arlington also has an incredibly high proportion of single residents? When writing that GGW piece, I was surprised to find out that the biggest factor in the shift towards single-person households wasn't so much the delay of marriage as rising living standards among the elderly.
  1. James said at 2:34 pm on Sunday September 15, 2013:
    People who fled the District with their school-age children could have stayed, had they tried. There are fantastic charter schools in every ward, but one must plan, apply, and think ahead (difficult for many). Glad I'm not sharing a wall with the poster with the piano.

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