Friday, February 3, 2012

Interactive Map of Vacant and Blighted Buildings in Shaw

Note: The map in this post has been updated. For the more recent map, click here.
After attending the ANC2C meeting this past Wednesday (February 1, 2012) — at which one of the topics of discussion was the vacant buildings on 9th Street, NW, owned by Shiloh Baptist Church — it occurred to me that it might be helpful to have a map showing all of the buildings in the Shaw area that have been designated as vacant or blighted by the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA).  So, based on data available online from DCRA, I've created an interactive blighted/vacant buildings map, which is available after the jump.

Under District law, vacant buildings are taxed at a rate that is about 6 times higher than the rate for occupied residential buildings and blighted buildings are taxed at a rate that is over 11 times higher than the rate for occupied residential buildings.  Therefore, designation of a building as vacant or blighted creates a significant incentive for the owner to redevelop, rehabilitate, or sell the property, ultimately improving quality of life in the neighborhood.

The map allows residents to see which buildings in the Shaw area have been designated as blighted, which have been designated as vacant only, and which have been designated as exempt.

The map will also help residents ensure that all buildings that should be designated as vacant or blighted are actually designated, by reporting any vacant buildings that are not included on the map.  If you know of any blighted or vacant building that are missing from the map, please add a comment to the post (and please also consider contacting  DCRA at to report the property).  Please note that vacant land (that is, empty lots) is not covered by the vacant/blighted property law and therefore are not included on the map.

I will also be adding any relevant notes to each property, if I receive notes from readers or from DCRA. Please leave a comment, or email me directly, with any information that should be added as notes (such as historical information regarding the property, links to stories about the property, etc.).

The map is after the jump.  The DCRA standards for designating vacant and blighted buildings, and the exemptions from the vacant and blighted building law, are also after the jump.

Map of Blighted, Vacant, and Exempt Properties in the Shaw Area
Click on a marker in the map below to view the property status (vacant, blighted, or exempt), the property address, the square and lot, and any relevant notes.

Blighted building
(DCRA August 2011 list)      
Vacant building
(DCRA August 2011 list)
Exempt building
(DCRA August 2011 list)       
Under rehabilitation/rehabilitated
(based on personal or reader observation)
Vacant or blighted building
(not on DCRA August 2011 list)

Note:  The information in this map was updated on July 20, 2012, to add missing data and to make data formatting changes.  The following vacant, exempt, and blighted properties were added: 310 P Street, NW; 460 New York Avenue, NW; 511 Florida Avenue, NW; 616, 618, and 620 New York Avenue, NW; and 637 and 639 Florida Avenue, NW.  These properties were inadvertently omitted from the original map.
p.s.  If anyone has experience with creating interactive Google maps and would be willing to provide technical advice to improve the features of this and other maps, please contact me at

Please note the following:
  • The area covered by the map is between 10th Street, NW, and 3rd Street, NW (from west to east) and roughly between New York Avenue, NW, and Florida Avenue, NW (from south to north).
  • The information shown for each building includes the address, square and lot, and status (blighted, vacant, exempt).  The DCRA data does not include ownership information nor does it include the reason for a property's exemption.
  • Vacant lots are not covered by the law, so they are not included on the map.
  • The latest data available on the DCRA website is from August 2011.  I have requested more recent data from DCRA and will update the map if/when more recent data is received.
  • The “Note for Blighted Properties” field provides information from the DCRA dataset.  If there is no DCRA note for a blighted property, I have filled the field with “None”; if the property is vacant or exempt, I have filled the field with “Not applicable”.
  • "Under rehabilitation" indicates that the building is on the August 2011 vacant/blighted building list, but appears to be currently under active rehabilitation.

The questions and answers below are based largely on information from the DCRA website.  The words and sentences in quotation marks are direct quotes from District law or the DCRA website.

What is a Vacant Building?
Generally, a vacant building is a building that is not “occupied continuously”. [D.C. Code § 42-3131.05(5)]

“In determining whether a building is vacant, DCRA must consider whether the building has:
  • low or no utilities usage;
  • an accumulation of mail;
  • a lack of furniture or window coverings;
  • open accessibility;
  • deferred maintenance, including loose or falling gutters, severe paint chipping, or overgrown grass;
  • been the subject of neighbor complaints about the property; and
  • been boarded up.”
Note: To be designated as a vacant building, the entire building must be vacant. In addition, vacant lots are not subject to registration.

What is a Blighted Building?
A blighted building is a vacant building that has been determined by DCRA to be “unsafe, insanitary, or which is otherwise determined to threaten the health, safety, or general welfare of the community.”

“In determining whether a vacant building is blighted, DCRA inspectors may consider:
  • Whether the building is the subject of a condemnation proceeding before the Board for the Condemnation of Insanitary Buildings;
  • Whether the building is boarded up; and
  • Whether the building violates several of the building maintenance standards, such as:
    • Doors, windows and other openings are secured against unauthorized entry;
    • The exterior walls are free of holes, graffiti, and loose or rotting materials, and any exposed metal or wood surfaces are protected against decay or rust; and
    • Any balconies, metal awnings, stairways, fire escapes, exhaust ducts, and chimneys are anchored, structurally safe, in good condition, and protected against decay or rust.”
Note: According to DCRA, vacant lots cannot be designated as vacant or blighted.

What Vacant and Blighted Buildings are Exemption from the Law?
The exemptions from the vacant/blighted property law are the following:

Active construction: “[A]ny building that is “under active construction or undergoing active rehabilitation, renovation, or repair” with a valid building permit that was issued or renewed within a year of the required registration date may claim an exemption … DCRA will grant a building permit exemption only if the property owner has obtained the permits required to “make the building fit for occupancy.” … Additionally, to grant the exemption, DCRA will require that construction be conducted on a regular, ongoing basis.”

Actively being offered for rent or sale: “[A]n exemption may be granted if a vacant building’s owner or agent has been “actively seeking in good faith” to rent or sell the building.”

Undue economic hardship: “[A]n exemption may be granted in extraordinary circumstances for substantial undue economic hardship. Such an exemption is issued only on a case-by-case basis….”

Probate: “[A] vacant building may qualify for an exemption if it is the subject of a probate proceeding or its title is in litigation.”

Development approval pending: “[An] exemption may be granted if the vacant building is the subject of a pending application for development approval before the Board of Zoning Adjustment, the Zoning Commission, the Commission on Fine Arts, the Historic Preservation Review Board, the Mayor’s Agent for Historic Preservation, or the National Capital Planning Commission.”

Note: For all of the exemptions, there is a generally a time limit on how long the exemption can last.

The following exemptions exist for government-owned property:

Federal government buildings: “[A] vacant building has a permanent exemption if it is owned by the federal government, a foreign government, or their instrumentalities. These vacant buildings neither need to be registered with DCRA, nor have to pay the registration fee.”

District government buildings: “[V]acant buildings owned by the District government or its instrumentalities must be registered, but are exempt from paying the registration fee. No federal, foreign, or District government-owned vacant building is subject to the higher property tax rates.”

What are the Vacant and Blighted Building Tax Rates?
• Vacant buildings are taxed at a rate of $5 per every $100 of assessed value.
• Blighted buildings are taxed at a rate of $10 per every $100 of assessed value.

Note: The tax rate for non-vacant/blighted residential property is $0.85 per every $100 of assessed value.


  1. Happy to say you can take 1819 10th St NW off your map (0362 0212) -- after nearly 30 years of blightedness, it is well on its way to a magnificent restoration. It's simply beautiful.

  2. Thanks, I've updated the map to show 1819 10th Street, NW, as under renovation and I've also added a link to a photo of the property in the pop-up info box.

  3. Note that Google renders N Street as North Street.

  4. Why on earth are there so many exempt properties? Wow! Either there is a ton of construction that I've been missing, or somone is abusing the system.

  5. 1000 M Street NW is vacant. The owners have hung blankets in the windows and have a light on permanently inside to make it appear that it is occupied. Inside, it is a shell. It could be a beautiful building too.

  6. 1234 9th is occupied by Long View Gallery. Note for 1320 9th could be that it's being renovated (by owner DC interior designer Darryl Carter). Thanks for the map.

  7. Re 1234 9th Street: information updated, with link to Long View website
    Re 1320 9th Street: information updated, with link to Shaw Deserves Better post on the property
    Re 1000 M Street: this property is just outside of the boundaries covered by the map (10th Street is the western boundary)

    Please keep the updated information coming!

  8. 1912 8th Street NW is now a 5 unit condominium building

    1900 8th Street NW is vacant and has been for years. The property attracts trash on an ongoing basis (from time to time someone shows up to clean up but not often enough). Permits posted are almost always out of date. No work has been done in eons.


  10. Updates made on 02/12/12:
    * 1900 8th Street NW added as vacant (with picture and note that property has several permits in window)
    * 1912 8th Street NW changed from exempt to rehabilitated (with note and picture)
    * 503 Q Street NW changed from vacant to rehabilitated (with note and picture)
    * 505 Q Street NW changed from vacant to rehabilitated (with note and picture)

  11. 905 R St. is currently being fixed up by the New Columbia Land Trust.

  12. Hello,
    Just recently discovered this blog, while looking for places in the area. Shaw has a lot of character, and I would like to find a house there, ideally a place to renovate.
    Does anyone know if there is there any program to connect owners with prospective buyers, or to help/assist with renovation projects?
    I am not a business, just an individual looking for a place for myself, and I like the idea of renovating an existing place.

    Thank you,


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