Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Shipping Container & Tiny Homes, Can They Help Solve the Low Cost Housing Crisis?





Candidate for AT LARGE, DC COUNCIL, November 8, 2016 General Election, Statehood Green Party candidate.  Remember, you can vote for two At Large candidates.  Only one can be a Democrat.

The lack of low cost housing is one of our major problems in DC. We are now growing at the rate of 1,000 new people a month. [July 2015 - That no longer appears to be true, some say only 500 a month.  Lack of low cost housing for young people is no doubt a factor.  Once settled in MD or VA, they are less like to move to DC.]  It is becoming harder and harder to find moderately priced (affordable) housing, and almost impossible to find low cost housing. I have already written about this elsewhere on my blog.

That article on March 17, 2014 titled DC Low Income Housing Needs New Ideas points out that if the city keeps raising annual property assessments 10% and more, a mere 2% increase in rents will soon drive owners out of the rental market. Owners are faced with increased taxes every time a neighbor renovates their home. If one has not installed granite counters, stainless steel appliances, and fancy tiled bathrooms, why should the tax assessment be raised in parallel with the neighbor's fancy new house?

Therefore, if the Council continues to permit the 2% increase, they should also limit the increase for unimproved homes to no more than 2%. The increase in market value can be raised at time of sale at the actual market price.

I also wrote about the move to promote very small homes. These can work well as single units, but what of locations where apartment buildings make more sense or there is a high volume of need. Now I see a possible new solution: SHIPPING CONTAINER HOMES (Google that for many interesting articles).  In addition, the Google site “Shipping Container Home Plans" has hundreds of photos of home plans and actual buildings, some of which are multistory, multifamily.

 Recently, TV news reported on a multistory building going up at Catholic University to house students. We should plan to build similar structures in other parts of the city. The containers come in 20 and 40 foot lengths, are 8 feet wide, and 8'6” or 9'6” high. The photos mentioned above show many possible configurations using 1 and more units.  The above photo shows a 5 story structure.  Also a structure being built.

For ease of construction and mobility of units multistory steel frameworks could be designed and individual units inserted. The city could allow leasing of plots of land for 10, 20 and even longer periods of years for erection of these frameworks. Thus people could buy their own low cost unit and it could subsequently be moved to another part of the city if they change jobs or want to be closer to family.  If a renter's economics improve or they are able to get funding from a bank or home ownership program, such units could even be permanently located on a foundation or pad. Thus the nearly universal wish for a home of ones own could be made available to many more people than is possible today.

At the recent Anacostia High School Mayoral Forum, I spoke with a vendor of "Street Sense" a newspaper by and for the homeless.  I told him about the concept and described one of the 20 foot unit plans that had a bathroom with shower, and a kitchenette with an undercounter refrigerator.  He said, "That is all I want, just a little place to call my own with a lock on the door."  When I said I believe that a small unit like that could be built for $20,000 to $30,000, he became very excited.

Checking mortgage rates for such a 20 foot unit, I calculated various costs for a $30,000 unit.  A 15 year mortgage at 4.5% would cost $230 per month.  A 20 year mortgage at 4.5% would cost $190 a month.  A 20 year mortgage at 4.5% for a $40,000 cost would require rent of $253 a month.   A 40 foot unit might cost less than twice as much, and would be suitable for a childless couple or single parent with one child.  Doubling the monthly pay yields $460, $380, and $506.  Even considering the extra costs of utilities, these prices are still very doable for many poor and low income people.

[Feb. 2018]  I just found this 2014 video of a Florida builder offering 8' x 20' container homes for $37,000.  This model is more elaborate than just a box, but definitely in the low income neighborhood.  Their 8' x 40' model was $57,000.  Since they are made of steel, can be anchored by concrete, and have a sliding steel door to cover the patio door, they are far more hurricane safe than mobile homes.  They also have some built in efficient furniture.

This company in Baltimore advertises one trip 20' containers for prices a little over $2,000.  The company linked here has detailed pricing and design information.  They appear to use higher quality materials and appliances than might be needed for a low cost housing program.  A house 16' by 20' (composed of two 8 x 20 units) is priced at $80,300, shipped, roofed, assembled and placed on a foundation.  The price for a 20' x 24' home (composed of three 8 x 20 units) treated as above is $101,300.  Two 8 by 20 units intended more for vacation or off grid use are priced $29,000 and $36,000.  This article speaks about the pros and cons of container repurposing.  The article is more con, but many of the comments point out pros neglected in the article.

This site showing homes around the world has a low cost house built in Salt Lake City, Utah.  It is number 15. Sarah House, and in a 12+ minute video the designer/builder explains how he has tried to make this house suitable for singles or seniors.  Here are other homes and costs.  It is constructed from two 8' by 40' containers, and the narrator estimates cost from $103,000 to $112,000 to build.  He also points out that if mass produced, it would cost a lot less.  The above price includes learning and experimentation costs.

This article looks at the problem of ever increasing rents.  A number of interesting comments propose or describe causes, and describe the situation in various cities outside the DC metropolitan area.  This trend is certainly one of the factors in the growing homelessness problem.  We need to consider how various laws and regulations negatively impact the availability of lower cost housing.

Los Angeles has just announced [Sept. 2015] plans to put big money into tackling their homeless problem.  Their target of $100 million is similar to Mayor Bowser's target figure for DC.  Since their climate is milder they have many more homeless than does New York.

I hope our city has some builders, architects, and politicians willing to explore new and creative ways to house our homeless and poor.  Whether elected or not this November, I will try to help make this happen.  Some DC Council members have expressed an interest in tiny homes.  In addition, other jurisdictions are testing new ways to treat the homeless situation, such as providing housing first and then treating the drug and alcohol addiction issues.  The program linked above achieved a major reduction in chronic homelessness with this approach.

While it seems that many developers and political leaders have no problem with forcing our low and moderate income people out of the city, they should rethink this in light of the recent Metro problems.  How would this city function if all of the lower wage workers are forced to live miles outside the city?

Here is the link for a highly innovative skyscraper.  Its extensive covering of trees and other living greens is a valuable, environmentally friendly addition to an urban setting.

The election is over, I did not win one of the two At Large Council seats.  However, I did come in a strong third with over 29,000 votes.  Thank you supporters, this will give me strength as I continue to advocate for measures that help our people and our city.

For creative leadership at the Council, VOTE G. LEE AIKIN, in the Nov. 8, 2016 General Election since I won the DC Statehood Green Party Primary.* **

* Paid for by ELECT G. LEE AIKIN, campaign committee, 1754 Swann St., NW, Washington, DC 20009, Don Wharton, treasurer.
Contributions can be written to ELECT G. LEE AIKIN and mailed to:
1754 Swann St., NW, Washington, DC 20009.
** A copy of our report is filed with the Director of Campaign Finance of the DC Board of Elections.

Monday, October 6, 2014

EBOLA Can Be Stopped, But Nobody Is Trying Low Cost, High Doses of Vitamin C, Although the Symptoms Say Scurvy (& a Word on Zika)

HOW MANY EBOLA VICTIMS COULD BIG PHARMA KILL? If They & Medical Establishment Don't Try Low Cost Readily Available Treatments like high Vitamin C doses.

If you care about human suffering, read this and pass it on!

Ebola is an incredibly nasty virus currently causing death and severe economic hardship in 3 west African countries. Several other west African countries also have cases but seem to be coping better. It is spread by direct contact with bodily fluids of the ill. The US military is sending teams of soldiers to help establish medical facilities and other things needed where the breakdown is most severe. The most effective measures currently applied are basic sanitation, and isolation of those sick or potentially infected. The MSM word is that we may have some new drugs or vaccines soon, that could reverse the infection trend around December (maybe).

[July 2015 - Exciting news about development of an effective Ebola vaccine currently in trials.  It takes about 3 weeks for the vaccine to develop full effectiveness, so one would be wise to continue taking at least 2 to 4 grams of Vitamin C both before and after receiving vaccine.  There are also reports that many survivors of Ebola suffer other long term symptoms.  It would probably help to continue taking the Vitamin C as well as a good vitamin/mineral daily tablet, and extra calcium and magnesium at a 2 to 1 ratio.  Since a number of countries where the epidemic was worst seem to lack Vitamin C rich foods, efforts should be made to increase/develop production of such foods.  These could include tomatoes, citrus fruit and acerola cherry shrubs.]

When I first heard about the horrible symptoms, my immediate thought was runaway scurvy—breakdown of tissues, massive hemorrhage, and then death. So my next thought was, “Has high dosage Vitamin C, oral and/or intravenous been tried on Ebola?” Google search turned up a lot of information about this, with the opinion it could be highly effective and should be tested immediately. The sad part is nobody in CDC, NIH, our Military, or major hospitals has mentioned Vitamin C as a potentially useful low cost treatment. Of course Big Pharma has no interest in it because their profits come from new drugs and vaccines.

Here is a very detailed article, by Dr. Robert Cathcart, somewhat technical, with extensive details on how to evaluate amount of Vitamin C to use, and how much and how often to administer it. There are also a number of medical references.  If you know any medically oriented people, please forward this to them immediately.  Ebola is here, and we don't want any more people to die.

I first became aware of high Vitamin C therapy more than 30 years ago when I read about pioneering work being done by Dr. Frederick R. Klenner of North Carolina, using it to save people from poison snake and spider bites. He went on to treat many other conditions with considerable success as outlined here. After his death about 30 years ago, his many papers were organized and summarized here as a guide for clinical use.

A few years after I read about his work I was camping and encountered a group desperately trying to help a woman bitten in the neck by yellow jackets. She had forgotten her bee sting allergy kit, her body was swollen all over, her eyes swollen shut, and she was choking. I immediately gave her 10 grams of C orally (had to crush and give in water because of swollen throat). In 15 minutes, the swelling had gone down, her eyes were open and she had stopped choking. I also gave some Pantothenic Acid to help her adrenals, some B Complex and calcium. After an hour she still had symptoms so I gave her another 5 grams. I stayed with her a total of 8 hours, giving 5 g. every hour. Then she said she felt she could sleep, so I left her with a handful of C tablets to take as needed. She hiked out the next day.

[March 2017]  Here is an article on the effect of Vitamin C on the spread of Cancer in the body.  A lively comment section from people who favor Vitamin C and those who think it is bunk.

The latest scary story (Dec. 2014) about Ebola is that it has shown up in a hospital in Mozul, Iraq, the city currently controlled and terrorized by ISIS/ISIL.  This has not been confirmed, but since people described as terrorists have stolen from or attacked medical facilities dealing with Ebola in West Africa, it is certainly not impossible.  Iraq government and World Health Organization have not yet confirmed or disproved the rumor.  Since travel in Mozul is controlled by the terrorists, confirmation will not be easy.  Either it is not true, or if it is there will be more cases soon.  Stay tuned.

[4/11/16] A few words on Zika:  I will soon write a separate article on Zika, NIH has now reported that Aedes aegypti, the mosquito that carries the Zika virus which causes severe brain abnormalities in the unborn is found in 30 states.  I checked on Washington, DC and found this disturbing article.  A man on Capitol Hill called a mosquito scientist friend to his house in 2012 because there were many mosquitoes.  The scientist was shocked to discover they were Aedes aegypti which current CDC maps showed were not in this area.  He found others breeding in nearby puddles of water caught in trash containers and a non functioning fountain.  Return trips in 2013, 2014, and 2015 showed they were still there.  With mosquito season fast upon us we must take immediate action.

My son in Puerto Rico which already has Zika told me that the government there had been recommending high dosage Vitamin C for Dengue Fever and Chikungunya which are also spread by Aedes aegypti.  These are frequently painful diseases, unlike the low symptom destroyer of the unborn, Zika, which seems to have many neurological effects.  Perhaps Vitamin C might be effective in reducing the spread and harm of Zika.  One finding is that the virus seems to persist longer in the blood of pregnant women.  Would taking more Vitamin C reduce that contagious time?  While primarily oriented to showing the importance of Vitamin D to immune response and health, this site has links to over 100 articles.  While strongly focused on Vitamin D, and Zika, it also links articles on other important nutrients that strengthen immunity. 
     This article from the Univ. of Wisconsin is a rather technical piece on pre- and post-natal brain development.  Some nutrients have more effect on brain development than others.  Listed are protein, energy (calories?), certain fats, iron, zinc, copper, iodine, seleniium Vitamin A, choline, and folic acid. 

Below are other sites and comments on Ebola.

Here are a series of detailed articles on various aspects of Ebola and other diseases. They include ones on the great value of using Vitamin C, similarities in Ebola and other hemorrhagic viruses, how to treat yourself, noneffectiveness of colloidal silver (an anti-bacterial agent) for virus illness, and possible weaponization of Ebola/Marburg.

     “Ebola is probably the best known of a class of viruses known as hemorrhagic fever viruses. In fact, Ebola virus was initially recognized in 1976. Other less known but related viral syndromes include yellow fever, dengue hemorrhagic fever, Rift Valley fever, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever...Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, Venezuelan, Brazilian, Argentine, and Bolivian hemorrhagic fever, and Lassa fever. The Ebola virus infection, also known as African hemorrhagic fever, has the distinction of having the highest case-fatality rate of the viral infections noted above, ranging from 53% to 88%.  A new mosquito borne disease called Chikunguna, origin east Africa, is now spreading throughout the Caribbean.  My son in Puerto Rico says it is almost impossible to find Vitamin C in the stores because the government advises using it for this new illness and Dengue Fever.

     "These viral hemorrhagic fever syndromes share certain clinical features. The Cecil Textbook of Medicine notes that these diseases are characterized by capillary fragility, which translates to easy bleeding, that can frequently lead to severe shock and death. These diseases also tend to consume and/or destroy the platelets, which play an integral role in blood clotting. The clinical presentation of these viral diseases is similar to scurvy, which is also characterized by capillary fragility and a tendency to bleed easily. Characteristic skin lesions develop, which are actually multiple tiny areas of bleeding into the skin that surround the hair follicles. some cases even include bleeding into already healed scars.

     "Ebola virus and the other viral hemorrhagic fevers are much more likely to cause fatal hemorrhaging before any other fatal infection has a chance to become established....The virus so rapidly and totally metabolizes and consumes all available vitamin C in the bodies of the victims that an advanced stage of scurvy is literally produced after only a few days....viral hemorrhagic fevers typically only take hold and reach epidemic proportions in those populations that...have low body stores of vitamin C...found in...severely malnourished Africans. In such individuals, an infecting hemorrhagic virus will often wipe out any remaining vitamin C stores before the immune systems can get the upper hand and initiate recovery.

     "First of all, as anyone who knows about scurvy can state, vitamin C helps blood vessel walls keep their strength. But there is something far more serious at play with Ebola that vitamin C impedes. Something even more sinister than blood vessel weakening happens when Ebola depletes all Vitamin Cand that is a greatly accelerated release of blood vessel damaging cytokine IL-6. Any medical professional will be able to quickly look up the fact that vitamin C impedes the release of cytokine IL-6, which Ebola causes severe releases of in blood vessel walls. Once released in huge amounts, IL-6 further irritates blood vessel walls to such an extent it can blow holes in them, and this, combined with the already weakened condition from a lack of vitamin C will cause many vessels to rupture.

     "In short, vitamin C is like a magic Ebola bullet that not only curtails the release of blood vessel damaging cytokine IL-6, it also, at the same time, makes blood vessels return at least to normal strength (and possibly beyond with very high dosings.) These two things working together make vitamin C the probable best first line of defense against Ebola that is possible, [until an effective vaccine is developed.  This could be months or even years away.]

     "But there is more to this story than that…Since IL-6 plays a huge role in damaging blood vessels, it is important to stop its release. And there are some very simple foods that can be eaten that facilitate this....Green tea can curtail cytokine IL-6 release by 21 percent (which pales compared to vitamin C, but would be a bonus). Of similar value are apples, cinnamon, most berries, choke cherries, pomegranates, olive oil, flax seed oil and fish oil.

     "You should avoid caffeine and chocolate, because though both have the potential to help in some ways, they also have the potential to totally offset all benefit in everything else eaten (but this has not been fully studied out by anyone with regard to Ebola as far as I know) it is just that doctors who know this a whole lot better than I do say the chemistry could possibly go very negatively, so to be safe, avoid caffeine and chocolate.

     "The foods mentioned above pretty much round out the list as far as I know, and further playing around with things like garlic (which is great for practically anything) and hot peppers, ginseng and other blood thinning foods will probably be detrimental with a hemorrhagic fever.

     "The bottom line is that if Ebola does take off, those in the know do not just have to sit in fear and wait for death to come. Diet and vitamin C can easily make the difference between practically living normally through it all, or dying.”

[GLA Note:  We should immediately ship massive quantities of Vitamin C and C powder to the emergency areas to widely distribute for daily preventive use by at risk populations, and for medical treatment of those who are ill. Our soldiers over there should be taking Vitamin C daily to reduce likelihood of infection by Ebola and a number of other nasty illnesses.]

The medical establishment has not made low cost Vitamin C therapy and prevention a priority, this article gives more details on why they should.  I recently heard a report about vaccine use.  It was hoped that weaker doses could be used to treat more people.  Perhaps a study should be made to see if Vitamin C administration in 2 to 4 grams doses or perhaps even higher would enable the body to utilize the vaccine more effectively in smaller amounts.

     “….The few labs that do have access to testing Ebola are unlikely to be testing the effects of vitamin C on Ebola any time soon. However, two top medical vitamin C experts believe that it could help. As extraordinary as this might sound there is NO VIRUS yet investigated that a sustained high dose of vitamin C, given intravenously, or in high and continuous oral doses, hasn't killed off or substantially suppressed.

     "Dr Robert Cathcart, who has more experience treating potentially deadly infections with high dose vitamin C than any other doctor I know of, says, “the Ebola virus kills by way of free radicals which can be neutralized by massive doses of sodium ascorbate intravenously”. He refers to the case of Nurse Pineo saying she 'was the first white that survived the Lassa fever (another hemorrhagic fever) outbreak in Lassa and was taking vitamins of her own accord. (Fuller, JG. Fever. Reader's Digest Press. 1974.)' I have not been able to verify details of this case.

     "In his book ‘Vitamin C, Infectious Diseases and Toxins: Curing the Incurable’ Dr Thomas Levy describes how high dose vitamin C has successfully eliminated all known viruses. 'I have not found any virus for which vitamin C does not exert a virucidal effect, as long as enough vitamin C reaches the virus, such as in any acute infection.' According to Dr Levy “the virus so rapidly and totally metabolizes and consumes all available vitamin C in the bodies of victims that an advanced stage of scurvy is produced after only a few days.” He proposed that the haemorrhagic fever, inducing internal bleeding, which is the primary cause of death in Ebola, is remarkably similar to scurvy.”

     "What is known is that the greater the strength of an infection the higher doses of vitamin C a person can tolerate before reaching ‘bowel tolerance’ level, after which a person gets very loose bowels. [GLA note: burning urine or acidic farts are also a sign that one should reduce the dose slightly.  In addition when healing seems to be happening, Vitamin C dose should gradually be reduced.  Sudden stop can lead to a dangerous rebound effect.] This does suggest that the stronger the infection, which produces free radicals, the more rapidly it would exhaust vitamin C, which attempts to quench free radicals, potentially leading to acute induced scurvy, the main symptom of which is haemorrhage.

     "Both experts point out how important it is to achieve sufficiently high vitamin C level in the blood plasma, and to keep it high. The stronger an infection the more vitamin C is used up, hence also the more you can tolerate before reaching 'bowel tolerance'. Even if this doesn't occur it is terribly important to keep yourself hydrated at all times.

     "There are many potential reasons reason why high dose vitamin C makes a lot of sense in the treatment of Ebola. Viral infection is known to generate oxidative stress, which could be attenuated by vitamin C. Also, vitamin C has been shown to inhibit viral replication in vitro. And we know that in vitro very high doses of vitamin C generate hydrogen peroxide which has antimicrobial actions, but you would probably need intravenous vitamin C, or at least extremely high oral intake, to induce this effect.

     "The other thing I find really interesting about Ebola, but have yet to find the full story on, is that it appears to affect monkeys (primates) and fruit eating bats, but not other animals. Now, the only animals I know of who cannot synthesise their own vitamin C are primates, fruit-eating bats, guinea pigs, capybaras and the red-vented bulbul bird. So, if all vitamin C producing animals are immune, or at least survive if infected, that is really interesting. Infection appears to have primarily originated from handling dead primates and fruit-eating bats. It would be interesting to know if bats have lesser or no fatality than us humans by virtue of their high vitamin C intake.

     "Meanwhile, we have no proven drug or vaccine, although the Zmapp drug (a mixture of three genetically modified humanised monoclonal antibodies, originally derived from mice, guinea pigs and monkeys) in the limited number of cases so far tested, seems to have substantially increased survival rates. While not all given Zmapp have survived, it seems that those with stronger immune systems, given a strong enough dose early enough during an infection, have. However, it has not been subject to clinical or safety testing so is very much in the experimental stage. Also, sadly, supplies have run out so it is a very limited option. A vaccine against this particular strain of Ebola is currently being rushed through into clinical trial stage.

     "….there is certainly good logic, in the absence of other available treatments,, for the leading medical authorities to review the use of Vitamin C and for clinicians to consider this option.. Intravenous vitamin C has been used, and tested, for cancer, sepsis, and various infections with a very good safety record. A review in 2010 of 9,328 patients treated with IV vitamin C concludes that ‘Other than the known complications of IV vitamin C in those with renal impairment or glucose 6 phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency, high dose intravenous vitamin C appears to be remarkably safe, .”  It is also worth pointing out that vitamin C treatment can be complementary to any other medical treatment,..as it helps the immune system to function better.

     "My advice, whenever there is a virus of any kind going around, is to keep your daily vitamin C level up. I take 2 grams a day in divided doses, and 1 gram every one or two hours if I get the first signs of a viral infection (e.g. blocked nose, itchy throat and headache). In the case of Ebola I would recommend immediate intravenous vitamin C. To find out what I have learnt about other killer viruses such as swine and bird flu and Vitamin C read my blog 'Can vitamin C kill swine flu?”

Other Information

[11/22/15]  Global health experts have accused the World Health Organization of major failures through belated response to the Ebola crisis.   

[10/23/14]  A case if Ebola in Mali is now reported in a two year old whose mother died recently in Guinea.  The child has also died.  The small outbreaks in Nigeria and Senegal seem to be under control and stopped.  There is a separate outbreak in the Congo.  So far there have been no reports of people dying from Ebola caught here in the US.  Even the family of Duncan, the man from Liberia who died, has been released from observation with NO illness.  Here is a report on the latest US recovery case, with lots of comments.

[12/23/14]  Reports from the most afflicted countries are becoming more optimistic.  The local militaries are enforcing common sense public safety measures.  These include no handling of dead bodies by relatives, calling trained authorities for body pickup and disposal, cremation of the dead, building more hospitals and clinics.  The scary statistics for the new year predicted a few months ago  no longer appear to be likely.  But still there have been no reports of significant use of Vitamin C, and at least 7,000 are already dead.

Since the medical establishment will be/has been slow to follow up on this low cost treatment we need to take responsibility for our selves and our friends. Pass this information along wherever you think it may help. Inform medical and health service people you know.  Buy a stock of Vitamin C for yourself and family. Remember, your body burns up or excretes Vitamin C rather quickly, so plan to take some 3 or 4 times a day when under stress or ill. It appears that most animals which produce their own C make an amount equal to around 2 to 4 grams a day compared to human weight.  

Another substance with powerful anti-scorbutic effects is PYCNOGENOL.  Today, it is commercially made from the bark of a French maritime pine or grape seeds.  It enhances the lifespan of Vitamin C metabolites.  The explorer Cabot discovered the effectiveness of pine bark when Indians along the St. Lawrence river saved his crew dying from scurvy with pine products.  I would use this in conjunction with Vitamin C therapy if I could find it. 

I am allergic to house dust, mold and other air borne substances. I have taken 3 to 6 grams a day of C for decades, and rarely get sick (which I did often before that). I divide that quantity and take it 3 or 4 times a day. When I start to sneeze or get a scratchy throat I pop a 1 gram (1,000 mg.) tablet which usually solves the problem. When starting to house clean I take 2 grams to protect against the dust.

So whether you are worried about Ebola or just Flu and the common cold, stock up on Vitamin C for the winter and worry less. If you have friends in danger areas send this blog post to them. If they want it, ship some Vitamin C to them as well.  If your soldier is headed for west Africa, give him or mail him a generous supply.  To calm the concerns about soldiers returning to the US with Ebola, they are being quarantined in Italy for 21 days.

Friday, October 3, 2014

DC Taxes will come down in 2019, as DC Council Approves 2 Tax Revision Commission Recommendations to FINALLY Put $85 Million Annually in Our Pockets


My 12 year effort to restore Tax Fairness to Working Poor and Middle Class is now bearing fruit (slightly).  G. Lee Aikin, 2016 At Large candidate, DC Statehood Green Party.  The Council has just approved (11 to 2) a phased in implementation of this proposal.  For comparison here is a summary of Mayor Gray's proposals. New details below.

[11/1/15 - contrary to expectation, our April 2015 forms for DC taxes in 2014 did not improve our Deduction and Exemption situation AT ALL relative to the federal allowances.  FOR SHAME DC COUNCIL!!  However, our Council has approved over $70 million to destroy our last big potential park site--McMillian Park.]

In 1973 when DC obtained Home Rule, our DC income tax Deductions and Exemptions (D&E's) had parity with the Federal IRS 1040 rates. Unlike the Federal rates which increase yearly with inflation, the DC rates only increased when our Council remembered to do so. For almost 40 year the mostly Democrat DC Council has failed to increase them annually.  In 2004, after I brought this inequity to David Catania's attention, he tried to introduce a bill to "couple" these rates. 

This Council failure means that for 2013 taxes a family of 4 paid DC taxes on all income above $10,800. What a kick in the gut for poor families! With the Federal D&E rates this same family of 4 only paid IRS taxes on income above $27,800.   How wonderful if our families could have had those deductions for 2013, this year, 2015, and 2016.  But, no, they will have to wait until 2017 before they can even begin taking higher Exemptions on their children or themselves.  Even then it will only be about half of the federal Exemption.

We have now passed the April 15, 2015 filing of 2014 taxes.  Although DC made small additions in the 2014 reductions allowed, they were even less than the inflation adjusted federally increased rates.  See chart below.

This Council failure has cost us well over a $billion throughout the years since we got Home Rule.  I cannot even begin to calculate the harm this his done to our working poor and lower middle class.  Has it been one important factor in forcing people, especially families, in Anacostia out into Prince Georges County?  Think how much money has NOT been available for local spending.  Imagine what a difference it will make for local small business if we are getting this $85 Million back every year.  We must persuade the Council to speed up implementation.  It will especially pay dividends with businesses and people in our poorer communities.

The Tax Revision Commission agreed this was grossly unfair. They wanted to put $85,000,000 back in our pockets annually. Did they want us to wait 5 more years for the full benefit?  We must all lobby Council members or elect Council members to get this done quickly, not waiting until calendar 2020 (for the 2019 tax year).  Here are the current DC rates compared with the Federal rates by family type and numbers.  The bill just voted by the Council (May 2014) will phase in the increases over a 5 year period.  See how that small 2014 increase falls more behind the federal rate.
FAMILY SIZE – Deduction    DC Tax             Federal Tax
[Using 2013 figures]                   D&Es                    D&Es 
                                               2013       2014       2013      2014                                                                                                                           
Single, under 65                        $ 5,775   $ 5,875   $10,000  $10,150
Single, over 65 or blind                7,450                    11,500
Single, over 65 & blind                9,125                    13,000
Couple, under 65                          7,450      7,600     20,000     20,300
Couple, 1 under 65, 1 over 65      9,125                    21,200
Couple, both over 65                  10,800                    22,400
Couple, both over 65, 1 blind     12,475                    23,600

Single, 1 child                               7,450                    16,750*
Couple, 1 child                              9,125                    23,900
Single, 2 children                          9,125                    20,650*
Couple, 2 children                     10,800    11,050     27,800    28,200
Single, 3 children                        10,800                    24,550*
Couple, 3 children                       12,475                    31,700
Single, 4 children                        12,475                    28,450*
Couple, 4 children                       14,150                    35,600

There are other credits and benefits the very poor may be able to deduct, but this chart starkly shows how decades of Council neglect have systematically injured poorer people and families. This one simple fix, is worth $85 million a year. But urge your council members to speed it up! See tax posts at my blog: gleeaikin.blogspot.com for other information.

When our Council actually passed a bill to implement this and other TRC ideas at Phil Mendelson's urging, I was overjoyed. But then was shocked to see it phases in slowly, not fully until 2019.  Moreover, the Deduction for "dependents" (children) doesn't even BEGIN until 2017.  Then it will be $2,200, about half the federal Deduction.  Our Council's choices seemingly designed by some to drive families (especially black ones) from DC continue.  Our families have already lost over $1 billion over the years thanks to our Council's neglect.  No more waiting!!

 I have only found one report of actual benefits by salary class*.  Individuals earning $25,000 to $50,000 gain only $352.  People earning $10,000 to $25,000 and $50,000 to $500,000 all gain more. Only people earning above $500,000 might pay more, depending on their allowable Itemized Deductions.  What a betrayal. This is why I have chosen to run for Chairman of the Council in Nov. 2014. No more gifts to upper income taxpayers at unfair cost to the poor and middle class. 

When the Tax Revision Commission began its work, one goal was to provide fairness to the middle class.  The middle 20% ($38,000 to $62,000**) of DC taxpayers were paying over 11% of income in taxes.  The bottom 20% and top 1% paid a little over 6%.  Has the Council corrected this unfairness?  I doubt by much!  I can't wait to see an Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) or Fiscal Policy Institute evaluation of the Council's handiwork.

I should point out that the above chart is by no means complete. *These figures include the additional amounts for "Head of Household" or "Qualifying Widow/er" on the Federal form which apply to one adult caring for dependents. There are other credits and benefits that the very poor may be able to deduct, but this provides a stark overview of how decades of Council neglect have systematically injured poorer people and families. This one simple fix, is worth $85 million a year. Let's get it phased in more quickly. Lobby Council. VOTE: G. LEE AIKIN for Chairman.  Unfortunately, the Council felt it was better to implement this measure over a 5 year period so that upper income people and businesses could get large tax deductions.

Here in summary is what the Council has approved for the Deductions and Exemptions:

Standard Deduction: fully implement in 2017; 
    $5,200 single, $8,350 married in 2015 and 2016.
    The 2017 full federal rate will be higher than its 2013 $6,100 each.
    The IRS rate for 2014 is $6,200 each.  Up by $100.
Personal Exemption: fully implement in 2019; 
    $2,200 in 2017; $3,200 in 2018.  For 2014 it is $1,725
    In 2019 the full federal rate will be higher than its current $3,900.
    The IRS rate for 2014 is $$3,950.  Up by $50.
High Income PE: fully implement exclusion in 2015; 
    incomes over $150,000 single, $200,000 married.
    If excluded from the federal rate it is unclear what their rate will be.
Note that the Personal Exemption, which means everyone in the family, does not even START until 2017.  [They must have changed their minds a little, since I now see an increase of $50 per person for 2014.] This is very hurtful to families with children, especially lower income families with children.  The Standard Deduction only helps single and married adults.  I guess gentrification is more important than our families.  Many of them have been driven out of DC by our high tax rates.

While there was a slight concession for tax year 2014 in DC, we still fall further behind the federal IRS rates.  A single person in DC deducts $100 more, but the federal allows $150 more.  Families are still even MORE shortchanged as the federal allows a family of 4 an additional $400 to deduct, while DC only allows $250 more.  And we wonder why there is a homeless problem.

This link on the change in federal tax benefits one receives when having a baby shows just how much the failure of the DC Council to rapidly implement coupling our Deductions and Exemptions with the federal rate will continue to hurt our families and single parents.  It gives the 2015 federal rates for several deductions which DC taxes probably will continue to fail to provide.

I would also like to pass a bill to allow anyone with a medically certified disability, who is as handicapping as a blind person, to deduct the same amount as a blind deduction. The federal government should also consider adding this to the 1040 form. From years of experience caring for a husband dying of Alzheimers, I can assure you that in the last 3 years he required more care than a blind person. We have many sick and injured in DC who should be eligible for this tax consideration.  The burden on caregivers is considerable. This deduction would pay for occasional relief.

How to Pay for More Rapid Phase-in of Higher
DC Deductions & Exemptions?

Several TRC recommendations for raising income were not considered or acted on by the Council.  Since increasing the sales tax from 5.75 to 6% affects lower income people more it was considered regressive and not increased.  On the other hand, a proposal to have a $100 per employee annual local services fee was not given much consideration.  That is unfortunate given that 70% of DC employees are not residents and we get no tax benefit from them although DC pays for the roads and police services from which they benefit.  Follow up reports by TRC members like Fiscal Policy Institute's Ed Lazere provide useful insights,

Business property taxes were not changed, but changes for low value properties would help low income owners.  Currently, homeowners pay 85 cents per $100 assessed value.  On the other hand owners of business property pay $1.85/$100 above property value of $3 million.  Below that the rate is $1.65/$100.  We should have addition rates of $1.45 for businesses $1 million and below, and $1.20 for businesses $500,000 and less.  This might save small businesses across from the new Walmart in Muriel Bowser's Ward 4, which are mostly assessed under $500,000, who are also being hurt by loss of parking they used to have in front of their stores for quick pick-ups of food and merchandise.

The Business income tax (D-30) that was reduced from 9.975% now to 8.25% by 2019 should be scaled back to 9% or 8.75%.  The TRC did not seem to feel there was a big problem with competition from MD and VA.  In fact at a follow-up meeting the TRC stated the biggest problem is that DCRA and other agencies are not business friendly.  In Virginia, a big project is immediately assigned a government point person to speed permitting and other red tape.  [This tax rate has not been changed on the 2014 D-30 form.  However it still requires paying a $250 minimum tax even though this tax still applies to all grossing $12,000 or more business income.  It is very unfair to increase the minimum tax from $100 to $250, while NOT CHANGING the minimum gross income.  This whole D-30 tax situation needs a major rework.]

A major harm to very small businesses is the fact that all businesses grossing more than $12,000 need to file the inscrutable D-30 tax form.  This figure was set in 1986 and needs to be updated.  The $100 minimum fee/tax was increased to $250 recently.  This is totally unfair without increasing the gross to $30,000.  A lot can be done to improve the D-30 which will make life easier for small business and probably improve collection amounts.

The implementation of the TRC suggestions was made possible by cutting the short term budget for an extended street car system in half.  Just how much more than the late, but soon to begin, H St. portion of this system should be built is very controversial as this article shows.

See my other tax posts on this blog for more information on this and other issues.  Check the Index posted Sept. 3, 2013.  All tax related issues are dated in red.

*From Jack Evan's Newsletter of July 17, 2014.
**From 1-30-13 ITEP table 1, The Impact of DC Taxes on Different Income Groups.