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Megan McArdle

A Housing Stipend for Congress? There's a Better Way

Lawmakers should fix the zoning that limits development and drives up DC's cost of living.
A city of low-rises.

A city of low-rises.

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Does anyone pity the poor congressman? He spends much of his life on the road, eating rubber chicken or repugnant local specialties, in between making a few speeches and shaking a whole lot of hands. And when he comes off the road, he generally does not go home to whatever fair district where he once chose to live, but to Washington, which may not actually be a badly paved swamp, but sure feels like one come June.

To add insult to injury, it’s become a very expensive pseudoswamp. When I moved here 10 years ago, it was possible to rent a room in a house for a few hundred dollars a month. Now, to hear tell from the young’uns, a mere bedroom in a group house starts around $1,000 a month -- and then heads north at a brisk clip. Apartments in convenient locations are considerably more dear. Which is why some members of Congress spend their time in Washington sleeping on cots in their offices.