By Emily Badger

Dan and Ben Miller began tugging two years ago at a simple question they believe is central to the failings of the American real estate industry.

The brothers – sons of a well-known Washington, D.C. developer – had begun acquiring properties themselves in the city’s emerging neighborhoods where traditional capital seldom goes. Real estate developments are typically financed by wealthy investors who live in the suburbs, or by Wall Street funds even farther away. In a neighborhood like Washington’s H Street Northeast corridor, this means that local projects often can’t find backing, or that far-flung investors put up safe, formulaic products in their place: say, “the glass shiny office/condo building that’s horrible,” Dan Miller says, grimacing.

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