The District of Columbia Housing Authority (DCHA) has plans to sell its headquarters location to a developer who proposes to build approximately 1,000 homes in the gentrifying NoMa (North of Massachusetts Avenue) neighborhood of the District, but the DCHA’s and developer’s plans are opposed by local advocates and some of DCHA’s board members.
The redevelopment was originally supposed to contain 70 affordable homes reserved for families with incomes at 30% of the area median income (AMI). Last year, NLIHC state partner Coalition for Non-Profit Housing and Economic Development (CNHED) issued recommendations for DCHA’s redevelopment. The first recommendation states, “DCHA should increase the number, size, and affordability of units in its portfolio, with a focus on units with rents that are affordable to households at 30% of their income.”
In December, the DCHA board approved more square footage, allowing for an increase from 70 to 200 affordable units. All 200 would be reserved for households earning 60% of AMI, with none guaranteed for households with incomes at or below 30% of AMI. At a DCHA meeting on January 16 to vote on this change, DHCA Executive Director Tyrone Garrett told the board the agency would do all it could to target low-income families and those displaced by redevelopment in the area.
This response did not satisfy local housing advocates. “It’s not a legal definition,” said Commissioner William Slover, who voted against the deal. “It doesn’t mandate or require the developer to put anybody in there . . . and that’s as simple as it gets,”
DC Council Member Elissa Silverman urged the agency at the January 16 meeting to rescind the decision, stating, “This is a moment, I think, for this board to send a clear message . . . that you truly are concerned and are focused on making sure there is a place for working people at 0% to 30% of AMI in this city.”
Beth Harrison, an attorney at Legal Aid, added that new low-income units would not actually be created because those reserved for low-income households would only be available to those who already have a housing voucher. There are 40,000 households on the housing voucher waiting list, which has been closed since 2013.
At the end of the January 16 meeting, Mr. Garrett offered to reserve half of the 200 proposed affordable units for those with incomes at 30% of AMI. A board vote on a motion to pause the deal entirely failed, so the current agreement to reserve 200 units for those with incomes at 60% of AMI is scheduled to move forward. The board could hold another vote at its next meeting in February.
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Information about the Coalition for Non-Profit Housing and Economic Development (CNHED) is at: https://www.cnhed.org