Jubilee Housing Responds to Sorrento Renovation Post


Last we spoke about the Sorrento building getting renovated at 18th and Kalorma in Adams Morgan. Jubilee housing is in charge of the project and they responded late to the discussion so I wanted to bring their comment to your attention:

“Greetings from Jubilee Housing. We have read this discussion with considerable interest. Just a quick response: Jubilee Housing is a nonprofit organization providing affordable housing and other life opportunities to more than 700 people in the Adams Morgan neighborhood of Washington, D.C. The organization began in 1973 when a handful of Church of the Saviour members mortgaged their own homes to buy two apartment houses, and soon after, the Sorrento. They worked nights and weekends to bring the buildings up to code for the benefit of residents, securing one small pocket of affordable housing in Adams Morgan. From that beginning, Jubilee Housing has grown to include seven buildings and an array of services for economically disadvantaged residents.

In the last five years Jubilee has completed five similar properties in the neighborhood, totaling 145 apartments, three after-school centers for children and youth grades K-12, and a daycare center for newborns, infants and toddlers. While the work is costly to restore the 80+ year old properties to modern condition, two-thirds of the total funding comes in the form of private equity, grants and other contributions. The City financing is important to the success of the properties, but is no greater than the per unit investment in many of the high end condominium projects sited by others bloggers in this string of comments.

Residents of Jubilee properties are proud members of the Adams Morgan community and, like everyone else in this conversation, contribute to the City’s well being.

For the record, the seven properties each had moderate rehabilitation when originally acquired by Jubilee, but this series of renovations is the first life cycle upgrade in their history. And the sign on the original posting is for Ellis Dale, the general contractor performing the renovation work.”

21 Comment

  • Please tell me the folks who were so extremely negative to the first post will have something to say to this one…

  • I am glad that Jubilee responded to the previous post. As a native Washingtonian I am very proud of the tremendous amount of growth that the city has seen over the years. I was very displeased with a lot of the comments on the original post. I think Jubilee provides a valuable service to the city and the neighborhoods of Adams Morgan and to some extent even Columbia Heights/MT. Pleasant. So many people made such a big stink about the fact that some tax dollars (and I am glad that Jubilee set the record straight on this matter) are used to assist in finance Jubilee projects, I tend to wonder why people don’t make as much a stink about the tremendously huge amount of tax dollars that go to help finance million dollar condos that large portions of the cities population can not afford at all, many of which are not even moving due to there exorbitant prices.

    Long before so many people realized that DC was a great city, back when DC was the murder capitol of the US organizations like Jubilee did a lot to help lower income people in long neglected sections of Adams Morgan (contrary to popular belief, all of Adams Morgan was not always as nice as it is now). I commend them for striving to keep some form of balance in the city especially in Adams Morgan. I commend them for continuing their mission, they could have easily sold out like many other property owners and just sold their properties, displaced hundreds of residents (many of whom are hardworking, just not absurdly rich enough to afford Adams Morgan prices), and cleaned up. They did not and I commend them for it.

    Keep up the good work on covering multiple issues in DC PoP.

  • I generally commend Jubilee, but why in the hell did they buy that property right along 18th St (near Reef), leave it in decrepit condition, and contribute to future downfall of the strip by making it into what will amount to a homeless shelter? 18th Street needs help, not homeless shelters on what is still very expensive real estate.

  • That sounds like a mission statement which could be on their web site. It’s not in any way a response to the criticisms levied by the commenters in the previous post.

    Question remains:

    1) Are the figures stated about the taxpayer money spent on the Sorrento correct?

    2) If so, then do you think that $20K per unit per year is a reasonable cost for taxpayers to spend on subsidized housing?

    3) The cost per unit over 30 years, if correct, is over $600,000 per. If in fact this is a reasonable amount of money to spend, why wouldn’t it be more cost effective to simply buy houses outright for those in need and pay their mortgages? You could easily buy a condo for $250-$300K in DC. 30 years ago when this all began, you could have bought a 4 bedroom townhouse in Mount Pleasant for under $300K.

    In this scenario, at least DC would be receiving property taxes at market rates from the residents. We’d also be giving people the pride of ownership and probably doing a lot better for them.

    Finally, this figure is based on the current configuration. The new configuration reduces the number of units, making the value even lower.

    I am guessing that we don’t actually spend $20K per unit per year for every person who lives in subsidized housing. If we do, then I can’t imagine why we don’t just buy people houses.

    • Fair enough. I hope they respond directly to the criticisms as well.

    • Very well put. Too many of these Mayor Washington and Mayor Barry era charities and systems have put themselves in place with no concept of when it’s time for them to:
      1. Shut down and no longer exist. I am confident that Jubille is so delusional that they see no time in the future they should shut down.
      2. Determine what families Jubilee is injuring by not encouraging them to get education/degrees that will allow them to contribute more to society and earn money that will allow them to pay market rates. I found when I asked this question of such volunteers very few would look at supporting negative habits- such as not obtaining a college degree- as injuring the children of these non-degree holders. Many people involved in such charities that I know hold quasi-racist views that the people they help could never earn college degrees or contribute more to society than janitorial or teacher’s assistant type positions. I know successful African Americans who have told me such charities that don’t encourage bootstraps and market rates to be flat out racist and Plantation-style paternalistic.

      I could go on, but I see absolutely no sane reason that a charity created in 1973 should be operating in 2009 without massive changes to their mission statements, goals, neighborhoods, etc. It’s like working on a 1973-era computer.

  • I think I agree with Jamie, the statement by Jubilee didn’t adequately address why they require so much money to provide their housing. Maybe they have a comparable unit cost to “many of the high end condominium projects” cited in the previous post, but if that’s the case, shouldn’t the Jubilee units be just as luxurious? Also, those per unit costs are comprising only 1/3 of the money they need to house people and the remainder is coming from private sources. Are they saying it’s really costing them 3 times what lux condos cost? It’s unclear to me, but either way, still seems like they aren’t spending their funds in a judicious, or even logical manner. For the amount of money they are spending, it would be cheaper, with less overhead and management, to just put people up in luxury apartments.

    • Even at 20K per year you could put them up in a luxury condo. I guess the rest is “mangement fees.”

      I’m also wondering why they are reducing the number of units as part of this renovation. I wonder how long they have to wait after receiving these tax breaks and subsidies from DC before they can go condo and sell them. Fewer, larger units might be a bigger bottom line on the open market, but I doubt it would better serve the greatest number of individuals and families needing homes.

  • Really? We’re going to criticize tax payer funding of low-income housing at $20,000/year? Even if that number is true, here’s a newsflash: any homeowner with a $250,000 mortgage at 6.5% gets a tax write-off worth about $16,000 their first year. Even in the tenth year its still a tax payer subsidy of $14,000. Those figures definitely share the same ballpark.

    Upper middle class surbanites and urban gentrifiers get their housing subsidy, why shouldn’t the working poor who can’t afford to buy a home?

    I won’t call you a$$holes, but I’ll call you selfish, myopic and hateful.

    • Crin, I think you’re missing the distinction between regular folk getting a tax write off for part of their mortgage (setting aside the fact that this doesn’t actually put money in the pockets of said folks, it just pushes the price of all homes up), and the mission of providing low income housing. If Jubilee’s goal, and the DC gov’s goal by partly funding them, is to give poor and working class people a decent place to live, they they are spending much too much money getting poor results, if the $20k per year per (more? 60k with private funding?) unit is right. They could put the same amount of money into simply paying for peoples’ rent outright (have residents pay no rent at all) in regular apartments at market rates, and be able to place many more people in decent housing. That approach would eliminate the not insignificant costs of building management, upkeep, renovations, and all the support staff needed to do those tasks.

    • Thank you!

  • religion is myopic.

    gods don’t kill people. people with gods kill people.

    i don’t trust religious BS as far as i can interpret their interpretations of what the mythical jesus went around ‘saying’.

    gimme a break.

    it’s a business.

  • “why we don’t just buy people houses”

    Because, Jamie, after a house is bought it requires to be maintained, real estate taxes have to be paid, insurance, utilities, repairs, upkeep, appliance replacement, all have to be paid over the long run. This requires individual responsibility, choices being made for oneself, personal sacrifice and budgeting, providing for oneself and one’s own, you know, like the rest of us. That doesn’t figure into this collectivist set up that believes housing is a right provided by others.

    You’ll never win on the numbers no matter how outrageous the sums spent to continue this unsustainable endeavor. The true but old Church of the Saviour story from the 1970’s continues to provide the bleeding heart sympathy and the profligate funding 40 years later to satisfy this social engineering without license that it is now so fully ingrained in our urban culture, that any criticism or questioning is met with personal disparagement, being called a dirt bag, out of touch, and worse as crin wrote above.

    Dissenting views are not tolerated.

    The enablers describe it differently, as in the statement above, and this appeals to many; but truth be told, families are broken by these good intentions where dependency is fostered and perpetuated and personal initiative and individual respnsiblity quelled in a much larger creed of sloth and deceit that continues to believe that government and organizations can take the place of absent fathers when in the long run it just perpetuates the same generation after generation.

    On any given day, the front stoop of the Sorrento looks much the same as it did in 1978. For the superficial, it’s been progress including the current reconstruction. The repeated human loss is immeasurable.

  • Neer and Bob are haters, what have yall done to contribute to the benefit of the city. The Jubilee NP has done more in the last 25 years that any of you can ever compute. Stay off this blog.. PoP, pleae ban these fools.

  • Nice dodge of the real questions regarding how much of TAXPAYERS money have been spent on this building.

  • Instead of focusing your energy on the lack of affordale housing in this city , some of you are unjustly bashing one of the only places that actually helps the poor. I know people that live in these apartments and if this was not an option they would be homeless and most likely you Ll who are complaining would not take the time of day to help them – too worried about your tax dollars. Put your energy where it counts and leave those things that are working alone.

  • are there any more places that i can put my money to help the poor? i still have some money left, and would love to give it to a religious charity to help people that really need help. i’m even willing to take a loan to donate money to them!

  • It’s great to see this discussion and some great questions being asked about how to serve the poor and if that is an appropriate use of our tax dollars. Lots of these questions don’t have simple answers but the question each one of us needs to ask is what we did today/this week/this year to care for the poor?

  • “what we did today/this week/this year to care for the poor?”

    You act like we live in a society that prevents the poor from the opportunity to improve their situation. Ever heard of the phrase “Give a man a fish, he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime?” You can give a man a fish all you want, but until you teach them to fish, you are holding them back in a selfish desire to be seen as doing good.

    We get this at church all the time. People come in for help on their rent. If we just continue to give them money month after month, how are we really helping them? A free place to live will NEVER teach you how to support your family. Unless the Sorrento is also providing budgeting lessons (i.e drop your $300/mo cable and you can at least pay part of your rent), or requiring that they get some kind of training, then you are just creating a dependency that breeds additional generations of dependency.

    Feel free to say I’m all elitist and don’t understand how hard it is to be poor. My mother raised 4 kids on $13,000 a year after my dad walked out. Don’t tell me you know what’s best and what helps people if you haven’t lived it. These people need life skills. And if they are too lazy to want them, then they SHOULD be on their own.

  • Anonymous 5:28 here again that wrote the absent fathers piece above.

    I knew an elderly couple once that lived near Sibley hospital in Palisades, well to do empty nesters that found purpose in their healthy retirement.

    She volunteered regularly at the hospital while he ventured across town and would pick out one at a time only one deserving apprentice or journeyman and teach his lifelong construction trade experience. This couple would only give money to their Catholic Church.

    One on one individual acts between neighboring citizens works.

    If history has taught us anything, it is that large collectivist assistance to the healthy and able poor whether by government or organizations fails, and fails miserably causing so much harm in the long run just to satisfy the immediate, dividing families and neighborhoods.

    Modern day materialism and misplaced values are to blame.

    Writing a check is too easy and a convenience, with this modern day idea that we can only solve problems by throwing money at it.

    Yes, Lincoln was right; government exists only to do what citizens cannot do for themselves, and that includes citizens helping each other one on one.

    History has taught us that collectivists and social engineering central planners have always been wrong. It is they that are the elitists.

    It’s not spread the wealth. In the end, it’s spread the misery because the proponents of spread the wealth categorize us in groups within masses as elititists empowering themselves and those that will replace them and the unsustainable bureaucracies they create that eventually bankrupt us.

    They do not recognize the capacity or the value of the individual, and scoff at the old adage that character not only counts, it is everything.

    I’ve watched the Sorrento since the 1960’s. Mothers sadly choosing government help over the father of their children because the choice is there, and that is where families are broken by enablers and their good intentions that in the long run destroy so brutally in a choice repeated generation after generation. As I wrote before the human loss is immeasurable.

    Writing out a check is just as convenient a choice as the choice these mothers make.
    It is made by the short sighted well intentioned because it only cures the immediate and leaves for others the real problem later on.

    One on one volunteer individual acts that help the truly needy, teach and instruct the healthy and able are what truly contribute and work. Life by example as in the couple from Palisades.

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