Historic District vs Affordable Housing on Martin Luther King Ave, SE

From an email:

“Outrageous/Detrimental District Emergency Legislation

What: Developer Seeking Exemptions in Ward 8 Historic District — can set precedent for other historic communities & has far reaching implications

Legislative Hearing Date: April 8, 2014

Emergency Big K Legislation to City Council

This District emergency resolution attached above is not acceptable. It is targeted at present, to the residential development proposed at the commercial corridor on Martin Luther King Jr Ave, SE. Which is also in the Historic District.

It’s content is based on unfounded fear mongering, and is beneath the City and pandering. Near term development along the Historic District of Martin Luther King Jr Ave, SE is inevitable and occurring. Language in the Resolution is attempting to create poor, substandard outcomes with old, stale facts.

Where developers want to establish affordable housing developments in historic districts, to preserve the City’s heritage, they must be compelled to accomplish the developments within the reasonable historic guidelines. Passage of the legislative, as is, has the potential to alter the landscape of the historic district. The present language is sweeping and broad.

If this developer wants to again reap significant, quick financial gains from the City, then it must comply and develop a quality, historic property that will be a contributor to the historic community, and serve as a legacy to the developers commitment to a City that has given him opportunities. To do so would not be a material impact on his bottom line. There needs to be a fair business deal, not a win-lose proposition.

Further, the legislation cites DHCD as a proponent. DHCD can not be in the business of checking boxes, and quickly eliminating To-Do tasks. They must be thoughtful, and focused on the best outcomes for the City. They have not been forthcoming with themselves or the community regarding this matter. The accepted bid does not following the distributed RFP, and they were negligent in their obligation to notify the public. It is obvious they have chosen politics over what is best for the City. So to cite their support in the Resolution is an added insult.

Futhermore, the ANC is well aware of this project and actively engaged in the matter; as are other City historic groups who do not support this resolution.

I would also be remiss not to note that federal Housing and Urban Development agency states, high levels of concentration of low income individuals and families is no longer a best practice for housing developments. This project proposes a model contrary to this. There is land available throughout Ward 8 to support additional low-income housing projects, so to act as if this singular, relatively small project will save Ward 8 is disingenuous (in my mind, no residential project in the District should exceed 50% – 60% low-income). Further the Council must be challenged to ensure that affordable housing exist in similar proportions throughout this great City.”

12 Comment

  • Sounds like a special case that wouldn’t set any real precedents. But it does come from Marion Barry, so…

  • Ugh, I read about this on Greater Greater Washington. It sounds like a great project that will redevelop an embarrassing stretch of MLK Avenue. It’s literally a site with two abandoned houses and an abandoned liquor store:


    • Thanks for the link. I couldn’t make heads or tails out of that email.

      • Ditto. That e-mail was a little tough to follow. The writer also makes the mistake (and he/she is not by far the only one) of equating “affordable” housing with “low-income” (with more negative connotations lurking behind that term) housing. The City Paper piece that GGW cites astutely points out that greater Washington DC’s Area Median Income is so high (~ $107K for a family of 4) that even at a 60% or less AMI threshold, you’re looking at a pretty solid middle-class (or entry-level middle-class, maybe) tenant base. $60K-ish for a family of four could be a single mom with three kids who’s a federal employee, a registered nurse or LPN/CNA; a couple with two kids where both parents are clerical-type civil service workers, or paraprofessionals in health or education, or social workers/nonprofit employees, or operating their own small sole-proprietor business, or any number of things. (And anyway, you would need a solid income to afford the planned rents for this development, again per the City Paper piece.) That said, I think it’s certainly valid to debate whether city government and the developer have taken community input into account; it’s also valid to ask, as some people quoted in CP did, whether the demand is there for this type of housing in this location. But it’s disingenuous and melodramatic to suggest that the “affordable” element is tantamount to creating more concentrated poverty.

        • Exactly right. This would increase average household income in the community. More importantly, it would bring a lot of purchasing power to support shops and restaurants.

        • HUD’s promulgation kind of proves that the writer is not being melodramic. It’s true that affordable housing should be embraced city-wide and not lumped in one corridor of the city.

      • The email makes perfect sense to me…discussing multple facets that are addressed in the attached legistlation. Did you read the legislation?

    • It seems that the writer is not against the development, but simply wants it to be historically compliant. If it goes up in a historic neighborhood, it should contribute to the existing historic structures. This is a small historic district, which means that the remainder of ward 8 is relatively vast in comparison. As the writer notes, there is lots of available space in Ward 8 to support affordable housing. If it will exist in the singluar historic district in the Ward then it should comply with the standards.

    • That’s a ridiculous statement. Many areas in the City had and still have a stretch that needs development. The MLK Av stretch has been improving with investment overtime. Apparently there are now development options for the stretch and the writer is advocating to have the development be historically compliant, not asking that development not occur.

  • Thank you for posting.

  • This project wiould be welcomed in the “East End” of the city. I live in that area now, and I feel the residents are so offened about this “affordable housing” but in actuality its going to take places like this development to come in. Do well for other developers to see the need to do the same thing in that ward. Like Logan Circle said its literally abandoned homes and a liquor store—LITERALLY.

    Market rate housing will come to anacostia but right now EMBRACE THIS PROJECT AND PLEASE STOP SENDING OUT EMAILS LIKE THIS.

    • It doesn’t seem like the emailer does not support the project. They want it to be historically compliant in an historic neighborhood. It does seem to imply that the developer wants the project to be more than 60% affordable housing though.

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