Dear PoPville – “Affordable housing units not-so-affordable after extensive delays”


“Dear PoPville,

Last year, you wrote about Justice Park Apartments, affordable housing units in Columbia Heights that were slated to open in May 2014. I’m writing to let you know that they have been dragging their feet and displacing dozens of young professionals and families in the process. I was approved for a one bedroom apartment and excited that I finally had a chance to live in a great neighborhood without the hefty price tag. However, two weeks before my scheduled move in date (August 1st), I called and found out that the move in date would be pushed back until September. As a young professional living in Maryland, this became a huge inconvenience, as my landlord in MD was unwilling to switch me over to a month-to-month lease. I find myself displaced and living with a relative for what I thought would be a month. Because my relative does not live close to a Metro, I’ve had to rent a car for one month in order to get to work and storage for my items, because the house is not big enough to hold my things. All-in-all, I will be paying close to $1000 for these items alone (movers, storage space, car rental).

I called the front office this week and just found out that they are pushing the move-in date back once again, this time until September 11th!

Because these units are MEANT for people that are making below the AMI, I find it disgusting that the builders are seemingly taking their time and pushing back the move in date. At this point, I may not even be able to wait that long to move in and might have to find somewhere else to live outside of the District, as I cannot comfortably afford a market rate one bedroom in Columbia Heights.

I’m hoping that by writing in to you will give Equity Management the push they need in order to deliver these units by the September 1st deadline- no exceptions. A one or two month delay is understandable, but at this point, these units have been pushed back nearly five months.

I’d also like to note that the ladies in the front office have been nothing but pleasant and as helpful as they can be in this situation, so this is not their fault nor does this speak to their professionalism. However, the issue NEEDS to be rectified ASAP.

-Miserable in Maryland”

56 Comment

  • New construction move in dates are always being pushed back, but I see the authors’ point. Not cool, Equity Management.

    • Is the construction work finished? if yes this is unacceptable. if not maybe they are also dealing with late contractors? this happens all the time with construction projects: expected delivery date is not always equal to actual delivery date. Also ask them if they can reimburse some of your extra expenses (minus the rent you were actually supposed to pay for the month you would have lived there anyway), maybe you can negotiate a couple of month free out of it. Good luck!

      • Delays are costing the developer a lot more than this cranky person! The construction loan is at its full loan balance, likely, and they aren’t collecting any rent. But at the end of these projects, on top of whatever construction delays, there is usually a delay in inspection or in getting PEPCO or Washington Gas to finish their work.

        • So what? Like OP said, these builders need to be held responsible for the people they’re inconveniencing as a result of their delays, especially for people below AMI. They should at least offer to put him/her up in an apartment until his/her new apartment is done. From the sound of OP’s post, it doesn’t sound like they’ve done that.

          • So effectively, you’re saying that developers should have to pay a penatly for offering housing to lower-income people?

  • This is a tangent to the OP’s main point/beef, but re. “my landlord in MD was unwilling to switch me over to a month-to-month lease” — it’s been 12 years since I lived in Maryland, but my recollection is that things there worked the same (or similarly) to D.C. as far as leases automatically going month-to-month once the initial lease term was over. (Not that this helps you much now, as you have already moved.)
    On another tangent… if you are a car owner (I’m assuming not because you mentioned renting one, but I’m not sure), you might want to find out what the parking situation is in advance. There was a thread some weeks ago from a poster who had landed an Affordable Dwelling Unit (ADU) in a brand-new, mostly market-rate apartment building, but apparently the management company was not especially forthcoming about the building residents being ineligible for RPPs (Residential Parking Permits):

    • This sounds like a big hassle, but I am not sure you have much recourse. New construction always gets pushed back. Look at all the condos the city has built lately and rarely are they delivered on time (especially after this rough winter). Why don’t you try to find a group house in the city, or a sublet?

      On another note, I am having a little trouble finding sympathy because the OP seems a little entitled. So, you can afford to live in Maryland? And aside from that you’re fortunate enough to have a relative who will put you up? Sorry, but not everyone deserves to live in affordable housing in the city. There are some people who have no place to go and HAVE to live in affordable housing. This doesn’t seem to be the case here. I lived at home my first year out of school (lucky to have that option), then in different apartments around Northern Virginia and after 6 years finally moved into DC.

      • If they’re intended for lower-than-AMI individuals, there was a screening process and OP made the cut. “Sorry, but not everyone deserves to live in affordable housing in the city.” Fine, but HE DOES BECAUSE HE WAS APPROVED FOR IT.

        • Navy Yard Res is disagreeing with the basis of the program. I agree with him/her. Why are we subsidizing housing rates for a few people who make a list (and it is a very limited number) just so they can live in the nice part of town? I had to live in crappy group houses myself, and I wouldn’t have asked the taxpayers to help me live in my own apartment on Capitol Hill because it was *the* place to live. This is all about entitlement.

          • Why do we subsidize the wealthy homeowners in CH by allowing for their property tax and mortgage interest to be deducted?

          • Two things: one, we have traditionally believed in and fostered an ‘ownership’ culture, and this is reflected in housing tax policy (something that has led to a legitimate debate in recent years). There are a lot of reasons for encouraging ownership, including the fact that owners are more likely to take a more active interest in their communities (if only for financial reasons, like selling their homes). Two, those “wealthy” of whom you speak disproportionately pay more taxes than the guy living in Section 8 housing or the guy taking sub-market rentals.

          • I make $100K per year and I’m still living in a group house in my early 30s because I have to pay $700/month in student loans and I prioritize saving for retirement. I don’t even own a car and don’t have nearly enough saved to even consider buying a place. I would LOVE to have a cheap housing option in my current ‘hood (Columbia Heights).
            I agree, the OP sounds really damn entitled in their letter to PoP.

          • Ok, but you don’t HAVE to live in a group house. You choose to do that because you are saving a lot rather than spending it on housing. People who make six figures and whine about not having access to affordable housing kind of make me sick…

          • I’m not the 100k salary guy that posted before but I agree with him in principle. The OP HAS access to affordable housing. It’s just not the housing that he/she seems to feel entitled too.

          • Wow, all of this backlash regarding affordable housing! There are sound policy reasons to have mixed-income communities, such as more upward mobility for poor people and their families when they live in an economically diverse area. Plus, I’d rather live in a community mixed with bartenders, bus drivers, secretaries, young professionals, artists, and lawyers than one full of lawyers. Even if that means some people will need subsidized housing.
            To the OP, I don’t think you come across as “entitled.” Read your agreement and try to work something out with the company. As nice as the phone ladies are, you will need to run this up the management chain. I also recommend correspondence in writing.

        • For what it’s worth… the current AMI (Area Median Income) figures are at:

          An earlier PoPville thread quoted a press release as saying that this building was “reserved for low-income households earning between 30 to 60 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI).”
          For a 1-person household, 60% of AMI is $44,940, and 30% is $22,470. For a 4-person household, 60% of AMI is $64,200, and 30% is $32,100.
          HUD defines 80% of AMI as “low income,” 50% as “very low income,” and 30% as “extremely low income.”

      • I’m with you, in part… The OP does seem a bit entitled. Lots of us just a smidgen on the other side of the line would be THRILLED with the prospect of a below-market-rent apartment in CH, even if it meant couch surfing for a month or two.

        That said, the OP signed a contract with this company. He or she has certain rights under that contract, and without a real estate attorney to read all 30 pages of it (or whatever), none of us can really say if rights are being violated at all.

        • No, I agree with you that he has certain rights and should look into that, but I am not sure they’ll get much out of it. Reimburse them for a sublet in Maryland or DC? Sorry, but I feel like you’d need to get an attorney to squeeze that out. My point is there are other affordable options in the city (and outside) and OP could avoid this hassle by looking into those.

          • Ugh and just realized these apartments are with Equity! I lived in an Equity building in Arlington for two years and they were the worst management company I have dealt with.

          • Navy Yard Res seems to be missing the point. Point is, OP pays taxes just like everyone else and just so happens to make below AMI. If I recall, these apartments were for people making around $40,000, which isn’t impoverished by anyones standards. However, because the apartments were created for people that don’t necessarily have a lot of liquid income, the builders should be dedicated to ensuring that the residents don’t have to endure any additional financial hardship. But entitlement? No. He/she was approved for a unit and intended on living there. Having a stable living situation is a basic human right, last time I checked.

          • But what taxes is the OP actually paying? They live in MD currently.

      • Unfortunately I have to agree to some extent with that remark about the OP coming across as a little entitled-sounding, at least in “At this point, I may not even be able to wait that long to move in and might have to find somewhere else to live outside of the District, as I cannot comfortably afford a market rate one bedroom in Columbia Heights.”
        Market-rate one-bedroom apartments in new-construction buildings in Columbia Heights are crazy expensive. It doesn’t sound like Equity Management (or maybe it’s more the developer — apparently Euclid Community Partners?) is doing quite right by its future tenants… but nonetheless it sounds like the OP has landed a pretty sweet deal. There are probably a number of PoPville readers who are young professionals who can’t afford that kind of apartment at market rate, and the OP is unlikely to get much sympathy from them, or from those who were once in a similar position.

        • No, I am not missing the point. And having a stable living situation is a basic human right, which the OP seems to have right now…more than one too! He/She can afford rent in Maryland or has a relative they can live with. Furthermore, they could go the group home thing! My point is this 1 bedroom affordable option is not the OP’s ONLY housing option by any means.

          • I was all “Huh?” for a very brief moment, then realized you were responding to Anonymous 3:09 and not to me.

    • As was pointed out in that thread, there is no way for a building to be ineligible for RPPs if the block is zoned for RPP. The 1400 block of Euclid is zoned for RPP and if you want to get one, just get one at the DMV.

      The issue with the car owner there is that the block isn’t zoned for RPP. All he or she needs to do is get a majority of the households on the block to sign a RPP petition and they can get them.

  • this is unacceptable, you need to go to Fair Housing to find out how to get reimbursed , because I’m assuming you already signed a lease, which is a contract, which they are breaking. I bet there is some way to move to get something done.

    • Yep. I’ll second this. You may be able to be reimbursed for the storage space and car rental at least.

    • Having had some dealings with these big development companies and their contracts, I would be VERY surprised if there isn’t something in there absolving them of any liability related to adjusting the move-in actual date. Something involving the words “good faith effort”.
      What OP needs to do (in addition to trying for reimbursement) is publicize the story, to educate others about the dangers of dealing with this company.

      • I think you guys are way off. First, they will never reimburse- you can give that up right now. Second, if a management company is offering below-market rent (seller’s market), they’re not going to be scaring off potential renters. When you pay less than what the market dictates, you end up having less say. It’s not fair- it is fact.

    • Not sure, something similar happened to a friend with a market rate unit in new construction. The lease indemnified from costs associated with construction delays. As others have pointed out, I think this is pretty common. Frustrating nonetheless, but to the OP, sounds like it will be worth the wait given your discounted rent.

  • Construction schedules are always a moving target. Builders work to the best case, but as events unfurl, delays happen. You will not be allowed to move in until it is a habitable space and has passed inspection by the city. So OP may want to check inspection records to see when an inspection is scheduled to determine a more realistice up-to-date timeline.
    As for the below-market rate issue and entitlement, I will throw in my two cents: I live in a market rate home in a mixed income community. I appreciate that all types of people with a large range of incomes can live in one neighborhood. Why? because I’ve lived in the suburbs and if I wanted everyone to be “Just Like Me”, then I know exactly where to go to find that. My payments and my taxes help to subsidize other income ranges and that means people like cops and teachers and firemen can afford to live in my neighborhood. It also means that poor people who may work at the restaurants that I frequent or fast food outlets nearby can live there too. being neighbors is making me a better human being. So I fully support the mixed-income, subsidized housing.

    People who live there, however, have to realize that there is no free lunch. There are always catches to staying there and being a renter in a subsidized apartment means that many people think you should be grateful to have the opportunity to live there. In some ways, I agree with this, but please consider how it would feel to have to constantly be on your best behavior, to worry about losing your home if you piss off the wrong people, and to have restrictions on whether or not you can have a pet simply because you’re not part of the wealthy class of that neighborhood. I honestly don’t know whether I would feel lucky that I got to live there, or cheated for having substandard rights.
    Anyway, good luck. Check your contract. You have no rights to ask for payments (no one ever does), and feel fortunate that you have relatives nearby who can help you out.

  • I live less than a block away from this construction. FYI, there are two LIHTC buildings nearby on Euclid, and I live in one. Check out Totten Towers and The Olympia, where 1 bedroom apartments are fair-market rent.

  • My only concern about the OP’s post is that the OP mentioned several times that they live in Maryland. Why is a Maryland resident given priority over D.C. residents when it comes to obtaining affordable housing? With the scarcity of affordable housing in D.C. I think D.C. residents should have priority in obtaining affordable housing units.

    • Especially when it was financed with DC tax revenue!

    • i was a dc resident that tried to find affordable housing but this month after almost 2 decades in dc, i moved to maryland because i just can’t afford most of dc. it sucks. but how do i maintain my dc residency if i can no longer afford dc?

  • I was in the same situation; I bought a new- construction townhouse in which the delivery date was delayed 5-6 months. Extending my lease to month-to-month on my apartment would have resulted in hundreds of dollars per month in increased rent. I couch surfed for a month and then just asked the developers if they could offer me any assistance. Surprisingly, they let me know that they had vacant apartments elsewhere in the city and put me up in one of them for two months (free of charge) until my home was finished. Sometimes the solution is as simple as just asking.

  • I find this post a bit ridiculous. First off, you’re getting something for reduced price, so stop whining. Second, I have been involved in two purchases of new construction, and both times the work was completed several months after it was originally promised. In fact, it seems that having work completed on time is much more the exception than the rule just going by advertisements for new condos I see and when they actually open. Lastly, I walk by this building all the time and there looks to still be plenty of activity going on, so this does not seem to be a case of anyone deceiving or lying — it’s simply taking longer than expected. Sorry you aren’t getting your reduced price condo as quickly as you were promised, but please have some perspective.

    • So because OP is getting something for a reduced price, he/she doesn’t deserve to be able to move in on time? At least try to be logical.

      • Read again. I said to stop complaining both because they are getting something at reduced price and because work at the site looks to be ongoing and construction schedules often go past projected completion dates.

    • This is a rental, not a condo.

  • Haha, I wish you absolutely nothing…when true people are in need they are stuck, but you are clearly an exploitation of the system. You claim to be a young “professional” on support, but that is preposterous, nobody that has a true job demands a handout, you make me sick. I hope you remain a leech.

  • At least you’ll have an affordable apartment. There are hundreds of long-term DC renters being priced out by greedy property owners and lousy rent control laws.

  • OP – Congrats on the future housing. I am sure you deserve it. However the term “hefty price tag” puts you in the entitled camp. A Tesla S model has a hefty price tag. Try again, maybe use words like ‘can’t afford’ next time for more sympathy.

    • “At this point, I may not even be able to wait that long to move in and might have to find somewhere else to live outside of the District, as I cannot COMFORTABLY AFFORD a one bedroom”

      Does anyone READ?

      I do agree that OP’s tone does come off as entitled. But to play devil’s advocate, if OP was approved to live in this building, OP SHOULD be able to live in this building if OP wishes.

  • If the project was meant to span 3-4 years, the developer should state that instead of trapping people in a lease that has an indefinite start date. This has nothing to do with subsidized housing vs. regular market rate condos and everything to do with developers creating realistic timelines and planning for the unplanned to give accurate dates of completions. End of discussion.

  • I am sorry that you are going through this, but I can say from experience that I am not really surprised. I actually purchased an ADU that is in a building that was being fully renovated. I signed my contract on December 1, 2012. the move in dates kept getting pushed further and further back. Luckily, I still had a lot of time left on the lease for the property I was renting, but it was still much further from work than I wanted to be. I was finally able to move in on March 29, 2013. 4 months after signing my contract. Hopefully they will finish up your building much faster than Neighborhood Development Company finished mine. Good luck, I hope that you are still able to move into the neighborhood you want!

  • Random observation… the building looks absolutely nothing like this rendering. I know most buildings don’t end up looking exactly like the pretty drawings, but this one has a totally blank windowless ugly wall, quite the change. I wonder what was actually approved, although I assume it must be close to what got built. It’s too bad, the drawing is 100 times better.

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