Wednesday, April 29, 2009

District Officials Decry Condos, Celebrate Affordable Housing in Columbia Heights

A cadre of District officials, including Mayor Adrian Fenty and Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, gathered in Columbia Heights today for the re-opening of the 230-unit Hubbard Place affordable housing complex (formerly the Cavalier Apartments) at 3500 14th Street, NW. Spearheaded by the Somerset Development Company and the 3500 14th Street Tenants Association, the $52 million renovation has not only reinvigorated a Washington building recently added to the National Register of Historic Places, but has secured - and ensured the longevity - of a once notorious Section 8 public housing project as well.
"Just a few short years ago, fire marshals had to stand on each floor to assure the safety of the residents. It was dangerous to walk in the halls or ride the elevators…This building has been made safe again for the residents who live here…But this time with a twist,” said Somerset principal Nancy Hooff. “It has affordable rents [and] it’s near public transportation and shopping. Smart growth, indeed.”
According to the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, residents of Hubbard Place can look forward to updated amenities that include “new elevators, the creation of new community spaces and a computer lab, secure access, new kitchens and baths, windows, roof and all new common areas.” The city block-straddling development also includes a new home for the Latin American Youth Center, which provides educational and vocational services to area youth, as well as two new businesses: the Black Lion Deli and George’s Shoe Repair. In the view of Eleanor Holmes Norton, the dramatic shift in Hubbard Place's fortunes can be attributed directly to tireless efforts of the building’s residents.
“There is no way in which the city and the federal government could have done a thing with Hubbard [Place], if there had not been a determined band of residents who said, ‘We’re not going to let this place go’…I’m just pleased to see something that I can point to that [the US Department of Housing and Urban Development] has done these days,” said the congresswoman, not quite jokingly.
The local government, however, did play a prominent role in gathering the formidable sum required for the large-scale renovation procedures, as overseen by the architects of Kann Partners and the project’s general contractor, Hamel Builders. Out of the development’s $52 million budget, the Department of Housing and Community Development provided $8.5 million for the acquisition of the property, with the District of Columbia Housing Authority pitching in an additional $4.6 million for historic preservation. The building upgrades were funded primarily through $26 million in tax exempt bonds issued by the District of the Columbia Housing Finance Agency. It’s a role that District officials, like Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham, were eager to hang their hat on.
“We have enough condos,” said Graham. “We can build condos where there once vacant lots surrounded by hurricane fences. But we are going to keep our diversity and we’re going to keep our low-income housing. We’re going to build new low-income housing…We’re going to do all this because we care.”
Hubbard Place is the second such affordable housing renovation opened by the city in as many weeks. Last week, Mayor Fenty presided over the grand re-opening of Jubilee Housing, Inc.’s Ontario Court project at 2525 Ontario Road, NW, in nearby Adams Morgan. New condos are being built in Washington DC.


Urbo said...

Its amazing that with all the money the District spends on subsidizing housing for people in this city (not even including what the feds spend), that people still pander to the dependents and act like this city has never done anything to help the poor, and still we continue to pour money into this situation. Then they ridicule home ownership (condos), despite the fact that condo owners pay taxes of all kinds to the city and are therefore a huge asset to DC.

BCR said...

“We can build condos where there once vacant lots surrounded by hurricane fences. But we are going to keep our diversity and we’re going to keep our low-income housing. We’re going to build new low-income housing…We’re going to do all this because we care.”

Absolutely unbelievable. Demonizing development, undermining the tax base, and pandering to Section 8 constituents. The DC Council is a disgrace.

Anonymous said...

This project also applied for Federal historic preservation tax credits for its rehabilitation!

Anonymous said...

Graham's right on this one. We DON'T need any more condo's in
Columbia Heights. We can't sell the ones that we've got! Build any more condos and you can expect the value of the condo's already build to plunge!

OTOH, we do have an affordable housing shortage.

But, this was an EXISTING building. They fixed it up and got a new owner, so give them credit where it's due here.

Anonymous said...

DC should end the height restriction, at least on buildings 10 blocks from the Mall.

When 400-sq.ft. crapholes rent for $2,000 a month, we certainly don't have "plenty of housing."

I'm beginning to think that living off the taxpayer provides more upscale living. Of course, that leads to the collapse of society, a la socialism. But I don't think the Council understands that.

BCR said...

"We’re going to do all this because we care”...about possible protests from "affordable housing" activists.

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