Since January, 2003
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With unanimous agreement that the need to get former public housing residents back to the neighborhood is paramount, the Zoning Commission on Monday gave first approvals to the DC Housing Authority's request for flexibility in how it allocates 206 affordable units still to be built within the Capper/Carrollsburg PUD boundaries, while still being required to have no fewer than 15 percent and no more than 50 percent of the units on any square be affordable.
ANC 6D remains adamantly opposed to the flexibility idea--or at least to the idea that this flexibility would then allow a possible all-affordable building next to a market-rate condo building on Square 767--saying it "would circumvent the theme of HOPE VI revitalization and the goal of the PUD."
But Zoning Commission vice-chair Marcie Cohen disagreed, saying that the success of Capper's revitalization is that "the area is mixed income, the neighborhood is mixed income," and that she doesn't have a problem "when public housing is a single project within a mixed-income neighborhood." Noting that some of Capper's previous residents were relocated from the site now more than 10 years ago, Cohen said that "the people who have been displaced have a right to come back"--and given that "financing vehicles are now driving housing policy," meaning that getting affordable housing units financed has become so difficult--the Housing Authority has in her view come up with a plan that is "satisfactory," and should be able to go ahead and "secure the proper financing, build the project, and get some of the people back if they choose."
Her fellow commissioners concurred, with both Robert Miller and Michael Turnbull also noting that all projects on the three remaining residential squares at Capper will need to come to the Zoning Commission for review before moving forward.
And in its response to the ANC 6D letter, the Housing Authority emphasized this point, saying that the concerns raised by 6D will be addressed at that time, and that the reviews "will also demonstrate that the design of the buildings and distribution of the units in those applications are consistent with the PUD's overall goal of providing a vibrant, mixed-use and mixed-income community."
This case also will allow 30 of the Capper affordable units to be relocated to Square 737, to be included in both the 800 New Jersey/Whole Foods building and the eventual third-phase residential building on the eastern portion of that block.
My previous post on this zoning case gives plenty of additional detail if you desire.
Comments (54)
 More About Capper Home


MJM says: (2/24/15 4:30 PM)
Zoning Commission to ANC6D: link

conngs0 says: (2/24/15 4:36 PM)
I agree with Ms. Cohen that you can stick a public housing structure smack in the middle of a neighborhood and the result will be a "mixed income" neighborhood. But that wasn't really the point, was it? There are many "mixed income" neighborhoods that contain public housing structures that are not properly maintained and wind up harming the surrounding neighborhood through disrepair and crime. See Greenleaf Gardens a few blocks to the west. I thought the theory behind this particular mixed income neighborhood was to integrate public housing, "workforce" housing, and market-rate housing in a way that would limit this effect and thereby benefit all involved (i.e. no "projects"). Neither approach guarantees a best-case result, but it sure seems like it's worked in this area so far.

I was opposed to granting flexibility to DCHA in how it allocates the remaining public housing units because DCHA doesn't seem to be committed to the idea of this integrated approach. I guess at this stage, I just have to hope that the Zoning Commission doesn't capitulate further.

JES says: (2/24/15 4:48 PM)
I think the separation sucks, but I also think that, given this building's proximity to market rate "upscale" housing, it won't turn into a rundown "project" of a building. I'm also just happy that they're [hopefully] going to start building the damn things soon. It's taken long enough, so however they have to get it financed, just get it done.

MJM says: (2/24/15 6:24 PM)
Not sure what the zoning commision was thinking but perhaps they think Potomac Garden is mixed income success??

Weaver says: (2/25/15 9:36 AM)
Maybe if DCHA didn't spend so much on big time law firms like Holland and Knight on simple letters of response to the community they'd have enough to properly finance the projects in the neighborhood. No offense to any big time law firm lawyers in the neighborhood but the use of outside counsel on mundane letters seems a bit bureaucratic and wasteful.

conngs0 says: (2/25/15 10:32 AM)
It's an absolute shame that the 700 or so public housing units originally in the neighborhood haven't been returned yet. It was a commitment that should be (and will be) honored. However, the commitment should be honored to its full extent, which is to produce public housing units that are more effectively integrated into the broader community than ever before.

Moreover, I'm incredulous about the use of financing difficulties as a reason for significantly departing from the original plan. First off, considering the relatively novel approach and the public/private aspect of this endeavor, this was never going to be an easy project to finance. Second, a tremendous amount of the lag time in delivering these remaining public housing units is due to the recession that resulted from subprime mortgage crisis, when nothing was getting financed. Virtually all of the development projects in this neighborhood are being delivered later than anticipated. And these buildings almost necessarily must come later to ensure that public housing is being located in an established and thriving neighborhood.

In the long run, I think it make sense to keep the lots in question empty for two or three more years than to risk rushing and finishing this the wrong way. So when more flexibility is eventually asked of the Zoning Commission, I hope they keep in mind the interests of all involved and not just the short-sighted perspective of DCHA.

JHUGrad says: (2/25/15 10:41 AM)
I believe over 400 units have been returned, and they only need to build about 300 more.

JD says: (2/25/15 10:50 AM)
They have 240 left to build. There's 34 public housing units already approved on Square 769N (along L between 2nd and 3rd), plus the 206 units at issue here.

Gamble Rogers says: (2/25/15 1:04 PM)

"However, the commitment should be honored to its full extent, which is to produce public housing units that are more effectively integrated into the broader community than ever before."

I couldn't agree more. Not to be snarky, but if DCHA could wave a wand and magically re-build Potomac Gardens, would they follow the same failed model? Or would they try a more difficult, but ultimately sustainable, path that would be better for all residents and yield tax revenue for the city?

Sadly, we're figuring out the answer.

JHUGrad says: (2/25/15 1:40 PM)
This is great news for the Capitol Riverfront Community. There is already a precedent set for a standalone affordable apartment building here (400 M St), and it's a great place. This deal will create more home ownership opportunities here, which will likely lead to more families with children moving here (which will help Van Ness become a neighborhood school). When these remaining blocks are completed, I'm sure we will be happy with the result.

JNB says: (2/25/15 1:59 PM)
JHU grad. VNess will be full day one. 400 M a great place? If you mean for terrible architecture then yes.

Gamble Rogers says: (2/25/15 2:43 PM)

"However, the commitment should be honored to its full extent, which is to produce public housing units that are more effectively integrated into the broader community than ever before."

I couldn't agree more. Not to be snarky, but if DCHA could wave a wand and magically re-build Potomac Gardens, would they follow the same failed model? Or would they try a more difficult, but ultimately sustainable, path that would be better for all residents and yield tax revenue for the city?

Sadly, we're figuring out the answer.

JoeNdc says: (2/25/15 3:34 PM)
I agree with @conngs0. This is a significant departure from the original intent when the neighborhood was rescued for redevelopment. Blaming any impediment on the ability to attract financing belies the recession and the unique nature of public/private housing developments. Yes, it’s difficult to get financing for these projects and yes, it does create zoning issues. But turning the intent of the Capper/Carrollsburg redevelopment on its ear for the sake of expediency is not the answer. If the Zoning Commissioners are resorting to the easy route, for expedience sake, I would suggest they refer to the Office of Zoning Independence Act of 1990:

In September 1990, the City Council established the Office of Zoning as an independent agency responsible for providing professional, technical, and administrative staff assistance to the Zoning Commission and the Board of Zoning Adjustment for purposes of assuring uncompromised decisions.

I draw their attention to the last three words; “assuring uncompromised decisions.” If they can’t abide by the law, they might want to look for easier positions elsewhere where making hard, well thought out decisions is not required. Surely, their current stated position is one of expedience. It simply resorts to failed policies of the past and expecting in some Pollyanna fashion that there will be a different outcome. It won’t.

Allowing development of entire buildings or blocks of housing where DCHA has sway over the management is a recipe for disaster. Most public housing developments of the past have become blights on the cities where they reside. One needs to look no further than the neighborhood that preceded Near Southeast which has now been revitalized after decades of neglect, disrepair and crime. I have lived in Baltimore in the 1970’s and remember the blocks and blocks of many failed public housing units that the city finally had to vacate before fencing them off in order to redevelop. This was done, yet again at public expense financially and otherwise. I have also lived in Los Angeles and New York and have seen how neighborhoods with a large share of public housing in those cities faced a similar failed result.

The model of a single development or city blocks of public housing units has not succeeded in almost every example I’ve seen in my lifetime. The “public housing authorities” are either not equipped or are otherwise lacking in willpower to adequately manage the inevitable significant negative issues that come with such developments. They will always point to a law, a regulation, a policy or an entrenched agency practice as justification for their many failures. While they do nothing, the public housing developments and the neighborhoods in which they are located slide into decades of decline. This decline affects the quality of life of the very residents they had hoped to lift up with housing opportunity and further, causes untold millions of dollars in damage to the immediate community, the city and state at large.

Now I understand that some who read this might criticize me for my opinion, this is certainly their right. But I base my opinion on reality. The old model of creating housing developments specifically and only for affordable housing does not work. A better model is one with balanced integration of affordable housing into market rate buildings and neighborhoods. This too has its own set of unique challenges. However, these challenges have a greater likelihood at being solved because the city government cannot turn their backs and allow such integrated communities to fail.

JES says: (2/26/15 10:11 AM)
I also wish they'd honor the original commitment, but comparing this to Potomac Gardens is like comparing apples and oranges. Potomac Gardens is a much larger complex (over 350 units, I believe) that takes up an entire city block, comprises multiple buildings, and is cut off from the neighborhood by a giant fence. The all-affordable building that they're proposing here is slated to have 48 units ( link which is a far cry from 350+. I think we're making a mountain out of a molehill here, personally.

JES says: (2/26/15 10:13 AM)
Also, regarding expediency, why doesn't someone ask the residents who have been displaced for 10 years if they care more about this or more about just getting back into their homes...

JHUGrad says: (2/26/15 10:30 AM)
I agree, the affordable building proposed for Square 767 will most likely be a much nicer place than the vast majority of affordable buildings in this city. Also, since EYA is looking to sell condos on the same block, I'm sure that measures will be taken to ensure that they are actually able to sell these condo units. I think in the end, people will wonder what the big controversy was.

JD says: (2/26/15 10:41 AM)
I'm glad someone reads what I write, JES, because clearly I hadn't lately--totally missed that there had already been a unit-count attached to the public housing building (though that was way back when, wasn't enunciated in any of this specific zoning case, so I don't consider it set in stone.)

Square 767 has to stay at 147 total units. So, if they do something like a 48-unit building, that means it'll be next to a building with a smidge over twice the number of units. And those will be market rate condos, if the EYA deal happens.

That then means that there will be another 158 units still to be placed on Squares 768 and 737, which are slated to have 295 and 322 total units of all types. And neither square can have more than 50% affordable units (or fewer than 15%). 768 was originally approved for 73 affordable units, and 737 for 98, so that's more units than are left to be placed.

JES says: (2/27/15 10:14 AM)
Just here to help, JD :-)

tspaquin says: (2/27/15 10:35 AM)
The commission's attempt to redefine the term "mixed-income" is a disgrace and an insult to our intelligence. If mixed-income simply means that a neighborhood taken as a whole consists of people with mixed-incomes, then Jenkins Row and the surrounding community sitting next to Potomac Gardens is a mixed-income community, and the term "mixed-income" has been rendered completely meaningless. It would be more honest of the commission to say "we've achieved a mostly mixed-income community so far (exception: 400 M), and 'mostly' is good enough for us so we'll make another exception in this case."

As for the comment above that says the Potomac Gardens example is "apples and oranges" to this situation, I completely disagree. While Potomac Gardens is obviously much larger than any proposal here, the underlying premise is the same -- a large number of residents segregated by income and concentrated into one area, and the cultural clash it creates. It is essentially the opposite of "mixed-income". You look at any other part of this neighborhood aside from 400 M and the affordable units are seamlessly integrated with the rest of the community.

This is simply trading one failure for another -- trading the promise to quickly rebuild the community (an impossible promise from the start) for the promise to adhere to the model of a mixed-income community.

tspaquin says: (2/27/15 10:46 AM)
I wish there was a "like" button because I would click it several times on JoeNdc's comment above.

JHUGrad says: (2/27/15 11:55 AM)
"Perfect Should Not Be The Enemy of the Good". Is having a separate affordable 48 unit building in this mixed-income neighborhood the perfect scenario? I think we all agree that its not. However, we have seen these 3 blocks languish as dirt-laden parking lots for about 6 years now. This 48 unit affordable building will be like 400 M's little brother. I don't think anyone in the neighborhood sees 400 M as being eyesore in the Capitol Riverfront. Having this 48 unit affordable building on the same block as an EYA developed Condo, where homeowners are purchasing units, is a great thing for this neighborhood.

tspaquin says: (2/27/15 12:47 PM)
400 M is not an eyesore . . . yet.

JoeNdc says: (2/27/15 1:32 PM)
@JHUGrad, not to be antagonistic or offensive but using quotes such as "Perfect Should Not Be The Enemy of the Good" is painfully naïve. And your statement, "I agree, the affordable building proposed for Square 767 will most likely be a much nicer place than the vast majority of affordable buildings in this city" has a glaring defect which demonstrates you are basing your statements on a hope and a prayer that the proposed Square 767 "will most likely be"... Huh!?! That is quite a hail Mary gamble that everything will be sunshine and rainbows. That type of overly optimistic thinking as opposed to the hard ugly reality of example upon example of failed public housing projects across the country is how those projects failed in the first place. Sure, the intent was good when those projects were conceived. It all made the planners hearts swell and looked great on paper. The reality of what they became and the disastrous effect they had on the lives of the poor needy souls that endured them as tenants as well as the communities they dragged down with them is why the old model of public housing in one building under the management of inept city public housing management agencies just doesn't work.

Once such buildings are built and subsequently occupied, they are here for the long term. Any problems that arise from these developments are here long term. There is no "do over" in the offering for many decades. If given the option of looking at "dirt-laden" parking lots as opposed to the expedient building of an all public housing building managed by an inept public housing authority, I'll take the parking lots. The lots won't crater my property values.

"When virtue is lost, benevolence appears, when benevolence is lost right conduct appears, when right conduct is lost, expedience appears. Expediency is the mere shadow of right and truth; it is the beginning of disorder.

Lao Tzu

JHUGrad says: (2/27/15 3:00 PM)
@JoeNdc.... 400 M St has been occupied since 2008. Why hasn't it become a "failed public housing project" that has had a "disastrous effect" on the "lives of the poor needy souls that have endured them" in the Capitol Riverfront? Why hasn't the Capitol Riverfront community been "dragged down with them"?

JES says: (2/27/15 3:27 PM)
@JoeNdc "The lots won't crater my property values."

...So is that really what this is about? Preserving property values, not what's actually good for the people who are going to be living in these units? Ok then, glad we got to the actual root of your concerns.

@tspaquin, you bring up some good points. But you say that you "completely disagree" with the apples and oranges comment, then you turn around and acknowledge that the sizes and scopes of the two projects being compared are vastly different. Which is it? When determining whether public housing is going to deteriorate, size and scope of the projects absolutely does matter.

You all seem to be arguing that segregating people into two different buildings on the same block is akin to segregating people into a large, gated complex built to keep poor people completely out of the rest of the neighborhood. Those things are not equivalent.

tspaquin says: (2/27/15 4:00 PM)
@JES -- thanks. Yes I still completely disagree with the apples and oranges comment. A better comparison would be that it's like a giant, old, rotten apple and a smaller, but fresher, apple. Both apples. One is bigger and older. So what. The smaller "apple" is likely to suffer the same fate over time because it's built on the same underlying principle. DCHA wants to warehouse their residents in a building where 30-50 residential units comprised of lower income folks are under one roof. They want to do this because it is easier and more expedient to do so, rather than go the extra step to provide high quality, mixed-income homes according to the original model that has already proven to be successful in our community.

Your remarks about the fence at Potomac Gardens are misleading -- in a chicken and egg kind of way. Review the history - that fence was not part of the original late 60's design, it was installed long after the construction, 2 decades ago to be exact, to help police contain a crack epidemic.

JHUGrad says: (2/27/15 4:22 PM)
@tspaquin So what's the timeline on when 400 M will start to become a downtrodden slum? When should we expect that to happen?

JES says: (2/27/15 4:22 PM)
@tspaquin. Fair enough analogy. I still think that "warehousing" 50 units' worth of people on a mixed income block is different than warehousing 350 units' worth of people on a block that's entirely segregated, fence or no fence. And I also think, given the pull that people with money have in this town, the people who buy those condos and the developers who eventually build the other market rate apartments aren't going to stand idly by if DCRA decides to let that building go down the shitter in 10-15 years. That's the heart of why I think these situations are a bit different.

Once again, I'll reiterate my earlier position. I wish they'd have stuck with the original plan. The current plan is certainly less than ideal, but I don't think it's worthy of all the "sky is falling" rhetoric that a lot of people are throwing around.

JD says: (2/27/15 4:26 PM)
Is 900 5th/Capper Seniors #1 is getting a pass in all of this because it's a bunch of old folks? It's a 100 percent public housing building....

tspaquin says: (2/28/15 10:52 AM)
The seniors building, in my view, does get a pass because the housing needs of seniors are different from those who are not seniors and it makes sense to design a building specific to their needs and efficiently allocating resources to their needs.

tspaquin says: (2/28/15 10:53 AM)
@JHUGrad -- I would give it 15 to 20 years, but of course it will be too late to do anything about it.

tspaquin says: (2/28/15 11:11 AM)
And it's not the appearance or upkeep of the building that's the greatest concern -- it's the separate culture that develops inside the building over time. If you are not familiar with what that culture looks like, take a stroll through Greenleaf Gardens or Potomac Gardens which have had plenty of time to develop.

A true mixed community with people of different backgrounds, socio-economic and otherwise, mitigates against development of these 2 separate cultures.

Alex B. says: (2/28/15 11:25 AM)
<i>A true mixed community with people of different backgrounds, socio-economic and otherwise, mitigates against development of these 2 separate cultures.</i>

I don't think anyone is disputing the benefits of mixed-income communities. However, the real question is about the trade-offs.

Like it or not, mixed-income developments are much, much harder to finance. So, the question is not a binary one (mixed income? yes or no?), it is whether you grant some flexibility in splitting the affordable units in order to build those units now, or whether you hold out for the ideal mixed-income buildings at the cost of delaying the delivery of any affordable units even longer than they've already been delayed.

The other thing to remember is that delay has a cost. The original deal was not just for mixed-income housing, but mixed-income housing that would replace the existing affordable units <i>as soon as possible.</i> If you argue that moving away from mixed-income buildings is too much of a deviation from the original plan, you also must argue that the delay for the project overall is also a major deviation from the original plan.

The reality is that the original plan probably wasn't financially feasible.

conngs0 says: (3/1/15 10:54 AM)
Alex B, I think you've correctly framed the discussion - especially the competing priorities of constructing public housing as expeditiously as possible vs. constructing a true mixed-income community that benefits all residents to the greatest extent possible.

On the subject of financing, I think it's important to note that all financing and development in the neighborhood has been delayed, not just the mixed-income housing aspect of the neighborhood. However, as more and more of the nearby projects finally gain momentum (which seems to be happening) and the neighborhood continues to grow and prosper, wouldn't the planned mixed-income buildings become more attractive to financiers? If so, then my personal view is that it makes complete sense to hold off on making too many concessions to the original plan for the blocks in question.

I recognize that's easy for me to say because I currently have a place to live. Further delaying the construction of the promised affordable housing really can't be an easy thing for the Zoning Commission to do. But this neighborhood (and the entire District, for that matter) isn't always going to be on the upswing it's been enjoying for the last ten years. The foremost responsibility of the Zoning Commission should be to ensure the neighborhood is built in a way that takes its long term prosperity and sustainability into consideration.

Maybe the recently-granted flexibility strikes the right balance in that regard. I'm skeptical mainly because I haven't seen evidence of DCHA's ability to properly maintain public housing that isn't fully integrated with the rest of the community. They aren't exactly doing a great job with the units in Capitol Quarter, and these are relatively brand-new units and there's an HOA to continually make sure that DCHA responds to residents' needs; and obviously they aren't capable of doing even a mediocre job in the all public housing projects that have been mentioned in this discussion. So while preference would be to stick with the original plan, I'm even more worried that the Zoning Commission will grant even more flexibility than it already has.

JoeNdc says: (3/2/15 11:41 AM)
So I waited all weekend before responding so as to be thoughtful and to see what others had to say. And now here I am on Monday still scratching my head in disbelief.

@JHUGrad in reply to your 4/27/15 at 4:22 pm response... I submit that you didn't even get JD's blatantly obvious Buffalo Wild Wing hint (Taylor Gourmet and Chop’t Salad Slated for Ballpark Square) whereas everyone else I got it. Therefore, my reply to your comment is: Uh, yeah... Here is the thing. I'm sorry, I just can't. You need to dig deeper.

@JES, it is about BOTH actually and so much more. The complexity of the issue should be obvious if not viewed superficially. To call it the "root" of my comments unfortunately shows a level or blissful superficial thinking or worse, ignorance on your part. The issue is much more complex and intertwined than can possibly be adequately covered in a blog reply forum.

We now see how the DCHA and zoning commission are ready to do the expedient thing because they whine, "It’s just too hard to get financing." They knew this very well before starting this whole community redevelopment project. As conngs0 says, getting financing has been a challenge for most developers and has been starting with the recession of 2008. It is only now getting somewhat better. Blaming their rush to rid themselves of this responsibility because of financing problems alone portends other more serious issues.

The DCHA and zoning commission now want a variance from the original intent of the community redevelopment plan so they can slam up a building with as many of the AH units as possible. This will allow the city to expediently wash their hands of the AH issue relative to their commitment under the Hope VI grant. Their willingness to do so should demonstrate their mindset of expediency as opposed to strategic long term planning. Governments (I work for gov't by the way) do not like doing the hard thing if they can avoid it... they like the expedient. Government officials like to take the easy wins and quickly move on to the next bigger and better thing without any thought about the ramifications resulting from what they did 15 and 20 years ago.

@tspaquin has it right in terms of when the deterioration begins due to neglectful indifference by a governmental body whose job it was to watch over these AH developments after they were built. It does indeed take at least 15-20 years for it to the negative aspects to manifest. Does anyone think the Capper/Carrollsburg buildings and the neighborhood that were originally here fell apart in 5 or 10 years after they were built? I think not. It was due to segregating people so they could be housed and forgotten in run down, crime infested, "no man land" neighborhoods. It was because it was easy for government to ignore the problems their failed policies had created. And it was because of so, so much more.

The current zoning issue IS about a significant departure from the original plan to redevelop the Near Southeast with affordable housing integrated into market rate housing buildings and into the greater neighborhood. It IS about the negative aspects of segregating people along racial and socio-economic lines. It IS about going expediently backwards as opposed to thoughtfully forward. It is about what is hard but right as opposed to what is easy and an ultimately unjust.

It is NOT about "the sky is falling." It is about doing the right thing right now in carrying out our responsibility to watch our government officials to ensure they are fulfilling their fiduciary responsibilities, thinking strategically and taking into account all possibilities by conducting contingency planning. I can guarantee you a planning group already did this some 20 plus years ago when they devised the mixed incoming housing model for Near Southeast. Why? Because they saw that almost universally, the older models of AH did not work and wanted to avoid those long term ills for this community. Strategic intelligent planning IS what it is all about. Its not about repeating the past, slapping each other on the back and feeling like we accomplished something positive. Didn't we do that already? Clearly that worked out so well for the original Cappers/Carrollsburg Near Southeast neighborhood that we had to start from scratch. Are we going to do the same thing and expect a new outcome? Is it rhetoric or reality?

@tspaquin and @conngs0... thank you both for getting it.

JHUGrad says: (3/2/15 1:31 PM)
@JoeNdc.... In all of the paragraphs you've written, you still haven't been able to explain why 400 M street hasn't become what you say will happen to this new affordable building being planned for Square 767. 400 M Street has been occupied since 2008. 7 years later, and it still has not become a slum, and has not dragged down the Capitol Riverfront with it (as you so eloquently put it). This is not speculation, this is just facts. Please let us know when we should expect 400 M to become a slum.

MJM says: (3/2/15 6:44 PM)
What people fail to think about when talking about the residents who were displaced is that most or some are never coming back. Its been 10 years. We aren't talking about an area that has been in the family for generations and the family wants to return to that land or unit/housing. We are talking about a community that was ripped apart. The city continues to think moving people back is going to make things all better. The community these people had is gone. Most/some have moved on in the last 10 years and are part of other communities. It might be good that they can move back but at this point will they want to come back? The community is not the same as it once was. Not saying they shouldn't move back or be offered the chance to move back but some may not choose to come back because what they once had (community) has long since been dismantled. If they move back that's great but will it happen is another question.

JHUGrad says: (3/3/15 10:54 AM)
The community now is a whole lot better than it was before. Why wouldn't someone who lived there before not want to come back?

conngs0 says: (3/3/15 12:32 PM)
I suppose there are a number of possible answers to that question, although I don't imagine anyone but the residents know for sure. One possibility is that someone who lived in one of the original 700 public housing units now rents or owns his/her own place and is thus no longer living in public housing? Of course, that type of mobility is probably more likely to occur in a fully integrated mixed income neighborhood (and especially for the children), but it's certainly possible elsewhere, no?

tspaquin says: (3/3/15 1:13 PM)
@JUUGrad -- I think JoeNDC already answered your question when he basically agreed with my 15-20 year timeline. Maybe we can all check into this blog discussion in 2021 and assess the status of 400 M. However, a more useful exercise would be to look at other 100% DCHA affordable housing buildings that are currently 20+ years old and see how they turned out. Are there any success stories out there? I would truly love to hear about them.

@MJM -- I think the answer to your question is yes, people would want to move back if given the chance, if they haven't already re-established themselves in another community that they enjoy. One of my neighbors grew up in the old Capper/Carrollsburg neighborhood. She told me stories about going to school, and then being locked inside her house when she got home from school because it was too dangerous to be outside. Her mother eventually moved the family to Maryland -- I'm not sure if that was before or after the redevelopment was underway. She moved back as an adult in 2012, which of course was long after she left. According to her, the thing that truly ripped the prior community apart wasn't the decision to rebuild it -- it was the guns, drugs, violence, gangs, and crime.

The community sure is a whole lot better than it was before. A departure from stand-alone affordable housing has a lot to do with it, and the case could easily be made that this is the prime reason. And now, upon realization of the success of the new model, the city decides to abandon it, because, "too hard" and "good enough". What a shame.

tspaquin says: (3/3/15 1:20 PM)
Sorry I meant 2023. Marking my calendar now.

EM3 says: (3/3/15 1:36 PM)
I just wanted to clarify that comparing 400 M ST to Potomac Gardens is comparing apples and oranges. PG is traditional public housing, with rental assistance, providing the deepest affordability to the poorest families. Just like Arthur Capper did, pre-HOPE VI/Cap Quarter redevelopment. 400 M ST, on the other hand, is a LIHTC development with no project-based rental subsidy. Rents have to be below market, but they aren't income-based rents so, although families have to be low-income to live there (80% or below AMI), they must also have enough income to pay the rent, thus excluding the poorest families traditionally served by PH.

I'm still unclear whether DCHA is planning to build "traditional" PH on square 767 (deeply affordable, serving the poorest families) or some kind of other affordable housing development, like 400 M. If the latter, then the building likely will look and feel a lot like 400 M, but then it may not even be an option for former residents who don't already have a rent voucher.

JoeNdc says: (3/3/15 2:22 PM)
@JHUGrad... Oh my! Please, I implore you to refer to my last quasi-reply to you where I suggested you try digging deeper. I'd hand you a shovel to help you out but I think you'd just continue to bury yourself.

tspaquin says: (3/3/15 2:53 PM)
@EM3 -- I've been trying to learn more about 400 M and I do see your point. There appears to be some sort of varying degree of income requirements in that building, but I haven't found any definitive data. If achieving mixed-income within a 100% affordable building is a strategy of DCHA for its newer buildings, it would be great to hear them articulate that, even though I remain opposed to any plan that doesn't also incorporate a market-rate element, which would make it true mixed-income and a better reflection of the rest of our community.

JHUGrad says: (3/3/15 3:09 PM)
I think I've proven my point (@JoeNDC and @tspauin). I assumed you guys knew that "Affordable" housing can be different. 400 M Street requires that the units are "Affordable", so you have all kinds of people living there. That's the reason why it's not a "slum". I thought you guys knew that. Also, the "Affordable" housing on Square 767 will be structured the same way. The only difference is, instead of 160 units (like it is at 400 M), it will be 48 units.

JD says: (3/3/15 3:17 PM)
Nov. 2007 post of mine on 400 M:

"The 139-unit building was originally designed for low-income seniors, but its profile has been expanded to also include renters who earn a moderate income of between 50 and 60 percent of the area's median income (AMI). This translates to a household income between $33,000 and $38,000 for one person and $38,000 to $45,000 for two people, and up to $54,000 for a family of four. The rental price is then set at 30% of the household income, which makes the rent for a one-bedroom unit range from $877 to $993 per month. But even with the change to allow renters with higher incomes, the building continues to rent to fixed-income seniors and other residents with lower incomes, placed through the D.C. Housing Authority, in order to maintain an overall income level of 45 percent AMI."


You might also find this blog post (not mine!) from 2011 enlightening:


JHUGrad says: (3/3/15 3:35 PM)
So it looks like from that link, that in 2011 you could make between $41,200 - $62,100 and rent at 400 M. Like I said... all kinds of people. I would bet that 4 years in later in 2015, that these numbers may even be higher. The article also says that there are very few units for those making under $41,200 (and now that number may be like $45,000). tspaquin and JoeNdc.... I don't think you can compare these buildings to Potomac Gardens (or most other "Affordable" housing in the city), and I don't think you need to worry about people making $60,000 a year turning a building into a slum.

JD says: (3/3/15 3:51 PM)
Me, June 1, 2008:

"On Friday, the DC Housing Authority successfully closed the financing for the 39 public housing rental units scattered within the 121 market- and workforce-rate townhouses at Capitol Quarter. The $5.1 million in bonds and other high-finance actions outside of my limited ability to explain will fund the $10 million in construction costs needed for these Phase 1 rental units, which will be available to persons making between 30 and 60 percent of the area's median income (adjusted for family size)."

tspaquin says: (3/3/15 4:09 PM)
JD I saw your 2007 post, but could find nothing regarding the current state of affairs at 400 M. A lot can change in 8 years. Is that property mandated to maintain a certain mix of incomes? Or can DCHA change its policies on a whim and with the political wind? That's what scares me about such buildings.

Also - could someone please explain why the Lofts at Capitol Quarter, now being constructed, is different and something that cannot be replicated -- incorporating market-rate and affordable homes? We've been told it was done there, but it was very hard to do. So hard not to try again?

JD your second link is tempting me to pick apart its failures -- i.e. citing nation-wide average incomes and comparing them to DC. Now there's some serious apples and oranges.

JD says: (3/3/15 4:18 PM)
The Lofts at Capitol Quarter is an all-rental mixed-income building. It took four years to finance.

EYA wants to build condos on Square 767, ie, ownership units, not rentals.

To have one building contain affordable rental units and market-rate ownership units is not something that occurs very frequently. If at all.

As for your fear of "whims," When DCHA decided as construction was finishing that there weren't enough seniors to fill 400 M and that they wanted to expand the age profile of potential renters, it required a zoning filing and approval from the Zoning Commission:


tspaquin says: (3/3/15 4:32 PM)
I don't mean to sound sarcastic JD, but is that supposed to be comforting in light of the recent zoning commission decision? The zoning commission seems to be nothing but a rubber stamp on what DCHA wants to do.

JD says: (3/3/15 5:06 PM)
This might be a good time to mention AGAIN that this particular zoning case DID NOT approve two buildings on Square 767. That will be a case all its own, one that hasn't yet been filed.

I think a whole lot of deep breaths are needed. This thread is not showcasing everyone's better angels.

tspaquin says: (3/3/15 5:28 PM)
There are strong feelings on both sides of the issue for sure. But the discussion seems mostly civil to me -- and has been informative, and thanks by the way for providing the platform for the discussion.

I was aware that the recent zoning decision did not approve the two buildings on 767 because such approval was not sought. But it seems academic at this point that when the time comes for that decision, there is every indication, and it will be no surprise, that it will be approved. I think that all we can do -- people who share my concerns -- is to continue to be engaged in the process and voice our concerns, and hope that it has some impact on the outcome.

JD says: (3/3/15 5:40 PM)
I wasn't referencing the tone, which I agree has been (somewhat surprisingly) civil for the most part.

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1300 4TH ST SE 1001   
1346 4TH ST SE APT 1M   
null / NA NA NA
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FC 1331 LLC / FC 1331 LLC
BP2101814 / POST CARD
10 I ST SE   
Installation of up to six (6) 3-inch diameter direct-push Geoprobe borings to depths of up to 30 feet below grade as part of an environmental assessment.
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861 NEW JERSEY AVE SE 20003   
Dismantling of tower crane.
FC 1275 NJ LLC / null
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Installation of up to six (6) 3-inch diameter direct-push Geoprobe borings to depths of up to 30 feet below grade as part of an environmental assessment.
AH = After Hours; B = Alteration & Repair; D = Demolition; E = Electrical; FB = Boiler; M = Mechanical; P = Plumbing and Gas; PC = Post Card; R = Raze; SG = Sign; TL = Tenant Layout; TN = Tent; RW = Retaining Wall;

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