Testimony on DHCD FY 2023 Budget
Committee on Housing and Executive Administration
March 30, 2022
Thank you for the opportunity to testify. I am Meg Maguire, Chair of the newly formed NW Opportunity Partners CDC. Our mission is to reverse the historic racial inequities of removal and exclusion of Black residents in Ward 3 by expanding affordable housing and economic opportunities; and by transferring any benefits of our work to other community-led organizations citywide.
We are dedicated to achieving Mayor Bowser’s Ward 3 affordable housing goal of 1990 new units by 2025. But we will never come close to reaching this goal if we depend on inclusionary zoning. Based on three large scale developments the outlook is bleak:
- City Ridge is building 650 residential units, only 56 of which will be affordable.
- Mazza Gallery will build 350 new apartments with only 28-35 affordable units.
- And, on the former Wardman Hotel site, Carmel Partners plans a matter-of-right development for 9.5 acres that will produce 900 rental units, only 8% or 72 of which are required to be affordable.
Total yield from these 3 large-scale projects? A mere 163 units of affordable housing.
There is very little public land in Ward 3 on which to build more affordable housing. And the city is not well-equipped to acquire private land when it becomes available. This was illustrated by the city’s unwillingness to engage in early negotiations with the creditors when the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel declared bankruptcy over a year ago. With assistance from a team of architects, Ward 3 Housing Justice, the Wardman Hotel Strategy Team and our CDC developed a concept to adapt the existing buildings for 500 units of affordable housing plus a wide range of community facilities vs. the mere 72 units in the current plans.
In January of this year, our CDC proposed to Carmel Partners, owners of the Wardman, that the hotel annex facing Calvert St. be repurposed for 100 units of affordable housing as one way that the valuable Wardman site could contribute to the city in which they are privileged to operate.
To take advantage of properties that become available in this hot real estate market we propose that the Mayor and the Council create a $100 million Affordability Acquisition Fund to:
- Rapidly acquire buildings and sites in areas of high opportunity, high land cost and little public land to create 1000 new beautiful, permanently affordable homes, in both rentals and limited equity cooperatives for 0-80% MFI with an emphasis on large, family-sized units;
- Galvanize the expertise of non-profit and for-profit housing development teams and their qualified lenders through pre-approved rapid bridge loans for land acquisition;
- Guarantee permanent affordability through covenants administered by the Douglass Community Land Trust; and
- Give priority to those who have lived in DC for 10+ years or who were displaced from their homes during the past 10 years.
The NYC Acquisition Fund offers a model to study in preparation for new legislation. Since its founding in 2006, the Fund has invested $533 million to acquire, preserve and construct 14,236 units of affordable housing. Originating lenders include two highly respected organizations already operating in DC, Enterprise and LISC, that could draw on their experiences in NYC to jump start the Affordability Acquisition Fund in DC. https://www.nycacquisitionfund.com/partners
People who work in Ward 3 – construction workers, grocery store employees, teachers’ aides, musicians, and health care workers — should be able to live in Ward 3. Prospects for welcoming them to live here are vanishing. Properties that seem expensive today will be out of reach tomorrow. We urge the Council and DMPED to move quickly to take advantage of once-in-a-generation development opportunities.
In closing, we are concerned that the mayor’s budget includes no funding in FY 2023 for the Douglass Community Land Trust. The Comprehensive Plan amendments adopted last year call for greater use of land trusts. DC is fortunate to have Douglass CLT, and we need it more than ever to guarantee long-term affordability when the city invests public funds in affordable housing. We call on Council to rectify this omission and appropriate $5 million for this fine public serving organization. Thank you for this opportunity to testify.