Marcus Goodwin sat in on a March community meeting where Council member Trayon White (D-Ward 8) gathered dozens of concerned residents to face the overseers of the $50 million Maple View Flats development weeks after protesters shut down construction, citing a lack of community engagement and hiring on the project as their reasons.
Goodwin, an at-large candidate for the D.C. Council, watched as residents emphasized the importance of development companies interacting with the community “before the shovel touches the ground” and further expressed their fears of gentrification to their area.
“This one building will gentrify the neighborhood,” said one resident, Marley Soto, 24. “This will not be the last one; there will be many more to come.”
Goodwin, 28, says he believes he has the aptitude to solve the city’s ongoing problem of providing more affordable housing.
For years, he considered a career in politics. He found political advice and inspiration interning under the late Council member Jim Graham and interacting with former Mayor Adrian Fenty while working under then-Deputy Mayor Valerie Santos Young.
But the Harvard graduate found himself in New York City on Wall Street working as an investment banker and later for the acquisitions arm of the largest development firm in the District.
Currently employed by D.C.-based developer Four Points LLC as an acquisitions associate, Goodwin has thrown his hat into the District’s political arena as one of five contenders looking to oust Council member Anita Bonds from the at-large Council seat she’s held since 2012.
Goodwin has made creating affordable housing the centerpiece of his campaign and said he hopes to use his experience as a developer to move more residents along in the city’s upward-growing prosperity.
“There didn’t seem to be a community base of support or consensus of what was being built,” Goodwin said of the Maple View Flats development.
He says the District’s most at-risk populations are minorities and working-class families and that development in the city should put people over corporate profit by having strong, community-vetted benefits agreements when they’re sold public land at lower-than-market-rate. He has called for D.C. resident hiring requirements for publicly-supported developments as well as the city offering incentives to rent to local retailers that are more likely to hire locally.
A native Washingtonian, Goodwin’s mother, a teacher, lived in Columbia Heights in Northwest. His father, an environmental scientist, lived in Congress Heights in Southeast. Splitting time between the two neighborhoods, he watched his mother’s neighborhood grow to attract development while his father’s community remained one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city.
“Coming from a working-class family, in both my mother’s and father’s households, I saw what it was like to really have to fight and scrape to make your way in this city as the cost of living continued to rise,” he said.
Still, he did not allow his youth as a child from a single-mother household with few economic means to limit his goals, eventually creating a lucrative career in real estate development.
“That was the consequence of me taking advantage of the economic opportunity that was there,” he said. “Now, I want to create that opportunity for all people.”
He said his experience will allow him to maneuver conversations with development firms that will maximize community benefits so that all residents welcome building in their communities and view developments as “assets to the community.”
With impressive support, the first-time Council candidate tops his opponents in fundraising, raising more than $80,000 since his September candidacy announcement. Incumbent Bonds has raised just over $63,000, while opponents Jerimiah Lowery and Aaron Holmes have raised about $30,000. Goodwin touts his financial savvy as an asset needed in the city’s Council to help steer it in a direction to better work with the private sector to develop more affordable housing in the District.
“I’m in a position where not only do I understand [real-estate development], but I’ve built a level of expertise,” Goodwin said. “Smart development is an absolute necessity for us to build a city that creates economic opportunity for all and promotes social mobility.”
He said the city has made efforts to build more affordable housing, but has been inefficient on the projects, sending too much money on developments that yield small numbers of affordable units. He also said that Area Median Income (AMI) should be localized to neighborhoods to protect the affordability of areas with incomes lower than the current standard AMI.
Goodwin also supported the measure that would help convert vacant apartment buildings into affordable housing units as he said the process would help the city and developers save money on infrastructure costs.
“We need to take a hard stance and determine whether we value community and people building or continued profit and growth of our city’s annual budget, and there’s a delicate balance in that,” Goodwin said. “Economic prosperity shouldn’t come at the cost of working and middle-class families.”