Affordable, Transit-Oriented Development Spurs D.C. Housing Market
Sonsyrea Tate Montgomery | 6/8/2011, 12:19 p.m.
During a gathering late last month at the National Press Club in downtown D.C., a panel that consisted of housing, development, construction, and banking experts offered an overview on the impact and future of public and affordable housing in the District. The panel also provided information on construction debt financing and the role legislation has on housing development.
The panel convened as part of the D.C. Building Industry Association's (DCBIA) annual State of the Housing Market conference. More than 300 community stakeholders - including architects, builders and bankers -- attended.
Adrianne Todman, executive director of the D. C. Housing Authority (DCHA), rolled out the most recent accomplishments in and around public housing communities throughout the city.
DCHA, which owns and manages 8,000 public housing units, is the District's largest landlord. The agency pumps more than $156 million annually in Housing Assistance Payments for the more than 11,000 families in the Housing Choice Voucher Program who rent privately-owned housing throughout the District.
In addition, DCHA administers an annual $300 million budget from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and, more recently, a $19 million District of Columbia government allocation for the Local Rent Supplement Program.
The District's continued economic expansion is inextricably tied to the creation of affordable housing for low and moderate-income households, according to Todman. Employers from across industry sectors cite the lack of access to affordable housing as one of biggest obstacles to recruiting, hiring and retaining a productive workforce.
"I love Barracks Row. There would not be a Barracks Row if we had not repositioned the public housing around Barracks Row," Todman said. She showed before and after photos of public housing communities throughout the District that have been transformed into mixed-use housing complexes where subsidized families live alongside people who purchase at market pricing. Todman further stated that the transformation of the public housing has made neighborhoods more attractive to retailers.
"Would there be an I-Hop on Alabama Ave. without Henson Ridge," she asked. "That's the impact of public housing on communities, and not just here in D.C., but around the country."
Brad Fennell, senior vice president at William C. Smith & Company, which has partnered with DCHA in its most recent HUD-funded Hope VI grant to rebuild Sheridan Station, commended the housing authority for its stewardship of Hope VI dollars, restoring and maintaining affordable housing for low-income residents during the current economic crisis when more families are in need of them.
"Certainly, when you look at what Hope VI has been able to accomplish in the past 10 years, it's quite impressive, transforming blighted neighborhoods that had been plagued with crime," Fennell said. DCHA has the distinction of competing for and receiving the second largest number of HOPE VI grants in the nation and has leveraged this $181 million into $1.5 billion of economic development in the District.
Douglas L. Vigen, senior vice president for real estate at Eagle Bank, told the builders and developers that the most attractive development proposals are the ones for mixed-use commercial-residential communities - buildings with retail and/or office space leasing to insure income even in economic crisis. Also, he explained, proposals for development located near subways and trendy dining areas are most attractive to lenders.
Vigen said that buyers -- particularly young adults -- have grown up feasting on food networks. They want to live near the hippest restaurants and up-scale food markets. These young buyers also prefer public transportation and many don't plan to buy cars. So, they are less likely to buy parking spaces in newly built facilities.
"We'll see smaller, downtown, Metro-access, amenity-based housing developments," Vigen said. "The smaller, petite condos are more financeable."
The DC Building Industry Association's panelists re-emphasized the importance of redeveloping the remaining 12 undeveloped housing facilities in the District to spur continued neighborhood redevelopment and the demand for smaller, transit-oriented development geared toward young adults.