This week, we pay tribute to the Phyllis Wheatley YWCA for Women’s History Month.
Over the past few years, the century-old building in D.C. has been refurbished and reopened with a ribbon-cutting attended by Mayor Muriel Bowser, who said at the June 2017 ceremony that the creative partnership and the group’s persistence have kept these affordable units in the District and will allow more Washingtonians to “find their place to thrive.”
According to the D.C. Housing Authority, the historic building on Rhode Island Avenue and 9th Street in Northwest received the $17 million renovation thanks to the partnership between the housing authority, the city government and seven other community partners. The 84 supportive and affordable units for low-income women in the District received upgrades, such as kitchenettes and full bathrooms, to allow for more independent living. Solar panels and other energy-saving measures were also added.
“We not only maintain a focus on affordable housing, but also get those units out of the door,” Bowser said.
DCHA also shows that they have made an annual commitment of $781,200 in Local Rent Supplement Program and $401,280 in traditional federal subsidy funding. The combination of federal and local subsidy is the first time this financing structure has been used in the District and is a model for future projects, said Merrick Malone, DCHA’s director of capital programs. DCHA’s subsidies cover 100 percent of the units, making rent affordable for each woman who lives there.
“You have to be intentional or you don’t get a project like this done,” said Malone, who noted that DCHA contributed $1.5 million in Housing Factor Funds to the project as well. “We at the agency love to be creative.”
Malone also said this was the first project nationally to use PACE (Property Accessed Clean Energy) financing for new affordable housing.
“This is a wonderful place that the ladies can call home,” said Patricia L. Plummer, Phyllis Wheatley YWCA’s board president.
She said the YWCA’s board learned a lot about affordable housing since the 2015 wall-breaking ceremony, but she said the partners also learned from the board whose missions is serving women in need.
“And we don’t falter from that mission,” Plummer said.
The 100-year-old building required nine different financing streams and five city agencies, said Buwa Binitie, managing principal at Dantes Partners.
“It was the most complicated transaction I’ve ever worked on,” Binitie said. “It was and still is the most gratifying project I’ve ever worked on.”
While difficult to get done, this project is “incredibly important for the city,” said Ward 6 Council member Charles Allen.
“It is making a tangible difference in people’s lives for years to come,” Allen said.
Here in Washington, D.C., the board of directors of the Phyllis Wheatley YWCA is celebrating its annual “Afternoon of Smooth Jazz” in April.
A national historic landmark, the Phyllis Wheatley YWCA has operated without interruption, even during renovations. It has offered safe, affordable housing to women and supported the endeavors of the city’s youth.
A 501c3 corporation, the PWYWCA’s mission is “to provide affordable housing and programs to women regardless of race, creed, or color. We serve women in transition to prevent homelessness. We also provide outreach services to children and the community. The Phyllis Wheatley YWCA operates as an independent living facility.”
We salute Wheatley for the work she achieved as a poet during her short lifetime. This week on “The Lyndia Grant Show,” hear Plummer and and Paulette Holloway, Phyllis Wheatley YWCA’s executive director, share about the excitement and details of the upcoming “Evening of Smooth Jazz,” an annual event!
Lyndia Grant is a speaker/writer living in the D.C. area. Her radio show, “Think on These Things,” airs Fridays at 6 p.m. on 1340 AM (WYCB), a Radio One station. Visit her website, www.lyndiagrantshow.com, send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 240-602-6295. Follow her on Twitter @LyndiaGrant and on Facebook.