D.C. Council member Tommy Wells says soccer deal should include affordable housing


D.C. council member Tommy Wells, right, is pressing Mayor Vincent C. Gray to include affordable housing in a soccer stadium deal for D.C. United. (Marvin Joseph/Washington Post)

D.C. Council member and mayoral candidate Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) said Friday that any deal for a D.C. United stadium on Buzzard Point, which is in his ward, ought to include new housing offered at levels that are affordable to households making between $45,000 and $65,000 annually.

In an interview Wells said that the Reeves Center, which Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s administration has proposed trading to developer Akridge in exchange for stadium land, would be a good place to add housing for families that cannot afford market rate rents.

“I believe this wholeheartedly, that whenever we use our public assets, that the No. 1 priority is going to have to be to leverage more affordable housing,” Wells said.

Wells added that although he supports helping the team to build a stadium, he said he would not support a soccer deal that didn’t produce some affordable units.

“That would be a fantastic site to be sure that we get some workforce housing because that’s an area where people are being priced out at a rapid rate,” he said.

Gray, who is running for re-election, has made building affordable housing a priority, pledging $100 million to lower the cost of housing for seniors, government workers and other medium- and low-income residents.

Gray spokesman Pedro Ribeiro called the Wells demand “laughable and absurd.”

“All of a sudden, during the middle of a campaign, a council member with precious little record to speak of on affordable housing finds religion on the issue?,” Ribeiro said in an e-mail.

It isn’t the first shot that a member of the council has taken at Gray’s soccer stadium plan, in which the District would contribute $150 million in land and incentives toward a 20,000-seat stadium for the team.

Last month Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) said he would prefer to see the Reeves Center replaced with more office space, rather than an apartment or condo building.

Putting requirements on what gets built in place of the Reeves Center could make the deal more expensive for the District but if D.C. and the team build a soccer stadium on the northern end of Buzzard Point it will likely make the middle and southern portions — owned by Akridge — more valuable.

City Administrator Allen Lew, who is handling the stadium negotiations for Gray, has not put forth a plan for unlocking that value for the city.

Follow Jonathan O’Connell on Twitter: @oconnellpostbiz

Jonathan O'Connell has covered land use and development in the Washington area for more than five years.
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