Cheaper by the Income

If you make less, you can pay less for an apartment in a new development

August 30, 2013

At Hodge on 7th, Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Alexander Padro, center, talks with prospective renter Martha Knight, left, and local resident Dolores Morgan.

Those shiny, new developments going up all over the Washington area may seem out of your price range. But you may be pleasantly surprised to learn that developers often add discounted apartments in the mix for those who make less money.

The goal — at least for the developments in D.C. — is to offer “homes for people who work in the District and can’t afford to live in the District,” says Jason Jacobson, a managing director at Hines, whose CityCenterDC project will include affordable units.

Affordable units are usually doppelgangers of their higher-priced brethren in the building but with less-expensive details: You might get laminate wood flooring instead of bamboo flooring, for example, or slightly lower-end appliances.

Developers of City Market at O (P Street NW between Seventh and Ninth streets; 877-284-1677), a huge mixed-use complex set to bring 642 rental units to Shaw, have devoted an entire building — out of four residential buildings — to offering affordable housing for those ages 55 and older.

“We thought, ‘What a great way to allow people to age in their community,’ ” says Richard Lake, a principal at Roadside Development, which is developing the project.

The building, called Hodge on 7th, will be made up of 90 one-bedroom apartments. Its residents will have access to such fancy amenities as a gym and pool.

To get one of these units, you have to make less money than average. To determine what’s “average,” developers use a number called the area median income. It’s based on the entire D.C. metro area, and these days, it’s $107,300.

People 55 and older who make 60 percent or less of the area median income will pay only $1,050 a month for a one-bedroom in Hodge. Those who make half of it will pay only $950 for a one-bedroom. That’s about half of the market rate.

For co-developers Roadside Development and Dantes Partners, offering discounted apartments was a way to get the community on board with new development.

“Folks had concerns initially about what revitalization would mean,” says Alexander Padro, commissioner for Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6E, where City Market is located, and the executive director of Shaw Main Streets, a nonprofit dedicated to revitalizing Seventh and Ninth streets NW. “Were they going to be pushed out of the neighborhood as a result? Were they going to be priced out of the neighborhood?”

Incorporating more affordable housing into the project was a way to address those concerns (as was the decision not to displace any existing housing; most of the structure sits on what was a parking lot).

And the community’s support made the commission more likely to sign off on things that helped developers, such as tax increment financing, historic preservation approvals and zoning for tall buildings.

That’s not the only reason developers offer lower-priced units. The developers of CityCenterDC in downtown Washington had to bid to win the opportunity to build there. Offering affordable units made their bid more appealing to the city.

“The District wanted to increase the number of residential units in the downtown and wanted a certain number of those units to be affordable,” says Jacobson of Hines, which won the bid to build the project.

So when CityCenter’s apartments open next year, 92 out of 458 rental units will have rents lower than market rate.

A studio that would normally rent for as much as $2,400 a month could rent for as little as $1,075 a month, Jacobson says.

At CityCenter, half of the affordable units will go to those who make less than 60 percent of the area median income, and the other half will go to those who make less than 80 percent of it.

A four-person household with a combined income of 80 percent of the area median income, or $85,840, would be eligible for one of the units at CityCenter. For a single person, an income of $60,088 or less would make them eligible for a unit.

Of course, an income of $60,000 for one person isn’t exactly destitution. “These are what we call moderate income units, not truly low-income units,” Jacobson says. “We expect to get some students who are supporting themselves and we expect to get teachers and firefighters.”

 

How to Apply:

To get an affordable unit at CityCenter, apply at citycenterdc.com/communitybenefits or call 202-534-1068 by Sept. 12. You’ll need to provide proof of income (probably pay stubs or a tax return). There also are minimum income requirements to ensure you’re not spending all of your money on rent. City Market at O doesn’t plan to open its application process until this winter for April 2014 move-ins.

Beth Marlowe is a senior editor at Washington Post Express. She has written for The Washington Post, the Associated Press, Bloomberg Television and other publications.
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