The call for proposals represents progress toward creating a mixed-income melting pot around the old Temple Courts property. But it remains to be seen how much this phase of the project will help the hundreds of former residents of Temple Courts, which was a 211-unit low-income apartment building.
City officials moved the tenants out in 2008 and razed the building while promising that residents would be able to return to new housing by the end of this year. But plans to redevelop the area around the building unraveled, partly because of the city’s inability to move the housing agency.
The New Communities Initiative — also aimed at redeveloping the areas around Park Morton in Northwest, Lincoln Heights and Richardson Dwellings in Northeast, and Barry Farm in Southeast — was intended to ensure that people of all incomes could enjoy the city’s new prosperity.
Residents and city staff agreed that two-thirds of the 1,700 or so units in the neighborhood that included Temple Courts — bordered by North Capitol and K streets and New Jersey and New York avenues — would be “affordable.” One-third would replace low-income homes for residents earning up to 30 percent of the area’s median income, and another third would subsidize working-class people making no more than 60 percent of the area’s median income. The rest would be available at market rate.
But the request for proposals for the agency headquarters uses the federal definition of affordability — up to 80 percent of median income — and requires only that “at least one-third” of the building, or 70 new units, meet that definition. There is no language ensuring more heavily subsidized units.
In exchange for building on the city property, assessed at $53.2 million, the request requires the developer to provide space for the agency’s executive offices and fund a separate location for walk-in clients. It also calls for the developer to make “substantial payments” to the agency for “the remaining value of the land” after the cost of improvements is subtracted.
Housing officials declined to explain the difference in affordability standards.
“We’ve started a procurement process, and it would be imprudent to answer questions outside of the parameters of the procurement documents and process,” said Rick White, the housing agency’s spokesman.
D.C. Council member Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4), head of the council’s Economic Development Committee, said she was generally encouraged by the agency’s plan. But the elevated affordability standard “raises an eyebrow at first blush,” she said.