D.C. Officials Dedicate Affordable Apartments

City officials joined developers and residents in the 1400 block of R Street to dedicate the renovation of the R Street Apartments, which was a $24.5 million revitalization effort. Video by Hamil Harris/The Washington Post
By Hamil R. Harris
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 23, 2009

D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, who has been chastised by critics who say he has not provided enough affordable housing, joined city officials and developers last week to dedicate a pod of affordable apartment buildings that are part of a $24.5 million revitalization effort on the 1400 block of R Street NW.

Officials from National Housing Trust-Enterprise Preservation, Hampstead Development Group, the D.C. Housing Authority and the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development were at the site Friday for the grand reopening of the 124 newly renovated units of R Street Apartments.

"The residents of Logan Circle deserve 21st-century affordable housing," Fenty (D) said at the event. "The new R Street Apartments are not only affordable, but they serve as an example of yet another green, high-performing building in the District of Columbia."

The R Street Apartments, built in 1912, have been an affordable place to call home for multiple generations of D.C. residents. When the five historic buildings fell into disrepair, the residents forged a partnership with the city and developers and reached a deal to save the structures.

"With support, the tenants -- we -- were able to [obtain] vouchers so that we could stay in R Street and have affordable living and have some place for our kids to grow, up so they can feel safe and secure and know that they have a future," said Cassandra Witt, president of the Five Voices of R Street Tenant Association.

The renovated apartment buildings have upgraded security systems, open meeting spaces and units that are accessible to people with disabilities. All residents will be able to use free high-speed wireless Internet service.

The work added several "green" features, including solar reflective roofs, rain barrels to collect water and energy-efficient appliances and heating and cooling systems.

The D.C. Housing Finance Agency issued more than $12.3 million in tax-exempt bonds to help pay for renovation and construction and supported the long-term financing of the project. The Housing Authority managed the property's transition to the income-based Enhanced Housing Choice Voucher program.

At the dedication, Michael Kelly, executive director of the Housing Finance Agency, said, "What we are doing is celebrating with folks who were here in the hard times and are now here in the good times."

The project was financed by MMA Financial through the purchase of more than $8.9 million in the bonds issued by the Housing Finance Agency. Two major developers participated in the renovation project, Hampstead Development Group and NHT-Enterprise Preservation.

Chris Foster, president of Hampstead, said the project was a "win-win" for several reasons.

"We got to do what we love, which is building projects," he said, "and we got to partner with agencies who are helping to make affordable, clean and safe housing."

Robert Richardson, senior project manager for NHT-Enterprise Preservation, said it had been "an incredible project. How often can you get affordable housing in the Logan Circle-Dupont Circle area? That is what this project is all about."

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