With million-dollar condominiums becoming ubiquitous in the District, you might not know that luxury living can also be found at far less expensive properties. There’s one in Southeast, a 24-unit condominium complex called the Buxton.
Lavone Twitty, who is employed as a security guard, showed me the condo that she purchased there three weeks ago.
Two bedrooms, two baths, washer and dryer, open-air back porch — located at 17th and W streets SE. That’s two blocks from Cedar Hill, home of the 19th-century abolitionist Frederick Douglass, in historic Anacostia.
The Buxton, which had sat boarded up and abandoned for 14 years, was transformed into condominiums by Manna, a nonprofit developer of affordable homes for low- and moderate-income residents. Twitty bought hers for around $203,500. With D.C. government loans and grants, the mortgage payments for that amount could be made to work for residents with annual incomes in the range of $40,000 to $50,000.
“It’s so wonderful,” Twitty said, showing off the living room.
Of course, the condo didn’t come with the amenities that you might find at, say, a not-much-larger $2 million condo downtown. No Molteni custom cabinetry with panelized appliances, for instance.
But it’s got a kitchen that had everything she needed to make a grand Easter dinner. The condo is solidly built, spacious and comfortable — a castle, really, when compared with the women’s homeless shelter where she’d lived while saving up enough money to qualify for a mortgage.
A native Washingtonian with two daughters in D.C. public schools, Twitty had been unable to keep up with rising rents and had come about as close as one could get to being swept out of town on a tide of gentrification.
Now she’s a homeowner, nicely anchored in a city going through a socioeconomic sea change.
“I like being in the city when it’s up and coming instead of just going down,” said Twitty, who grew up during the drug and homicide epidemics of the 1980s and ’90s. “What I also like is knowing that when I pass away, I will have something to pass on to my children.”
Manna, founded in 1982, has developed more than 1,200 homes for low- and moderate-income residents in the city. Total equity accumulation by those homeowners was estimated at more than $162.2 million, according to a recent Manna report, with a median equity gain of more than $171,300.
Money for education, starting a business or, as in Twitty’s case, passing on an inheritance — all from simply owning a house.
“We’re not done yet; we have lots more to do,” Jim Dickerson, the president of Manna, told me. “After the recession, the banks weren’t as engaged in affordable housing, the foundations stopped being as involved, and government agencies became more difficult to deal with. But we can’t stop helping low-income people to realize their dreams, to help make a place for them in this city.”
After wrangling for six years with the bureaucracies of three successive D.C. government administrations, Manna was finally able to complete the Buxton last year.
The condos quickly sold out, with the last four buyers expected to move in early next month.
Buxton owners are everyday people who keep the city running — the bus driver, a warehouse employee, teacher, caregiver. Twitty was showing me her back porch when Annette Gaunt, a housekeeper at a hotel in the city, arrived home after a hard day’s work. I asked what she thought of her new home.
“It’s so quiet and peaceful,” Gaunt said with a smile. “I’m glad I don’t have to keep giving away all of my money for rent. The money I’ve given to landlords, I could have bought a house a long time ago.”
Twitty laughed and said: “Two houses by now. I’m glad I don’t have to keep moving from one apartment to another.”
Once the Buxton was renovated, other developments began to take off in the area.
“You can see these nice little eateries starting to show up around here,” Twitty said.
The new D.C. has a lot to offer, Gaunt agreed. “All kinds of programs and activities for the children, and you can go back to school for adult-education classes,” she said.
Back inside, Twitty settled into a sofa and kicked off her shoes. She didn’t have anything like loom-woven tapestries or hand-knotted wool throw rugs. No double vanities or valet.
But the condo came with wall-to-wall carpet, luxurious enough beneath her bare feet.
To read previous columns, go to washingtonpost.com/milloy.