D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, who has made stemming runaway housing costs the centerpiece of her economic development agenda, announced Friday that she was committing $106.3 million to build or rehabilitate housing in 19 projects across the District.
The projects include six new ground-up construction developments and 13 rehabs of existing buildings, reflecting a priority among housing advocates that the city do more to prevent existing buildings from being bought by developers and turned into luxury units — a phenomenon that has driven up rents across the District.
Bowser’s office said the money would build or preserve about 1,200 units at below market rates by funding developments shepherded by a series of nonprofit, for-profit and private developers.
D.C. will pay an average of about $88,300 per unit. That includes spending, for example, $17.2 million for a 99-unit new development, the Beacon Center, at 6100 Georgia Ave. NW, where Bowser made the announcement Friday.
Another $17.87 million will go to Plaza West, a new apartment building at 1035 4th Street NW that will include 50 units for families headed by grandparents, and $17.95 million is going to the Conway Center, at 4414 Benning Road NE, which will include 178 units for homeless families and individuals and four units for staff to care for them.
Similar to the mayor’s effort to build a series of new homeless shelters, the housing developments are spread nearly throughout the city, with one in Ward 1, two in Ward 2, six in Ward 4, one in Ward 5, 2 in Ward 6, two in Ward 7 and three in Ward 8.
“When I took office, we set out to ensure that all residents — no matter their background, income, or Zip code — could afford to live in the District,” Bowser said in a statement.
“With over $106 million now fully invested to produce, preserve and protect affordable housing, we are helping to deliver on that promise,” she said. “Because of our efforts, real money is getting out the door that will allow over 2,600 residents to call the District home.”
Construction on 16 of the 19 projects is now beginning or nearly so, said Polly Donaldson, director of the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development.
In January, the administration set aside $82 million for a dozen projects; most of those proposals are still undergoing underwriting review before money can be committed. One, on Good Hope Road Southeast, has since been eliminated from consideration, Donaldson said.
As a candidate Bowser vowed to spend $100 million annually from the city’s Housing Production Trust Fund as a way of slowing the breakneck pace at which the city’s housing stock is being turned into typically smaller, luxury units often costing well in excess of $2,000 a month.
Donaldson, a former housing advocate, has focused on growing the District government’s capacity to review and fund projects in a timely manner.
Of the $106 million, she said, “this is far more than this agency has ever done in a single fiscal year.”
Critics point to a June report from the D.C. Auditor saying management of the fund lacks proper accounting and required reporting standards.
In all, for the five-year period through 2017, the year before Bowser goes up for reelection, the District is on pace to in total spend nearly $1 billion on an array of affordability initiatives.
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