Ask Kwame to keep the West End housing deal affordable
Unless DC Council Chairman Kwame Brown reverses course, the long-awaited replacement of the West End Library and fire station will move forward without the originally-promised affordable housing. Please Tell Chairman Brown to fund West End affordable housing.
Long planned as a 52-unit project of very affordable apartments for those earning up to 60% of area median income (AMI), the fire station project is in danger of losing its affordability. If unfilled, a $7 million budget gap will leave a market-rate building with only 5 affordable units for people earning up to 80% of AMI.
Recently, Mayor Gray committed to the needed funds and asked Council Chairman Kwame Brown to add the budget authority to the Budget Support Act (BSA) which the Council votes on next Tuesday. Chairman Brown declined the Mayor's request. This is a mistake. The Chairman should reconsider his decision and seize this rare opportunity to provide very affordable housing in a job- and amenity-rich part of town.
Even with the additional costs of these very affordable units, the planned redevelopment that replaces these aging facilities and adds housing and retail is a good deal for the city.
While the cost of the affordable units isn't cheap, it's on par with similar efforts in the region. Moreover, its location is unparalleled. Rebuilding "One City" requires investing in rare opportunities like this one. Offering low income DC residents the chance to live in such a well-located mixed-use neighborhood builds a better future for our city, where everyone can share in the District's rising prosperity.
The West End and nearby Foggy Bottom are home to some two dozen large and medium-sized hotels, as well as George Washington University and its hospital center. These institutions are all major employers, in particular providing a concentration of entry-level and moderate-wage jobs, often filled by people who are likely to be eligible for very affordable units.
By committing to this project, the chairman can indicate that he recognizes the importance of giving low income households the chance to live and possibly walk to a nearby job in West End, Foggy Bottom, or even downtown.
With this project and future ones like it, we can help share the success of the city with those who find it increasingly difficult to stay and enjoy the new libraries, parks, schools that are made possible by DC's growing popularity.
We applaud Chairman Brown for restoring critical housing programs in the 2013 operating budget. However, this West End affordable housing project would be paid for through the capital budget and requires separate action. It is another essential part of ensuring our city's growing wealth gives better opportunities for the DC residents who are struggling to keep up.
With a waiting list of 20,000 for subsidized units, it's time for the District to make another major commitment to conveniently located, affordable housing.
Before next Tuesday, send Chairman Brown a message and ask him to include the budget authority in the Budget Support Act for the long-promised West End affordable housing deal.
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