For decades, Washington, DC has ranked as one of the most expensive places to live in the country, and the cost of housing accounts for the lion’s share of the expense. For example, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, minimum wage workers have to work 104 hours per week to afford a two-bedroom rental home at Fair Market Rent and 91 hours per week to afford a one-bedroom rental home at Fair Market Rent. This leaves most service workers, including janitors, dental assistants, and security guards, unable to afford rental homes in the District, according to the National Housing Conference’s Paycheck to Paycheck tool.
Within the nation’s capital, gentrification has forced many longtime District residents to leave their old neighborhoods as builders move in to redevelop large segments of old housing stock into expensive, amenity-rich communities. Understanding this trend will continue, Wesley Housing has taken aggressive steps over the last 18 months to help preserve affordable housing in the city and enable residents to remain in the place they call “home”.
Wesley Housing’s efforts began in December 2017 when we acquired our first property in the District of Columbia, Brookland Place Apartments. This 80 rental unit property is near Catholic University of America (CUA) and is accessible to two metro stations: Brookland-CUA and Rhode Island Avenue. Brookland Place Apartments was acquired in partnership with the tenant association through the District’s Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA). Through the partnership, low income housing tax credit (LIHTC) and District Housing Trust Fund loan financing, the property will remain affordable for another 30 years at a minimum. The property is currently undoing a comprehensive rehabilitation that is projected to be completed in fall 2019.
Last year, we acquired two more properties in the District: 1 Hawaii Avenue NE and 410 Cedar Street NW. 1 Hawaii Avenue, acquired in March 2018, offers 32 studio to two-bedroom floorplans and is conveniently located in the Fort Totten Neighborhood. Wesley Housing is exploring the redevelopment of the 1 Hawaii Avenue site—calling for doubling the residential density through innovative architecture and active design.
410 Cedar Street NW, acquired October 2018 in co-ownership with Joseph Development Inc., consists of 30 multi-family units in the Takoma Park area – a two-minute walk to Takoma Metro station. Upon acquisition of the property, Wesley Housing affiliate, Wesley Property Management Company, began managing the property and has addressed a number of health and safety risks at the property.
In addition to preserving these properties as safe, high quality housing for the existing residents, Wesley Housing began implementing our Housing Stability Initiative at the properties immediately upon taking over management responsibilities. Through the work of our Regional Housing Specialist, households at risk of eviction (identified by our property management team) are offered crisis intervention and linkages and referrals to local resources to maintain housing. In addition, our Employment Specialist offers career guidance, such as job search assistance, application assistance, and more, to enhance residents’ earning power and quality of life. Staff also coordinate in-house budgeting workshops, financial education, and access to financial counseling.
“I love being in a position to help residents in DC maintain their housing, and I am excited to help even more residents as Wesley acquires more properties in DC,” said Sonia Edwards, Housing Stability Manager. “We have already supported more than 70 eviction prevention cases this year, and we are excited to do more.”