This is the second story in a series regarding MID City Financials renovation of the Brookland Manor Apartments (RIA project). Read our first article: Litigation Looms over Brookland Manor
“A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to put its pants on”
– Winston Churchill
Those words were used to explain the controversies surrounding Mid-City Financials’ Rhode Island Avenue (RIA) project. Mid-City Financial has faced an uphill battle since it unveiled plans 2 years ago to renovate the 1940-era Brookland Manor Apartments. The Motion For Reconsideration filed by the Brookland Manor/Brentwood Village Residents Association was denied and the Rhode Island Avenue (RIA) Project is moving forward.
The D.C. Office of Zoning (DCOZ) found no evidence of the opposition claims from Justice First and ruled on behalf of Mid-City to start Stage One. In fact, it used past as prolog citing Mid-City Financials’ track record to highlight what Ward 5 residents should expect. Order 14-18A highlights a number of public benefits that Mid-City expects to expand on in this project. This includes better designs to increase public safety, expansion of employment benefits including an agreement with the District Office of Employment Services, social services programs including enrichment activities, after school programs, tutoring, summer camp and a host of other services.
“There’s a good story here,” one Mid-City executive explained. “We’re looking to build a mixed-income community, representative of the neighborhood and surrounding communities. We looked around for a blueprint for this and there wasn’t one. We looked at what’s going on in similar big cities like New York and San Francisco and there’s nothing out there. What do you think other developers are doing when they have an opportunity to redevelop in a prime area like this with no regulatory constraints?”
The availability of affordable housing is a controversial subject in the District. The District’s Inclusionary Zoning Laws require developers to reserve a number of units for households earning equal to or less than eighty percent (80%) of the Median Family Income (MFI). Rental inclusionary units must be reserved for households earning equal to or less than sixty percent (60%) of the MFI. It also sets aside 8-10% of the floor space as affordable housing.
These numbers are even more dramatic in Brookland Manor. Mid-City reports that the average, certified income for 90 percent of the residents in Brookland Manor is less than $20,000 per year with their housing subsidized by either Section 8 or HUD Vouchers. Mid-City owns the property free and clear, no mortgage. Tearing it down and not providing affordable housing has never been their intention. They admit that there is an affordable housing problem in D.C. but also admit that it can’t be solved in one project.
Architectural drawings of the upcoming development reveal that the square footage on the 19 3-bedroom affordable units range from 1,146 to 1,360 square feet. “There are more large, affordable units in this project than the rest of the city has produced thus far for the life of the Inclusionary Zoning program,” stated a Mid-City official.
The Inclusionary Zoning program is administered by the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development. Inclusionary Zoning (IZ) is one of many tools used in the District of Columbia to help address the affordable housing crisis. IZ was enacted in 2006. Regulations became effective in 2009 and the first IZ unit became available in 2011. DHCD was delegated the administration of the IZ program by the Mayor.
Inclusionary Zoning Units by Bedroom Count (produced in Fiscal Years 2011-2016)
|Studio||1 BR||2 BR||3 BR||4 BR||5 BR||TOTAL|
The DCOZ report lists nearly 70 letters of support. These letters of support include statements such as:
“I am a mother of two small children. I look forward to when I am able to walk that area of Rhode Island Avenue with my children to frequent the retail and other livable spaces that MidCity plans to develop there. MidCity is headed in the right direction and they have my family’s support 100 percent. PLEASE approve this Phase!” – S. Ward
“The senior independent living project will be a great benefit to the RI Ave community and the city as a whole by providing a large amount of needed affordable housing units. Likewise, transition to mixed-use and mixed-income units from solely low income will be a benefit to all.” – M. Morris
“Mid City’s voluntary decision to retain the project based Section 8 housing and their current and future plans for social service programming for affordable residents reflects their longstanding commitment to affordable housing in the District.” – M. Bleier
There are two sides to every story. No matter how well intentioned, every project negatively impacts someone. There are always unintended consequences. Our third installment of the RIA Project will focus on the Brookland Manor/Brentwood Village Residents Association’s view of the impact to Brookland Manor residents.