Preserving Affordable Housing in DC

Developers Renovating Pomeroy Gardens in Ward 8

Pomeroy Gardens apartment complex at the 2400 block of Pomeroy Road SE is undergoing renovations and keeping residents in place. Photo: Christine Rushton

Residents of a 1960s-era mixed affordable and market-rate apartment complex southeast of Barry Farm in Ward 8 will receive $12 million worth of upgrades on their homes by the summer of 2017. Work on the garden-style Pomeroy Gardens apartments on the 2400 block of Pomeroy Road SE started in the fall of 2016. The 60-unit, 53,400 square-foot complex serves as housing for low-income families in the area.

The buildings, which haven’t seen a renovation in the nearly 60 years, caught the attention of the National Development Council (NDC), a nonprofit community and economic development organization. It partnered with the local DC Nonprofit Community Development Corporation (NCDC) to provide funding and needed changes.

In early 2016 the apartment complex was sold to Pomeroy Gardens Limited Partnership, whose sole member is NCDC, the developer of the project. It is funded in part by the DC Housing Finance Agency (DCHFA) and NDC’s corporate equity funds for affordable housing projects. It also qualified for a Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC), which will fund about $3.5 million.

DC’s Demanding Housing Market

Though housing in DC continues to increase with the rising population, the affordable units have decreased by about 11 percent. Ward 8, where Pomeroy Gardens sits, still contains the majority of housing projects for the District – 92 out of 314. Some of those need support for renovations and to stay affordable. DC Mayor Muriel Bowser’s new DC Housing Preservation Strike Force released a set of recommendations in November as a part of combating the decrease in affordable housing.

“Currently over 5,300 units of affordable housing exist in the pipeline, which will house nearly 12,000 District residents – more than in the history of Washington, D.C.,” Bowser said in a letter in the Strike Force’s report. “But our work does not stop there.”

About 42,000 DC families remain on the DC Housing Authority’s waiting list, according to the Strike Force report. But of the units available, more than 2,000 lack kitchen or plumbing facilities. Part of the Strike Force’s recommendations to the mayor included starting a public-private fund to help private capital preserve the current affordable housing units, funds like those provided by NDC in the Pomeroy Gardens project.

NDC wants to help bridge the opportunities for both low-income and market-rate availability in the Southeast DC community, explained Amy Dosen, NDC’s director of acquisitions and underwriting. NDC entered the DC housing market in mid-2016 because of the increased demand for affordable housing. “We are interested in projects that are on the cusp of market-rate and lower-income,” she said. “In DC there’s definitely a need for an affordable housing rental market.”

Keeping the Affordability

In a growing market like DC’s, it’s important to keep housing options affordable, argued Walter Johnson, a consultant for NCDC on the Pomeroy Gardens project. With some of the tenants coming up on 35 years of living in these apartments, NCDC and NDC want to ensure no one is displaced. “They’re very sophisticated and realistic. It’s a nice community,” Johnson said. “You try to keep affordable as you can make it, still economically viable.”

The building was sold to DC in a Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA) process. None of the residents opted for a buyout, retaining the chance to stay in their apartments under the new owner.

Encouraging a mix of housing options in a community helps boost local growth, Dosen added. “I feel that the resident mix provides for more economic opportunity within the neighborhood.” Preserving affordable housing is a challenge, but one that NDC is willing to take on in areas including DC, Dosen said.

Breaking Down the Pomeroy Improvements

Residents filled up only about 50 percent of the units when the project started, said Dosen. That means the developers can move the residents into the empty spaces during rehabilitation instead of displacing them from the site. The new complex will include 58 family units at 60 percent of the average median income (AMI) in DC. The other two units will be market-rate to accommodate the two current residents who make more than the 60 percent AMI requirement, Dosen said. Fifty of the units will be two-bedroom and 10 three-bedroom.

Renovations and repairs include exterior refurbishment and replacing compromised masonry; steel deck repairs; new roofing, gutters and downspouts; replacement of un-insulated aluminum windows; complete kitchen and bathroom makeovers with ceramic tiles and new fixtures; new floor finishes; new security and access hardware like outdoor security cameras and lighting; HVAC units; and new gas service to all apartments. The appliances will meet energy efficiency standards. At least three of the units will be made handicap accessible.

“This renovation project will modernize and enhance the homes of the 40 families that currently call Pomeroy Gardens home,” said DCHFA Director Todd A. Lee in a statement. 

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