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Tuesday, May 08, 2007

917 M Street/Flats at Blagden Alley Project, Take 2

A few weeks ago, one thing in particular on the April Blagden Alley neighborhood meeting agenda caught my eye: “The Walnut Street Project at 917 M.” I didn’t make the meeting and have anxiously awaited receiving word of what was discussed. Thanks to Drew for tipping me to the following a few days ago (I've been slack at getting a post up...).

According to the May 4 Blagden Alley News, available here, Walnut Street Development (“WSD”) backed out of the project due to the condo market slump (I recall reading in the Washington Business Journal that WSD has backed out of other projects in the region, so we’re not unique). North Carolina-based Self Help (a group with which I’m vaguely familiar and about which I have heard excellent things) has purchased the project. Self Help seeks to build affordable condominiums largely using WSD’s plans (which I think look pretty cool). In broad terms, these condominiums will be covenant restricted, providing that only people meeting certain income guidelines can purchase the units and that the units can be sold for an indexed amount over their purchase price. Condominium fees and the various covenants will ensure that the building and grounds will be kept up nicely.

It appears that Self Help and the Blagden Alley neighborhood are engaged in discussions currently. I’m sure that neighbors have many valid concerns; hopefully through collaboration, neighbors and Self-Help will achieve a development plan in which all can take pride. This has the potential to be a great coup for the Shaw area by providing ownership opportunities in an increasingly pricey neighborhood, moving forward with a beautiful new development near the convention center, and bringing new home-owning residents, and corresponding foot traffic, to Shaw.

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

Is this to be low income or mixed income housing?

Shaw Rez said...

It appears that the development as presently planned will not be "mixed" income. I'm not versed in all of the covenants associated with this project, but I found the following language:

"Any and all grants, sales, conveyances, or other transfers of the Property . . . shall be solely to natural persons who. . .shall have income less than or equal to 80% of the area median income, based on U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development median family income figures for the metropolitan statistical area containing Washington, DC."

Anonymous said...

So will this be another Kelsey Gardens kind of situation? Ughhh....

Shaw Rez said...

No, I don't think it will be for a few reasons.

First of all, there's an inherent difference between owners and renters: Kelsey Gardens is a poorly run apartment community.

Second, income caps don't necessarily translate into all of the baggage associated with "low income" housing. Not to play semantics, but I think this should be billed as "workforce" housing. I'm thinking teachers and the like.

Third, Self Help appears to be building in protections to ensure that the development is maintained well and that the unit owners are compliant with the covenants. Self Help retains an interest in the units if they're not in compliance.


I don't know the ins and outs of this development yet, but if it is well executed, this will be a far cry from Kelsey Gardens.

Anonymous said...

Thank goodness! Thanks for your excellent logic, ShawRez. I don't think we can take another mess like Kelsey Gardens...This sounds much more promising the way you put it..

Shaw Rez said...

Well I hope I'm right. I'm sure neighbors share your concern and will work hard to ensure that Self Help's project doesn't hurt their property values.

FYI--and assuming I'm using the right numbers and doing the math correctly--it appears that anyone wishing to live in these places can't make more than about $37,000 a year.

Anonymous said...

Do you know if the $37K is for an individual, or a larger family??

Shaw Rez said...

You raise a good question and point--I'm not sure how this plan works regarding families (surely there's a restriction re: # of occupants or something).

My read is that the individual who owns a unit can't make more than 80% of the median family income for D.C. (which I calculate to be roughly 37k).

Jason said...

917 M Street. This is west of Modern Liquors? I'm trying to place this.

Anonymous said...

To be honest, I am worried about this... isn't 1330 7th Street resident-owned? And that place is a serious crime problem....I hope I am wrong... :\

Anonymous said...

Shaw Rez -

Not sure if I"m doing the math right, but are you saying that the median income in the area is $48,250? 80% of that would be $37K...what year is that from?

I know there's low income families in the area, but I'd guess the median income has risen pretty dramatically over the last few years...

Probably getting too much into the details...I'm sure the Blagden Alley folks are focused closely on this project...

Shaw Rez said...

Jason - it's east of Modern Liquors.

Anon @ 418 - I think 1330 7th is a co-op; perhaps that's a less desirable ownership structure than a condominium for this type development? I don't know. And yes, that place is a blight on the area that Self Help MUST learn from.

Anon @423 - yeah, I used the not-so-reliable Wikipedia, which shows DC's 2005 median family income to be about 48k. It's probably higher now.


My initial positive response may not be deserved--the nearby neighbors likely know a lot more than I do about this proposal's details, and they certainly have more informed input on what they desire and what would work well in this location.

Certainly I think mixed income communiites generally make for a healthier format than exclusively low (or exclusively high) income communities. My initial gut reaction was that this area's already got a lot of high end around it (e.g., the Whitman), so this development will add some needed affordable housing. And with the appropriate restrictions, it will be aesthetically pleasing and will contain residents who will add to, and not detract from, the neighborhood.

Emerald G. Waylon said...

What a deal! So you're saying I can move into a swank, luxury-designed condo in one of the best locations in town, right next to a metro stop for little money?! And all I gotta do is prove I'm making a pittance of a salary?! Why would I ever want to waste my time with an education and working hard when DC keeps giving me such great handouts? Long live the social teet.

Anonymous said...

LOL!! emerald has a good point - those units were originally priced around $400k and up!! and now they're practically giving 'em away.......

Anonymous said...

I understand the concern, but I get really mad when people assume that because somebody can't afford to pay $800K for a house, they must be a lower life form who will bring the neighborhood down.

Mixed income is good for everyone. Lawyers, lobbyists, and other high-income earners are great neighbors, but so are teachers, civil servants, and police officers.

Last time I checked, 80% AMI was calculated at around 72K for a family of three, hardly "low" income.

Mix it up said...

There could be three types of housing in this development and all three could be in the same building to make it a complete mixed income building. This is done all over the country in neighborhoods in the Hope 6 and Hope 7 projects. The result is a more stable community. They are: 1) Typical market value condos, 2) Subsidized condos for people who need a little help in affording this condo, and 3) "Low income" who need a lot of help.

With Kelsey and other projects in the neighborhood suffers from is "bad synergy" where you concentrate these housing complexes together and you get shootings and drugs. This new model attempts to spread all incomes together to diffuse the "bad synergy." People are mixed and people who abide by rules and laws can be role models for others.

Anonymous said...

Great comment Anon 6 48

Reminds me of my polo playing slumlord neighbor who told me..."if renter were so great, they'd all be homeowners."

rr 446 said...

pdyes jason 917 M is WEST of modern liquor, it's the open space where the theater parking lot is next to blagden alley

Shaw Rez said...

rr 446 and Jason - my bad; I meant to say west of ML. I guess I'm directionally challenged...

Anonymous said...

What happened to the 1212 9th Street portion of the Walnut Street Flats at Blagden Alley project? Will it, too, be low income only?

Anonymous said...

Wow - it is ridiculously pathetic that these people are stopping the hanging of neighborhood-enhancing banners that they're not even paying for. There are no words..

ed said...

I'm fine with "affordable" housing as long as it is not using taxpayer money.

Remember supply and demand? Increase the supply of housing and the prices will go down. Rent control, set asides, etc. take housing off the market. Lets get vacant properties back in the market too.

Shaw Rez said...

Well the beauty of this is that it *is* privately funded by Self Help.

And supply and demand is harsh economics for teachers and civil servants who don't make much. Plus we benefit from keeping them local and not in the suburbs.

I found this on the Self-Help website regarding "who can buy"; I imagine it applies to 917:

• First-time home buyers, or people who have not owned a home in the previous three years.
• People earning less than 80% of the Area Median Income. Income guidelines vary by family size and other debts.
• Home must be owner-occupied.
• People who have paid rent on time for a full year, with no more than two late payments on other bills.
• People who have been employed for the past two years.