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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Section 8 Contract Expiring for Lincoln Westmoreland II

Lincoln Westmoreland II is the garden apartment community located between R and S Streets between 7th and 9th Street (excluding the high rise Lincoln Westmoreland I building, which is currently under renovation and is owned separately). The 1970's era-structures of Lincoln Westmoreland II are relatively low density in design, mostly fenced in, inward oriented, feature surface parking abutting the sidewalk, and have no retail component. Lincoln Westmoreland II provides affordable housing in an increasingly expensive neighborhood. The community is across the street from an entrance to the Shaw Howard Metro Station entrance.

It seems clear that the property could be better utilized to enhance the Shaw streetscapes and to capitalize on its proximity to mass transit. Hopefully the owners of Lincoln Westmoreland II intend to make better use of the property in the near future and will create a beautiful, vibrant, mixed-income (inclusive of affordable housing), mixed-use, and high density community. That said, many of our neighbors call Lincoln Westmoreland II home, so sensitivity must be used when pontificating on what could be made of the property.

One DC -- whose mission is "to exercise political strength to create and preserve racial and economic equity in Shaw and the District -- issued the following email recently about Lincoln Westmoreland II:
In February 2009, the tenants at Lincoln Westmoreland II (LWII) received a notice from their landlord, informing them that the Section 8 contract for their building is set to expire on Jan. 31, 2010. The landlord, Mid-City Financial Corporation, has indicated that although it intends to extend the contract through at least February 28, 2010, it does not intend to renew the contract upon its expiration.

The decision by Mid-City Financial is yet another recent example of landlords who own project-based Section 8 housing in the District deciding against renewing their Section 8 contracts. There are 7,800 project-based Section 8 units set to expire by 2013. Of those, 5,400 units - 55 properties in total - are owned by for-profit landlords. Many for-profit owners decline contract renewal because of opportunities to charge higher rents and generate more rental income on the open market. With each decision against renewal, the number of affordable housing units in DC is reduced substantially. This increases the obstacles to economic sustainability faced by ONE DC members and low-income residents.

More of our members face displacement from their homes and communities as the socio-economic inefficiencies caused by gentrification drive up property taxes, increase rental rates, and diminish the affordable housing stock. With meager financial resources, they face the possibility of enduring substandard living conditions, exemplified by overcrowding, displacement, and homelessness.

We believe that housing is a human right, as fundamental as the right to free speech. ONE DC intends to work with the tenants of LWII to ensure they have every opportunity to exercise their rights as this process unfolds. Stay tuned - we'll provide updates about this situation as new developments occur.


Mari said...

As I remember those lower portions that face 7th Street were supposed to be retail/commerical space. Note how they could be offices or storesfronts. Just reimagine the space, ignore all that heavy equipment in the way and see doctor's offices, an insurance agency, and a non-descript coffee-shop.
But for some reason or another that space never really made it as commerical/retail.

Clay Aikens brother said...

Housing may be a human right. Housing in an expensive city, next to mass transit, is not.

Anonymous said...

I really believe concentrated poverty is not a good answer. Mixed income is a better way to go for all parties. There should be a requirement for all city development that 15% is set aside for lower-mid income residents, so poverty gets dispersed and more citizens have access to better public schools in the Western sections of the city.

Shaw Rez said...

I agree, Anon -- Concentrated poverty is not good for anyone.

Mr. Q said...

Interesting post Shaw Rez...thanks for the update! I agree there could be much better usage of that land across from a metro stop...your post made me wonder about the status of the empty plot of land on the east side of 7th and north side of R Street...mixed income housing was announced for that months ago, but so far no sign of any activity...given the economy I'm guessing its on hold? Anyone?

MS said...

Does anyone know what the redevlopment plan is for Lincoln Westmoreland I?

Shaw Rez said...

I found the following pdf that gives a great history of Lincoln Westmoreland I and that provides an overview of the current renovation:

The $9.7 million renovation to Lincoln Westmoreland I should be completed by November of this year. It sounds like the mechanical systems of the building are being replaced and a lot of upgrades are being made to the units. The residents are living in the building through the construction.

MS said...

Thanks for the link Rez.

Uncle Jessie said...

Maintaining the buildings of LWII as dedicated low-income housing after the section 8 runs out would be a mistake and missed opportunity for Shaw's growth and development.

This site should be leveraged as the valuable commodity it is with meaningful civic, retail, business, and residential activity centralized on top of the Shaw metro stop. The old garden apts. should be razed and replaced with dense, mixed use buildings combining retail and office/civic space on the lower levels and residences above. The residences should be mixed income with the low income units dispersed throughout.

This is a proven formula for how urban neighborhoods develop and grow with mass transit, and there are plenty of great examples.

The Shaw metro is one of the few remaining metro stops in the district or close in suburbs that is not utilized as a hub for growth and productive activity. Instead the stop and the historically crime-infested LWII and surrounding block that sits on top of it, is just a place to quickly move through.

Concentrated poverty helps no one and holds neighborhoods back. People living in dedicated low income buildings often face sub-standard buildings in disrepair, as landlords aren't motivated by higher rents to keep them up. Often only huge amounts of social and political pressure - pressure that is not sustainable - move landlords to any action, before they backslide. In mixed income buildings, the higher rents of higher income neighbors, often combined with increased political clout and motivation result in much better living conditions for everyone in the building.

We should thus not support keeping LWII as a dedicated low-income project that promotes the continued warehousing of poor people. Instead we should support new mixed use buildings with mixed income residential space. At the same time, we should work to increase the net number of low income housing units dispersed throughout buildings and the entire city.