Affordable Housing Missing from Agenda for Connecticut Avenue Walk
Ward 3 Housing Justice
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 29, 2022
Contact: Alejandra Jolodosky, 202-430-5254, email@example.com
On Saturday, June 25, the Mayor’s Office of Planning (OP) led a Connecticut Avenue Community Walk to “share information about the planning” by OP for the corridor in the Cleveland Park and Woodley Park historic districts and to “listen to the ideas and priorities of the community.” About 25 community residents participated in four groups with staff from OP, HPO, and planning consultant Brick & Story (https://www.brickandstory.com). Matthew Frumin, Democratic nominee for Ward 3 Council Member, joined the walk, largely to listen.
Community participants expected affordable housing to be a major component of OP’s presentation. It’s a top citywide issue and Mayor Bowser has set a goal of 1,990 new affordable units in Ward 3 by 2025. In announcing the planning process for the avenue, OP said the process is to "explore how to support the need for additional housing, particularly affordable housing, in these high-capacity transit nodes while allowing for development that is compatible in character with the established historic districts. . . . “
However, affordable housing was not in the OP hand-outs nor was it an OP talking point. Rather, OP focused on architectural styles, setbacks and compatibility of materials in line with its mission to bring development to “high-capacity transit nodes [that] is compatible in character with the established historic districts.” Thus, it fell to community participants to bring up the many examples of OP bypassing opportunities for affordable housing. Topping the list is the former Wardman Park Hotel in Woodley Park. Despite strong neighborhood and ward-wide support for affordable/workforce housing there, the Bowser Administration and OP are allowing a new 900-unit project with only 72 affordable units. More broadly, OP did not acknowledge the paltry number of affordable units produced by inclusionary zoning (IZ) in new development.
“While the staffers listened to what we said and took notes, the topics they had been given to raise with us did not include creating affordable housing,” said Jayme Epstein, Woodley Park resident and W3HJ member. “This is similar to the experience many of us had with a community survey for Friendship Heights; affordable housing was not mentioned in the survey and in the focus groups. OP appears to be saying, ‘We’ve listened to the community, but our actions are not changing.’”
“We call on the Office of Planning to center affordable housing and to push for creative policies to make it a reality,” said Margaret Lenzner, Cleveland Park resident and W3HJ member. “Some W3HJ suggestions to lead to more affordable housing could translate to new regulations. For instance, will OP encourage joint applications from Cleveland Park and Woodley Park lot owners in order to consolidate their properties and result in a more efficient and cost effective redevelopment that could be leveraged to guarantee more affordable housing? Can we make sure that the IZ 10-unit threshold can’t be used to redevelop properties with fewer and larger units with no IZ?
“We are ready to work with OP, city agencies and Democratic nominee Frumin to bring affordable housing and all the other things to Connecticut Avenue, Friendship Heights and Ward 3 that will make our communities even better places for everybody to live, work and visit than they are now.”
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Note: For upcoming Wisconsin Avenue walk, please click on https://planning.dc.gov/ to register when it’s posted.