• W3HJ

Candidate Questionnaire - Question #2

Question:

Acquire the Wardman. City ownership would control the outcome for maximum affordable housing. For example, the city could purchase the entire Wardman property, as Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie advocated in 2021. Acquisition could also include exercise of eminent domain powers, as has been used in other parts of the city, for example in Columbia Heights. Other options would be to buy a piece of the 9.5 acre property or to use city funds to purchase dedicated affordable units. The Northwest Opportunity Partners Community Development Corporation is asking Carmel Partners, the owners of the former Wardman Hotel, to convey/donate the annex building facing Calvert Street to the Douglass Community Land Trust for non-profit development of 100 permanently affordable owned or rental units.


Will you propose and vote for legislation and funding to enable the city to buy the Wardman property as a whole or part of it for maximum affordable housing?



Responses:

Erin Palmer (Council Chair):

Yes. Unfortunately, the District missed a valuable opportunity to acquire and convert the Wardman into affordable housing. We must now consider alternatives like those presented in this question, including acquiring the annex building for non-profit development of 100 permanently affordable units. I am committed to exploring all opportunities to maximize affordable housing in Ward 3 at both the Wardman and across the Ward. Similar to my answer above, my DC Council Accountability Plan would better equip the Council with the institutional knowledge and support to meaningfully consider and move forward proposals that maximize affordable housing.


Anita Bonds (Council At Large):

No. I would support any measure that uses taxpayer dollars wisely to promote affordability. I believe there are many mechanisms through which such proposals can be filtered, such as the Housing Production Trust Fund, the DMPED, and the Housing Finance Agency. I do not think it is a decision that should be made on a purely political basis, but I am certainly open to any proposals that make sense financially, that deliver results, that have community support, that are realistic and achievable.


Nate Fleming (Council At Large):

Yes. The Wardman presents an excellent opportunity to expand the stock of affordable housing in Ward 3. This opportunity for re-zoning and reuse should not be overlooked. As Councilmember, I will propose and vote for legislation to allow the District government to purchase and re-purpose the former Wardman hotel in Woodley park to be used to create more affordable housing West of Rock Creek Park. With local governments now assuming greater responsibility for creating affordable housing, policy makers must find ways to ensure that their investments have a sustained impact. Community land trust ownership of the land, along with durable affordability controls over the resale of any housing built on that land, ensures that municipally subsidized homes remain available for lower-income homebuyers for generations to come.


Lisa Gore (Council At Large):

Yes. My housing platform explicitly calls for a variety of ways to maximize affordable housing, including the use of community land trusts. I have publicly stated my support for the city to purchase the Wardman site, to include the use of eminent domain. Had the city purchased the site, it would have been a tremendous opportunity to bring affordable housing to Ward 3.


Dexter Williams (Council At Large):

Yes. The city’s disinterested approach to the opportunity that the Wardman Hotel undermines its efforts to expand affordable housing in Ward 3. On April 26, 2022, Councilmember Janeese Lewis George and five others introduced the “Green New Deal for Housing Amendment Act” to foster the construction, maintenance, and growth of District-owned social housing developments. I strongly support this legislation. If enacted, it would provide the impetus, tools, and means to act swiftly on opportunities like the Wardman Hotel for conversion into affordable social housing.


Ben Bergmann (Ward 3 Council):

Yes. I would support this. I am hesitant to commit to the ultimate step--eminent domain--because pursing that route would be costly and potentially require years of litigation. We cannot stop fighting for a better solution for the Wardman, nothing is certain or over, even though the range of options has narrowed. Stepping back, we must reflect on what went wrong and commit to changing our processes so we do not have a repeat of this experience in the future at other sites.


Deirdre Brown (Ward 3 Council):

Yes. I am in support of McDuffie's proposal to invest in the acquisition and conversion of the Wardman Park to affordable housing.


Tricia Duncan (Ward 3 Council):

Yes. I have chosen not to select either yes or no because the answer requires more nuance. While I support the District purchasing the Wardman property (in whole or in part) so that the maximum amount of affordable housing can be established, it appears that such an action is infeasible in our current political environment. Until and unless this atmosphere changes, I would introduce legislation to prevent disappointments like the current Wardman plan from happening again in the future. An Affordable Housing Property Acquisition Trust Fund is a start, but I'd also favor legislation that makes it easier for developers to obtain zoning exceptions quickly without extensive delays resulting from community opposition and lawsuits. If that had been the case at the Wardman site, perhaps Carmel would have chosen to pursue a mixed-use development plan complete with additional amenities.


Beau Finley (Ward 3 Council):

Yes. I support the Northwest Opportunity Partners Community Development Corporation’s request. On ANC 3C, I supported building substantially more affordable housing than Carmel proposed. However, in the District, we currently have no ability to make a developer build more than they want to build. On ANC 3C, we tried hard to use the little leverage we had - using the historic mezzanine connecting the Wardman Marriott building to the Wardman Tower - as justification for a wholesale increase in affordable housing. The Historic Preservation Review Board rejected our arguments and approved Carmel’s plan to turn the Wardman Marriott into a 900-unit building with only 72 units of affordable housing. I have been an advocate of social housing, an idea which other Ward 3 candidates are only now saying they agree with, which would have created ~600 units of affordable housing at the Wardman site.


Matt Frumin (Ward 3 Council):

Yes. I will support providing a significant subsidy (carrots) to Carmel to include increased affordable housing on the site and I would also look for any leverage points (sticks) to achieve the same goal. I am all for an "every tool in the toolbox" approach to achieve the goal of significantly more affordable housing on the site than what would be included in a matter-of-right development. That could take the form of purchasing all or more likely some of the site, but could take other forms as well. I would not want to commit to exactly what forms those carrots and sticks might take, but I will commit to press hard to get to as much affordable housing on the site as possible.


Monte Monash (Ward 3 Council):

Yes. I do support the possibility, however, this opportunity seems to be a forgone conclusion with the Carmel Partners no longer at the table to negotiate a sell of any part of this property. I would work with Ward 3 Housing Justice advocates to go back to the table with Carmel Partners to revisit, with City money / incentives to negotiate a portion of the site for mixed used development of affordable, ground level commercial / retail and expansion of Oyster traditional public school.