• w3hjwg

Is it feasible to reach the mayor's goal of 1,990 affordable units in Rock Creek West (RCW) by 2025?

Updated: Aug 16

In 2019, Mayor Muriel Bowser set a goal of adding 12,000 new affordable homes to the city by 2025. Out of that total, 1,990 would be allocated to Rock Creek West (RCW). If the strategy to create this many units solely relies on current inclusionary zoning (IZ) policies, then it would require up to almost 25,000 units of housing production by 2025 which is half the number of the existing housing units in RCW – an impossibility.


Two of our team members, Jean Johnson, PhD and Pat Johnson, PhD, created an Excel-based tool that enables us to look at different affordable housing options to figure out how to reach a target number (i.e., 1,990 units). The tool relies on numbers from the Office of Planning for all DC planning areas and calculations that take into account production goals, land, density, and policy variables. The calculator evolved from a simple tool for IZ options to a spreadsheet that simultaneously considers units in moderate and high density facilities, the use of repurposed land versus vacant land, required and available acreage, and other policies needed to achieve affordable housing goals. The calculator is not intended to be site specific - it is a gross level tool for looking at numbers in a DC planning area or region, but it is optimized for RCW.


In order to address the question specific to the 1,990 units proposed, we refer to the output tables below that came straight out of the calculator. These outputs are based on different scenarios that compare various IZ options.

Table 1: Estimates for Selected IZ Policy Percentages WITHOUT Affordable Units from Other Policies

Assumptions are: Housing Production Goal is Determined by Affordable Goal divided by IZ Percentage; 75% are High Density Units (194 Units/acre) and 25% are Moderate Density Units (56 Units/acre); 60% of Facilities were specified for NEW sites and 40% for Re-Purposed Sites; 100% of Vacant/Unused land is ALLOWABLE for NEW Facilities


Focusing on the top blue row of the Table 1 above, we can see that the housing production required to achieve the Mayor's goal for Rock Creek West is totally unrealistic using ONLY inclusionary zoning (IZ) policies. The first three columns of that row indicate that housing production would have to be almost 10,000 units even when the IZ policy is at 20% ("OP statement (upper bound)"); housing production would need to be over 24,000 units when the IZ policy is 8%.


From discussions with the Office of Planning, we determined that a realistic upper bound for housing production would be about 3,000 over the next 5 years. Using that level of housing production, we re-calculated the table using ONLY IZ policies (see Table 2 below). That calculation indicates that an IZ policy of 2/3 affordable units ("Housing Justice Group Option") would achieve the Mayor's goal. Current IZ policies of 8%-10% affordable units would only achieve 12%-15% of the 1,990 unit goal.


Table 2: Estimates for Selected IZ Policy Percentages WITHOUT Affordable Units from Other Policies

Assumptions are: Housing Production Goal is Fixed at 3,000; 75% are High Density Units (194 Units/acre) and 25% are Moderate Density Units (56 Units/acre); 60% of Facilities were specified for NEW sites and 40% for Re-Purposed Sites; 100% of Vacant/Unused land is ALLOWABLE for NEW Facilities



We then explored the use of additional policies other than IZ to continue our understanding of how to reach the Mayor's affordable housing goal, assuming a housing production of 3,000 units. There are several such policies, e.g., vouchers or new facilities dedicated exclusively to affordable housing. Our analysis indicates that when an IZ policy of between 8%-10% is used with an additional 25% of the goal provided by other policies, only about 35% to 38% of the goal could be achieved. Consequently, we explored various ways in which these other policies can be employed to actually achieve the housing goal. This exercise assumed that IZ policies remained between 8%-10%. Our calculations from this exercise indicated that other policies would need to provide almost 1,700 units or 85% of the goal.


Table 3: Estimates for Selected IZ Policy Percentages WITH 85% from Other Policies

Assumptions are: Housing Production Goal is Fixed at 3,000; 75% are High Density Units (194 Units/acre) and 25% are Moderate Density Units (56 Units/acre); 60% of Facilities were specified for NEW sites and 40% for Re-Purposed Sites; 100% of Vacant/Unused land is ALLOWABLE for NEW Facilities



With additional policies providing about 85% of the affordable units, the goal can be achieved. But what exactly are these policies? As things currently stand, these policies do not exist but could be created. One of the ways to achieve 25% of the 1,990 RCW affordable housing goal is by converting the Wardman hotel to 500 affordable housing units. In addition to the Wardman site, we could achieve an additional 25% of the 1,990 RCW affordable housing goal if the city purchased the Friendship Heights WMATA property or the Lord & Taylor site for construction of 500 affordable housing units. That would leave some 700 units of affordable housing to be filled with options such as vouchers.