Wardman Conversion Advocates Applaud McDuffie Hearing Promise
Updated: Aug 13, 2021
Ward 3 Housing Justice | Wardman Hotel Strategy Team
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 12, 2021
Contact: Gail Sonnemann, 202-286-0845, email@example.com
The Wardman Hotel Strategy Team (WHST), the group that is pushing to convert the former
Wardman Hotel in Woodley Park to mixed income housing, applauds Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie for his promise to hold a hearing in the fall on financing conversions. The commitment was made during the DC Council's budget debate on Tuesday over a last-minute proposal to give downtown property owners a $140 million tax abatement to convert their vacant office buildings to housing in which 80% of the units would be market rate.
Opposition to the tax abatement was led by at-large Councilmember Elissa Silverman. She noted that the abatement was “last minute, fiscally irresponsible, not the affordable housing we need, and a poor use of resources.” The Council backed Silverman in a 9-4 vote, with CM McDuffie, as head of the Council’s Business and Economic Development Committee, making his hearing promise.
“A lot went right on that budget vote,” said Margaret Dwyer, convener of Ward 3 Housing Justice, a group that is working with WHST. “Elissa Silverman stood up against giveaways to developers in the absence of transparency, robust debate and evidence of good value for the city’s investment. Eight other councilmembers agreed with her, including Ward 3 Council Member Mary Cheh. Councilmember McDuffie, a strong supporter of converting the Wardman Hotel to affordable housing, stepped up to commit to a hearing.” Councilmember McDuffie had asked the Mayor to include $140 million in the FY22 budget for the city to buy the Wardman.
“In the context of affordable housing and equitable development, the Wardman conversion we proposed would have produced a greater return on investment for our city than this give-away,” noted William Jordan of the Wardman Hotel Strategy Team. “Although this abatement proposal was ill-advised and wasn’t going to get us the kind of affordable housing we need, it did demonstrate our city will act boldly and decisively. And that the money is available. We look forward to making our case. Now that we know what the Council is against, we look forward to providing them with an investment they can be for at the Wardman.”
Both groups welcome McDuffie’s commitment to a Wardman conversion to mixed income housing. Both groups urge him to broaden the scope of the hearing beyond Councilmember Pinto’s developer-friendly tax abatement scheme and to explore a variety of truly innovative policies to make affordable housing a reality in our city.
Note: Voting with Silverman: Councilmembers Louis George, McDuffie, Nadeau, Trayon White, Allen, Cheh, Gray & Henderson; against: Chairman Mendelson, Councilmembers Pinto, Robert White & Bonds.
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