Housing Complex

Morning Links

admoOffice-dominated downtown areas like Golden Triangle and L'Enfant need residents. [Post]

Georgetown Day School expansion will include 340 residences. [UrbanTurf]

Developer buys up Georgia Avenue NW block across from Walter Reed. [WBJ]

Six American cities are better than D.C. for cyclists. [Post]

D.C.'s bag fee is working. [GGW]

X2 passengers tussle after knife attack. [Hill Now]

Fool tries to sell Capital Bikeshare bike on Craigslist. [Post]

Today on the market: Adams Morgan 2BR—$595,000

With Crises Looming, New Housing Chief Lays Out Her Strategy

Polly Donaldson and then-Mayor Vince Gray encourage a formerly homeless woman to share her experience with rapid rehousing last April.

Polly Donaldson and then-Mayor Vince Gray encourage a formerly homeless woman to share her story last April.

Of all the crises facing the incoming administration of Mayor Muriel Bowser this year, the direst was homelessness. The spike in family homelessness that took the city by surprise in the winter of 2013-2014 grew even worse this past winter, spurred largely by the vanishing supply of affordable housing in the District. Bowser has won early praise from housing and homeless advocates for her appointment of seasoned deputies to lead the relevant city agencies. Laura Zeilinger, now in charge of the Department of Human Services, was formerly executive director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness. And Polly Donaldson, tapped to head the Department of Housing and Community Development, most recently led the nonprofit Transitional Housing Corporation, which provides housing and services to hundreds of homeless families each year.

DHCD isn't directly responsible for serving homeless residents. But with its affordable-housing duties and Donaldson's homeless-services background, the agency is clearly orienting itself toward tackling the homeless crisis. Two months after she was confirmed as DHCD director by the D.C. Council, I sat down with Donaldson to discuss her strategies for improving D.C.'s housing landscape. (This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length.)

You’ve made a big deal of the $100 million that the mayor allocated in her budget proposal for the Housing Production Trust Fund [which funds the creation and preservation of affordable housing]. What do expect that $100 million to accomplish?

I think that’s going to enable us to do both production—meeting the production goals that are outlined in the Comprehensive Housing Strategy Task Force work, which we’re probably going to actually up, because I think the investments in the last few years have helped us; we’ve got 3,400 units in the pipeline right now—and preservation. We need to have a specific target on preservation and the ability to move swiftly and nimbly to meet upcoming preservation issues. Not just doing it when crisis hits, but in a proactive way two or three years out.

Most of the money from the Trust Fund goes to creating and preserving housing for people making under half of area median income. But because those apartments are more expensive to subsidize, most of the units being created through the Trust Fund are actually for people who aren't very poor, those making more than half of AMI.

Right, only a portion of them are at the 30 percent [AMI level]. But what I’m saying is that without the Trust Fund, they wouldn’t be produced at all. And so the more we put in, the more we’ll be able to reach the extremely low-income and very low-income. And that will dovetail with other parts of our public policy. Our resource deceisions have to follow public policy, and they will under this administration.

Read more With Crises Looming, New Housing Chief Lays Out Her Strategy

Morning Links

eastAAA tries to get on cyclists' good side with roadside service. [WBJ]

MARC train hits a person north of Union Station, suspending some service. [AP]

And CSX train hits a person by the Anacostia River. [Post]

New hybrid Circulator buses will have USB ports. [Express]

Metro's finances are now slightly less dire. [Post]

D.C. has better preschool access than any state. [Washington Times]

An FBI headquarters in Greenbelt could make the Anacostia River cleaner. [Post]

Why cities built destructive urban freeways. [Vox]

Today on the market: House in D.C.'s far eastern corner—$375,000

Morning Links

lanieMetro ridership patterns, in interactive form. [PlanItMetro]

D.C. tries to lure confused tourists with a #WeGotThis hashtag. [DCist]

Millennials confound stereotypers, live places other than downtown. [Post]

Council committee urges Housing Finance Agency to leave hideous but valuable headquarters. [WBJ]

Last month saw a record number of million-dollar homes hit the D.C.-area market. [UrbanTurf]

Panoramic views from atop the building that spawned the Height Act. [GGW]

Truxton Circle stables project gets tweaked. [UrbanTurf]

Today on the market: Lanier Heights studio—$160,000

Human Services Chief: “I Don’t Think We Can Celebrate That Homelessness Is Down 6 Percent”

Zeilinger_PhotoD.C.'s homeless population may have dropped over the past year, but you won't find Laura Zeilinger celebrating.

The results of the annual point-in-time count, released today, show that the number of homeless residents in the District is down 6 percent from a year ago. That includes an 8 percent decline in family homelessness, a crisis-level problem in the District for the past two winters, after the number of homeless families had jumped by 20 percent between 2013 and 2014.

But the point-in-time count can be less than reliable, since it depends on volunteers physically counting homeless residents on a single night whose weather can skew the results. Zeilinger, the director of D.C.'s Department of Human Services, also believes that it's too soon to declare any sort of victory, given that D.C. still has an unacceptably high number of homeless residents: 7,298, according to the count.

"I don’t think we can celebrate that homelessness is down 6 percent in a point-in-time, because there are still far too many people," she says.

Still, Zeilinger does think there are lessons to be drawn from the report. "What I make of this is that given how challenging the situation here is with affordable housing, the fact that the numbers are fairly flat but a little bit in the right direction means we need to continue to make the right investment in things that work," she says.

The spike in family homelessness stems in part from the city's struggle to move families out of shelter and into housing. Data from DHS indicate that the number of shelter exits has shot up in recent months, but Zeilinger says that a count today would probably yield similar numbers to the one conducted on Jan. 28, given that the number of entries also increased in the late winter.

Read more Human Services Chief: “I Don’t Think We Can Celebrate That Homelessness Is Down 6 Percent”

D.C.’s Homeless Population Dips, but Crisis Is Far From Over

homelessFollowing years of rising homelessness in the District, the city's homeless population took a welcome dip in 2015, according to an annual homelessness count released today.

On the night of Jan. 28, volunteers in the city and the region struck out to canvass every street and alley and count all the homeless residents, in addition to those in shelters. They counted 7,298 homeless residents in the District. That's 63 percent of the total homeless population in the region, which stretches as far as Prince William County, Va., and Frederick County, Md. But it represents a 6 percent drop from last year's figure for the District, after the city had experienced a 13 percent increase from the previous year.

The region as a whole also saw a decline in homelessness, albeit a smaller one. There were 323 fewer homeless residents in the D.C. area this January than the previous year, marking a 2.7 percent drop.

Still, homelessness in the District, which has reached crisis proportions for the past two winters, remains stubbornly high. Despite this year's decline, total homelessness in the city is still 12 percent higher than it was in 2011. That's due almost entirely to the spike in the number of homeless families, a product of the recession and the subsequent jump in housing costs in the District. Even though the number of homeless residents in families declined by 8.4 percent between 2014 and 2015, it's still 29 percent higher than it was in 2011.

Read more D.C.’s Homeless Population Dips, but Crisis Is Far From Over

Morning Links

16thDeath toll on derailed Amtrak train from D.C. climbs to six. [AP]

Two new apartment buildings planned at Southwest complex. [UrbanTurf]

And the local ANC backs another big residential project nearby. [UrbanTurf]

Councilmembers call on Muriel Bowser to oppose Pepco-Exelon merger. [DCist]

There aren't many foreclosures left in the D.C. area. [WBJ]

A profile of a bygone downtown music venue. [DCist]

Today on the market: 16th Street Heights house in need of love—$690,000

Metro Offers Up Two Brookland Parcels for Development


Nine months after picking a team to buy and develop a swath of land it owns near the Brookland Metro station, Metro is seeking to cash in on more of its land holdings in the neighborhood.

Today, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, which runs Metro, offered up two Brookland parcels to developers. The larger parcel, at 21,094 square feet, is just a block south of the Metro station; the smaller one, at 16,239 square feet, is a block south of the first. Both consist of unimproved land—just grass, trees, and shrubs—between the Metro tracks and 9th Street NE.

The move follow's Metro's selection in August 2014 of a partnership of MRP Realty and the CAS Riegler Cos. to develop land just east of the Metro station. The developers there plan to build 280 residential units and 9,000 square feet of retail.

Today's solicitation contains few guidelines as to what developers can and should build on the sites. Given the increasing popularity of the neighborhood among young professionals and families, residential development is likely. Bids are due to Metro by June 19.


The southern parcel, at 9th and Kearny streets NE.

Read more Metro Offers Up Two Brookland Parcels for Development

With Capitol Crossing Groundbreaking, a Scar Finally Begins to Heal


A "scar." A "blight on the urban landscape." A project that "tore the Capitol Hill neighborhood from its moorings." City and development officials had all sorts of descriptions this morning for the I-395 tunnel that ripped through downtown D.C. in the late 1960s and early 1970s. But they all could agree on one descriptor: not much longer for this world.

City leaders and developers gathered this morning by the freeway gash to celebrate its imminent demise. The road won't actually disappear, of course; it'll just vanish from the sight of people on the streets above, decked over to create a major new mixed-use development called Capitol Crossing. The project has been nine years in the making, and construction is already underway on the freeway. Today marked the official groundbreaking, a symbolic moment that provided a chance for officials to heap their bile on the urban-planning mistake that brought us here and their praise on the development that will supplant it.

A promotional video from the developer, Property Group Partners, calls Capitol Crossing "one of the great projects of our time." The company's founder and president, Jeff Sussman, hailed the groundbreaking as "a great day for Washington, D.C. and a great day for us." His colleague Bob Braunohler labeled it "an urban planner's dream for over 50 years." Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton painted it as a victory for the District over the suburbs, which have historically subordinated D.C.'s priorities.

"395 is about the region," she said. "You hear all that noise? That's more about them than about us." Capitol Crossing, she continued, "gives us back a neighborhood, a whole section of our city that was lost to us."

Read more With Capitol Crossing Groundbreaking, a Scar Finally Begins to Heal

Morning Links

popMetro apologizes to Blue, Orange, and Silver line passengers for yesterday's mess. [WMATA]

Again, Metro didn't communicate well with trapped passengers. [WAMU]

D.C.'s bag-fee revenue is being spent on things other than river cleanup. [Post]

Congress will vote on Metro funding cuts tomorrow. [National Journal]

D.C.-area home prices hit their highest level since 2007. [UrbanTurf]

Does D.C. really need much higher Capital Bikeshare density? [GGW]

Today on the market: 3BR condo in a popped-up Hill East rowhouse—$569,900