The development of St. Elizabeths East generates growing affordability concerns

As the St. Elizabeths East Campus in Ward 8 of Southeast Washington continues to expand, concerns have arisen about the affordability of housing located on the large, massive development.

“I would love to live here, it seems like a nice place,” said Jackie Crenshaw, as she attended the festivities surrounding the grand opening of Plot 15 and its temporary shopping village on the St. Elizabeths campus on the 11th. July. “But I don’t know if I can stay here with what I earn at work?”

Zillow.com, a housing website, reported the price of a typical single-family home in district listings at $717,083 while in Congress Heights, the neighborhood that encompasses the St. Elizabeths East complex, the average price of a house is $422,500 according to the October 18, 2021 edition of Urban Turf, an online real estate site. Apartmentlist.com reported that a one-bedroom apartment in the district costs $2,527 per month, while a similar unit in Congress Heights would cost $1,087 per month according to Apartments.com.

City officials talk affordability

Drew Hubbard, acting director of DC’s Department of Housing and Community Development, participated in a virtual forum on housing issues in the city and Ward 4 by Ward 4 Democrats on July 9. When asked if residents earning less in the $50,000 per year range can afford to stay at St. Elizabeths East or the future The Parks at Walter Reed in Ward 4, he said yes.

A glimpse of plot 15 at St. Elizabeths East in southeast DC (courtesy photo)

“The district government has many different programs to help people get housing in DC,” Hubbard said. “People can use federal or local sources. The district government’s main tool for creating affordable housing is the Housing Production Trust Fund. We have a full range of tools to deal with the housing crisis in the city.

Latrena Owens, executive director of the St. Elizabeths East campus redevelopment project, said affordable housing has become one of the company’s main goals.

“At The Residences at St. Elizabeths, we have 252 units, 80% of which are designated as affordable,” Owens said. “In April we opened the townhouses and 27 of them were advertised as affordable. As we open Parcel 13, there will be more affordable housing there. We have other housing projects in the works and affordability will be a factor. »

Residents talk about St. Elizabeths housing

Ivan Jose Cloyd works as an entrepreneur with a streaming service and real estate interests in the District, Prince George’s County and recently, the City of Baltimore. Cloyd has housing contacts at The Residences at St. Elizabeths. As a resident, The Residences’ location appealed to him with its nearby Congress Heights subway station, a shopping center a few blocks away that had a full-service grocery store, and the Entertainment & Sports Arena just a few blocks away. across the street. He attended events surrounding the inauguration of the Interim Retail Village which will include entrepreneurs selling food and produce in a lumber factory which will open in December.

Cloyd said the emergence of St. Elizabeths East should not deter anyone from trying to find accommodation there.

“Honestly, we have people of all income types living at The Residences,” he said. “The people who live here were very persistent during the application process and worked very hard to get an apartment. In summary, if you really want to live here, you can.

Emil Robinson bought one of the townhouses. A government consultant, he said one of the keys to getting a townhouse has to do with personal budgeting.

“I saved up for this,” Robinson said. “The mayor set it up so someone at my income level could afford one of these houses. But you need to save your money and have it available to move forward. It is important that you follow the guidelines set out. It was a pretty rigorous vetting process, but I stuck to it because I knew what I wanted.

Robinson did not reveal how much he paid for the townhouse, saying “it was expensive.” He also said he could not use benefits enjoyed by district government employees to buy housing and added that he was earning too much money to qualify for some aid programs. Robinson admits he considered moving to Prince George’s County for housing, but opted to stay in the city.

“I was born and raised in the southeast,” he said. “I always wanted to have a property where I was born. With the city changing so much, I wanted to have a piece of DC to myself.

Like Robinson, Aaliya Muhammad, a native of the district, wanted to stay in the city. Muhammad said the district government “has a lot of programs that will meet you where you are.”

“You have to be tenacious,” said Muhammad, a software engineer. “You have to jump through hoops and do a lot of paperwork.”

Muhammad said those interested in buying a townhouse in St. Elizabeths should check out the city’s Home Purchase Assistance Program and similar initiatives designed to help homebuyers. She said the effort to buy her townhouse was “worth it”.

“I wanted to make sure I got a little piece of DC before it got too expensive,” Muhammad said.

About Georgia Duvall

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