Credit: Darrow Montgomery

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Kicking off agency director Tyrone Garrett‘s plan to “reposition” about 2,400 units of public housing, the DC Housing Authority’s Office of Contracts and Procurement issued a request for proposals on April 19 to co-develop Greenleaf Gardens, a sprawling public housing complex bordered on its northern end by I Street SW in Ward 6.

As City Paper has previously reported, the buildings are in extreme disrepair. One 10-year-old tenant of the complex went to the emergency room last fall after suffering respiratory failure, a condition her medical team at Children’s National Medical Center attributes to the extensive mold in her family’s apartment. And attorneys with both Howard University Law School’s Fair Housing Clinic and the Legal Aid Society say their clients face issues ranging from sewage leaking through the walls to infestations of cockroaches and bed bugs.

The Housing Authority has previously identified Greenleaf as one of the complexes in its portfolio most in need of repair. One-quarter of the residents in Greenleaf are children, while 26 percent live with a disability.

According to the agency’s RFP, the redevelopment of Greenleaf will include at least 493 units of housing, with affordability levels ranging from what is considered “deeply affordable”—for those making up to 30 percent of the Area Median Income—to those making up to 80 percent of AMI. It notes that the buildings may include a mix of voucher-subsidized units, traditional public housing units, and market-rate units. “DCHA will accept proposals that propose to replace the total number of bedrooms in a different configuration, provided that the Respondent presents a compelling reason for doing so,” it says.

It adds that construction must “minimize the number of moves existing residents must make.” It adds (emphasis ours):

Redevelopment of the site will allow residents to move from their current unit directly to the new replacement unit, to the greatest extent feasible. Provided however, if DCHA determines that, due to the condition of current units, it is in the best interests of residents’ health and safety to relocate residents immediately, DCHA shall do so, and stage subsequent redevelopment activity accordingly.

Legal advocates and public housing tenants have long pushed for a “build first” approach to public housing, a redevelopment plan intended to minimize tenant displacement by requiring developers to build close, offsite residences before demolishing the main building. The Housing Authority’s RFP for Greenleaf acknowledges this ask, and notes that the agency’s “preference” is that the co-developer build these offsite units on nearby parcels that it already owns.

In a statement released Monday morning, Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen said that he is “glad to see this process moving forward,” but that he expects “not one current Greenleaf resident [to be] displaced while waiting on a new home.”

At-Large Councilmember Anita Bonds, who chairs the Council’s housing committee, tells City Paper in an emailed statement that, while the RFP “represents our belief that every District resident is entitled to live in safe and sanitary housing […] because redevelopment is four years away, it is crucial that important safeguards including addressing deteriorating ventilation systems and improving the quality of life be implemented immediately.”

She continues: “The inclusion of public housing in the Southwest Waterfront Plan makes certain that this vitally important housing continues to remain a part of the community footprint, after all, the 493 garden-style units and senior citizens’ building of the Greenleaf Development consists of 23 acres. I look forward to community discussions on the possibility of a suitable resolution, perhaps to the old FEMS maintenance facility on Half Street SW.”

Acting as a co-developer in the project, as it did for Ward 8’s Parkway Overlook, DCHA stipulates in the RFP that it will enter into a long-term ground lease for the site. It says respondents “should assume” that project-based housing subsidies through the agency’s Housing Choice Voucher Program “will not be available, except in connection with a potential RAD structure.”

Read the full RFP, which closes on July 8, here

This post has been updated to include a statement from Anita Bonds.