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The D.C. Housing Authority negotiated a measure, passed by the agency’s board of commissioners last week during an emergency meeting, allowing prolific D.C. developer WC Smith to exit a contract to build 30 affordable housing units near the Southeast waterfront.
The deal has been months in the making. An initial iteration of the measure would have asked WC Smith to pay about $8 million to get out of its obligation to build the units in a mixed-income housing development on a parcel of land called Square 737 in Navy Yard. Originally scheduled for a full board vote during last month’s public meeting, it was eventually scrapped from the docket.
Its newer form reflects what commissioners have called a compromise, requiring WC Smith to break ground on the development of those 30 units at City View, a low-income housing tax credit property in Ward 8 with 58 units (close to Smith’s property at Sheridan Station) as well as pay D.C. $2.4 million. If the company fails to deliver on its City View units, it’ll owe the Authority an additional $9.6 million.
Affordable housing advocates have criticized WC Smith in the past for reneging on commitments to build units affordable for low-income residents, along with the city for historically excusing the behavior. WC Smith has allegedly backed out of building the affordable units because it believed the project was no longer economically viable, per a summary of its decision provided by the Housing Authority.
The board’s single dissenting vote came from Commissioner Bill Slover, who said during the meeting he was “100 percent” against the measure. “I appreciate that everybody thinks we got a great deal, and I think we got a better deal, but, you know, there’s just a history of this developer not delivering on their promises,” he told the board last week.
“What a surprise,” Neil Albert, the board’s chairman, responded.