At an August community meeting to debate the future of the former Hebrew Home for the Aged—-a hulking building at 1125 Spring Road NW that’s sat vacant for years, now joined by an adjacent parcel as part of a development concept—-neighbors voiced a strong desire to see affordable housing at the site. This was somewhat surprising: While city leaders often preach the need for affordable housing in an increasingly unaffordable city, there’s a strain of NIMBYism that sometimes prevents neighbors from endorsing concentrations of low-income housing in their proverbial backyards. In fact, it wasn’t entirely clear that the neighbors present did overwhelmingly support affordable housing, as more critical neighbors accused many of the supporters of an astroturf campaign to bring non-neighbors to the meeting in order to create an illusion of that support.
But now the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission representing Columbia Heights and Park View has spoken. And if the commissioners’ views in any way reflect those of the constituents they serve, support for affordable housing at the site is strong indeed.
ANC 1A voted unanimously last night to support a resolution in favor of the city’s development plan for the site, which would devote 90 percent of the site’s approximately 200 residential units to affordable housing. The vote was eight in favor, zero against, and no abstentions.
There are two ANCs adjacent to the site, which sits at the border between wards 1 and 4. The other adjacent ANC, 4C, also met last night but did not vote on the plan. According to ANC 4C Commissioner Rickey Williams Jr., that commission is unlikely to vote on the matter before the new year. Ward 4 Councilmember Muriel Bowser has also expressed reservations about a plan that’s weighted so heavily toward affordable housing, having stated in August that she wants a “continuum of housing in every development.”
Then again, the plan does include a mix of affordable housing types, with senior residents getting a preference for about one-quarter of the units. Twenty percent of the units would go to the poorest group of Washingtonians, those making under 30 percent of area median income, while 45 percent would go to households making up to 60 percent of AMI.
ANC 1A’s resolution is below.
Photo by Aaron Wiener