The Issue: Is Ward 8 taking on more than its fair share of social housing? So Others Might Eat (SOME), a D.C. nonprofit group, bought a rundown residential property about a year ago on Mellon Street in southeast with the intention of turning the space into long-term housing for adults with special needs. The complex will offer on-site support for residents who have proven six-month recovery in issues ranging from substance abuse to credit problems. But the neighbors fear Ward 8 has become a nonprofit “dumping ground,” and think the new residents will contribute to the area’s problems. The twist is a 3.4 billion dollar Homeland Security Campus slated to open across the street in 2013. Could the property be put to better use?

Fire Sale: SOME says they have opened same-model housing in wards all over the city, including Logan Circle and Capitol Hill, and in the past the housing has raised property values. Richard Gerlach, Executive Director of SOME, told City Desk, “That property was on the market for a long, long time, so to say it’s a golden opportunity is just not true. The buildings we take over are a blight…we fix them up and they become a positive influence that promote growth.”  He also stressed that the housing is independent and non-transitional.

Missed Opportunity: Some Ward 8 residents argue that the space should be used to encourage higher income residents to move to the neighborhood: Resident Brian Townes told City Desk, “The area is prime redevelopment for the [Department of Homeland Security] alone… how many of these types of housing developments are within a three-mile radius of the Pentagon?” Congress Heights on Rise also says the community wasn’t notified about the project by the Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC), despite the neighborhood becoming, in his her opinion, “the designated social services arm of the entire district.”

Next Step: Construction is slated to begin in October, although Gerlach says the housing’s opening date has not yet been determined due to the economic climate. Disgruntled residents still have time to voice complaints to their local ANC.

Photo by Lydia, Creative Commons Attribution License

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