The fate of Greenleaf residents and of public housing overall is a persistent concern to all residents of Southwest, reflecting the Southwest Small Area Plan’s vision for the community to remain “an exemplary model of equity and inclusion, …a diversity of races, ages and income levels.”
As Greenleaf residents’ anxiety mounts about their own prospects in the complex’s redevelopment, the DC Housing Authority (DCHA) has created an Advisory Council of local stakeholders, including the voices of public housing residents, to provide routine input on emerging plans. On May 15 this Council was introduced to the eight development teams who were selected via the Request for Qualifications to submit proposals for Greenleaf redevelopment. Members of the Council, in particular Community Benefits Coordinating Council (CBCC) board members, have since asked to provide input to the Request for Proposal (RFP), since the RFP will largely determine whether and how current residents can be served in the proposed mixed-income housing that will in part replace Greenleaf. To date, the RFP has not been issued, nor has the Advisory Council been able to provide input into its general content.
The CBCC has articulated a set of issues and specific questions that should be raised in the RFP and explicitly addressed in the responses, both to ensure that low and moderate income households are not pushed out of the community, and to address the interests of the larger community that have been so clearly articulated in the Southwest Small Area Plan.
- How can we get the ball rolling?
Ward 6 Councilman Charles Allen helped pass a “Build First” resolution by the Council to keep current residents in the community during and after construction and redevelopment of Greenleaf.
One way to implement this approach is to use one or more of the publicly-owned parcels in Southwest that will inevitably be redeveloped, so that there is no need for any temporary relocation of Greenleaf residents. Land banking of publicly owned properties and other parcels that become available for redevelopment should be part of the redevelopment process. The governing agencies involved in identifying options should make this commitment timely, and developers should address the parameters of procurement in their proposals.
- How many new units in the proposed mixed-income project will be affordable for low-income households?
A conceptual plan released to the community in March 2016 suggested a 3:1 ratio of Market Rate to Below Market Rate (BMR) units as part of a new mixed-income development to replace Greenleaf. If realized, the 25% BMR units would be far above the minimum legal requirement for new development. But specific rent limits and controls over time for BMR units will also be critical. Developers should be asked to describe and defend the calculation of 25% BMR, describe the explicit profile of BMR income caps, and describe mechanisms to preserve BMR units over time.
- Who will be eligible for BMR units in the new mixed-income housing?
Developers should describe the eligibility rules (whether federal, DCHA regulations or other) that will apply to new units in the mixed-income project, who will be responsible for eligibility determinations and how that process will work.
- How else will the new mixed-income housing accommodate Greenleaf residents?
When Greenleaf was built nearly 60 years ago, there was a recognized need for 4- and 5- bedroom units to accommodate large families. Although smaller families are now more common, it remains difficult for low-income families to find housing for multi-generational families and those with more than one child. Households with aging seniors and those with disabilities also often include multi-generational individuals who need separate spaces. Proposals for the array of unit sizes should be made only on the basis of specific evidence of population needs currently and over time.
Accommodation for services (both space and programming) is also a critical component of new mixed-income housing, in order for former public housing residents to make a successful transition and to ensure that Greenleaf and other new residents are successfully integrated into a new social structure.
The numbers of townhouses vs. high rises will impact what kinds of Greenleaf households can take advantage of each. The configuration is a concern for many Southwesters, as it impacts the degree to which mixed density and open space reflects another priority in the Small Area Plan.
We eagerly await next steps.
BY Fredrica Kramer, Vice Chair, Near SE/SW Community Benefits Coordinating Council