On Emancipation Day, April 16th, 2015, ONE DC members sent the below letter to Mayor Muriel Bowser, City Administrator Rashad Young, Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development Brian Kenner, and Councilmember Charles Allen (Ward 6).
Dear Mayor Bowser,
At ONE DC our mission is to exercise political strength to create and preserve economic and racial equity in Shaw and the District. We are writing today to ask you to address the dire need for low-income housing in Shaw, where drastically rising housing prices have led to the displacement of thousands of longtime residents.
ONE DC members have organized for low-income housing at Parcel 42 for over 10 years. Located at 7th and R Streets, Parcel 42 is a prominent parcel of publicly owned land, and its redevelopment should benefit those neighborhood residents most at risk of losing housing.
We take seriously your appeal to residents of the District to get involved in the governing process. We want to work with your administration to solve the long-lasting issues that distract from a quality community life for all citizens of the District. We also look to the Council Members to step up to the task of developing affordable housing in all wards of the city, particularly on parcels of publicly-owned land.
Our continued efforts to secure affordable housing at Parcel 42 have been met with failed promises by city officials at all levels, as chronicled in the below history of Parcel 42. The recent cancellation of the contract with Ten Square, while further delaying the site’s redevelopment, presents a profound opportunity to provide truly affordable housing at Parcel 42 and further the stated goals of your administration in regards to ending homelessness.
We have selected a few of the historical moments that stand out in the history of Parcel 42 and depict the struggle our community has faced in trying to get this parcel developed for the purpose of providing affordable housing for those most in need:
PARCEL 42: TIMELINE TO VICTORY
- 2002 Shaw residents, ONE DC members begin to research vacant land ownership, survey neighborhood residents, talk to key stakeholders and come up with vision for new housing
- 2003 ONE DC members meet with affordable housing developers, meet with allies about making vision for permanently affordable housing a reality.
- 2003 – 2004 ONE DC members have ongoing negotiations with NCRC and Broadcast ONE Partners, development team for Radio One future headquarters and mixed-income rental housing (located at 7th and S St NW).
- 2005 Community Benefits Agreement signed between NCRC, ONE DC, assuring Parcel 42 will be permanently affordable housing
- 2006 More research, work with NCRC staff: Land appraisals, cost estimates for new rental housing at Parcel 42
- June After months of unsuccessful attempts to get in writing a commitment from DC govt to make Parcel 42 100% affordable, residents threatened a sit-in to demand DC govt uphold its promise to DC residents.
- DC officials agree to meet with ONE DC members.
- July Deputy Mayor Neil Albert guarantees $7.8 million subsidy for new, permanently affordable housing at Parcel 42
- Sept RFP for Parcel 42 released by Deputy Mayor’s office. Parcel 42 Partners is the only bidder that targeted ONE DC’s affordability levels and sought community input from ONE DC members.
- Residents outline their expectations for a winning development team, including extensive community benefits and rental housing for households who make less than $50,000.
- Sept - Nov ONE DC members go door-to-door with petitions in support of Parcel 42 Partners. Collected over 500 signatures in a month and a half.
- Hundreds of residents sign on, email, call the Deputy Mayor to voice their support
- Nov 14 Mayor Fenty announces selection of Parcel 42 Partners as developer of Parcel 42
- Dec Parcel 42 Partners meet with ONE DC members to discuss first steps toward completing a Community Benefits Agreement.
- Parcel 42 Partners submits a draft of Memorandum of Understanding, outlining their commitment to providing 30-60% AMI rents, community center, Shaw-targeted jobs, and 10% community ownership.
- Jan-Mar Regular ONE DC meetings with Parcel 42 Partners; Roles and responsibilities primarily discussed as it related to Parcel 42’s Community Benefits Agreement.
- April Partner 42 Partners disclose that they will only provide housing rents, starting at approx. $900 (60% AMI), and no other community benefits because they only received 4.98 million in government subsidy.
Parcel 42 Partners disclose that certain government officials recommend they cut off communication with ONE DC about Parcel 42.
- May ONE DC members meet with Neil Albert to demand that he uphold his promise to Shaw.
Neil Albert states his commitment to working to achieve deeper affordability; he even suggests that Parcel 42 Partners shouldn’t pay for the land. However there was no follow-up. The proposed rents and subsidy remain the same.
- June ONE DC members meet with Kwame Brown to demand that he support his citizens’ goals of bringing low-cost housing to Shaw. He recommends coordinating a roundtable meeting with CM Brown, DM Albert, Parcel 42 Partners, and ONE DC to reach deeper affordability levels for Parcel 42. Nothing is done.
- July ONE DC members meet with Jack Evans. We secure a public commitment from him to attend the future roundtable meeting and work with us to deeper affordability. Evans admits that he refers to Parcel 42 as an example of the city’s commitment to producing affordable housing for low-income residents.
J. Evans’ office has not followed up on the meeting. However in a later conversation with a ONE DC colleague, he did commit his attendance.
- August ONE DC members deliberate on what next steps to take during action and community meetings.
- September ONE DC receive correspondence from government officials that DM Albert will not meet with ONE DC members to discuss deeper affordability levels; ONE DC members decide its time to take action!
- October ONE DC members—60-70 people strong!—took this issue to Mayor Fenty’s House! That evening Mayor Fenty promised a meeting with members and met with us two days later.
Two days later, Fenty and ONE DC members have an intense debate about residents’ right to petition their elected officials and Fenty’s failure to deliver on campaign commitment to build housing for low-income families. Fenty commits to calling Ms. Penny to personally update her about Parcel 42’s subsidy, after he consults with his staff. He did not call.
A month later, Fenty’s advisor, D. Jannarone, calls ONE DC to let members know that Fenty commits to increase subsidy to target households making $50,000.
- May 2009 ONE DC wins CM M. Brown’s support for Parcel 42 and introduction of legislation to change AMI requirements for affordable housing.
- July 2010 ONE DC launches a Take Back the Land action on Parcel 42 to publicize the acute affordable housing crisis facing long-time, low income residents.
For the past 5 years we have met with numerous developers and government officials regarding this site. In 2013 over 800 DC residents signed a petition in support of permanently available low-income housing at Parcel 42.
We urge the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development to review the history of Parcel 42 and allocate the necessary funding from the Housing Production Trust Fund to incentivize developers to take on this affordable housing project. We hope this will not be another missed opportunity that deepens the gap between those with shelter and those without shelter in our city.
We request a meeting with you and the heads of each department responsible for the development of Parcel 42 to lay out our vision for the site and explore how we can together make it a reality. A Community Benefits Agreement previously negotiated in 2005 offers a framework for opening any discussion on the use of this public land for affordable housing in Shaw.
In closing we want to share our list of recommendations for Parcel 42:
1) 100% of units low cost at 0% to 50% of AMI in Shaw
2) 7.8 million or more set aside for permanently units
3) Parcel 42 is demonstrated site for homelessness prevention
4) 100% of units are permanently low costs for 100 years
We look forward to meeting with you, at your earliest convenience, on this matter and working together, build a more just and inclusive District, beginning with the redevelopment of Parcel 42.
Virginia C. Lee, Member, ONE DC