- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 10, 2003

D.C. officials are razing old housing projects to make way for new neighborhoods to meet the challenges of a declining tax base and limited space for new development.

“No one should think that they can’t afford to live in the District,” said Eric Price, deputy mayor for planning and economic development.

As the host of the federal government, the headquarters of more than 200 nonprofit organizations, and home to 168 embassies, only two-thirds of the District’s 68 square miles of land are taxable.

Officials hope that new neighborhoods of moderate to high-end homes will entice about 100,000 people to move into the city within 12 years.

In the first three quarters of the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, the D.C. government has invested $183 million in financing 1,813 affordable housing units.

At least 30 percent of those homes must be sold to people earning no more than 60 percent of the region’s median income, or no more than $55,000 a year. Officials expect 45 properties developed under the “Home Again” program to produce nearly $255,000 in new tax revenue.

“There’s an exciting resurgence of residential real estate development taking place,” said Michael Kelly, executive director of the D.C. Housing Authority.

The agency is using five federal Hope VI development grants valued at $140 million to demolish and replace public housing projects that have been boarded up for a decade or more.

One project east of RFK Stadium will include space for a full-service supermarket in a new shopping center. A high-rise apartment building next to the site is being gutted and redeveloped as mixed-income housing.

Much of the new housing stock is town houses with small yards, considered “starter homes” for singles or young couples. But many of the sites are close to downtown, convenient to the Metrorail subway system, or offer waterfront views of the Anacostia River.

On 23 acres near the Washington Navy Yard, 707 vacant public housing units are being demolished to make way for about 1,600 units. The public-housing component of 407 family and 300 senior-citizen apartments will be interspersed with 700,000 square feet of office space and 900 private homes.

“Those will sell in the $300,000 range,” said Bernie Teautralt, a D.C. Housing Authority real estate adviser, adding that the market-rate housing is six blocks from the Capitol.

Private developers also are being encouraged with tax-exempt bond financing from the D.C. Housing Finance Agency. A project being built on 3 acres near Bolling Air Force Base received $10.7 million under the program. Ninety-six two- and three-bedroom apartments will replace 126 uninhabitable units abandoned at least a decade ago.

The project is among 7,994 affordable housing units constructed or rehabilitated with agency funds since 1999.

“It’s just a way for us to keep all of the residents who stayed in Washington during the slump and attract more people who want to take advantage of the activities and rich culture that we have,” said Tia Matthews, a spokeswoman for the D.C. Housing Finance Agency.

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