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Do More: Celebrating New Affordable Housing for Seniors with Sarah's Circle

Ramon Jacobson, Executive Director

At last Saturday’s ribbon cutting for the newly renovated Sarah’s Circle senior housing building, DC Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) Director Polly Donaldson issued a call to action: “do more” — develop more affordable housing to benefit low income Washingtonians. “Do more” echoes the call issued by former DC Mayor Anthony Williams and by the late, great Alice Rivlin when they set the lofty goal of not just stopping population loss in DC, but increasing the city’s population by adding 100,000 new residents. Rivlin’s legacy is the growth that has reinvigorated the District. Do more, indeed. 

Doing more does not simply mean building more housing. A lesson we often learn from our elders is to make the most of what we already have. Doing more means supporting organizations like Sarah’s Circle — a long-standing nonprofit that has been working in Adams Morgan since 1983. Determined to remain in the now high-cost neighborhood, Sarah’s Circle’s leader Jessica Petro, the Board of Directors, and residents identified a path to not just modernize their building, but to use the existing structure to add new affordable senior homes.   

LISC was an early stage investor in the redevelopment, providing a $550,000 loan for predevelopment expenses. Sarah’s Circle undertook a remarkable reconfiguration, rotating the residential units so that oversized apartments were right-sized to the resident clientele, and adding an additional 15 housing units. The building promotes interaction between residents and brings sunlight into common spaces to ensure that they avoid isolation and are part of the broader community.  

The ground floor community room is the building's spiritual center and hub, serving as a community center for seniors and office space for staff. At the community center, residents and neighbors alike can enjoy a hot lunch daily and breakfast three days a week from the kitchen. The programming in the community center ranges from exercise classes three times a week and yoga twice a week, to weekly book club, bingo, arts and crafts, and a computer lab with four workstations.  

Funded by DHCD’s allocation of 9% LIHTC credits and Capital One, the new Sarah’s Circle building retains the original 4 walls, and now the property has energy efficient windows and utilities and a green roof. The upgrades include all new plumbing, electrical, flooring, doors for the units, and accessibility upgrades such as grab bars in the bathrooms. 

Most remarkably, the residents remained in place during renovation. These are folks who were determined to remain in the Adams Morgan community that they’ve helped transform. Thanks to Sarah’s Circle, they will enjoy a new day in the “new” building, and do more — welcome additional new senior neighbors to the community they share.