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Community members purchase building to maintain affordability in DC’s wealthiest Ward
The 3218 Wisconsin Ave. Cooperative is the first affordable housing project involving city financing in Ward 3 in recent history
WASHINGTON, DC (July 12, 2019) — On the eve of the July 4th holiday celebrating the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Greg Palmer II and his neighbors wielded their own pens to make history in Washington, DC’s Ward 3.
With a loan from the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), Greg and his neighbors purchased the 20-unit building in which they live, and thereby created the first affordable housing in Ward 3 since online records have been kept. As a new Cooperative, they banded together to take charge of their destiny.
LISC, the nation’s largest community development support organization, used a blend of DC Preservation Fund dollars and its own loan funds to help the tenants purchase their building in the District’s wealthiest ward, where only 1% of the housing stock is affordable housing.
LISC’s loan enabled this group of tenacious residents to purchase their building in Cathedral Heights, an area with high-quality schools, transportation, and amenities; it sits literally in the shadow of the National Cathedral. Led by a strong and dynamic Board, and united by a vision to own their building and keep it affordable for future generations, the Cooperative purchased with the help of two nonprofit partners, the Latino Economic Development Center and Mi Casa, Inc., who guided them through the complex Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA) process.
The Cooperative utilized The DC Preservation Fund, which combines private loan capital with an investment of local funding. DC’s Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) selected LISC as a Fund Manager in 2018. LISC has already deployed $34 million to preserve 490 affordable homes throughout the District. “This project is a perfect example of the important role that the DC Preservation Fund plays in our city,” said Ramon Jacobson, Executive Director of LISC. “The Mayor’s leadership and the Council’s funding allows us to act quickly to preserve the affordable housing that still remains and which would otherwise vanish.”
“Our investments in the Housing Preservation Fund are helping to keep DC families in the affordable homes we already have and ensure those homes remain affordable in the years to come,” said Mayor Bowser. “As we double down on what’s working, we will continue to create and invest in new tools that allow us to do more with more.”
The residents of 3218 Wisconsin Avenue NW opted to form a limited equity cooperative in order to make “[our building] better for people who don’t have the resources to do it themselves,” as explained by Greg Palmer II, the President of the 3218 Wisconsin Avenue Cooperative. Limited equity cooperatives offer below-market buy-in and allow families with low or moderate incomes an affordable ownership opportunity while ensuring that housing remains affordable for generations to come.
“I believe one of the most stressful things people can encounter in life is the cost of living going up without the income to match such living. I ultimately want to give people home-life balance, where they will have a peace of mind knowing they have a stable home, and they are free to blossom in other ways by focusing on the things that are most important in life,” Palmer added.
“These Cooperative members are trailblazers in an area where only 1% of the housing stock is affordable,” said LISC Senior Program Officer Adam Kent, who led LISC’s work with the Cooperative. “Props to their dedication and the hard work of Mi Casa, LEDC, Eisen & Rome, and DC’s Department of Housing and Community Development,” he added.
"Even after multiple people told the tenants that they could never afford to buy the building, tenants stayed steadfast in their commitment to exercise their rights and purchase the property, said Victoria Gonçalves, Tenant Organizer for LEDC. “This project shows that the preservation of affordable housing is truly a community effort and is possible even in a neighborhood like Cathedral Heights."
“The passion and leadership of the tenants are meritorious and what drove the project to success,” said Daniela Revollo, Project Manager for Mi Casa. “Mi Casa is proud to have been part of the team and successful achievement that contributed to increasing Ward 3 affordable housing.”
With residents and partners, LISC forges resilient and inclusive communities of opportunity across America – great places to live, work, visit, do business and raise families. Since 1982, LISC DC has invested more than $369 million in affordable home ownership, rental housing, commercial and retail properties, and community facilities throughout the District. To learn more, visit www.lisc.org/dc.
About Mi Casa
Mi Casa Inc. works to ensure that low and moderate income households, long-term residents, and recent immigrants can continue to live in their neighborhoods and have quality, affordable housing. To learn more, visit www.micasa-inc.org.
LEDC equips people with the skills and financial tools to buy or stay in a home, join with neighbors to keep rental housing affordable, and start or strengthen a business. The Affordable Housing Preservation department at LEDC assists tenants in exercising their rights and provides technical assistance to tenant associations. Visit www.LEDCmetro.org to learn more.