Testimony: NHP Elm Gardens Redevelopment (DC, Support)

February 7, 2024

Mr. Chairman Hood
Chairman, DC Zoning Commission
441 4th Street, NW, Suite 200S
Washington, DC 20001

RE: SUPPORT for CASE NO. 23-19, Consolidated PUD and Related Map Amendment at 7050 Eastern Avenue, NW, by the NHP Foundation and Elm Gardens Owners, LLC

Dear Chairman Hood: 

Please accept this testimony on behalf of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, the leading organization advocating for walkable, bikeable, inclusive, transit-oriented communities as the most sustainable and equitable way for the Washington, DC region to grow and provide opportunities for all. 

We wish to express our strong support for Case No. 23-19. We are pleased to support this Planned Unit Development (PUD) to facilitate a tenant and non-profit-led redevelopment of an aging 36-unit rental apartment building into a new, 4-story 100% affordable, accessible 80-unit building. These units would include 36 replacement units and 44 new homes. The 44 new units would serve households earning 50% MFI or less. Eight units in the building would be reserved as permanent supportive housing to formerly unhoused people.

This modest redevelopment proposal not only saves existing low income tenants from displacement, but rebuilds their building with a modern elevator building that more than doubles the number of affordable homes, and includes permanent supportive housing. These are commendable benefits and significant contributions to the Comp Plan’s goals to prevent displacement and provide more quality affordable housing opportunities close to transit and a walkable neighborhood center. 

The PUD proposes a modestly larger building than the existing, fulfilling guidance of the Comp Plan to focus more activity around Metro stations. We would have liked to see the original 110-unit affordable project here. We share ANC 4B’s disappointment that objections from some nearby neighbors has resulted in the loss of 30 affordable homes.  At this point, we urge the Zoning Commission to not take away any more affordable housing units at this transit-oriented site. This new proposal is a significant compromise from the 110-unit building. Further erosion of this project would jeopardize the feasibility of an affordable and anti-displacement project. Additional loss of affordable homes would further set back the Comp Plan’s goals and put at risk the Elm Gardens residents for displacement.

This project offers many important benefits to DC and fulfills many of the Comp Plan’s priorities, including: 

  • Prevention of displacement of residents, a majority of whom are Black and/or Hispanic
  • Increase in affordable housing, and deeply affordable housing
  • Increased housing around a major transit hub – Takoma Metro and bus facilities
  • Compatible infill redevelopment that is in-scale with the neighborhood and the historic district. 
  • Housing that makes aging-in-place possible by converting an obsolete, deteriorating walkup apartment building into an accessible, elevator-served building with amenities for all ages
  • Expansion of permanent supportive housing, with on-site service coordination
  • Modernized green building features and stormwater management 
  • A pedestrian-friendly street-facing facade that supports a more pleasant walking route to the Metro station, encouraging more transit use and walking. 

These additional affordable homes help reduce the Ward 4 deficit and advance the Comp Plan’s housing equity goal to create 1,580 dedicated affordable homes by 2025 for Rock Creek East. Providing additional affordable housing in this prime location — next to a Metro station and major bus hub, close to shops, services, jobs, and other amenities — advances the city’s racial equity goals by preventing displacement of Black and Hispanic residents and making room for new lower income residents in an increasingly expensive neighborhood.

This location offers households the opportunity to save on transportation costs by owning fewer or no car, and still enjoy robust access to employment, education, and daily needs. Transportation costs are second only to housing costs, so enabling more households to avoid the burdensome costs of vehicle ownership, and have easy access to major transit lines, bicycle facilities, and local services provides substantial savings. Allowing more people to live in walk/bike-friendly, and transit-accessible locations also reduces the carbon footprint of DC’s population.

Thank you for your consideration. 


Cheryl Cort
Policy Director