On October 9, 2012, the Coalition for Smarter Growth released a new report on public land redevelopment in Washington, D.C., entitled ‘Public Land for Public Good: Making the Most of City Land to Meet Affordable Housing Needs‘.
The report chronicles how the District of Columbia has used the redevelopment of public land to provide affordable housing and other benefits.
Highlighting the significant accomplishments the District has made in creating affordable housing and integrating it into larger mixed-use development, the report also details areas needing improvement. Most importantly, the assessment points to recent reduced expectations in the level of affordability in future projects. The report calls for the District to recommit to making the most of affordable housing opportunities in public land redevelopment deals, as the District seeks to build a more inclusive city as housing prices rise and more affluent residents move in.
Public Land for Public Good details D.C.’s use of public land to provide affordable housing along with other private and public uses in projects such as City Vista at 5th and K Street NW, near Columbia Heights Metro, and proposed mixed-use redevelopments such as the Hine School site at Eastern Market Metro station, Southwest Waterfront and West End Library/Fire Station. The report also looks at other projects that failed to move forward and assesses how they might have succeeded.
“D.C. has had some successful accomplishments when it comes to city-owned lands transformed into vibrant mixed use, mixed income developments. However, without keeping specific and ambitious affordable housing requirements in future deals, we are likely to see less and less affordability in these valuable city land projects,” commented Jenny Reed, Policy Director of the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute.
Drawing on the experience of public redevelopments through the 2000s, the report provides a number of recommendations to ensure that city land is fully leveraging the value of public land to contribute its share to meeting the affordable housing needs of D.C. residents, along with other goals.
The report calls on the current administration and D.C.’s Comprehensive Housing Strategy Task Force to:
- Re-establish affordable housing as a top priority in public land redevelopment;
- Set aside 30 percent of residential units as affordable;
- Give preference to experienced affordable housing developers as partners;
- Use affordable rental housing to serve households earning 30 and 60 percent of area median income (AMI). Offer for-sale affordable housing for households earning 50 and 60% area median income and no more higher than 80% AMI;
- Incorporate community plans, and other citywide goals into public land redevelopment plans;
- Coordinate city agencies to maximize public benefits by pooling resources including subsidy sources;
- Commit to a better public engagement process; and
- Provide a more transparent valuation of public and private benefits.