Understanding “Affordable” Housing: the Cases of Hine and the Boys and Girls Club
by Larry Janezich
Affordable housing can mean any number of things, from workforce housing (affordable to those who live on what Mayor Bowser sometimes calls a “regular salary”) to low income housing. It does not necessarily mean housing subsidized by the government.
Inclusionary Zoning (IZ), for example, places the onus on the developer to find a way to fund affordable housing. IZ requires new or substantially rehabilitated multiunit housing projects of 10 or more units to contain 10% affordable housing (often in exchange for increased density), defined as affordable to those who make 80% of Area Median Income (AMI) or less. Recent legislation stipulates that if new construction or rehabilitation is on city land declared surplus, the project must contain 30% affordable housing.
In contrast to privately financed affordable housing, in two prospective Capitol Hill projects – Hine and the Boys and Girls Club – a subsidy is being made available directly through the federal government’s Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program (LIHTC).
LIHTC housing is for residents with income up to 60% Area Median Income (AMI).
DC uses an AMI of $107,500, which includes some surrounding wealthy counties in its calculation. Actual median income from just the District is closer to $60,000.
The Hine project’s North Building has exclusively LIHTC units as does the current proposal to develop the Boys and Girls Club. Both LIHTC applications have been put forward by the firm of Dantes Partners, run by Buwa Binitie, a former member of the DC Housing Finance Agency Board which approves LIHTC eligibility.
The Hine project will include a total of 158 residential units.
The North Building will have 34 units funded by LIHTC, designated “affordable” and reserved for seniors (29 units at 60% Area Median Income (AMI) and 5 units at 30% AMI). The maximum income for those eligible to rent one of the 29 units is $45,150 for a one person household and $51,600 for a two person household. The maximum income for those eligible to rent one of the five units would be $25,058.
The South Building of the Hine Project has 124 units, some of which will be “affordable” under Inclusionary Zoning. Occupancy of these units will be limited to singles with a maximum income of $60,200, couples with a maximum income of $68,000, and three person households with a maximum income of $77,000. A lottery is held among eligible applicants for occupancy or purchase of these units.
The current proposal for development of the Boys and Girls Club would provide 49 affordable units which will be reserved for seniors, and constructed with LIHTC funds. 46 of the units are reserved for single seniors with a maximum income of about $45,150, or couples (assuming a couple could live in these small units) with a maximum income of about $51,600. To be eligible for the remaining three units, the maximum income for a one person household would be $25,058.
How are residents selected for “affordable” housing?
The selection process is handled by a property management company that developers routinely hire to manage affordable housing projects. The availability of the units and associated income limits is advertised, prospective tenants apply, and the management company selects tenants based on the same criteria any tenant must meet with the goal of providing stable long term occupancy.