A new affordable housing option has been unveiled in Southeast Washington, which has the distinction of having the highest concentration of low-income accommodations in the city. Occupancy for the mixed-housing initiative, which is being constructed adjacent to Matthews Memorial Baptist Church on Martin Luther King Avenue, will comprise disadvantaged families and individuals, including senior citizens and single-parent households.

According to church spokeswoman Susie Horton, Matthews Memorial Terrace’s 99-unit community with 52 underground parking spaces would offset displacement of people currently living in the nearby Barry Farms complex, which is set for demolition and reconstruction.

Ground breaking for Memorial Terrace took place Oct. 9, Horton said, and residents could begin moving in soon after the 18-month construction is completed.

“With this effort about one-third of the families at Barry Farm will be able to be moved to the new development,” Horton said, referring to the Memorial Terrace. “Another one-third of the units will be earmarked for senior citizens and the remaining spaces will be reserved for a mixed group” of residents.

The church itself will not supply any of the funding for the $22.5 million, two- and three-bedroom project, but will provide land on which it will be built. Financing will be partly gleaned from debt and equity investments purchased by Capital One Bank through tax-exempt bonds and low-income housing tax credits provided by the city and its housing authority.

Adrianne Todman, interim executive director of the District of Columbia Housing Authority, said the new construction will provide much needed affordable housing in Ward 8.

“The housing authority is investing more than $6.8 million in capital funding and the long-term operating subsidy to sustain the 35 public housing units that will be part of the development,” said Todman. “DCHA received more than $30 million in competitive stimulus grants from HUD to build or improve the affordable housing supply in the nation’s capital, and we are delighted to join other public and private entities in this powerful partnership.”

Ward 8 Councilman Marion Barry was not immediately available for comment. But according to one of the District’s latest analyses on affordable housing in the Anacostia district, the area already benefits from several strengths, including a diverse housing mix coupled with a vibrant historic business district along Martin Luther King Avenue. At the same time, the district – where one out of three housing choice voucher holders in the District lives – is in need of some 9,000 additional such units.

Recent mayoral contender, Leo Alexander, said he was not surprised to hear another low-income unit is underway for Southeast. He said the addition of the Matthews Memorial Terrace is intended to keep poverty, crimes and underperforming schools pocketed to one-side of the District.

“There’s no question about it,” Alexander said. “There needs to be a concerted effort on the part of government to make sure that when they lay out the 10- and 20-year plans that they do it across the board and not just concentrate poverty in one section of our city.”

However, DCHA spokeswoman Dena Michaelson said it was part of the church’s mission to provide additional affordable housing for Ward 8. “And we helped out by providing some of the financing,” Michaelson said.

 

DorothyRowley

AFROStaffWriter