Photo by Trialogue Studio
Last Wednesday, I attended a meeting of the Housing Focus Group of the Ivy City-Trinidad Neighborhood Stabilization Initiative. This program is being run by the city's Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) and the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC). It's part of the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development's Neighborhood Stabilization Stimulus Program. HUD has allocated money to the city to aid in the creation of affordable housing opportunities in the city. The plan can be viewed here.
The city is spending this money in Ivy City and Trinidad in Ward 5, Deanwood in Ward 7, and Anacostia in Ward 8. Housing opportunities in Ivy City were discussed at the Wednesday meeting.
Fifty-eight houses are being constructed in Ivy City by Habitat for Humanity, Manna DC, and Mi Casa. These houses will be heavily subsidized and are being marketed to neighborhood families who are currently renting, offering people an opportunity to remain close to where they've already put down roots.
At the meeting, we discussed barriers to home ownership for an hour or so before getting into details of the program. When the price of the houses was announced (between $90,000 and $150,000), there were disappointed faces. An underemployed carpenter said it would still be tough to raise a family and pay a mortgage at the upper end of that scale. He currently averages 25 hours of work a week and delivers the Washington Post as a second job to make ends meet for his family.
The mood shifted as the meeting facilitators discussed the subsidies available to bring the prices down. Up to $70,000 worth of HPAP funding could be available for homebuyers. That's a 40-year interest free loan with the first payments deferred for 5 years. As the potential for real financial aid was made clear, most of the renters at the meeting sounded very enthusiastic about the likelihood of home ownership.
The one problem I had was the program's advertising. The photograph at the top of this post shows an enormous banner selling the program to automobile traffic on New York Avenue NE. Meeting attendees were all from the northern part of Trinidad, and don't regularly travel that stretch of highway. Therefore, few knew about the home construction getting underway.
I recommended either moving the sign or adding additional signage in areas where more people from the neighborhood would see them. Perhaps a sign at the corner of Mount Olivet Road and West Virginia Avenue, or at Montello Avenue and Florida Avenue, would actually catch the eyes of someone who would benefit from this potentially transformative program. I'm looking forward to see how this works out, as it looks like it has the possibility to vastly improve the lives of many people in the neighborhood who just need a little help to ensure a stable future.