21 March 2011

The Ivy City-Trinidad Neighborhood Stabilization Initiative

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.

18 March 2011

Sign Blight - Help us shame these lawbreakers

Rule 24-108 in the District of Columbia Municipal Regulations gives guidance on the placement of signs, posters, and placards in the city's public space. Subsection 2 reads, "The placing of any advertisement on any tree in public space is prohibited." That means the signs below are not legal. Period.

In addition, these signs are nailed to the trees. The first sign (apologies for the quality) is nailed to a willow oak near the corner of Neal Street and Montello Avenue NE, and the second and third signs are nailed to a sycamore tree at West Virginia Avenue and Penn Street NE. Putting holes in our mature, beautiful street trees causes them harm; creating wounds such as this give insects and fungi access to the heart of the trees.

These signs are placed in low-income neighborhoods by people who try to use the lure of cash to get people who might be down on their luck to sell their homes for pennies on the dollar. Beside the fact that these signs are illegal, ugly, and harmful, they're also exploitative.

I'm proposing that we call them and register our displeasure and disgust. The number on these signs is 703-910-5173. Call them and tell them to take the signs down because they're damaging trees. Call them and tell them to take the signs down because they're illegal. And call them and tell them to take the signs down because we don't need their kind trying to drive the working poor from their homes in order for a short-term infusion of cash, while they get rich off of this exploitation.

Please take a minute of your day, it's not much, but if enough people do, maybe we can make our voices heard.


If you want to take it one further, call 202-455-6129. That's not the number on the signs below, but it is the direct line to the company that put the signs up. I've documented many signs here around Trinidad. Some I was able to remove myself because they were only 6 or 7 feet off the ground. Some of these signs are 13 to 15 feet off the ground, though - out of reach without a ladder. Give them the same hell you'd give to the jerks who nailed the signs to the trees.

16 March 2011

'Neighborhood Specialist' doesn't know neighborhood name

"I know your area very well."

That's what Realtor Katie Moore of Weichert Realtors claims about Trinidad. You'd think someone who knows the area well would know how to spell the name of the neighborhood where she's looking for business. I wasn't aware that the neighborhood is actually called "Trindad," but she's the professional, so I must have been mistaken all this time.

While we're at it, I'd like to meet these investors and "there" sumptuous renovations.

13 March 2011

Good News! You have another choice in the DC council race

There are many candidates running in the election for the open at-large seat on the Council of the District of Columbia on April 26th. Perhaps you're not happy with your choices.

Luckily for you, another candidate has entered the fray.

Clark Ray.

How do I know this? His signs can be found in many locations in my neighborhood. They're at the corner of West Virginia Avenue and Mount Olivet Road NE, for example. They can be found around the Trinidad Recreation Center as well. Here's some photographic evidence:

So, make sure you strongly consider Clark Ray for the DC Council seat on April 26th. If he wasn't running, he certainly wouldn't have signs up in the public space in our neighborhood, would he?

Would he?