Affordable Homes Break Ground in D.C.’s Mount Pleasant Community

Dignitaries congregated this week in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood of Washington, D.C., to celebrate the groundbreaking of Monsenor Romero Apartments. The $19 million affordable community, which will feature 63 units, will rise at the site once occupied by the Deauville apartments.

Washington, D.C.—Dignitaries congregated this week in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood of Washington, D.C., to celebrate the groundbreaking of Monsenor Romero Apartments. The $19 million affordable community, which will feature 63 units, will rise at the site once occupied by the Deauville Apartments. That property was destroyed in 2008 by the city’s most destructive fire in 30 years.

“We wanted to do this project four years ago for the residents who had been forced from their homes in 2008,” Rob Richardson, development manager for The National Housing Trust-Enterprise Preservation Corporation (NHT/Enterprise), tells MHN. “At the time, the city had limited funds and a number of other deserving projects with commitments in place. But [the city] still found a way to help the tenants’ association capitalize on its opportunity to buy the building. After that, we had to wait almost three years, until the city had enough federal tax credits available, to make this project a reality. And Low-Income Housing Tax Credits were the only way to rebuild such a severely damaged building, while also making it affordable for the residents to return to. Sometimes, patience is your only choice.”

The creation of Monsenor Romero requires substantial rehabilitation of 31 south wing apartments. At the same time, 32 apartments are being constructed in the building’s former north wing, which aside from the façade was completely destroyed. Of the 63 apartments, 47 will be reserved at lower rental rates for former residents displaced by the fire. Four apartments are designated to become homes for people with physical disabilities.

A number of challenges had to be overcome to get the Monsenor Romero Apartments project to the groundbreaking stage, Richardson adds. “After the fire, all that was left was a façade of the north tower of the building,” he says. “I remember when we had an earthquake here—we never have earthquakes in D.C.—and we just prayed that the structure wouldn’t fall down. Well, it shifted, and was damaged, causing additional complications in rebuilding, beyond that shaken historic façade. But we’ve assembled a very talented team of professionals who have come up with solutions at each step of the way [in response to] those challenges. Most importantly, we’ve received a tremendous amount of community support, and that has helped us address many of the challenges that have come up.”

The property is being named in honor of the assassinated El Salvadorian Catholic Church Bishop who championed the causes of the poor, and was an outspoken foe of poverty and social injustice.

When complete, the Monsenor Romero Apartments will meet a critical need in Mount Pleasant, says David Bowers, vice president and market leader, Mid-Atlantic, Enterprise Community Partners. “Like much of D.C. the Mount Pleasant community has seen housing costs increase dramatically over the last decade,” he says. “The Monsenor Romero provides critically needed affordable housing for low- and moderate-income residents in the Mount Pleasant community.”