Historic R Street Affordable Apartments Get a Makeover

By Anuradha Kher, Online News EditorWashington, D.C.–In the Logan Circle neighborhood in Washington, D.C., where condo conversions have become increasingly common, the 2006 average median sales price for a home exceeded $570,000. But this neighborhood is also home to the historic R Street Apartments, a nearly century-old affordable housing complex, which was last renovated in the mid-1980s. If not for the National Housing Trust-Enterprise Preservation Corp. (NHT-Enterprise) and Hampstead Development Group’s renovation plans, this complex could have become another one of the neighborhood’s condo conversions.“Due to high demand in the neighborhood owing to the building’s proximity to public transportation, restaurants and shopping, it could easily have been converted to condos or higher-priced rentals,” says Michael Bodaken, president of the National Housing Trust. “By safeguarding R Street Apartments, we are improving the well being of the families and seniors who call it home and are reinvesting in and strengthening the neighborhood.” NHT-Enterprise and Hampstead recently started renovations on the five-building R Street Apartments, which consists of 124 units. The two organizations have developed plans to preserve the property’s affordability for 40 years while making nearly $8 million in much-needed improvements, including adding handicap accessibility, replacing the roof, and dramatically updating efficiency of the heating and air conditioning systems. An expanded and renovated community center will be part of the renovation. Tenants will have access to free high-speed wireless Internet service.Located on the 1400 Block of R St., NW, the buildings were constructed in 1912 by real estate developer Harry Wardman and are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The R Street Tenants Association endorsed the redevelopment plans and will be increasing resident programs and services.“Saving housing like R Street Apartments is the essential first step in solving Washington, D.C.’s housing dilemma and is important for maintaining a mixed-income neighborhood,” says Bodaken.The renovations will also incorporate green features that will make the apartments more energy efficient and healthier for residents. Environmentally friendly improvements include water-conserving appliances, water barrels to collect and reuse rain water for landscaping, Energy Star appliances, energy-efficient lighting, solar reflective roofing material and green certified carpeting.Financing for these improvements comes in part from a grant from Enterprise’s Green Communities Initiative. Other primary sources of funding for the acquisition and renovation of the buildings include $12.3 million in tax-exempt bonds provided by the D.C. Housing Finance Agency and $7.4 million in historic and Low Income Housing Tax Credit equity. MMA Financial purchased the bonds and the Low Income Housing Tax Credits. The D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development provided a $6.5 million loan.The rehabilitated properties will provide six affordable apartments targeted to residents at 30 percent of area median income (AMI) or less; 24 targeted to residents at 50 percent AMI; and 94 targeted to residents at 60 percent AMI. Six new market rate units will be added for a total of 130 apartments.