Mid-Atlantic Development Powerhouse Reimagines Affordable Housing Through Community Partnerships
The need for affordable housing in the U.S. has reached a breaking point. No state has an adequate supply of affordable housing for its lowest-income renters, and more than 7.2 million units are needed to meet the demand, which continues to surge in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
While a lack of available land and funding are key factors standing in the way of building the affordable housing the country needs, another major hurdle is pushback from communities that don’t want these properties built in their neighborhoods. Tensions with communities can delay much-needed housing by years in the neighborhoods that need it the most.
For Brian McLaughlin, president and CEO of Washington, D.C.-region-based Enterprise Community Development, one of the largest African American-led affordable housing providers in the country, one key to overcoming this hurdle is to build affordable housing that anyone would be proud to have in their neighborhoods.
“What we’ve learned is that we have to work with a community’s natural pattern of growth to create inclusive neighborhoods that anyone would want to live in,” McLaughlin said.
ECD is the product of a merger between Enterprise Homes and the Community Preservation and Development Corp.; the new company just celebrated its first anniversary. With a $1B portfolio that includes 112 communities, the company is also the fifth-largest nonprofit affordable housing provider in the country.
Despite its size, ECD is regionally focused on D.C., Maryland and Virginia, an intentional choice that McLaughlin said allows it to embrace tough local projects that smaller developers don’t have the time or resources for.
“With the size and structure of a national leader but regionally focused, we can double down on our investment in people in the markets we serve,” McLaughlin said. “We’re building community as much as we’re building homes. This is why we spend millions of our own revenue on delivering services and support that goes well beyond putting a roof over people’s heads.”
Edgewood Commons — formerly known as Edgewood Terrace — was once the site of one of the largest open-air drug markets in D.C. When ECD’s predecessor stepped in, it partnered with the residents to turn the property around and bring in a robust program of activities and services to the 792-unit apartment campus, located steps away from the Rhode Island Avenue Metro station. Fast forward 25 years, and Edgewood Commons still provides long-term residents with housing affordability in a neighborhood that has seen exponential growth in market-rate rents and development.
Once completed, the next phase of the Edgewood campus, now called Edgewood Commons V, will feature 151 state-of-the-art apartments fully adaptable to the needs of seniors. It will also feature an indoor fitness room, a large café with an outdoor terrace and a program focused on connecting residents to transportation, nutrition and wellness programming and social activities.
“Nothing we do is cookie-cutter,” ECD Executive Vice President and Chief Business Officer Christine Madigan said. “If you look at all the properties in our portfolio, no two look alike, and this is because we recognize each community is different. We’re committed to designing in a way that meets the unique needs and wants of each community.”
This past October, ECD began a massive redevelopment of the Lake Anne Fellowship House, a senior housing community in Reston, Virginia, built in the 1970s. Originally CPDC’s project of 240 updated affordable apartment homes, ECD carried it over to construct a new building on an underutilized portion of the site. This affordable community is located in an area where inexpensive homes are few and far between, and ECD wanted to keep it as a property that serves low-income senior residents with incomes at or below 60% of the area median income.
It took five years, multiple stakeholders and diverse financing to get to the closing, but in the end, ECD was able to preserve this affordable housing while creating a dynamic, modern community that puts residents first.
“In all cases, we strive to be very transparent with the community about what we’re trying to achieve,” Madigan said. “We establish a real partnership with community stakeholders so their voices are heard and their opinions are incorporated into a project.”
Roslyn Rise is another community in ECD’s portfolio that, like Lake Anne House, presents a unique opportunity for inclusive transformation. Starting later this year, ECD will demolish the 58 affordable townhouse units built in the 1960s in the heart of Columbia, Maryland, and build a 153-unit, Class-A, mixed-income development in its place, with units that are larger and more efficiently laid out, with many accessible to persons with disabilities.
The goal, McLaughlin said, is to create a true mixed-income community that will retain its affordability to allow all current residents to return once the development is complete, all while creating new market-rate units that can compete with recently built homes in Columbia.
ECD owns and manages each of these properties through Enterprise Residential, the company’s property management arm.
“We’re really optimistic about the future of affordable housing in the D.C. region,” McLaughlin said. “The events of 2020 put the housing shortage and the disparities in our neighborhoods on everyone’s radar. We are at a special time in history, and we’re fighting hard to expand and reimagine housing that is affordable. ECD, from both our core mission to our operating structure, is positioned to be a major part of that work.”
This article was produced in collaboration between Studio B and Enterprise Community Development. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.
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