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Affordable Senior Housing Pitched In Friendship Heights Using Newly Allowed Density Boost

The Lisner-Louise-Dickson-Hurt Home at 5425 Western Ave. NW

The D.C. government aimed to spur more housing development in Friendship Heights as part of the Comprehensive Plan update Mayor Muriel Bowser signed into law this month, and one project is already taking advantage of the changes. 

The Lisner-Louise-Dickson-Hurt Home, a senior living community at 5425 Western Ave. NW, is in talks with a development partner to add a new affordable senior living building of at least 80 units on an empty lot on the northeastern portion of its property, Board President Matthew Frumin told Bisnow

The 5.4-acre property has additional underutilized land that Frumin said could support more residential development in the future, potentially including market-rate units, but he is focused on the first 80-plus-unit project in the near term. 

The organization submitted a Map Amendment application to the D.C. Zoning Commission this week to increase the zoning designation of its site to RA-2, allowing residential buildings of up to 50 feet tall. The application cites the newly adopted Comprehensive Plan as the impetus for this proposal, as it changed the property's land-use designation to Moderate Density Residential. 

"Without the Comprehensive Plan changes it would have been, if not impossible, a whole lot harder for us to do what we need to do, so it's really important and it paves the way for us to do what we want to do, which is completely consistent with the mayor’s goals," Frumin said.

Bowser has pushed for more affordable housing development in affluent upper Northwest D.C. neighborhoods like Friendship Heights that haven't welcomed the same level of affordable housing as other parts of the city.

The amendments to the Comprehensive Plan's Future Land Use map envisioned greater density in many of these areas in D.C., and property owners typically must go through a zoning process like the Map Amendment application to make that greater density a reality. 

Frumin said he moved quickly to pursue the Map Amendment as soon as possible following the Comprehensive Plan's adoption, because he wants to have the project's plans in place to apply for the next round of affordable housing funding from the District's Housing Production Trust Fund. 

The project will help fulfill the Lisner Home's mission of providing housing to low-income seniors, Frumin said, and the income from the new development will help fund renovations to the existing building, constructed in 1941. The 80K SF building, reaching up to three stories, is in need of significant repairs after a water pipe burst last year, Frumin added. 

Frumin, a member of the Washington Interfaith Network Ward 3 Congregations Affordable Housing Work Group, said another goal of the project is to help correct past policies that led to housing segregation in upper Northwest D.C., an issue he detailed in a Washington Post op-ed in April. 

"The degree of housing segregation in Upper Northwest is not an accident, and undoing the sad history that led to the level of housing segregation we experience requires affirmative action," Frumin said. "In one sense, the project that the Lisner Home is doing is part of the effort to reverse that pattern."