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Urban Atlantic Secures $69M Financing For Affordable Senior Project In Upper Northwest

A senior housing community and its development partner have secured financing to move forward with a 93-unit affordable addition to the property in Northwest D.C.'s Friendship Heights neighborhood, a part of the city where such projects are rare. 

A rendering of the 93-unit addition to Friendship Heights' Lisner-Louise-Dickson-Hurt Home.

The team behind the addition to the Lisner-Louise-Dickson-Hurt Home, an affordable senior facility that has been operating since 1941, closed on a $69M financing deal with money coming from several capital sources, development partner Urban Atlantic announced Monday.

"We are thrilled that our dream of a continuing care community for the city’s most vulnerable seniors will soon become a reality," Lisner-Louise-Dickson-Hurt Home CEO L. Ward Orem said in the release.

"The new affordable senior living apartments, along with the renovation of the 1940’s assisted living building, will transform the lives of the seniors we serve for generations to come," he said.

The expansion will reserve 41 units for residents making 50% of the median family income and 52 units for those making up to 30% of the median family income. Wiencek + Associates will design the addition.

In addition to funding from D.C.'s Housing Production Trust Fund, the expansion received federal and state Low-Income Housing Tax Credits and District of Columbia Housing Finance Agency bonds.

Equity came from Boston Financial Investment Management and Rise Impact Capital, and debt was provided by Capital One Community Finance, Cedar Rapids Bank & Trust and D.C. Green Bank.

The development went before the Zoning Commission in 2021 to increase the density allowed on the 5.4-acre property at 5425 Western Ave. NW, a change that was made possible by the new Comprehensive Plan. The Lisner Home advanced the zoning change itself and brought on Urban Atlantic as a development partner. 

"Urban Atlantic is honored to serve as the development partner with this extraordinary Lisner team,” Urban Atlantic Managing Partner Vicki Davis said in a release. 

"We are particularly gratified by the embrace of this project by LLDHH’s neighbors who are setting a national precedent of support for affordable housing in their community," she added.

The development will help drive one of Mayor Muriel Bowser’s priorities for the area west of Rock Creek Park: more housing, especially affordable housing. When Bowser launched her citywide housing goals in 2019, she identified Rock Creek West, an area that includes Friendship Heights, as a part of the city that should be targeted, as it hasn't kept pace with the rest of D.C.'s housing development. 

Bowser sought to address that disparity with the updated Comprehensive Plan that she signed into law in July 2021, a wide-ranging planning document that said Rock Creek West has had an "affordable housing dilemma." In December 2021 she released a new road map for building housing in Rock Creek West, noting at the time that it hadn't made enough progress since the 2019 goal was set. 

“All of the other planning areas have advanced in some way, with some units delivered,” Bowser said. “We haven’t advanced at all in Rock Creek West, and so that’s why we’re very focused on the road map to get there.”

In February 2022, The Lisner Home addition was one of 10 affordable developments, totaling nearly 800 units, the mayor's office announced it would help fund through a $135M investment from D.C.'s Housing Production Trust Fund. At the announcement, Ward 3 Council Member Mary Cheh said she hoped the facility would kick off a wave of new affordable housing in the area, The Washington Post reported at the time.

In its zoning application, the Lisner Home owners said that is has become more and more burdensome to operate senior affordable housing facilities, and as a result, many of its nearby peer institutions have shuttered.

"Over the years, it has become increasingly difficult to operate facilities like the Home," the application said. "The recent closure of the Washington Home, approximately 1 mile from the Home, underscores that reality. Indeed, since 1976, other similar institutions have shuttered and subsequently affiliated with the Home — the Louise Home, the John Dickson Home for Men, the Henry and Annie Hurt Home for the Blind, and the Elizabeth R. Shoemaker Home."