D.C. talks affordability while it makes way for the rich.
Dec 22, 2016 6 AM
Judging by all the cranes in Navy Yard, NoMa, and Southwest, there’s no doubt of the District’s construction boom. To put that proxy in context: The Washington D.C. Economic Development Partnership found that 2016 was the third consecutive year the city set a record for the number of new housing units built or significantly renovated—some 14,800 as of August. The three aforementioned neighborhoods accounted for 45 percent of that growth.
This is great news if you’re a developer, a business looking for space in a mixed-use building, or someone hoping to move to one of the District’s modernized enclaves. D.C. officials are also eager to absorb both the associated tax dollars and young strivers who can afford rent in new buildings. But many of these projects won’t open until 2018 or later, while the city’s long-term residents already feel the squeeze of an ever-rising cost of living. Plus, the Anacostia River remains a divider.
Which is all to say: The evident lack of affordable housing throughout D.C. is the flip side of the development coin. The District has made important investments this year, but more are needed. Here’s a look back at 2016’s most significant developments (sorry) and where the city is headed.
Least Expected Turn of EventsIt’s fair to say folks were shocked earlier this month when the D.C. Court of Appeals ruled that the long-promised redevelopment of the vacant McMillan Sand Filtration Site could not proceed. In fact, the day before, Mayor Muriel Bowser had held a ground-breaking ceremony—replete with politicians in swank coats and matching hard hats—on McMillan’s fenced-in 25 acres. She touted the housing, retail, and jobs the project is supposed to deliver. (The development team features some of the District’s biggest players.) Now, the $720 million proposal goes back to zoning and planning officials for further review, with preservationists and pro-growthers taking stock. “I’m literally shaking,” Friends of McMillan Park’s Kirby Vining, a project critic, told City Paper. But the developers called the court’s order a “clear validation” of their overall plans.