Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) opened 223 affordable housing units, 50 of which were allocated specifically to grandparents raising grandchildren, in the Mount Vernon Triangle neighborhood Sept. 13.
The housing community, called Plaza West, is located at 1035 4th St. NW and 307 K St. NW. In addition to the residential units, the development features more than 9,500 square feet of “outdoor recreational space,” according to a Sept. 13 news release.
The development also contains a library, a kids’ activity space, a fitness room and a community room.
The new housing units represent the District’s first affordable housing project targeting families in which grandparents are raising grandchildren, which are commonly referred to as “grandfamilies.” D.C. is the ninth city nationwide to create grandfamily-specific housing. The other cities offering such housing are New York City, Boston, Chicago, Phoenix, Ariz., Hartford, Conn., Baton Rouge, La., Milwaukee, Wisc., and Kansas City, Mo.
The number of children being raised by their grandparents has risen nationwide as a result of the opioid and heroin epidemic, according to the American Bar Association.
Plaza West will offer housing to residents from a wide variety of D.C.’s population, according to Bowser.
“As our city continues to grow and age, we’re committed to making investments in innovative programs — in housing, education, childcare, and more — that will set our families up for success,” Bowser said in the Sept. 13 news release. “Plaza West is an example of how we are ensuring residents and families of all backgrounds and income levels have access to safe and affordable places to live across all eight wards.”
The District has over 4,300 grandparents raising children, according to the Plaza West website. One-third of DC grandfamilies are living in poverty. Officials estimate around 1,000 D.C. grandfamilies need subsidized housing.
The 50 grandfamily units will be available to those earning 30 to 40 percent of the Area Median Income — or $22,650 to $30,200 — according to WPGC Radio. In addition to the grandfamily units, 173 units will be allocated for families earning 50 to 60 percent of the Area Median Income, and 11 units will go to clients of the Department of Behavioral Health, according to the Sept. 13 release. The grandfamilies are anticipated to pay 40 percent of market rent for the units.
“The Plaza West design and programming is intended to create a grandfamilies ‘residential village’ that is rich with activities, on-site resources, and connections to the services on-site and in the nearby community,” according to Plaza West development partner Mission First Housing group, a group consisting of six nonprofit organizations that work to build affordable housing.
Some attributes of the housing units have been tailored to focus on grandfamilies, including appropriately sized apartments for intergenerational families, social services case management, child development programs and a grandfamily-rich social group to support the specific challenges of grandfamilies.
The community will also provide services geared towards physical and mental health, academic support, legal aid, financial literacy, access to necessities such as food, furniture and clothing, job training and employment, according to Mission First Housing group.
According to Mission First Housing Group, the development cost $90 million.
Mission First Housing Group collaborated with a number of private and public partners to create Plaza West, including the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development, D.C. Finance Agency, Golden Rule Plaza Inc. — a nonprofit subsidiary of Bible Way Church — and the Henson Development Company.