Mayor Bowser cuts the ribbon at $600,000 “affordable homes,” which studies indicate that many Blacks cannot afford to purchase. Then announces newly-appointed members of Homeownership Strike Force formed to increase access to homeownership for longtime, Black D.C. residents.
On Thursday, June 9, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser held a press conference to celebrate the advancements at Riggs Park Place, a 183-unit housing community of townhomes, apartments and retail space in Ward 4.
Bowser also announced members of the Homeownership Strike Force, which will provide recommendations for utilizing a $10 million Black Homeownership Fund proposed in the mayor’s Fiscal Year 2023 Budget to increase access to homeownership for longtime, Black D.C. residents.
The properties located at the intersection of Riggs Road and South Dakota Ave, N.E. in Ft. Totten once counted as an underutilized parcel. Private developers such as Paramount Development and EYA developed the 4-acre site.
“[This] is a great example [of] how we can reclaim the roads to build affordable housing,” Bowser said.
Phase one of the mixed-use development includes 90 townhomes that are either two-, three- or four-bedroom layouts — five of those homes designated as affordable. Phase two is an all-affordable senior apartment community.
However, the newly-appointed members of the Black Homeownership Strike Force who stood beside Bowser criticized the “affordable housing” effort, suggesting that many Black D.C. residents cannot afford to purchase them.
“I need to say congratulations to the homeowners but one of the things that hit me [is] you’ve got 90% sold and a starting price of $600,000,” said the Reverend Graylan Scott Hagler, co-chair of the Homeownership Strike Force and pastor of Plymouth Congregational United Church during the press conference.
“Let’s do the numbers,” he said. “[That] equates to roughly $5,000 a month in principal, interest, taxes and insurance. That’s unaffordable, particularly when you look at a Black community whose median household income is a little over $49,000 in comparison to a median household income of a white community that is $147,000.”
Other representatives of the Strike Force say that they didn’t know the homes behind the press conference podium were starting at $600,000 until talking with reporters.
“I didn’t hear that part. That’s too much, and I don’t think it’s affordable. That’s for middle income. $600,000 is not affordable. We’re going to think of some real policy because that’s too much,” said Anne Ford, co-chair of Neighborhood Legal Services and strategic planning representative with Washington Interfaith Network. Ford lives in a Ward 7 three-bedroom condo that costs about half of that amount.
According to Bowser’s administration, about 34 percent of Black residents in D.C. own their homes versus nearly 49 percent of white residents – a gap that has been attributed to both income and affordability.
The average white household income could afford 71 percent of the homes sold in D.C. between 2016 and 2020, including all homes sold in Wards 7 and 8. The average Black household income could afford 8.4 percent of those same homes.
All the while, the cost of D.C. homes continues to rise. The median home sales price in October 2021 was $675,000, almost a 17 percent increase compared to October 2019. Notably, median single-family homes in D.C. have risen to a price of over $1 million for the first time ever.
Hagler said the D.C. government could have brought down the starting price at Riggs Park Place for prospective homebuyers with lower incomes.
“Yesterday, I ran the numbers. Regular mortgage here starts at $600,000. When they say ‘start’ you know it’s going up from there, right?” he said. “If you take $150,000 of Home Purchase Assistance money to buy down the interest rate or buy down the principal and the interest rate, you end up with $2,500 to $3,000 a month instead of $5,000. That’s a significant difference.”
During the press conference, Jimmy and Nyanda Alexis shared their experience as first-time homebuyers in front of their Riggs Park Place home.
“Being a young couple, the journey of homeownership has been difficult,” Jimmy said. “Acquiring a home is tough as well, be it the pandemic [or] supply chain issues that created delays. We locked in our rates two years ago, so from an interest standpoint it worked out. But we realized a lot of folks have been priced out at the market.”
“This great couple found that maybe they couldn’t afford it separately but they can afford it together,” Bowser said.
During the next 120 days, the Strike Force will design programs and share recommendations for the use of the $10 million Black Homeownership Fund to increase homeownership for Black individuals, couples and multi-generational homeowners in the District by 2030.
The Strike Force is comprised of government and public experts in housing and financial counseling, lending/underwriting, real estate development and services, as well as representatives from the faith-based, senior, immigrant and LGBTQ+ communities and advocates and representatives who address social and racial equity.
Members of the Strike Force include:
Sheila Alexander-Reid, Senior Vice President of Business Development at Bias Sync
S. Kathryn Allen, President of Answer Title (CBE)
Sasha Angus, President and CEO of Manna Inc.
Dedrick Asante-Muhammad, Chief of Membership, Policy and Equity at National Community Reinvestment Coalition
Harrison Beacher, President of the Greater Capitol Area Association of Realtors (GCAAR)
Ellis Carr, President and CEO of Capital Impact Partners and CDC Small Business Finance
Ayana Douglas, Realtor at Compass
Anne Ford, Community Member and Neighborhood Legal Services
Rev. Graylan Scott Hagler, Senior Minister of Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ
Babatunde Oloyede, President and CEO Marshall Heights Community Development Corporation
Joann Savage, Attorney at the Legal Counsel of the Elderly/AARP
Susanne Slater, Co-President and CEO of Habitat for Humanity
Harvey Yancey, Principle at H2 Design Build
District of Columbia Government Representatives
Anita Bonds, Chairperson Committee on Housing and Executive Administration
Rev. Thomas Bowen, Director of the Mayor’s Office of African American and Religious Affairs
Anita Cozart, Interim Director of the Office of Planning
Brenda Donald, Executive Director of the District of Columbia Housing Authority
Chris Donald, Executive Director of the District of Columbia Housing Finance Agency
Amber Hewitt, Director of the Office of Racial Equity
Drew Hubbard, Interim Director of the Department of Housing and Community Development
Karima Woods, Commissioner of the Department of Insurances, Securities and Banking