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Douglass Community Land Trust to Spur Housing at New Reeves Center

The Douglass Community Land Trust, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Washington, D.C., and the Reeves CMC Venture, will build affordable housing at the soon-to-be redeveloped Frank D. Reeves Center of Municipal Affairs in Northwest.

The Douglass Community Land Trust (DCLT), launched in September 2019 to manage properties as a nonprofit entity and to create community-based affordable housing in conjunction with the 11th Street Bridge development along the Anacostia River. Its mission: Prevent displacement of District residents, create community-held assets and build homeownership opportunities for singles and families, according to its website.

Although focused on neighborhoods east of the river — with its The Savannah Apartments in the Congress Heights area of Ward 8 — DCLT now targets western parts of the city and currently works with the District government on an affordable housing project located at Lebanon Village at Langston Slater in Truxton Circle in Northwest.

The renovated Reeves Center, is to include 628 units of mixed-income affordable housing units mainly for families, a new national headquarters for the NAACP, the Alvin Ailey School, the Washington Jazz Arts Institute and space for small businesses and nonprofits.

Vaughn Perry, a DCLT board member, said his organization wants more affordable housing in the District.

“There is a major housing crisis in Washington,” Perry said. “There is no single approach to alleviate the crisis. We want to make sure that people aren’t priced out of the city. While we have been known to work east of the river, we focus on the entire Douglass Commonwealth. We like the Reeves Center project because it provides homeownership opportunities and the chance to get involved in retail, which is an area we are looking into.”

Perry realizes the housing stock in the U Street area, where the Reeves Center sits, is known for being expensive. He said the goal for the housing units in the Reeves Center will be to set housing prices at 50 percent of the average median income in the Washington region, which translates roughly to $63,000.

The chance to build affordable housing in a well-known development project attracted Habitat to the Reeves Center effort.

“It was too delicious an opportunity to pass up,” Corrine McIntosh Douglas, a Habitat board member, said. “We see it as a chance to have arts and homeownership in the space for now and for generations to come. We are very happy to be working with the Douglass Community Land Trust on this.”

McIntosh agreed with Perry that District residents should be able to live in the city with affordable housing.

“We want to make sure people who make $63,000 a year aren’t relegated to living in apartments,” she said.

Simone Goring Devaney, the managing principal of CSG Urban Partners and the force behind Reeves CMC, the primary re-developer of the Reeves Center, said the affordable housing units fall into the mission and purpose of the new facility.

“We are redeveloping the Reeves Center the way it should be,” Devaney said. “We are looking forward to bringing arts organizations to the center and to the neighborhood. It will be great to have the Alvin Ailey School and the Washington Jazz Arts Institute. We want to bring back ‘Black Broadway’ which is what U Street was known for from the early part to the mid-20th century.”

Ginger Rumph, DCLT executive director, said the organization got involved in the Reeves Center project with an eye toward the future.

“We want to make sure these are affordable units into perpetuity,” she said. “We must think about the generations to come.”

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