R Street Apartments: Transit-Oriented Affordable Housing Goes Green

Few neighborhoods in Washington, D.C. have undergone as significant a redevelopment over the last decade as the historic Logan Circle neighborhood in northwest D.C. Once marked by underinvestment and criminal activity, Logan Circle today is home to some of the city’s trendiest restaurants, shops, and theaters. Young professionals flock to the neighborhood due to its many amenities, including its proximity to downtown and multiple public transit options. The neighborhood’s desirability has led to a boom in the construction of luxury condo and apartment buildings.

Located just off Logan Circle’s main drag, 14th Street, is R Street Apartments consisting of five historic buildings that have served as affordable housing for more than for 40 years. R Street Apartments is considered a “walker’s paradise” by Walkscore.com for its convenience to public transportation and other neighborhood amenities. The property is within .25 miles of eight frequently traveled bus routes and .5 miles of three metro rail stations.
Given the demand to live in the Logan Circle neighborhood, R Street Apartments could have easily gone the way of other low-cost apartment buildings in the area that have been converted to expensive condominiums. When R Street Apartment’s previous owners put the property up for sale, residents banded together to save the property by exercising their rights under D.C.’s Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act, which requires owners seeking to sell their rental housing to provide tenants with an opportunity to purchase the property.

Once they executed their TOPA rights with the help of National Housing Trust and Enterprise Preservation Corporation, R Street Apartment’s residents endorsed the redevelopment plan put together by NHT, Enterprise, and their partner, the Hampstead Development Group. The development team put together a financing plan that preserved the property’s affordability for at least another 40 years, while addressing the need for significant physical improvements and enhancing resident services. In the end, a complex mix of financing was required to complete the acquisition and renovation, including Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credits, federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit equity, tax‐exempt bonds, a D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development acquisition loan, a Green Communities grant, and owner capital.

The long-term outcomes will be lower utilities, less maintenance on systems, lower operating costs, and a healthier environment for residents. The improvements includes new windows, new roofs, a new heating and air conditioning system, renovated kitchens and bathrooms, painting, improved site lighting, and a renovated community room. All upgrades were undertaken with an eye toward increasing energy efficiency, minimizing resource consumption, and maintaining the historic character of the buildings.

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