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Vacant and Blighted: A Look at DC’s PADD Program

by Nena Perry-Brown

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Florida Avenue and Q Street NW

A lesser-known tool in DC’s affordable housing-creation arsenal is the city’s Property Acquisition and Disposition Division (PADD), through which a round of vacant and blighted properties might see some action this year.

The Department of Housing and Community Development’s (DHCD) PADD seeks to provide development opportunities for city-controlled vacant and blighted properties. The program was created in 2008 through the consolidation of three initiatives: the Homestead Program, the real estate lottery, and the Home Again initiative.

While there are at least 1,100 verifiably vacant and blighted properties in the District according to the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs’ most recent tallies, 150 of those are under PADD’s purview. According to a source at DHCD, half of those properties are in various stages of disposition and development, whether currently out for Requests for Proposals (RFP), undergoing negotiations for property disposition agreements, or under construction.

PADD bundles proximal and contiguous properties together to offer them up for developers and nonprofits to bid on in hopes of creating additional housing in the city — especially affordable housing at various income levels.

DHCD says that several PADD parcels have been delivered since 2008, including rental and for-sale housing totaling 71 affordable units and 8 market-rate units created since the beginning of this year. Two properties in pre-construction for which disposition agreements either have been or are close to being signed are the Big K site on Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue SE (map) and an 11-parcel stretch of Kramer Street NE (map).

Financing obstacles often caused delays with prior attempts to develop PADD parcels as development teams had to apply for Development Finance Department (DFD) stop-gap funds after being approved. In order to expedite development and give projects a better shot at succeeding, the process is now being coupled with the DFD application process and will also incorporate access to the Housing Production Trust Fund and Community Development Block Grants, where applicable. Starting this year, the PADD RFP application is all electronic, which will streamline the process.

On June 25, PADD properties were bundled into five prospective development parcels in Wards 4, 5, 7 and 8. Proposals for the parcels are due by the afternoon of September 1st and will be awarded 60 days after that deadline. One of the five parcels is a 12,000 square-foot site at Florida Avenue and Q Street NW (map). This particular site was released for RFPs in 2014 but no development team was selected, which a DHCD source attributes to concerns with financial feasibility.

One former applicant which is throwing their hat in the ring for the site is a development team consisting of Maedwell, E and G Group and Bonstra | Haresign Architects. Longtime UrbanTurf readers may remember their proposal from 2014, which Maedwell principal Syga Thomas said was well-received by many in the neighborhood and the ANC, but which did not deliver the family-sized units that DHCD is putting emphasis on this time around.

The improvements made to the PADD application process are part of that broader effort to streamline the city’s ability to ease the strained housing supply through stewardship and productive transformation of undeveloped and underutilized properties.

This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/dc_housing_development_and_the_evolution_of_padd/11389

2 Comments

  1. skidrowedc@gmail.com said at 4:46 pm on Monday June 27, 2016:

    This article, perhaps accidentally, brilliantly illustrates how screwed-up affordable housing efforts are in this country in general and this city in particular.  An insane alphabet soup of agencies are involved, each with its own bureaucratic priorities and inertias, such that every project requires years and years of effort.  Employees so out of touch with productivity that the delivery of “several” parcels since 2008 (that’s 8 years—apparently less than one parcel per year!) and 71 affordable units in a 6-month period is presented as an impressive accomplishment.

    When one includes the soft costs associated with this model of affordable housing creation, one discovers that the creation of affordable housing costs 2 to 3 times as much as market rate housing.  But since practically all of the overrun goes to salaries related to endless red tape (which includes both development company employees who fill out the endless forms and the government employees who review everything, as well as community lenders, grantees, and all the rest) the actual “bricks and mortar” of affordable housing is typically starved of budget. 

    The result?  At best, with a venerable developer like Manna Inc., decent construction (for the residents) and bland architecture (for the public).  At worst, overtly bad architecture and cheap construction. 

    There’s got to be a better way.  In many European countries, the government itself acts as the developer, hiring architects and contractors the same way that a private developer would, but not subject to the maximization of profit that is necessarily central to private development.  Sometimes there are architectural design competitions, with a range of stakeholders including potential future residents on the judging/selection panels.  Often the resulting buildings promote agendas complementary to affordable housing, such as sustainability and architectural advancement. Maybe that model wouldn’t work here.  But it seems like a pilot effort might be worthwhile.  A lot better than the P.R. campaign which seems to be a big part of what PADD actually produces.

  1. Nena Perry-Brown said at 6:17 pm on Monday June 27, 2016:

    @skidrowedc@gmail.com You make some great points, and although it is debatable whether delivery of 79 units of housing within 6 months is an accomplishment, it would be unfair to presume that less than one parcel has been delivered annually since the program’s inception—especially because each site involves the bundling of several parcels. Unfortunately, DHCD wasn’t able to provide us with statistics for the total number of units or parcels delivered.

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