How Can I Learn About Affordable Units in DC's New Buildings?

  • February 13th 2015

by Lark Turner

How Can I Learn About Affordable Units in DC's New Buildings?: Figure 1
The Aria on L includes units that are designated affordable.

UrbanTurf was recently contacted by a reader wanting to know how to find out about affordable residential units in a brand-new building before they’ve started leasing.

I have a question regarding new buildings and how to find out about their ADUs while they are pre-leasing. Is there a way to find out ahead of time how many units they will have and the income limits?

From a developer’s perspective, there are two main types of affordable housing in DC: affordable dwelling units (ADUs) and inclusionary zoning (IZ) units. IZ units exist in certain zoning districts and are generally part of a negotiation between the developer and the city, where the developer agrees to set aside a certain number of units in a development and designate them as affordable (often in exchange for a zoning exception or similar compromise with the city). An ADU is a specific affordable unit, usually with a covenant running along with it for a certain number of years.

Though both are affordable housing, they’re managed in different ways by the city. If you want to rent an affordable dwelling unit, owners are required to list them on a website owned by the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) called DC Housing Search. You won’t have to get on a waitlist to rent an ADU — these rentals are first-come, first-serve, according to DHCD’s Brian White, who supports the office’s inclusionary zoning program.

IZ units are different, and are more likely the kind of units our reader is asking about. Large new developments in DC are frequently constructed after undergoing a planned-unit development process through the Zoning Commission, and include inclusionary zoning requirements. The only way to learn how many will be available would be to follow the Zoning Commission process closely (not necessarily practical for the average person) or contact the building manager around pre-leasing time. But even that won’t get you a unit.

To be eligible for an IZ unit, which are managed by DHCD, you’ll have to register with the agency and get on a waitlist. Then, when units become available — developers are required to let the city know as soon as they are — DHCD will send out an email to the waitlist asking who’s interested in the property, and those that are interested will be entered in the lottery for that unit. DC residents are given priority, followed by DC workers; others come in third. The size of your household (you can be single) won’t play a role, White said, but it may determine what kind of units you can afford.

For example, in the Aria at 300 L Street NE (map), a one-bedroom IZ unit is currently available for households making up to 80 percent of the area median income (AMI). The rent for the affordable one-bedroom is $1,547 a month, and a single person can’t make more than around $60,000 to be eligible, while couples could be making more like $70,000 combined.

This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/how_can_i_learn_about_affordable_units_in_new_buildings/9532.

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