As development along Rhode Island Avenue and New York Avenue take shape over the next few years, much of DC’s Ward 5 will see major changes. But can these changes draw new residents without displacing existing ones? A key element will be to preserve and expand the availability of affordable housing.

In recent weeks there have been new stories about development along Rhode Island Avenue, the warehouses by Union Market, and of course, Joe Biden’s trip to Costco

Last week, the Housing For All Campaign hosted a town hall meeting on housing in Ward 5. The meeting focused on how to keep existing residents and draw new ones as the housing landscape changes dramatically.

Fortunately, many organizations have had success developing affordable housing in Ward 5.  One of the smallest is Open Arms Housing, which provides permanent housing and wrap-around services to 11 chronically homeless and mentally ill women.

Marilyn Kresky-Wolff is the Director of Open Arms, and she spoke at the Housing Town Hall about the success her program has had in the lives of these women: none of their residents have returned to homelessness. Two of the residents spoke about getting back on their feet and rebuilding their lives.

Open Arms Housing, like many other projects in Ward 5, have succeeded by paying attention to the needs of the community they serve. This was particularly important when they rehabilitated the 258 units at Edgewood Terrace VI, an extensive complex just across Rhode Island Avenue on 4th Street NE. 

In the early 1990s, Edgewood Terrace served as one of the largest drug markets in Washington. Today it is a mixed income apartment community with on site services for residents including adult education, computer training, and day care programs for children. The key ingredient in the outstanding change was the commitment of the developers, Community Preservation and Development Corporation, to tenant engagement in every step of the revitalization process.

In 1995, when the Community Preservation and Development Corporation (CPDC) bought the first section of Edgewood Terrace from HUD, CPDC immediately sat down with tenant association leaders. The relationship between CPDC and the tenants resulted in renovated apartments, as well as common areas for youth programs, job training, computer classes, and community events.

With more people drawn to public spaces and a partnership between CPDC, the tenants, and the Metropolitan Police Department they were able to break up the drug trade. Residents who had once been afraid to venture outside after dark now had reclaimed their community.

Affordable housing developers continue to find solutions to meet the diverse housing needs of the community. Ward 5 residents can look forward to the opening of Metropolitan Overlook, a mixed income condominium on 2nd Street NE, just blocks off of Rhode Island Ave. Rehabbing a property that has sat vacant for 20 years, Metropolitan Overlook will be a 37-unit condominium with 11 permanently affordable units.

Ward 5 will continue to benefit from the investments in affordable housing that build vibrant spaces for current and future District residents.