Skip to main content

Washington, D.C.: City Incentives Spur Affordable Senior Housing and Preserve a Historic Structure

Photograph of the front of a four-story brick building with windows arranged along the length of each story.
Corner view of a four-story brick building with a pocket park on one side and a public sidewalk in the foreground.
Interior of a community activity room with a pool table in the foreground, various seating arrangements and a wall-mounted television.
Aerial photograph of The Appleton in the context of the Petworth neighborhood of Washington, D.C.


Home > Case Studies > Washington, D.C.: City Incentives Spur Affordable Senior Housing and Preserve a Historic Structure


Washington, D.C.: City Incentives Spur Affordable Senior Housing and Preserve a Historic Structure


Facing a growing need for affordable housing, Washington, D.C., has used its Housing Production Trust Fund, the OurRFP program, and other funding tools to encourage the development of new housing for low- and moderate-income households. By streamlining the disposition of city-owned properties and expediting zoning changes for by-right development, the OurRFP program helps advance affordable housing projects. Given the demand for housing in Washington and the lack of available land, finding sites for large housing developments is difficult. Spring Flats, which sits on a 3.3-acre site in the city's Petworth neighborhood, has been realized in three separate affordable housing developments that also offer community assets and supportive services. The first of these developments is The Appleton, a 4-story structure offering 88 units of affordable housing for seniors along with permanent supportive housing for people previously experiencing homelessness. The Appleton, an adaptive reuse of the historic Hebrew Home for the Aged, originally built in 1925, was completed with support from the Housing Production Trust Fund and two Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (ANCs), which are hyperlocal representative bodies within the city's governing structure. In addition to providing housing, this energy-efficient project connects aging residents with onsite services in a neighborhood rich in transit connections. The mixed-income campus of Spring Flats includes homeownership and rental opportunities and adds vitality to the neighborhood and the surrounding area.

The Appleton at Spring Flats

Opened in 2022, The Appleton is one of 3 developments that make up Spring Flats, which offers 185 units of rental and ownership housing in Petworth. The other Spring Flats projects besides The Appleton are The Robeson, 87 mixed-income rental units developed on the site of a former school, and The Rows, 10 townhome-style condominium units. The building that is now The Appleton originally served Jewish seniors from 1925 until the 1960s; the building then became a city-owned mental health facility for persons experiencing homelessness until 2009, when it became vacant.

The Appleton's 88 affordable apartments are age-restricted for seniors and are affordable to households earning up to 60 percent of the area median income (AMI), with 14 units reserved for households earning between 51 and 60 percent of AMI, 44 units reserved for households earning between 31 and 50 percent of AMI, and 30 units reserved for households earning no more than 30 percent of AMI. The development has 75 one-bedroom units and 13 two-bedroom units. The developers reconfigured the interior while maintaining the original building footprint, preserving the exterior brickwork, and saving ornamental details such as the building's Star of David windows and terra cotta bas-relief. After consulting with the District of Columbia State Historic Preservation Office, the building's original windows were restored based on historic photographs, replacing commercial windows installed in the 1970s. The Appleton, which achieved LEED Gold certification, features ENERGY STAR® appliances and light fixtures along with high-efficiency heating and cooling features. A Metrorail station is a 5-minute walk from The Appleton, offering residents access to regional services and attractions. Metrobus routes are also nearby.

The Appleton's supportive services and community amenities benefit residents and the larger community. Interior spaces reserved for residents include a fitness room, business center, a penthouse community room, a central courtyard with flowerbeds and bench seating, and a rooftop terrace. The development reserves 14 units as permanent supportive housing for individuals who have previously experienced homelessness. The city's Department of Human Services and Catholic Charities coordinate onsite supportive services for the residents of these units. Additional services available at the development such as monthly health seminars, blood pressure screenings, computer classes, group exercise classes, physical therapy, and social events such as communal breakfasts help residents age in place. A small accessible park features a sculpture by a local artist. Local community associations and nonprofit organizations can reserve a large community room in the adjacent Robeson development for meetings and other events.

Community Engagement Process

Development of The Appleton and the larger Spring Flats project began in 2016 as part of a city initiative to redevelop publicly owned land. The project was considered a good candidate for the program because of its historic status and its location on the border between two city wards. A series of community engagement meetings initiated as part of the city's OurRFP program, including an initial public workshop meeting, an online engagement forum, and a follow-up public meeting, attracted more than 200 attendees and 225 unique online responses. Neighborhood residents advocated for affordability, sustainable design in both the building materials and public space, historic preservation, mixed-income rental and homeownership opportunities, ADA-compliant units, and units reserved for seniors. This community perspective informed the final request for proposals for Spring Flats that was issued in 2016, leading to the selection of the development team of Victory Housing, Brinshore Development, and Bank of America Community Development Corporation. Two local ANCs and the Washington Interfaith Network endorsed the vision of the development team that ultimately was awarded the project agreement.

The project realizes multiple community and city government goals and priorities. According to Leila Finucane, president and chief executive officer for Victory Housing, the project satisfies a particularly critical need for senior affordable housing, which is evident in the demand for units when the project opened: "The Appleton at Spring Flats represents the collective vision of Victory Housing, Brinshore Development, and Bank of America Community Development Corporation to convert a previously dilapidated, vacant building [into] safe, decent, affordable housing for seniors. Working in concert with the local community, the team was able to serve lower-income seniors who have few options, which is demonstrated by the fact that the community received 232 applications for 88 units when leasing began."


The $29.9 million project relied on 4 and 9 percent federal low-income housing tax credits in addition to city support in the form of a loan through the Housing Production Trust Fund and tax-exempt bonds. Despite the building's listing in the National Register of Historic Places, The Appleton did not use historic tax credits.

Table 1. Financing for The Appleton at Spring Flats

Federal Housing Administration loan proceeds $10,129,500
Subordinate debt from the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development 4,332,916
Deferred developer fee 1,316,319
Sponsor loan 125,000
Low-income housing tax credit equity 14,028,086
Total $29,931,821

An Award-Winning Project That Addresses City Needs

The Appleton at Spring Flats has helped Washington, D.C., advance its goal of producing more affordable housing in transit-oriented developments. For its sustainable development of transit-oriented, affordable housing on an underutilized historic site, The Appleton received the 2022 Advisory Council on Historic Preservation/HUD Secretary's Award for Excellence in Historic Preservation and the 2023 District of Columbia Historic Preservation Review Board Chair's Award.

This article was written by Sage Computing, Inc, under contract with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The contents of this article are the views of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development or the U.S. Government.