Photograph of the front and side façades of a six-story, mixed-use building.
Photograph of the interior of an apartment showing a living area and an adjacent bedroom.
Photograph of a trellis-covered courtyard with tables, seating, an outdoor fireplace, and landscaping.
Photograph of a courtyard surrounded by a five-story building and featuring a swimming pool, a sitting area covered with a pergola, and an uncovered sitting area with an outdoor fireplace.
Photograph of a kitchen with a two-tier island lined with six chairs on one side.

 

Home >Case Studies >Howard University Benefits Community through Affordable Housing Developments

 

Howard University Benefits Community through Affordable Housing Developments

 

Howard University has been actively addressing housing needs in LeDroit Park, a predominantly African-American neighborhood in the District of Columbia abutting the campus of the historically black university. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the Howard University Community Association and university real estate advisors partnered with for-profit and nonprofit entities to improve public infrastructure and housing opportunities for employees and low- and moderate-income residents of the neighborhood through housing assistance programs and redevelopment and renovation projects. The university also created a land bank from the unoccupied buildings that it had purchased in the 1970s and 1980s during the expansion of its hospital. To combat rising housing costs, Howard decided to redevelop the underutilized land to improve its surroundings and provide affordable housing for university faculty, staff, and graduate students. To avoid the risks of development projects, the university explored partnerships with outside developers while retaining ownership of the land. In one such partnership, for-profit developers RISE and Gateway Investment Partners transformed 1.3 acres of university-owned land into a mixed-use development. Opened in October 2018, Trellis House offers 319 apartments and 11,517 square feet of retail space in a 6-story building.

Private Investment in Affordable Housing

Before redevelopment, this site contained six townhouses and a two-story industrial building in addition to lots that had sat vacant for more than 25 years. The studio, one-, and two-bedroom rental units at Trellis House include 36 affordable units; 27 units were created through the District of Columbia’s inclusionary zoning program and are available to low-income households, and 9 units are reserved for Howard University faculty, staff, and graduate students. Among these affordable units, 6 are reserved for households earning up to 60 percent of the area median income (AMI), and 30 are reserved for those earning up to 80 percent of AMI (table 1). Fifty of the market-rate units are set aside for those affiliated with Howard University, and 233 units are open to the public.

Table 1. Residential Units of Trellis House by Bedroom and Housing Affordability

Total units

319

Market-rate units

283

Affordable units

36

Inclusionary zoning units

Studio

1 Bedroom

2 Bedrooms

60% of AMI

0

0

4

4

80% of AMI

21

1

1

23

Subtotal

21

1

5

27

Affordable units reserved for Howard University

Studio

1 Bedroom

2 Bedrooms

60% of AMI

0

0

2

2

80% of AMI

4

3

0

7

Subtotal

4

3

2

9

Common amenities include a fitness center, a game room, and outside the building, a 12,000-square-foot courtyard, a rooftop garden, a swimming pool, grilling stations, and electric car charging stations. Residents also have access to concierge services, yoga classes, a pet spa, and a dining room with a Sub-Zero test kitchen equipped to broadcast video cooking demonstrations. The ground floor features retail space that will be occupied by health and wellness providers and coffee shops.

The $97 million development was financed entirely through private loans and used no public subsidies. The developers signed a 50-year ground lease with Howard University that can be extended for two 25-year terms. When the lease expires, Howard will take possession of the building and other improvements.

Community Benefits

Trellis House required approvals from the District of Columbia Zoning Commission and the National Capital Planning Commission in a process that took approximately 18 months for rezoning and closing public alleys as well as other approvals. For the rezoning, the zoning commission approved a consolidated planned unit development that gave the developers modifications from several zoning requirements in exchange for community benefits. Through negotiations involving the university, the developers, and neighborhood representatives, the community benefits agreement addresses ways to augment the Trellis House project to address community concerns.

To address affordable housing concerns, the Trellis House project sets aside 11 percent of its residential floor area for affordable units; the District of Columbia’s inclusionary zoning program requires only 8 percent. The project also sets aside larger affordable units for families that need more space. The negotiated environmental benefits for the building included Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Gold certification, with features such as a vegetative green roof that filters and stores stormwater for reuse. Employment benefits include 50 scholarships to train residents living within 1.5 miles of the site as heating, ventilation, and air conditioning technicians. The developers also agreed to provide several other benefits, including upgrades to community rooms at nearby public housing communities.

Continued University Revitalization Efforts

Trellis House demonstrates one way of providing affordable housing options in a neighborhood experiencing rising housing costs and rapid gentrification. The transformation of underutilized land avoided severe displacement issues, and the new mixed-use development contributes to and diversifies tax revenues. Howard University continues to work with developers to redevelop its vacant lots and buildings using the ground-lease model. The university has recently signed ground leases for two nonprofit community development corporations, Urban Investment Partners and the Neighborhood Development Corporation, to convert two unoccupied dormitories, Carver Hall and Lucy Diggs Slowe Hall, into residential properties. The projects will provide affordable housing opportunities as well as scholarships and internships for Howard students.


 

Source:

Interview with Maybelle Bennett, director of the Howard University Community Association, 16 October 2018; Interview with Charles E. Frazier, Jr., managing principal at Gateway Investment Partners, 15 October 2018; Initiative for a Competitive Inner City. n.d. "Howard University’s Strategic Anchor Engagement Continues to Benefit D.C.’s LeDroit Park Neighborhood." Accessed 13 November 2018.

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Source:

Interview with Charles E. Frazier, Jr., managing principal at Gateway Investment Partners, 15 October 2018; District of Columbia Department of Housing and Community Development. n.d. "IZ Projects — Trellis House." Accessed 5 November 2018; Bozzuto. n.d. "Trellis House: Features + Amenities." Accessed 5 November 2018.

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Source:

Interview with Charles E. Frazier, Jr., managing principal at Gateway Investment Partners, 15 October 2018; Bozutto. n.d. "Trellis House: Features + Amenities." Accessed 5 November 2018.

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Source:

Interview with Maybelle Bennett, director of the Howard University Community Association, 16 October 2018; Interview with Charles E. Frazier, Jr., managing principal at Gateway Investment Partners, 15 October 2018; Email correspondence from Charles E. Frazier, Jr., 8 November 2018.

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Source:

Interview with Maybelle Bennett, director of the Howard University Community Association, 16 October 2018; Interview with Charles E. Frazier, Jr., managing principal at Gateway Investment Partners, 15 October 2018; District of Columbia Office of Zoning. 2015. "Zoning Commission Order No. 14-21." Accessed 5 November 2018.

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Source:

Interview with Maybelle Bennett, director of the Howard University Community Association, 16 October 2018; District of Columbia Office of Zoning. 2015. "Zoning Commission Order No. 14-21." Accessed 5 November 2018.

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Source:

Interview with Maybelle Bennett, director of the Howard University Community Association, 16 October 2018; Interview with Charles E. Frazier, Jr., managing principal at Gateway Investment Partners, 15 October 2018; Urban Investment Partners. 2017. "UIP to Convert Two Howard Residence Halls to Apartments," news, 5 September. Accessed 5 November 2018.

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