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“Four Years, $13 Million and Dozens of Hands”: MarketWatch Dives Deep Into LISC’s Work in D.C.

A deeply-reported MarketWatch article unpacks the incredibly complex process of creating affordable housing by profiling an apartment complex in Washington D.C. that LISC has helped preserve. Extensive interviews with our CEO, LISC D.C. executive director Ramon Jacobson and senior program officer Adam Kent are at the heart of this emblematic story of how we bring together private and public capital partners with developers and residents, and work to empower people to stay in the places they call home. A must read.

The excerpt below is from:
Four years, $13 million and dozens of hands: How ‘affordable housing’ gets made in America
By Andrea Riquier, MarketWatch

Jennifer Sumler has lived in her apartment building on Cedar Street in the Takoma section of Washington, D.C., for her entire life, but the sound she heard one late November evening a few years ago was like nothing she’d ever experienced.

“All of a sudden the sky got dark and there was a ‘Wizard of Oz’ moment,” recalled Sumler, who’s 50. “Leaves started to whip up. There was this ferocious wind. Then there was this noise. It was loud and really otherworldly.”

As sirens blared, she and several neighbors gathered outside in the leafy courtyard. Through the rain, they could see the source of that horrible noise: a huge portion of the roof had been ripped off.

410 Cedar St. in Washington, D.C. Photo credit W. Kyle Tangney, Herb Schwat, Greysteel
410 Cedar St. in Washington, D.C. Photo credit W. Kyle Tangney, Herb Schwat, Greysteel

The freak storm that night in 2016 displaced more than just the roof. Several neighbors were never to return. But for Sumler and a few others, it marked a turning point. Over the next few years, they’d make the journey from discontented renters to affordable-housing advocates, resolved to keep 410 Cedar St. accessible to people of moderate means for generations to come.

Nearly three years later, they’re not done. The financing to repair and renovate the 30-unit building has only now been agreed to and will take another year to finalize. By the time that happens, dozens of parties will have had a hand in the project: developers, community organizers, government workers, bankers, regulators, lawyers, property managers, a historical consultant, lobbyists, investors and more.

The story of 410 Cedar St. isn’t just the story of one Washington, D.C., building; it’s the story of how America creates “affordable housing” — and why it’s so incredibly hard. Anytime a project comes together, it’s thanks to a patchwork quilt of the public purse, private funding, regulatory incentives, tax quirks and even exceptional individuals like Sumler. Those involved aren’t necessarily working against gentrification as much as working toward safe, stable, affordable housing, sometimes one neighborhood, one block or one unit at a time.

“It’s great that we have all these millennials and people moving into D.C. and we’re seeing restaurants and night life pop,” said Gerry Joseph, the real-estate developer whom the Cedar Street tenants eventually hired. “But you can’t do it all at the expense of the people who’ve been here their whole lives. It’s important to try to save as many of [these older buildings] as we can. We’re not going to save them all.”

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