Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The Skinny on Low Income Housing at St. Martins

The St. Martins proposed 184 room development has been a community wide issue for the last year. This topic was picked up by the Washinton Business Journal last week. For those without a subscription, the full text is in the comments section.

Below is a response to the article from a local Eckington resident who has been active in this debate. The following was taken from our local listserv.

"In response to Father Kelly’s quote in the Washington Business Journal, OK, let’s not be misinformed. We’ve gone through the salary information for police, firemen, teachers, and social workers before and most affordable housing studies put them in a group NOT covered in LIHTC funded apartments (like St. Martin’s). They are the middle class “forgotten group”. Too high an income for public funded housing, and too low an income to actually afford a home (80% AMI).

But let’s look at the numbers. I gathered this information almost one year ago so they may need minor adjustment. I’ve listed all of the sources for the following salary information, so if they are misinforming me please let them know.

DC Salary information
(From the Danter company’s market feasibility study for the Low Income Housing Tax Credit program):

2005 County Median Income for the District of Columbia is $89300

The chart below lists the maximum combined incomes for groups of family members in a household. Since those salaries are shared by household residents I have added the last column which shows what these numbers mean per person.

One Person: $37,500 $37,500 per person
Two Persons: $42,840 $21,420 per person
Three Persons: $48,240 $16,080 per person
Four Persons: $53,580 $13,395 per person

Note that the larger the number, the LESS money per person. So when you see the statement, “working people who make between $30,000 and $54,000 a year,” it becomes clear that an individual making $43,000 will be turned down for residence in St. Martin’s or any other LIHTC funded project unless they have 2 non-income dependents to become a household of 3 sharing the $43,000.

Salaries of DC Police, Firemen, Teachers, and Social Workers

OK, now lets look at the average salaries of the working DC professionals used as examples of the type of people they want to attract into their complex. Consider that most of this is old information (I posted it last year and it was old then) so it is very likely that these salary levels have gone up.

Teacher Salaries (From the NEA Rankings and Estimates report dated June 2005):
Average salaries of public school teachers, 2003–04 District of Columbia : $57,009

The average Teacher would not qualify to rent in the St. Martins complex unless they were the only working person in a five-person family. Although not impossible, it’s not likely.

Police Officer Salaries (From the website):
What is the starting salary for police officers in the MPDC?
The starting salary for police officers is $44,611 a year. After 18 months of service, most police officers can expect to earn a base salary of approximately $48,809 a year. Lateral officers' starting salaries range from $46,842 to a maximum of $65,907, depending on their previous experience.

The starting Police officer would not qualify to rent in the St. Martins complex unless they were the only working person in a three-person family. If they had 18 months of service they would need to be the only working person in a four-person family to qualify. If in that 4 person family they had a child with a part time job it is likely they would not qualify at all.

Fire Service District of Columbia Salary Schedule: ( Union )
Class 01 (the lowest salary class of 9 classes) - Private Base Annual Salary October 3, 2004 $40,156 $41,361 $43,368 $45,376 $48,187 $50,999 $53,810 $56,619 $59,432

The lowest salary of a starting Fireman would not qualify to rent in the St. Martins complex unless they were the only working person in a two-person family. If they were in the middle of the Class 1 range they would need to be the only working person in a family of three. And this data is from 2004!

Social Worker Salaries (From a job posting):
Government Of The District of Columbia
Position Vacancy Announcement
Child And Family Services Agency
Human Resources Administration
Announcement No: Cfsa-05-P012 Position: Social Worker (Trainer),
DS-185-9/11/ 12
Salary Range: DS-185-09 $45,721 - $57,079 PA
First Screening Date: DS-185-11 $52,078 - $65,803 PA

The lowest paid Social Worker filling this position would not qualify to rent in the St. Martins complex unless they were the only working person in a three-person family.

ALL of these professionals would make too much money to qualify to live in the St. Martins complex if they were single or had a working spouse or child.

What does all this mean?

Well for one, it means it’s not likely to have many police, firemen, teachers, and social workers residing in the complex. Is that the issue? No, not really. But it does mean that those who planned the St. Martin ’s apartments have not thought it out very well and have no idea who their market is; or it is intentional deception to appease a neighborhood. Either of these situations concerns me.

It also concerns me that they (CCS/St. Martin’s) have seen all of this information, and heard all of our concerns. But expressions like the one in the WBJ show that they still don’t understand them. How can they run a huge apartment complex when after a year of listening to community concerns, they still get them wrong?

What is the Issue?

Any large housing complex, outrageously expensive or affordable, should be built on the edge of R-4 zoned areas on major streets, not in the middle. Otherwise they should conform to zoning (with potential minor variances).

An affordable housing complex so large that it takes up an entire city block is a community within a community. Without an appropriate mix of unrestricted housing the complex is a form of economic segregation. Also, without a financially motivating amount of market rate apartments, the complex will not have to compete and keep to market rate standards.

Bottom line – We need affordable housing. We don’t need to hear about police, firemen, teachers, and social workers because it is clear that this complex and all other LIHTC funded projects will continue to treat them as a “forgotten group”. That does not mean that others won’t be served, but we can build it without compromising reasonable zoning regulations or ripping down potentially historic landmarks. Also, we should follow modern mixed-income best practices. The newest should be better then all that came before."


PalacePool said...

Church, D.C. residents spar over affordable housing
Washington Business Journal - August 25, 2006
by Sean Madigan
Senior Staff Reporter

Though they live in a city facing an affordable-housing crisis, some residents in D.C.'s Eckington neighborhood are demanding more expensive housing.

Over the past year, St. Martin's Catholic Church has been working with Catholic Community Services to build a 184-unit apartment building on a hill behind McKinley Technology High School in Northeast.

The church, which has owned a large strip of land along T Street NE since the 1920s, wants to build affordable housing. But some neighborhood residents say they don't want a dense concentration of that type of housing and are asking the church to rent about 35 percent of the units at market rates.

During the past five years, city planners have embraced a philosophy that calls for tearing down high concentrations of below-market- rate housing and replacing them with mixed-income housing. At the same time, planners and zoning officials are working out details of a law that will require affordable housing to be included in nearly every new privately financed apartment or condominium project in the city.

In Eckington, an area that has suffered years of disinvestment and only recently began to benefit from the city's strong real estate market, some people are afraid that a large below-market housing project is a step backward in a neighborhood that is already providing for the needs of the less fortunate with homeless shelters and drug-recovery clinics.

"We are doing more than our fair share," says Eartha Isaac, president of the Eckington Community Association.

The Rev. Michael Kelley, who has been the parish priest at St. Martin's for 14 years, says worried residents have nothing to be afraid of.

"There's a lot of misinformation floating around," he says.

Kelley says the $31 million project will house about 50 formerly homeless men who are working to become productive members of society. It will also include 134 units for people earning about $30,000 to $54,000 a year -- cops, firefighters, teachers and social workers.

The church is combining its land, which Kelley estimates is worth $4 million to $6 million, with low-income tax credits to finance the deal.

The phrase "low-income" is causing neighbors like Isaac heartburn. But Kelley says it's a relative term in a wealthy D.C. economy because in most parts of the country people earning $40,000 a year are middle class.

"It's almost like a war of words in a sense," he says.

Kelley is open to adding more expensive units but says the numbers will have to work with the tax-credit requirements.

Separately, the church is trying to resolve a dispute with historic preservation officials who want it to save an 83-year-old convent building currently being used by men who were once homeless.

Mari said...

I was chatting with a friend and I remembered her mentioning how much a social worker friend made. $35K. Because said person is doesn't have her license. When confirming the salary with friend, she said that there is a whole slew of people employed by DC and non-profits who are unlicesed who interview clients, do the paperwork and deal with clients, leaving weighter stuff like child protective services to the licensed people. The unlicensed people, $30Kish. So maybe that's who St. Martins is talking about. I don't doubt the teacher salaries, as uncertified (& lower paid)people really don't need to be in a struggling crappy school system. And police, probably higher than what's stated due to overtime.
If we honestly want police, firemen and teachers to live in DC, maybe we should directly ask why they don't and not assume affordability is the #1 reason. They may live in the 'burbs because of schools, because of their spouses' job, because they wanted a yard, because they wanted to live somewhere quiet, because they find the city to cramped, because of the taxes, any number of reasons. So have we asked? And if not, why not?