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 dc.gov 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),
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."