Breaking Ground in DC Affordable Housing | Weinberg Commons

While homelessness across the Metropolitan Washington region has decreased overall, DC reported an astonishing 12.9% increase in homeless individuals and a 25.2% increase in homeless families over the last year alone (Point-in-Time Report 2014). The homelessness crisis is especially surprising in contrast with the recent housing boom. DC’s housing market has been unusually robust, stabilizing during the recession while others crashed and then sky-rocketing afterward. But there is a dark side to the housing boom: as luxury developments and housing costs increase, access to affordable housing decreases.

Today, Transitional Housing Corporation broke ground on The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Commons (Weinberg Commons), a development that aims to ensure 36 formerly homeless and low-income families are no longer

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part of this troubling statistic. 12 of the apartments will be reserved for families in need of Permanent Supportive Housing, and 24 apartments will be affordable housing units for families making between 30-60% of the area median income. Located in Southeast DC, it is also the District of Columbia’s first multi-family passive house project and will open Summer 2015. This innovative endeavor will not only be the first of its kind in the district, it will model the successful integration of sustainability in affordable housing projects to come.

Weinberg Commons Exterior Rendering
Weinberg Commons is a redevelopment guided by the principles of Passive House design. Passive House design refers to a net-zero building that is extremely insulated, heated by passive solar gains, and requires ultra-low energy for space heating or cooling. The benefits are multi-pronged. Not only does this reduce the carbon expenditure during construction and the true environmental costs over a lifetime, it drastically undercuts utility bills as well. This makes such a structure especially valuable to the homeless and low-income families we serve.

Mayor Vincent Gray of Washington, DC attended the groundbreaking to support this innovative, environmental, and greatly-needed housing. The Mayor has articulated a commitment to affordable housing through his Bridges to Opportunity housing strategy which streamlines development processes for these structures. Additionally, Weinberg Commons is a deep energy retro-fit in line with both Mayor Gray’s Sustainable DC plan for renovations and the stringent certification requirements from Passive Housing Institute US. is extremely insulated, heated by passive solar gains, and requires ultra-low energy for space heating or cooling. The benefits are multi-pronged. Not only does this reduce the carbon expenditure during construction and the true environmental costs over a lifetime, it drastically undercuts utility bills as well. This makes such a structure especially valuable to the homeless and low-income families we serve.

Mayor Gray expressed excitement for what the Weinberg Commons will accomplish in Southeast DC and might inspire elsewhere.

There is a growing demand for sustainable development in affordable housing. While up-front costs may be larger, over-time sustainable housing is less costly for residents and the environment. DC is currently facing a homelessness crisis while also experiencing the momentum of sustainability initiatives. Weinberg Commons is an example of the success of merging these two public arenas in a path-breaking partnership. The preserving message of Weinberg commons is egalitarian and environmentally-conscious. As THC’s Executive Director Polly Donaldson reaffirmed, “It says that regardless of income level, sustainable housing can be available for all.”

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Post by Christine Janumala

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