Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Miracle at the Summit: Mixed-income affordable housing opens for families and adults in DC

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Looking for a modern day miracle? What if we told you that during a recession, a building with 178 units of high-quality construction and beautiful design had just opened in a great neighborhood in the District – and that every single unit would rent at an affordable rate to families and individuals on modest incomes? 
We think that counts as a miracle – can we get an amen?

Last month, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, in close partnership with the DC government and several private supporters, cut the ribbon to officially open The Summit at St. Martin’s. In doing so, more than 125 gathered supporters celebrated the success of a crucial community effort to tell families high-quality housing could also be affordable housing.

The Summit opens at a time when 33 percent of children live beneath the poverty line in the nation’s capital. We know already that good and affordable housing is central to the life and strength of a family – families can provide more opportunities for their children and ensure healthy meals are on the dinner table each night when they do not have to spend a disproportionate amount of their income on rent.

Located in the Eckington neighborhood, each of its 178 beautiful apartments (check out the photos on our Facebook page if you don’t believe us) are set aside for families and individuals who have an income, but still cannot afford many of the neighborhoods in the city. The land, owned by St. Martin of Tours Catholic Church through the Archdiocese of Washington, was leased to the project for $1 for 99 years.

The Summit provides the community mixed-income, affordable housing by reserving 128 units for working families who earn up to 60 percent of the Area Media Income (AMI, as defined by HUD). The remaining 50 units will go to individuals who earn up to 30 percent AMI. The annual rate for a 2-bedroom apartment at the complex falls well below the $2,000 ballpark rate for the Washington region.

“The Summit at St. Martin’s is a natural extension of our work and mission at Catholic Charities – helping families with opportunity to break the cycle of poverty with serves that reflect the dignity within each of us,” said Ed Orzechowski, President and CEO of Catholic Charities. “Having worked through the full spectrum of housing – from emergency shelters to transitional to permanent supportive housing, we know that housing is central to serving the family in a meaningful way.”

In 2004, Catholic Charities began exploring the notion of creating an affordable housing on the site of the St. Martin’s Convent, which at the time housed a single room occupancy program for formerly homeless men. Groundbreaking took place in November of 2008. In January of 2009, the St. Martin’s convent was moved intact more than 200 feet to be incorporated into the new building – check out still-frame video of that amazing feat here. And as of October 2010, families are moving in to their new home.

Pictured above: Cardinal-designate Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, is joined by Mayor-elect Vince Gray, Councilmembers Harry Thomas Jr. and Michael Brown and Catholic Charities President and CEO Ed Orzechowski in cutting the ribbon.

Look for more posts about affordable housing issues here in the near future. If you have any thoughts on the Summit, send us an email at

Media Coverage! Check out some of the great media coverage from the ribbon cutting ceremony – NBC 4 has video and the Washington Post ran a Metro section story as well.