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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Affordable and Energy Efficient Housing?

Looking for affordable housing in DC?  It’s no secret that it’s hard to find. And energy-efficient affordable housing is an even rarer commodity.  Now, the 34Fifty project located in Ward 7’s River Terrace Community is responding to this very real need. The groundbreaking for this new development located at 3450 Eads St. NE occurred in July, and when completed in mid-2024, it will consist of 49 family-sized one, two, and three bedroom rental units. A joint venture by 34Fifty LLC, in conjunction with The Neighborhood Development Company LLC and its many partners, 34Fifty will be the District’s first Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC), Net-Zero Ready, Passive House Institute Certified (PHIUS) affordable housing development.

So what do all these designations mean for 34Fifty’s eventual tenants?

  • The LIHTC program provides financing to developers to develop low-income housing.
  • Net-Zero Ready means that the building is sufficiently energy efficient that its renewable energy system can offset most or all of the building’s annual energy use.
  • PHIUS certification means that the building is designed to reduce energy use and attain zero-energy use building standards.
The 34Fifty groundbreaking event in July was well-attended. Photo: The Neighborhood Development Company

All of these designations result in a reduced overall cost to you—the renter.  The developers at 34Fifty, LLC are proud of the energy and cost-saving features of the project.  Michela Cancel, Senior Vice President of the Neighborhood Development Company notes, “When completed, there will be a green roof and 450 solar panels installed on the building.  The green roof will help insulate the building and reduce runoff while the solar panels will offset more than 50 percent of the building’s annual energy use. The building will also have a geothermal heating and cooling system that further reduces energy costs. This “free” solar and geothermal energy helps us reduce the rent that tenants are charged.”

In addition to solar and geothermal energy, the 34Fifty complex includes several other environmental features that translate into cost-savings and a healthier environment for tenants.  All electric appliances including Energy Star electric stoves, washer/dryer and water heaters in each unit mean less emissions and better air quality throughout the building. (When cooking on gas stoves, nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is released and can have harmful health impacts.) Michela notes, “We’ve also included amenities such as a bicycle storage room and a recycling area in the complex.  And we have a large community center in the building. We’re doing what we can to ensure that 34Fifty provides an affordable, as well as a healthy, safe, and sustainable home for DC residents.” In addition to its many energy and cost-saving features, the 34Fifty complex is ideally located.  The Minnesota Avenue (orange line) metro station and the Benning Road NE Safeway are only 12-minute walks away while the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail, recreation center, and tennis courts are just down the street from the development.

Rent for the one, two, and three bedroom units is based off of DC’s Department of Housing and Community Development Published Rents and the Federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit Rent Limits for the Area Median Income (AMI). The building has rental units that range in price from 30% AMI to 80% AMI and include utilities—water and electricity.  And, in line with the DC Tenants Bill of Rights, 34Fifty will accept full or partial payment through DC or Federal housing assistance vouchers. Tenants will need to pay for their own phone and internet services.

DC Ward 7 Councilmember Vincent Gray is pleased to see developments like 34Fifty coming to Ward 7 and would like to see more such developments across the District. As DC Mayor from 2011-2015, his administration oversaw the development of the first Sustainable DC plan (https://sustainable.dc.gov/). He notes, “The 34Fifty development represents a big step forward in delivering more affordable housing to Ward 7, but also in setting a new standard for sustainable, energy efficient living that contributes to livability and reduces our collective impact on the environment. A sustainable DC was a hallmark of my mayoralty. To see yet another innovative building take root is a milestone in the continuum of our goal of ubiquitous green construction and sustainable living across the city.“

So, if you’re looking for affordable and energy efficient housing in DC, check out 34Fifty. And here’s hoping that similar housing projects will be popping up across the District.

Catherine Plume is a lifelong environmentalist, a writer, and an active member of the Sierra Club DC Chapter. Perspectives expressed are her own and do not necessarily represent the positions of that organization.

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