Nonprofit finally begins Maycroft affordable housing project

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The Maycroft apartment building is located at 1474 Columbia Road NW. (Brian Kapur/The Current/September 2017)

After six years and a number of hurdles, affordable housing nonprofit Jubilee in July kicked off a $42 million renovation of the Maycroft apartment building in Columbia Heights, with 64 units and ground-floor commercial space slated to open in fall 2018. Residents of the Maycroft, located at 1474 Columbia Road NW, have been temporarily relocated to housing nearby.

When the Maycroft was acquired by Jubilee in 2011, it was clear the 100-year-old building “just needed to be gutted,” the nonprofit’s Martin Mellett said in an interview. Structural problems included a broken elevator and lead-ridden walls, Mellett said.

The 64 apartments will accommodate different levels of need. According to Mellett, 41 units will house families at or below 30 percent of the area median income, and 15 units have been set aside for formerly homeless families. In accordance with Jubilee’s general policy, Mellett said, no more than 30 percent of residents’ income will go toward rent.

Meanwhile, local nonprofit Martha’s Table is slated to open a satellite base on the ground floor of the Maycroft that will house three of its community services — an early childhood education program; McKenna’s Wagon (a mobile food truck that feeds the homeless at three downtown D.C. locations); and a market where families can shop for healthy food at no cost.

The Maycroft project has been confronted with its fair share of challenges. It took six years for Jubilee to cobble together adequate funding in private donations and government subsidies, which Mellet said is a long and competitive process. “There’s just not enough to go around,” he said of the subsidies.

To ensure that the project moved forward, Ward 1 Council member Brianne Nadeau introduced emergency legislation in April 2015 to exempt Jubilee from a facet of the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act.

“It’s unfortunately a project that’s had a lot of trouble over the years,” she said. “But it’s the perseverance of Jubilee and really the tenants that are finally going to make this happen.”

Nadeau expressed her support for the project. “It’s just become incredibly expensive and difficult to find affordable housing in Ward 1,” she said in an interview.

Since being elected to the D.C. Council in 2015, Nadeau has overseen the addition of 500 affordable units to Ward 1’s pipeline, she said. Currently, affordable housing projects include a new building at 965 Florida Ave. NW that broke ground earlier in the year, as well as redevelopments at Park Morton at 617 Morton St. NW and Portner Flats at 1450 V St. NW.

“Whenever I talk to residents of Ward 1, they always raise the issue of affordable housing,” Nadeau said. “We’re making a lot of progress, but we could always do more.”