Amazon’s decision to locate one of its two new headquarters in Crystal City will require leaders in D.C., Maryland and Virginia to work cooperatively to ensure there is sufficient affordable housing in the region in the coming years, according to D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser.
“We do think Amazon locating here helps this region secure its future,” said Bowser at the Annual Board Meeting of the Federal City Council (FC2) on Nov. 29. “If we are to keep up with the growth, we have to do some things differently around housing preservation and production.”
Bowser said the region will need an additional 25,000 new affordable housing units in the next five years, and the District government has committed to adding 6,000 new units over the next four years. The District has added 4,000 units in the last four years.
“We have been willing to make investments and make some of the tough land-use decisions,” said Bowser, during the luncheon at the U.S. Institute of Peace. “All of this will take leadership to deliver on housing, all across the spectrum.”
She applauded the FC2 and JBG SMITH, the leading national real estate developer, for trying to tackle affordable housing through the Washington Housing Initiative, which has three distinct elements: the Impact Pool, the Washington Housing Conservancy (WHC) and the Stakeholder Counsel.
The Housing Initiative was the focus of a discussion at the Board meeting between AJ Jackson, JBG SMITH’s Executive Vice President for Social Impact Investments, and FC2 Vice President and Trustee Joshua B. Bernstein.
“The Holy Grail of impact investing and philanthropy is to find something that has measurable impact, is scalable, is replicable and self-sustaining,” said Bernstein, CEO, Bernstein Management Corporation. “What AJ has done is create a model that does all those things.”
Jackson said JBG SMITH has already raised $50 million for the Impact Pool, an investment vehicle managed by JBG SMITH. Much of the money is coming from institutional investors and high-net-worth individuals. The goal is to raise $100 million to $150 million.
“Our top-line goals really are to preserve affordability, prevent displacement and provide access and sharing of the benefits of investments for those middle income families who are the backbone of the community,” said Jackson.
As an independent nonprofit, the WHC will purchase properties in High-Impact Locations with capital from the Impact Pool and partner with best-in-class providers to deliver neighborhood services. The Stakeholder Council provides high-level guidance and advice to the WHC.
The Board meeting began by showcasing one of the District’s cultural dynamos. In a special dialogue between Deborah Rutter, Trustee and President of the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts, and Gianandrea Noseda, the newly appointed Music Director of the National Symphony Orchestra (NSO), the two discussed Washington’s international cultural appeal.
“When I visited Washington, D.C., for the first time, guest conducting the orchestra, my wife and myself were well impressed by the city,” said Noseda, noting the vibrancy of the District helped convince him to take on his new position with the NSO. “The orchestra is a treasure, a jewel you have in this town.”
The District’s economic and cultural diversity may be factors as the Mayor looks to champion D.C. statehood in her second term, which begins in January. She suggested that with Amazon and other large corporations coming into the region, the District might finally get some traction in Congress with its statehood proposals. “It makes plain, old business sense for our region to be represented by six U.S. senators rather than four,” Bowser said.