WASHINGTON, DC—June 25, 2021—The nonprofit Washington Housing Conservancy (WHC) acquisition of the Crystal House apartment community in Arlington, Virginia has been honored with a 2021 Housing Achievement Award for providing affordable, inclusive homes for moderate-income individuals and families. Named the Best Large Affordable Housing Project by the Housing Association of Nonprofit Developers (HAND), WHC’s first acquisition was made possible by a $400 million investment from Amazon to preserve and create more than 1,300 affordable homes, one block from Amazon’s new Northern Virginia headquarters.
The award is being presented today June 25, 2021 at the HAND Annual Meeting and Housing Expo, the largest convening of real estate and community development professionals in the Washington region.
“This honor recognizes how, in one of the country’s wealthiest counties, our model can help defeat the headwinds of inequity and displacement,” said Kimberly Driggins, executive director of WHC. “By fusing private sector expertise with a social impact mission, we are ensuring that hundreds of residents—middle-income earners like firefighters, teachers, and caregivers—will no longer be at risk of displacement because of escalating rents that outpace their incomes.”
In a unique nonprofit and corporate collaboration, Amazon provided a $360 million below-market loan to WHC and grants worth $40 million to preserve and create affordable homes at the 16-acre Crystal House property. WHC is a member of the Washington Housing Initiative, which provided $6.7 million in loans through a private investment vehicle known as the Impact Pool.
In a highly unusual move, rents at some of the market-rate units at Crystal House will be significantly lowered through turnover over the next five years. Ultimately, a total of 619 apartment homes out of the existing two-building complex (or 75%of the units) will be affordable.
Saluted by Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey as an inclusive project that is “helping all boats rise alongside their growth in this region,” Crystal House cements WHC’s vision for enriching and vibrant communities that are replete with amenities and services. Residents in WHC communities elude the risk of escalating rents and the “housing cliff,” where even a moderate increase in income could mean earning too much to qualify for a means-tested home. Life in a WHC community therefore makes it possible for residents to envision an optimistic future in which personal wealth building, home ownership, higher education and other goals are both possible and accessible.
Because of the availability of capital and the real estate expertise of JBG Smith, which also manages the property for WHC, the acquisition of Crystal House was executed in less than two months, a highly expedited timeline in the commercial real estate sector. As of January 1, the initiative supports working families in Arlington for a 99-year period.
About Washington Housing Conservancy
Washington Housing Conservancy(WHC) is a nonprofit organization (501c3) that disrupts housing market forces to prevent displacement and promote opportunity for low- and middle-income Washington-area residents. We fuse a social impact mission with private-sector real estate capital and expertise to preserve housing that is affordable and generate the kind of stability that lets residents experience the opportunity to grow and prosper. By acquiring and preserving mixed-income properties for essential low- and middle-income workers—such as teachers, first responders, grocery clerks and hospitality workers and their families—we challenge the cycles of displacement that entrench barriers to diversity and inclusivity and help residents focus on their future, instead of the uncertainty of escalating rents.