From “D.C. Frontiers, Inner-City Renewal Project, Will Open Soon: Inner-City Renewal Housing Project to Open Soon” by John Saar, Washington Post, 8/13/1973 pC1
Quick abstract: Black businessmen and other AfAm professionals in the form of non-profit DC Frontiers Inc, build, at a financial loss several (and after sever set backs) townhomes at 14th & S, 11th & M, & 11th & N for low income families.
You can still walk by those townhouses today and after 30 some odd years you could say that the project was a success. In the article there was expressed concern that the surrounding decay would undermine the goals of the project. There was a problem with theft while the building was getting built, some snafus that added to construction expenses and there was this inflation thing going on in the 70s. Despite all that the buildings got built stable families got in them and they survived the Crack Barry years and the gentrification.
According to the article, DC Frontiers Inc was more successful than RLA (Redevelopment Land Agency). The difference between the two (besides one being smaller and non-govt) was DC Frontiers aimed for low density and homeownership whereas RLA was high density and rentals, which would be “recreating the old ghetto conditions.” The Frontiers houses aimed for something the high rise apartments for poor families wouldn’t have, a living room for the parents, play room for the children, a small yard, space for living.
The black middle class I write of were doctors, lawyers, Realtors and such who sponsored the construction costs of building the houses. They wanted to do something to help rebuild the area and they did by offering an alternative. As I mentioned RLA was aiming for high density high-rises, which solves the problem of putting roofs over peoples heads, but does little in stabilizing black families and helping them build wealth.
Frontiers sought to ‘reseed’ 14th St NW with families with low but steady incomes who paid their rent on time and turn those families into homeowners. Candidates were chosen by what sounded like the lottery method, and had three years after moving in to decide if they wanted to buy. There was a monetary deposit that in 2007 dollars is $1,604.16 and the option of taking a 25 year mortgage.
Another form of criticism in the article I see aimed at RLA that was a problem then is probably a cause of development problems now (or not, it’s an opinion). RLA costs were ‘unnecessarily’ high because the project bought a lot of commercially zoned land for residential purposes. For you kids who don’t know, commercial lot is way more expensive than residential lot. Both could be the same in every way, one is more expensive. Fast forward to 2007, hey guess what is sitting on the commercial strips of 7th?