Washington DC

Group Aims to Make Dream of Home Ownership a Reality for Black DC Residents

A fifth generation Washingtonian shares the challenges he faces in his efforts to buy a home in his hometown

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Owning a home in your hometown is a goal for many home buyers, but it has become increasingly out of reach for many Black D.C. residents.

Mayor Muriel Bowser recently announced a Black Home Ownership Strike Force to ease the path to a dream.

D.C.-area faith leaders say it’s a good start, but they believe much more needs to be done.

When I graduated high school, which was 20-something-odd years ago, the average house in my neighborhood was about 100K ... [Now] there are houses going for $1.2, $2 million.

D.C. resident Patrick Ford

There have been many plans over the years for the 67-acre site in Southeast D.C. known as Reservation 13. It’s a stone’s throw from RFK Stadium, and includes the old D.C. General Hospital, now surrounded by a chain link fence.

In 2021, a large section was identified for a mixed-use development that includes more than 2,300 apartments, about one-third of which would be designated for low-income residents. 

Patrick Ford grew up nearby, in a house his family owned for more than six decades.

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He’d like to see some houses built here — houses that he could afford to buy.

“When I graduated high school, which was 20-something-odd years ago, the average house in my neighborhood was about 100K." Now, he says, those same houses are going for $1.2 million to $2 million.

Reverend William H. Lamar IV, pastor of the Metropolitan AME Church in the District, is a member of the Washington Interfaith Network. He calls the mayor’s Black Home Ownership Strike Force a good first step.

Lamar's organization is urging D.C. leaders to turn public land such as Reservation 13 into homes that lower- and middle-income Black Washingtonians could afford to buy. 

"We've organized potential home buyers, people who have graduated from undergrad institutions, police officers, teachers, government workers, nonprofit workers, who make this city work and cannot live here," Lamar said.

Anne Ford, Patrick’s aunt, will be on the front lines to help potential home buyers become financially and otherwise prepared. 

"I want to see lending practices and student loans and credits taken care of," she said. "So they can move into affordability and not be worried about, 'I'm going to get that foreclosure notice'."

The plans for this property went through many years of public comment after the facilities were closed.

The District has also launched a new program to support current homeowners. Beginning June 22, eligible homeowners can apply for grants from a new $50 million Homeowner Assistance Fund. The money can used to cover mortgage payments, utilities, insurance, internet and housing association fees.

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