Jim Knight: Justice Housing Partners Fund will increase equity for families

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Jubilee Housing launched in 1973 when members of Church of the Saviour saw a need to provide clean, safe and affordable housing in their neighborhood of Adams Morgan. Working together, justice-minded community members pooled their resources to purchase The Ritz and The Mozart apartment buildings in Adams Morgan. Since then, the organization has grown to encompass nine buildings in Ward 1 with over 450 residents. We provide not just housing but also after-school programming and summer camp for working families, financial counseling, and supportive housing for people who were formerly incarcerated and are returning home to DC.

Over the past five decades, Jubilee Housing has seen the wealth gap in DC increase significantly. The valley between affluent residents and those with the fewest assets grows wider every day. In fact, a quarter of DC residents still get by on a less than living wages and therefore are more likely to have an unstable home, to reside in an unsafe neighborhood, and to lack access to essential resources.

To address the growing divide in our city, Jubilee Housing has broadened our mission to foster equity and bring about justice through housing — “justice housing.”  

This kind of housing is deeply affordable, has on-site and nearby services, and is located in thriving neighborhoods. Justice housing allows DC residents with very low to moderate incomes to stay in the communities that they have called home for most of their lives, even as gentrification pushes many of their peers out of the city. Market-rate rents in the Adams Morgan area can range anywhere between $2,500 to $4,000 a month, which is far beyond the reach of the District’s lowest-income residents. 

With a new five-year plan, “Justice Housing in Action,” and a clear vision for the future, Jubilee Housing is looking to create a city where everyone can thrive.

One of the goals of the plan is to create more justice housing. To this end, we recently launched an innovative financing tool — the Justice Housing Partners Fund. The fund will provide quick-strike acquisition capital for bridge financing, enabling Jubilee Housing to better compete against market forces when purchasing properties in our core neighborhoods of Adams Morgan, Columbia Heights and Mount Pleasant. Multi-unit dwellings in these areas are often scooped up by big developers with deep pockets looking to create luxury apartment buildings that most DC residents cannot afford to live in. The Justice Housing Partners Fund will allow Jubilee Housing to move quickly and secure properties to create housing that more people can afford.

Jubilee is seeking social impact capital for the Justice Housing Partners Fund for three-year investment terms, with a 2 percent capped return. Investments will be used as subordinate debt, alongside bank-backed three-year bridge loans. This will provide Jubilee time to assemble permanent financing. Once Jubilee obtains construction financing for a project, the original money can be repaid with interest or reinvested, if desired. The fund, sponsored by Jubilee Housing LLC, has a target of $5 million, which we will use to purchase three or four properties that can become future justice housing communities.

The Share Fund — a fund of the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region — led the way with a $1 million match investment, which inspired other institutional investors such as United Bank, which committed $250,000. To date, Jubilee Housing has raised over $2 million in commitments for the Justice Housing Partners Fund.

As we think about the future of our city, nothing is more important than the building out of justice housing — to increase equity for families, improve the livability of our community, and create a sense of belonging that can unify and transform our city.

Jim Knight is executive director and president of Jubilee Housing, which currently manages nine properties with a total of 235 units and has a 10th property under construction.

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