Howard U Secures $31M From Amazon Fund to Preserve Affordable Apartments

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The Amazon Housing Equity Fund has provided Howard University with a $31.3 million loan to acquire and preserve Howard Manor, an 80-unit apartment complex with 3,000 square feet of retail near its Washington, D.C., campus.

Originally built in the 1950s, developer Urban Investment Partners acquired a leasehold interest in the land under the property in February 2020, taking over the income generated from it from Howard University.

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The historically Black university had been looking to renovate the property at 654 Girard Street NW for more than two decades. It will use $8.8 million of the funds to re-acquire the site, and $22.5 million for the improvements required to convert the apartments into affordable housing, available to the broader community. 

“Quality housing is a fundamental human need, yet far too many adults face challenges as they navigate the pathway to affordable housing for themselves and their families,” Ben Vinson, president of Howard University, said during a press conference announcing the loan.

The financing helps Howard University’s goal of creating affordable housing in the Columbia Heights and Howard neighborhood submarkets. In fact, in 2017, the university promised District leadership that it would deliver between 50 to 100 affordable units for households earning up to 60 percent of the area median income (AMI), which is currently $142,300 for a household of four.

With Howard Manor’s 80 units available to those earning 60 percent or less of AMI, it will fill that commitment.

“Affordable housing is a critical component of a more equitable D.C.,” Mayor Muriel Bowser said Friday during the announcement. “Howard University delivering on its promise to bring more affordable units to the District reflects how our local universities are not only places to learn, but also real partners in our communities.” 

Since 2021, the Amazon Housing Equity Fund has provided more than $1.7 billion to create or preserve more than 14,000 affordable homes, including more than $1 billion for 7,300 affordable homes in the D.C. region.

“Through this partnership, the preservation of Howard Manor is a unique opportunity for both organizations to expand that community impact and increase the affordable housing stock in Washington, D.C.,” Senthil Sankaran, managing principal of the Amazon Housing Equity Fund, said in a prepared statement. 

Requests for comment from Amazon and Howard University were not immediately returned.

Keith Loria can be reached at Kloria@commercialobserver.com.