A new housing development for homeless and at-risk veterans in Washington, D.C., serves as a powerful example how high-quality supportive housing can transform lives, revitalize aging structures and contribute to a healthy, vibrant community.
HELP Walter Reed Apartments, which opens this week in Washington, D.C., offers 77 efficiency apartments and a range of social services on the former Walter Reed Army Medical Center campus—which was decommissioned in 2011 after more than a century of service to American soldiers and veterans.
In 2016, the U.S. Army sold two-thirds of the 110-acre site to the city, which has since then led a comprehensive plan to repurpose the land with new housing, retail and services. The remainder of the campus is earmarked for a children’s health research facility and foreign mission office complex.
“This project is unique in so many ways,” noted Debbie Burkart, NEF vice president for supportive housing, who leads Bring Them Homes , a joint initiative with NEF’s parent, the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC). “It connects the rich history of Walter Reed to the needs of today’s veterans, and then integrates that housing into an innovative mixed-use campus of commercial and services offerings. Walter Reed is getting a second life in ways that benefit veterans and the surrounding community.”
HELP USA, one of the country’s most seasoned supportive housing developers, rehabbed part of an existing Walter Reed building to create the new service–enriched homes for veterans, with the rest of the building slated for development as market-rate apartments. It is part of what is now known as the Parks at Walter Reed, which when completed will include 2,200 condos, townhomes and apartments alongside businesses and green space.
“HELP USA’s new housing moves us closer to the ultimate goal of eliminating homelessness among local veterans. There’s no better spot to stake this dream than Walter Reed, the historic army medical campus being reborn with new schools, shops, housing and community access,” said Ramon Jacobson, executive director of LISC DC. “LISC investments on site and in the adjacent community ensure that these vets will be welcomed into an inclusive and shared prosperity for new and long-term Washingtonians alike.”
NEF and LISC supported the effort with $5.2 million in LIHTC investment capitalized by Morgan Stanley and Cathay Bank and predevelopment grants funded by Citi Community Development and Northrop Grumman. Burkart praised the commitment of the NEF/LISC partners noting how difficult it is to get complex supportive housing deals across the finish line.
“These projects require strong, innovative collaborations among public partners like the Veterans Administration, the Department of Defense, and the District of Columbia, along with private and nonprofit partners that bring their own expertise and assets to the effort,” she said.
“This work is hard,” she added, “but not nearly as hard as what homeless veterans have endured in trying to find their way back to hope, health, and financial stability. We owe them the best possible chance to succeed.”