Columbia Heights Village: A Model of Affordable Urban Housing

Project Team

Architect/Designer: Hord Coplan Macht

Remodeler: DFS Construction

Developer: CRC Companies

Interior Designer : MSA Interiors Inc.

Columbia Heights Village (CHV) is a large affordable housing community in the Columbia Heights neighborhood of Washington, DC. Formed from a partnership with CRC Companies and the non-profit Change All Souls Housing Corporation, CHV aims to deliver the highest quality housing to its residents while preserving long-term affordability. With resident demographics primarily consisting of low-income families, CHV qualifies as Section 8 housing, yet its new lobby and community room rival those of market-rate properties.

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To improve residents’ individual, family, and community quality of life, the partnership planned a ground-floor renovation with a twofold purpose: to deliver socially supportive spaces outfitted to empower residents and to provide office staff a positive, welcoming environment in which to collaborate and interact constructively with residents. The project team addressed these high-impact improvements through human-centered design after evaluating residents’ needs and the aged asset’s physical requirements. They determined renovations would include upgrades to the property’s HVAC and security systems as well as an expansive new community room with a kitchen, common area, library lounge, and activity and study rooms alongside revitalized office space for Change All Souls Housing Corporation, property management, and the CHV Tenant’s Association.

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Thanks to the large-scale ground-floor renovation, the new lobby and 4,300-square-foot community room’s open-concept layout now supports a multitude of resident needs and multigenerational programming efforts, including cooking and fitness classes, a reading program for seniors and children, and public computers for web browsing and job preparation. Featuring premium-aesthetic materials that are simultaneously cost-effective and durable, the renovation is made to withstand near-constant use by the community’s more than 900 residents.

Due to the property’s high housing value compared to its rental rates, turnover is low. The waitlist has been at capacity for more than two years due to such high interest. The renovation of Columbia Heights Village continues to serve as a model for the future preservation of high-quality affordable housing in urban areas.

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