When asked what would have happened to the property had he not stepped in, the entrepreneur points to the surrounding neighborhoods of Langdon, where longstanding residents have fallen victim to the adverse effects of growth and development projects in an ever-growing D.C. Rental home shortages and market-rate rent, rising housing costs, and unaffordable housing development projects have collectively resulted in the city’s low-income residents being squeezed out of their homes or pushed to take on high cost burdens. For Grant, he’s ensuring this doesn’t happen to his own tenants, by leasing 100% of units to tenants at or below 80% of D.C. AMI and committing to not increasing rent by more than 3% annually.
It is apparent that affordable housing isn’t just a business venture for Chris Grant—it’s his motivation. When asked about how affordable housing became so important to him, Chris says, “For me, I learned early on that there is this idea of the “Maslow Hierarchy of Needs” and at the bottom of these needs, you really need to have the basics… which includes a home where you can feel safe and secure. In many cases, when I think back to some of the people I met where I am from, a lot of the people who didn’t have the opportunity to be where I am today to feel safe and secure…And because of that, they couldn’t really get to that point of self-actualization– dreaming big, and really using all the gifts and talents that they have [to achieve their potential] for themselves and their families.”
Impact through Art
When the idea of a mural came to Grant, he knew he wanted to lean on the rich history of Gogo music in D.C, and in Langdon, where a park named after the famous musician Chuck Brown is located. He found a local artist to create something vibrant on the corner lot. He chose the artist TrapBob for the socially conscience, yet humoristic, way that her art sheds light on communities’ struggles, without discounting their strengths. With the mural, Grant hopes to create a mirror into the aspects of the neighborhood that he wants the rest of us to see—this is a community that likes gathering, music, fun and overall, exuberates a bold and colorful energy. For Grant, the artwork is a great way to help energize and inspire some of those activities in the neighborhood.
A Vision Comes Together
At Langdon Apartments, the new landlord is already hearing promising feedback from tenants. From the updated hallways and new fixtures to the new security keys fobs to enter the building, the response is overwhelmingly positive. He’s even seen some changes in how the residents take ownership of the property. On one of his recent visits, he noticed one of the older residents picking up trash around the building.
Grant attributes a lot of his own success to the foundation a good home and community provided him. He spent a lot of time thinking about this project, before even seeing the building or launching his business. He knew he wanted to make a model that was scalable. His 3-pronged strategy,
“Find something that you can refresh and update in a way that people can find pride in, rebranding in a way that always pays homage to whatever the local community is, and revitalization—managing in a way that preserves the essence in affordability over as long as possible.”
On how he feels about the progress of his current project, Langdon Apartments, Grant expounds “I feel great, really excited. To me it is a great validator that you can focus a business on impact-oriented housing, and [still] have success, and you can also try to maintain affordable rents while making it look nice, and the last piece is it’s motivating me to want to do more and ask, how can I do more? And I hope that I can make that a reality.”