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Affordable Housing and Condo Conversions: Dispelling Myths and Unveiling Opportunities



Affordable housing is a pressing concern in urban areas, and misconceptions often surround the role of condominiums in this context. While condos are sometimes perceived as expensive, they can actually play a vital role in creating affordable housing options. In this blog, we’ll explore how condos contribute to affordable housing, debunk common myths, and highlight relevant programs in Washington, DC.


The Condo Conundrum: Myths vs. Reality


Myth 1: Condos Are Always Expensive

Reality: Condos come in various price ranges, and not all are prohibitively expensive. While luxury condos exist, many developments cater to middle-income buyers. Condos provide an alternative to traditional single-family homes, offering individuals an entry point into the housing market without the responsibility of maintaining the entire property independently.


Myth 2: Condos Don’t Benefit Affordable Housing

Reality: Condos can significantly impact affordable housing in several ways:

  1. Increased Density: Condos increase housing density by utilizing vertical space. A single condo building can house multiple families, making efficient use of land. This density helps address housing shortages in crowded urban areas.
  2. Supply Expansion: Condo developments add to the overall housing supply. When more units become available, it eases demand pressure and can stabilize or reduce prices across the market.
  3. Affordable Homeownership: Condos provide an affordable path to homeownership. First-time buyers can purchase a condo with a smaller down payment compared to a single-family home. Additionally, condos often have shared amenities (like roof decks or gyms), reducing individual maintenance costs.


Myth 3: Condo Conversions Harm Affordable Housing

Reality: Condo conversions involve transforming rental units into individually owned condos. Although some conversions may lead to the displacement of renters, responsible policies can help mitigate these negative effects. Here’s how:

  1. Tenant Protections: Cities can enact condo conversion ordinances that protect tenants during the process. These ordinances may require relocation assistance or limit conversions in certain circumstances.
  2. Affordable Housing Trust Funds: Demolition taxes and condo conversion fees generate revenue for affordable housing trust funds. These funds support initiatives like building new affordable units or preserving existing ones.


Washington, DC’s Inclusionary Zoning (IZ)

Washington, DC’s IZ program requires developers to set aside a percentage of new residential units as affordable housing. Developers can either build these units on-site or contribute to an affordable housing fund. IZ ensures that new condo developments include affordable options.

The IZ program aligns with the District’s mission to create and maintain affordable housing opportunities. It requires new developments with 10 or more dwelling units to include a percentage of affordable units (approximately 8% to 10% of the gross residential floor area) in exchange for a density bonus. This bonus allows developers to exceed existing zoning regulations. The IZ program targets a range of income levels, ensuring that affordable units cater to various segments of the population. These income tiers typically span from 60% to 120% of the area median income (AMI).


How to Participate in IZ as a Homebuyer: 

  1. Orientation: Attend a two-hour IZ Orientation class.
  2. Registration: Complete the online registration form after receiving an IZ Orientation certificate.
  3. Homebuyer Class: Attend an approved eight-hour homebuyer class.
  4. Home Lottery: Most IZ homes are offered through a lottery system. Registered participants receive email notifications when homes become available.

Learn more here:


DC DCHFA’s Housing Investment Platform (HIP)

The District of Columbia Housing Finance Agency’s Housing Investment Platform (HIP) is an innovative initiative that promotes affordable housing development. HIP provides equity for projects by investing alongside developers, thereby reducing capital costs. For condo conversions, this can mean more units set aside at prices attainable for middle-income families. The program also encourages long-term affordability and fosters community retention, crucial in a city where gentrification pressures are intense. Here’s how it works:

  • Partnering with Developers: DCHFA partners with developers to create for-sale houses, condos, and townhomes for people in the 60% to 120% median income range.
  • Affordability Exchange: Developers receive a lower preferred return hurdle in exchange for affordability commitments.



Condos aren’t just for the wealthy; they can be a gateway to affordable homeownership. By understanding their role in housing markets and implementing smart policies, we can harness the potential of condos to create a more inclusive and vibrant urban landscape. Affordable housing isn’t just a hypothetical idea; it’s an absolute necessity. Let’s strive to build communities where everyone has a place to call home.


Unlocking Opportunities with Zed Condos

If you’re interested in condo conversions and affordable housing in DC, consider reaching out to Zed Condos. Zed Condos manages the entire condo conversion process in Washington, D.C., from start to finish and offers discounted services for developers aligned with expanded affordable housing initiatives. Reach out to Zed Condos to learn more and take advantage of their expertise.

Written by
Saman Zomorodi
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