January 28, 2019
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A new kind of housing program supports ‘grandfamilies’

D.C.'s Plaza West development is a housing experiment for grandparents who are raising their grandchildren.

The new Plaza West development in D.C. will designate several units targeted to “grandfamililes”: grandparents who are raising grandchildren where the parent is not present. Hickok Cole/Mission First Housing Group

A new kind of housing development has opened in Washington, D.C. Known as Plaza West, it caters to “grandfamilies” or families where a grandparent is raising their grandchildren full time.

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that 4 percent of children are being raised by one of 2.6 million grandparents in the U.S. This number is a 15 percent increase from a decade ago.

This is the first program of its kind in Washington, D.C., but the district is the ninth city in the country to establish an official grandfamilies program.

The nonprofit Mission First Housing Group collaborated with D.C.’s Department of Housing and Community Development and Bible Way Church to fund and develop the project.

Applicants for Plaza West had to be at least 55 years old, have proof of primary custody of their grandchildren, and make less than 40 percent of the area’s median income.

“This building is our home, and we’re going to take care of it,” Tonya Carter told the Washington Post. “I like living with other grandparents who know what it’s like to take care of a child again. There’s so many grandmothers raising their grandkids.”

Amenities include a social room to foster community, library, gym, and nearly 10,000 square feet of outdoor recreational space.

Additionally, there will be Plaza West-Grandfamily Community Life Program will be available for both children and grandparents will feature activities and community resources.

Plaza West will also feature a collaboration with Howard University’s School of Social Work gerontology center to track the successes of housing this type of family and determine what services grandfamilies will need in the future.

Caitlin Fairchild

Caitlin Fairchild is the associate editor of The Renewal Project.