Within months, Jackson launched East of the River on a project far larger than anything the group had attempted previously.

At the time, the city had federal money and tax credits to fund affordable housing. Federal rules require that 15 percent of local HUD money go to community-based nonprofits, even if they have little experience in construction.

Jackson said Jay Greene, then director of the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development, was encouraging East of the River to purchase property for renovation.

“We didn’t just get into this out of the blue,” said Jackson, 59. “We had several conversations with [the city] that led us in that direction.”

That’s when real estate agent Gemma Morris came knocking.

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