The Districts Dime

Strengthening Rapid Re-Housing Will Help Homeless Families Succeed

July 31st, 2014 | by Kate Coventry

One of the keys to addressing DC’s homeless crisis is to strengthen Rapid Re-Housing, DC’s program that provides short-term rental assistance and supportive services to homeless families. The District currently is developing new rules to govern this program, which is also known as the Family Re-Housing and Stabilization Program (FRSP), and three particular issues stand out. The proposed rules would require families to pay too much of their limited incomes for housing, require homeless families to find housing without any initial help, and cap housing assistance at 12 months in most cases, even though some families may need more help. 

These proposed rules run counter to best practices, and modifying them would make FRSP a more effective tool to help homeless families get out of shelter and into their own homes. 

FRSP currently requires families to spend at least 40 percent of their income on rent, with their contribution increasing over their time in the program. This is higher than the 30 percent threshold used for most federal housing programs, and it is likely to force families to cut back what they spend on food, transportation, healthcare and other necessities.[1] We recommend the District cap what families pay toward rent at 40 percent of income, with a portion of that set aside in an escrow account to pay for necessities and emergency needs. 

FRSP also currently requires families to attempt to find housing on their own, before receiving housing search assistance. Yet other communities have had success by helping families negotiate with landlords to lower rents or to address issues such as a poor credit and rental history.[2] DC families searching for their own housing have reported that landlords do not understand how the program works and thus have been reluctant to participate in it.[3] This leaves families in shelter for longer than is necessary. FRSP will be more successful if parents receive immediate housing search and negotiation assistance. 

Finally, the District proposes limiting FRSP assistance to 12 months except for families experiencing “extraordinary circumstances.” Yet the National Alliance to End Homelessness (NAEH) recommends against using a hard time limit and notes that programs must be “flexible enough to permit extensions if best efforts fail or another crisis occurs.”[4] NAEH also recommends that Rapid Re-Housing programs take into account each family’s individual circumstances as well as community conditions such as high unemployment. DCFPI recommends that the District adopt this approach—individualizing the length of the subsidy to each client’s circumstances. 

Together, these changes will lead to a stronger program, allowing more families to succeed.                  

To see DCFPI’s full comments, click here.

To print a copy of today’s blog, click here.

 


[1] Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University, “The State of the Nation’s Housing,” 2011, http://www.jchs.harvard.edu/sites/jchs.harvard.edu/files/son2011_housing_challenges.pdf

[2] Core Components of Rapid Re-Housing. Endorsed by USICH, NAEH, HUD, and VA. http://www.endhomelessness.org/page/-/files/RRH.pdf

[3] Weiner, Aaron. Where Are D.C.’s Homeless Families Living Now That D.C. Doesn’t Have to House Them? Washington City Paper. May 21, 2014. http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/housingcomplex/2014/05/21/spring-fever/

[4] Rapid Re-Housing: Creating Programs that Work. National Alliance to End Homelessness. July 2009. http://b.3cdn.net/naeh/adc8b82e3d49a50252_7dm6bk8te.pdf

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Wondering What Made It Into Next Year’s Budget For Health and Education? Check Out Our Toolkits.

July 30th, 2014 | by Wes Rivers and Soumya Bhat

The city may be in the midst of its summer slowdown, but DCFPI wants to make sure you are up to date on what to expect in the DC budget for next year. Today, we’ll give you a summary of what’s in store for two of the biggest parts of the DC budget, health and education, from DCFPI’s budget toolkit. We’ll cover more issue areas, and provide an analysis of the entire budget, before long. 

Health Care in DC’s FY 2015 Budget 

The District plans to spend $3.5 billion in local and federal funding on health care funding next year.  That is a 6 percent increase after adjusting for inflation. The budget includes: 

  • Continued Growth in Medicaid Program. The Department of Health Care Finance – which administers Medicaid – represents 85 percent of the growth in healthcare expenditures. This reflects higher per-person costs in the Medicaid managed care program and a 3 percent growth in enrollment.
  • Greater Local Investment in Public Health Programs for Children.  The FY 2015 budget invests new local funds in Home Visiting – which supports health and cognitive development for children under age five ­– to replace expiring federal funds. The budget also expands school-based mental health to six additional schools. Still, fewer than half of all schools (DCPS and charter) will have a mental health professional.
  • A New Funding Mechanism to Sustain the DC Health Exchange. Federal funds have been covering the costs to operate the District’s exchange, DC Health Link, but next year the city will have to pay those costs. So the DC Council established a dedicated, local tax to fund the exchange’s $29 million budget. 

Education in DC’s FY 2015 Budget

The city will spend $1.9 billion in local funds on education next fiscal year, a 6 percent increase after adjusting for inflation. That includes:7-30-14-toolkits-blog-f1

  • Changes to the School Funding Formula. The budget increases base per-pupil funding by 2 percent for both DC Public Schools and Public Charter Schools. It also increases amounts provided for students in adult and alternative education, English language learners, and special education students.
  • New At-Risk Funding. The budget adds $81 million for 36,000 at-risk students across both sectors. Summer school will also be funded by this amount. DCPS plans to use new funds to add staff and supports for middle grades, and to extend the school day at up to 52 schools, among other initiatives. But teachers have approved a longer school day at only a handful of schools, and it is not clear at this time what will happen at the others.
  • Investments in Early Childhood Education. The budget adds $4 million to build DC’s system for rating and improving the quality of early childhood programs. Another $5.2 million is included to support additional child care slots for infants and toddlers.

Keep checking back with the District’s Dime for more toolkit updates this summer!

To print a copy of today’s blog, click here.

 

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Four Quick Facts on DC’s Economy and Its Impact on Residents

July 29th, 2014 | by Jessica Fulton

Amidst the ups and downs of the DC economy in recent years – the Great Recession that may seem to some like a distant memory, the ongoing gentrification in more and more communities – some key stories emerge. DC is becoming a more expensive place to live, yet many residents live in poverty, unemployment is higher than before the recession started, and growth in wages has largely been confined to the top earners. These are key findings from the DC Fiscal Policy Institute’s “Quick Facts” on the DC economy. Here are four points that we think are especially important.7-29-14-quickfacts-f1

  1. Poverty affects one in five DC residents. For a family of three, that means living on less than $19,090 a year. Children under the age of 18 are much more likely to live below the poverty level than adults. And one in four black DC residents and one in five Hispanic DC residents live in poverty compared with under one in 10 white non-Hispanic residents. Read about poverty in DC. 
  2. DC’s unemployment rate remains higher than before the recession. For many of DC’s residents, the economy has improved. But the District’s recovery has been uneven, and many groups–including minorities, young residents, and residents without college degrees — face far higher unemployment rates than before the recession began. Read more about unemployment in DC.
  3. The wages of low-wage DC workers have barely changed over the past thirty years, while wages for top earners have increased substantially. Wages have fallen for all but DC’s most educated residents, and wage inequality is now at the highest level on record. Read more about DC’s wages.7-29-14-quickfacts-f2
  4. Consumers spent 42 percent more for everyday goods and services in 2013 than they did in 2000. The Consumer Price Index (commonly known as inflation) is a measure of the average change over time in the cost of typical goods and services. These cost increases show why increases need to be made to income through services like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or through the minimum wage. Read more about the Consumer Price Index. 

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Reeves Center Swap: The Rush to Build The Stadium Could Leave Us with Regret

July 23rd, 2014 | by Wes Rivers

Mayor Gray’s plan to sell the Reeves Center to help pay for a soccer stadium raises a number of concerns. Rather than seeking input from the community and setting requirements on the redevelopment in ways that meet the neighborhood’s needs, the mayor’s plan would allow the developer, Akridge, to do whatever it wants with the site. Beyond that, Akridge would get the Reeves Center at a price below at least one appraisal. Finally, the plan calls for creating a new Reeves Center east of the Anacostia River, yet it offers no details and no financing, meaning that it is little more than a dream at this point.  

This suggests that the Reeves Center redevelopment is secondary to a rush to get cash to pay for a soccer stadium. That is unfortunate. 

A new stadium for DC United is an important endeavor for the District of Columbia because it will add to the cultural fabric of the region and the civic pride of its residents. As mentioned before in the District’s Dime, most soccer stadiums in the U.S. are built with at least some public contribution. 6-9-14 Stadium Hearing blog f1

So then the question is not whether the District should support a new stadium – it should – but whether the deal proposed by Mayor Gray is the best approach. At today’s hearing before the Committee on Economic Development, we will focus on how the District can benefit most from the planned redevelopment of the Reeves Center. 

Here are some of our concerns: 

  • Redevelopment of the Reeves Center should be taken more seriously. Normally, redevelopment of a property as important as the Reeves Center would include detailed planning and a series of community meetings. Control of this site gives the District the opportunity to shape the continued development of the U Street area. Yet the mayor proposes to transfer the Reeves Center to Akridge and allow the company to redevelop the site any way it wants.  
  • Land swaps limit the District’s ability to get the best deal possible. The legislation would charge Akridge $56 million, despite one recent appraisal of almost $70 million. In the District’s current real estate market, it is not unusual for properties to sell above their appraised value. This suggests that putting the site up for sale would be a better deal for the city.
  • Plans for a new “Reeves Center” should be more concrete. The plan calls for a new Reeves Center east of the Anacostia River, yet offers no financing plans. With the city very close to its borrowing limit, it is not clear how or when a new municipal center will be completed. 

Under the agreement, Akridge would benefit from the booming development of the U and 14th Street corridors and from their landholdings adjacent to the proposed stadium site at Buzzard Point. In considering the agreement, the DC Council and its consultants must ensure that we are gaining just as much as we are giving up when trading away this valuable asset.

To read DCFPI’s testimony, click here.

To print a copy of today’s blog, click here.

 

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Welcome to DCFPI’s Summer Interns and Staff Updates

July 22nd, 2014 | by Ed Lazere

I am excited to welcome two interns, Kathy Haines and Nathan Harrington, who joined the DC Fiscal Policy team this summer and have been doing some great research in education and housing policy. I also wanted to share some good news about two current DCFPI staff. Kathy f1

Kathy Haines is originally from Waterbury, Connecticut.  Kathy holds a Bachelors of Environmental Policy degree from Boston Universityand is a returned Peace Corps volunteer (Benin 2004-2007). She has worked in finance and program management for an international public health firm, John Snow Inc. (JSI), and in direct social service case management with Catholic Charities DC. She is now a Master of Public Policy candidate at the University of Maryland, College Park. A DC resident since 2007, she aspires to work on policies and programs that prevent the displacement of long-time Washingtonians.  

NateNathan Harrington is a native of Rockville, Maryland and a graduate of Bates College in Lewiston, Maine. For the past eight years he taught middle school and high school Social Studies in Prince George’s County Public Schools. This summer he is assisting Soumya Bhat with research on DC schools as part of his Masters in Educational Administration and Policy at Howard University. He is a proud resident of Congress Heights, where he leads the Committee to Restore Shepherd Parkway and serves on the Board of the Ward 8 Farmer’s Market. 

And in other news…. 

Kate Coventry has been appointed to the Interagency Council on Homelessness (ICH). Created in 2005, the ICH guides the District’s strategies and policies for meeting the needs of those who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. For more information on ICH, please visit www.ich.dc.gov

Jenny Reed has been promoted to Deputy Director at DCFPI. Jenny looks forward to expanding her role to focus more on DCFPI’s operations and planning while continuing her focus on affordable housing, taxes, and poverty and income trends in DC.  

To print a copy of today’s blog, click here.

 

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