Yesterday, Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie–along with Councilmembers Bowser, Bonds and Graham –introduced an important bill that guarantees affordable housing will be built when DC sells public land to a private developer. DCFPI, along with DC Appleseed and the Coalition for Smarter Growth, helped provide input on the legislation. Councilmembers Alexander, Cheh, Grosso and Orange co-signed the bill, and we look forward to working with the Council to get this bill passed and signed by Mayor Gray.
The legislation comes at an important time for the District. DC has lost a significant share of its low-cost housing, and more and more DC residents face severe housing cost burdens as the rise in housing costs far outpaces little to no growth in incomes for low- and moderate-income households. Over the past year, DC has committed a significant amount of resources to help increase affordable housing but additional resources and tools are needed each year to help meet the full affordable housing needs.
The bill, the “Disposition of District Land for Affordable Housing Amendment Act,” would help create affordable housing throughout DC by requiring certain levels of affordable housing to be built whenever the District sells its public land to a private developer so that they can build residential housing. The bill allows the District to sell the land to the developer at less than its full value in order to help finance the costs of developing the affordable housing.
A few specifics:
•How much affordable housing would be required?
Thirty percent of all housing units would be affordable if the land is located in a transit area, which is defined as being a 1/2 mile from a metro station, a 1/4 mile from a streetcar line, or a 1/4 mile from a Metrobus priority corridor. All other areas would set aside 20 percent of all housing units as affordable.
•Whom will the housing be affordable to?
The bill helps to target affordable housing to those most in need by requiring that 3/4 of the affordable rental units be made affordable to a family earning no more than 50 percent of the area median income (AMI), or $48,300 for a family of three. The remaining quarter of the affordable rental units would be made affordable to families earning no more than 30 percent of the AMI, or $29,000 for a family of three. In DC, nearly all renters who spend more than half of the income on housing, or have a severe housing burden, earn less than 50 percent of the AMI. For homeownership units, half of the affordable units would be available to families earning no more than 50 percent of the area median income, or $48,300 for a family of three and half would available to families earning no more than 80 percent of area median income or $77,260 for a family of three. For both homeownership and rental units, the housing would be affordable for the life of the building.
Lastly, the bill acknowledges that there may be circumstances that arise when the value of the District’s land is not enough to subsidize the affordable housing required under the bill. But it takes an important step forward in transparency by only allowing the District to dispose of the land without meeting the affordable housing requirements if the Chief Financial Officer can do an independent analysis to show that the land value isn’t sufficient to meet the need. Moreover, DC and the developer must also show that the ultimate disposal of the land will maximize affordable housing to the greatest extent possible.
Leveraging DC’s public land to help build affordable housing can help ensure that DC is using all of its available resources to help meet DC’s most pressing needs.
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