It’s Time to Recover DC’s Affordable Housing Programs
In the District Dime yesterday, guest blogger Amber Harding from the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless wrote about the huge rise in family homelessness in DC. She suggested steps to help get families out of a shelter system that is bursting at the seams and into stable housing. But as her blog mentioned, there is a major obstacle to achieving that goal — funding for DC’s core affordable housing programs.
DC, like many other cities, has an affordable housing problem. In response, the District has created a variety of affordable housing tools, each serving a specific purpose and each critical to make housing available all along the continuum of affordable housing needs — from homelessness to homeownership — for DC‘s low- and moderate-income residents. A variety of housing programs along the continuum are critical because not all families have the same affordable housing needs. Some families need temporary housing with wrap-around services to help them get back on their feet; others need help to secure housing that doesn’t eat up their entire paycheck each month.
But as a result of the Great Recession, the city‘s affordable housing tools have been largely dormant and funding has been cut or used to maintain programs at prior-year levels. Most notably, resources devoted to the Housing Production Trust Fund (HPTF), DC’s main source for affordable housing construction and renovation, fell significantly when the recession hit; funding is tied to 15 percent of deed recordation and transfer taxes. Beyond that, the Mayor and Council cut $18 million from the HPTF in the FY 2012 budget.
But DC’s affordable housing problems haven’t waned in the recession— in fact, they have grown worse. And when programs for affordable housing are either flat-funded or cut back, the continuum stops working and a backlog results. The consequences? People get stuck — in shelters, in costly motels, and on waitlists — and families are kept from moving ahead. It’s a lose-lose situation for families and DC.
The Mayor is putting the final touches on his budget for FY 2013 right now. He is undoubtedly, faced with difficult choices, but the costs of shortchanging affordable housing programs are becoming clear. As the city begins to financially recover from the recession, the Mayor should also begin to recover DC’s affordable housing programs.