Mayor Gray: Don’t Let Critical Affordable Housing Assistance Sit Unused
Affordable housing in DC is in short supply, especially for DC residents with very low incomes. Yet a key tool that DC government has to help these families—the Local Rent Supplement Program (LRSP)—has slots that are empty due to a mayoral directive to keep them unfilled. That simply doesn’t make sense, and the D.C. Council should support a bill calling for this critical housing tool to be fully maximized so that parents and kids in need of housing can have an affordable roof over their heads. The bill will be discussed in a Council roundtable on LRSP tomorrow.
LRSP helps make housing affordable to people with very low-incomes — which means households who earn less than 30 percent of area median income, or $32,250 for a family of four. The program makes up the difference between the market rate cost of an apartment and what a low-income family can afford to pay—usually no more than 30 percent of their total income. This helps families not only gain stability by putting a roof over their heads, but it also helps ensure that they have enough left over each month for other basic necessities. Research has shown that low-income households who spend more than 50 percent of their income on housing spend less each month on food, health care, transportation, and retirement savings than unburdened households. Right now, almost two-thirds of low-income DC families spend more than 50 percent of their income on housing.
Since its creation in fiscal year 2007, the District has funded approximately 1,900 LRSP slots. The program was created from a recommendation from the District’s 2006 Comprehensive Housing Strategy Task Force that called for the creation of nearly 15,000 rental assistance subsidies for very low-income families. With just over 1,900 slots funded, the District is roughly 5,000 units behind where we should be in 2013 — 6,900 units — to be on pace with the Task Force’s goal. With the Mayor now directing that any slots in the voucher component of the program not get refilled after a family leaves, the District will fall even further behind its goal of 15,000 rental assistance subsidies in 15 years.
Given how far behind the District is, it is troubling that the Mayor is not using all of the resources currently available to help meet affordable housing challenges facing so many DC residents. The number of slots in the program that are being held unused this year is small, just 17, but the fact that 37,800 very low-income households are currently spending more than half of their income on housing indicates that there is a pressing need for even these few slots. The Mayor has attempted for the past two years to phase out the voucher component of LRSP, something the Council has rejected each time. We hope to hear more clarity from the Mayor’s office as to why they do not want to fully utilize a program with so many benefits at tomorrow’s Council roundtable.
The bill to fully use the Local Rent Supplement Program., introduced by Councilmember Michael Brown (I-At-Large), would require that slots are re-filled as families leave the program, and that critical housing resources do not sit unused. DCFPI supports this bill, and we urge Mayor Gray to allow families to use LRSP and maximize our affordable housing resources.