How Do We Maintain and Build Affordable Housing in Our City?

Next Monday, DC’s Comprehensive Housing Strategy Task Force will hold the first of two public hearings to gather public input on what a comprehensive housing strategy should look like for the District. The task force is charged with updating the work of the District’s 2006 task force, concentrating this go-round on how to maintain and build more affordable housing in DC. (DCFPI’s Jenny Reed and Ed Lazere are both advisory members of the task force’s “˜Rethinking Local Funding’ work group.)  While there will undoubtedly be new recommendations made in the current report, the task force should take the 2006 report recommendations ‘ many of which have not been implemented as the Brookings Institution noted’ into serious consideration. 

Some of the major recommendations in the 2006 report included: 

  • “˜Doubling the Effort’ The 2006 report called on the District to double its annual expenditures on housing. While DC did increase annual expenditures through 2008, the recession has led to a significant drop in the resources for affordable housing, limiting the progress of the District in increasing the overall supply of affordable housing in DC. 
  • Preservation of Affordable Housing Preservation of existing affordable housing is an important component of maintaining affordable housing in DC. The 2006 task force called for the District to preserve 30,000 affordable housing units.  While a lack of data prevent us from knowing how many units the District has preserved since 2006, without sufficient resources it is unlikely that DC is on its way to meet the goal of preservation of 30,000 units by 2020.  
  • Production of Affordable Housing In addition to preserving the affordable housing already in place, the task force also recommended that 55,000 new housing units be produced, of which about one-third should be affordable. Significant reductions in funding for the Housing Production Trust Fund ‘ DC’s main source for affordable housing production and preservation ‘ have limited the amount of new affordable housing the District has been able to support. 
  • Supporting Extremely Low Income Renters The previous task force noted the importance of helping the significant portion of DC households with unaffordable housing burdens and noted that with a projected decrease in federal rental assistance, the District should create a local rent supplement program and assist 14,600 low-income rental households by 2020.  While DC did create the program, a lack of funding has meant that the District has funded approximately 1,900 units and is now nearly 5,000 units behind in achieving its goal of nearly 15,000 households helped with rental assistance.    

The full set of recommendations from the 2006 task force can be found here. The first public hearing will be Monday, Oct. 22, from 6-9pm at DC Housing Finance Agency.  More details and ways to sign up to testify can be found here.

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