January 27, 2022
The Honorable Mayor Muriel Bowser
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20004
Dear Mayor Bowser,
We, the undersigned 38 organizations, are writing to urge you to use DC’s growing revenues to immediately address the eviction crisis that stands to harm over 40,000 adults, including at least 350 families who are facing termination from Rapid ReHousing (RRH) starting in March and April. A spike in evictions will deepen DC’s stark racial inequities and weaken our economy, holding us all back. Landlords are filing evictions, despite DC having growing resources to do more to help tenants catch up on rent. DC can pair new federal dollars with local resources to immediately and adequately meet this challenge head on, including the use of reserves, a portion of the hefty fiscal year (FY) 2021 surplus, and/or other available funds.
The stakes are too high for DC to accept insufficient eviction prevention efforts and the termination of families from RRH. Preventing evictions is a key to avoiding significant socioeconomic setbacks for adults and children and preventing community spread of COVID-19. Eviction prevention and RRH extensions also promote a racially equitable recovery as people of color, especially Black people and immigrants, have faced higher risk of coronavirus infection, unemployment, and eviction during the pandemic. We ask you to quickly identify and allocate funding to meet these critical needs using the budget powers under your authority.
DC Needs at Least an Additional $187 Million to Stave Off an Eviction and Utility Cut Off Crisis For At Least 4 Months
In November, you asked the federal government for $238.7 million in additional federal Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) funds to help avert an eviction crisis for the next 4 months. The federal government gave DC just $17.8 million in ERA funds and $14.6 million in Low Income Home Emergency Assistance Program (LIHEAP) funds. We applaud you for seeking federal resources and for identifying an additional $19 million for our local Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP). But great unmet need for rental and utility arrears remains–approximately $187.3 million.Additionally, DC will terminate at least 365 families from RRH starting in March due to the District’s decision to enforce an arbitrary time limit for the program. Once tenants hit the time limit, nearly all tenants could soon face eviction due to their inability to pay rent, For the remainder of the fiscal year we ask that you rescind termination notices for those who have reached the RRH time limit and are not being enrolled in another housing program and extend their participation in the program.
Without additional funding for eviction prevention, tens of thousands of DC households could face eviction. Nearly 43,000 adults in DC households reported being behind on rent and nearly 9,700 households reported they applied for rental assistance but haven’t received from December 29th to January 10th, according to Census’s Pulse Survey data. And without extensions, many RRH families will face eviction. With eviction comes trauma, disruption of education and employment, and poorer health outcomes. They’ll also likely cause a surge in homelessness, including an increase in encampments and family homelessness, interfering with the progress towards DC’s goal of ending homelessness.
We Urge You to Immediately Identify and Allocate Local Resources to Fully Avert an Eviction Crisis
As Mayor, you have budget powers to provide immediate and adequate relief to renters and RRH families who need assistance now. The District should not wait until the end of the FY 2023 budget process to allocate the $187.3 million, or more, that is needed. We urge you to use a portion of the substantial FY 2021 surplus, reserves, and/or other available sources of funds that are not already dedicated to helping residents struggling to meet basic needs.
You should consider using a portion of the surplus to address this immediate need in part because the revenue growth that the District is seeing is due to a lopsided recovery and the fact that many residents in our city never lost ground in this recession. If the Office of Chief Financial Officer (OCFO) predicted revenues better, and they certainly could have, much of the estimated FY 2021 revenue surplus would have been factored into recurring revenue available for a range of priorities in the budget. Because that revenue wasn’t accounted for, the District will end up with one-time monies distributed in a default manner without regard to need.
You could use reserves immediately and then replenish them in your FY 2022 supplemental budget with the half of the FY 2021 surplus that would otherwise be deposited into the Pay-As-You-GO (PAYGO) Capital Account. While the total amount of surplus will not be certified until the OCFO completes the Annual Comprehensive Financial Report in February, the recent revenue forecast projects a $576 million revenue surplus for FY 2021, in addition to an unknown amount of underspending for that fiscal year. By law, half of the FY 2021 surplus will go to PAYGO capital and half to the Housing Production Trust Fund after reserves are refilled.
We recommend that you suspend the local rule to replenish the Fiscal Stabilization Reserve with the surplus, which would replenish the reserve at an accelerated pace compared to what is in the current financial plan. It doesn’t make fiscal, economic, or moral sense to accelerate repayment to this reserve when that money could help residents experiencing deep economic struggle avoid eviction. We recommend you redirect part or all of the portion of the surplus that would go to PAYGO capital to eviction prevention and RRH extensions. PAYGO is intended to offset long-term bond borrowing costs for capital projects but given continued low interest rates,this should not be a priority over meeting basic human needs.
If not using reserves immediately, the District could speed up the process for the FY 2022 supplemental budget, or a portion of the supplemental budget to explicitly fund eviction prevention. This would allow you to move local money more quickly than planned under the current budget process timeline, again using surplus dollars and/or growing revenues that the OCFO identified in the latest forecast, which shows that the District is projected to collect an additional $357.8 million, compared to FY 2022 budgeted levels.
Finally, you could identify other sources of funding. Specifically, we ask that any funding identified for eviction prevention and RRH extensions not be diverted from other affordable housing efforts or vital socioeconomic supports and programs. Eviction prevention and extension of RRH are essential and lifesaving, but they do not meet residents’ need for permanent affordable housing. Redirecting funds from other affordable housing purposes will only undermine this critical goal.
By funding eviction prevention and RRH extensions, DC can begin to undo some of the deep damage of longtime systemic racism as well as the racial harm from COVID-19.
Bread for the City
Children’s Law Center
Coalition for Smarter Growth
Coalition for the Homeless
DC Behavioral Health
DC Environmental Network
DC Fiscal Policy Institute
DC for Democracy
DC Jobs with Justice
DC Statehood Green Party
Enterprise Community Partners
Homeless Children’s Playtime Project
Jews United for Justice
Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia
Many Languages One Voice
National Community Church
No Justice No Pride
Pathways to Housing DC
Positive Force DC
Sasha Bruce Youthwork
Sex Worker Advocates Coalition (SWAC)
SMYAL (Supporting and Mentoring Youth Advocates and Leaders
SOME, Inc. (So Others Might Eat)
TENAC (DC Tenants Advocacy Coalition)
The Platform of Hope
University Legal Services
Washington Aids Partnership
Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs
Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless
We Are Family Senior Outreach Network
cc: Kevin Donahue, City Administrator
Jenny Reed, Director, Office of Budget and Performance Management
Laura Zeilinger, Director, Department of Human Services
Chairman Phil Mendelson
Councilmember Brianne Nadeau
Councilmember Brooke Pinto
Councilmember Mary Cheh
Councilmember Janeese Lewis George
Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie
Councilmember Charles Allen
Councilmember Vince Gray
Councilmember Trayon White
Councilmember Anita Bonds
Councilmember Christina Henderson
Councilmember Elissa Silverman
Councilmember Robert White
 District of Columbia, Emergency Rental Assistance Program Request for Reallocated Funds, submitted to the U.S. Department of the Treasury, November 2021.
 This figure uses the District’s ask of the federal government as the total need and subtracts resources that have been identified to meet this need since this request was made.
 U.S. Census Bureau, Week 4 Household Pulse Survey: December 29, 2021 through January 10, 2022, Housing Table 1b. Last Month’s Payment Status for Renter-Occupied Housing Units, by Select Characteristics: District of Columbia. Accessed January 20, 2022. (The Census Bureau paused collection of its survey data recently. (Data reliability for the District’s responses will increase as we average several weeks of new survey data overtime, so this data is preliminary.)
 Office of the Chief Financial Officer, December 2021 Revenues Estimates for FYs 2021-2025, December 30, 2021.
 The current financial plan refills the Fiscal Stabilization Reserve to $218 million by FY 2024. However, local rules require the reserve to be refilled with future surpluses. Given this is a locally-mandated reserve, DC policymakers should suspend this rule as part of the budget process given there is already revenue in the outyears of the financial plan to replenish this reserve. To learn more about policy changes that would enable DC policymakers to leverage these funds during recessions, see: Tazra Mitchell, “The COVID-19 Recession is DC’s Rainy Day, but Reserve Rules Limit its Response,” DC Fiscal Policy Institute, February 3, 2021.