Chairperson Ambrose and members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to speak today. My name is Angie Rodgers, and I am a policy analyst with the DC Fiscal Policy Institute. DCFPI engages in research and public education on the fiscal and economic health of the District of Columbia, with a particular emphasis on policies that affect low- and moderate-income residents.
DCFPI supports an affordability requirement when disposing of housing that either already exists or is constructed on public land. The District should be as aggressive as possible in crafting a policy to guide these dispositions. As we have attested before this Council in the past, the District loses thousands of units of affordable rental housing every year. For the past year, DCFPI has been documenting that loss. We defined rental units as affordable if the gross rent ‘ rent plus utilities ‘ was less than $500 per month. These units would be affordable to households earning less than $20,000 per year. We found some astounding and disturbing trends. In just the year between 2003 and 2004, the District lost 2,400 units of affordable rental housing. Since 2000, the District has lost 7,500 of these units. Between 2000 and 2004, the District lost 15,000 rental units costing between $500 and $1,000 per month. These units would have been affordable to households earning between $20,000 and $40,000 per year. At the same time, the District was gaining high-cost rental housing at rates that almost doubled its losses. We defined high-cost rental units as those costing $1,000 or more per month, and the District gained 4,600 of those between 2003 and 2004. Since 2000, we gained some 13,000 of these units.
These numbers point to the need for immediate implementation of some very aggressive policies to stem this tide of loss. The District’s Comprehensive Housing Strategy Task Force advises in its draft recommendations the creation of almost 20,000 permanently affordable units ‘ the majority of which would be accessible to households with income below 60 percent of area median income and to those with special needs. The District will need to harness significant resources to accomplish this goal.
I want to point out that the loss of affordable housing, particularly at such alarming rates, is not inevitable. In fact, many of the large losses that DCFPI documents took place in just the years since 2000. The District did lose affordable units in the 1990s, but at an average rate of less than 700 units per year. The average loss per year between 2000 and 2004, however, was more than 2,300.
Whether we are talking about an inclusionary zoning policy like the Mixed-Income Housing Amendment Act or tighter rent control or local money for rent supplements and emergency assistance ‘ which we have not had in some time ‘ the reality is that we have to be willing to have conversations and consider solutions that, perhaps even a year ago, we were unwilling to discuss.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak and I am happy to answer any questions you may have.