Chairman Fenty and members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to speak today. My name is Angie Rodgers, and I am a policy analyst for the DC Fiscal Policy Institute. DCFPI engages in research and public education on the fiscal and economic health of the District, with a particular emphasis on policies that affect low- and moderate-income residents.
My comments today concern the District’s plan to develop and/or subsidize 6,000 units of permanent supportive housing as part of its Homeless No More initiative. I want to urge the District to begin developing and subsidizing these units this year. While we have been waiting for this plan to be implemented, the number of homeless individuals and families has increased. According to a May 2005 report by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, there were over 6,000 individuals and persons in families who were what they called “literally homeless” in the District at the beginning of 2005 ‘ an increase of almost 200 over the previous year. “Literally homeless” means that they were in temporary emergency shelters, temporary transitional housing, in housing that they were at risk of losing, or had no shelter at all.
The District has also continued to lose thousands of units of affordable housing. As we have attested before this Council in the recent past, our research indicates that the District lost 2,400 apartments with rent under $500 per month between 2003 and 2004. Lack of affordable housing options means that individuals and families who become “literally homeless” are much more likely to remain homeless for extended periods of time.
Although the Homeless No More plan anticipates that residents will still experience homelessness, it aims to decrease the amount of time that individuals and families are homeless by increasing the number of affordable permanent supportive housing units available to them. The District can only accomplish this if there is affordable housing in which to move families.
The Homeless No More plan cites the need to appeal to the federal government to maintain and increase subsidies for affordable housing in order to increase the number of permanent supportive units. There is no indication, however, that the federal government will reverse its trend of de-funding section 8 programs ‘ the main vehicle for providing such subsidies.
The District’s Comprehensive Housing Strategy Task Force has recommended the creation of a local rent supplement program. I think this would be a critical step in the right direction for moving forward on the Homeless No More plan and other affordable housing goals in the District.
A local rent supplement program does not currently exist in the District but, consistent with the recommendations of the Comprehensive Housing Strategy Task Force, the Fair Budget Coalition along with the Affordable Housing Alliance recommends establishing funding for such a program in the upcoming budget process. If we followed this recommendation we could make significant progress in FY 2007 alone. The DC Housing Authority has the physical capacity to place over 2,600 families in the coming year. What they do not have is funding.
DCFPI, along with the Fair Budget Coalition and the Affordable Housing Alliance, would be more than willing to work with both the Council and the Mayor in the coming months to establish such a program.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak and I’m happy to answer any questions you may have.