Testimony of Jenny Reed, Policy Director, At the Public Forum on the Comprehensive Housing Strategy Task Force

Members of the Comprehensive Housing Strategy Task Force, thank you for the opportunity to testify today.  My name isJenny Reed, and I am the Policy Director of 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.  

I want to focus my testimony on four key areas today: 

  • The need to set ambitious numerical goals for the District’s Comprehensive Housing Strategy
  • The importance of focusing limited housing resources on low-income families who face the most serious challenges
  • The effective tools DC has in place to create affordable housing
  • The need for the District to increase the resources it devotes to affordable housing in order to see measurable progress. 

Over the last 10 years DC’s housing market has experienced a rapid rise in housing costs that has lead to a substantial loss of low-cost housing.  Rents have risen by more than 50 percent faster than inflation and home values have nearly doubled.  In large part, due to those skyrocketing housing costs, DC has lost than half of its low-cost rental units and more than two thirds of its low-value homes. 

At the same time that housing costs have jumped up, the incomes of DC households haven’t kept pace’and for many haven’t even grown.  In fact, for the bottom 40 percent of DC households their incomes haven’t increased in the last ten years beyond inflation.  The rising housing costs and stagnant incomes mean that more and more DC households are now paying more than 50 percent of their income on housing.  This isn’t a good result for many low- and moderate income households for whom research has shown that they have less’and as a result spend less’on other necessities like transportation, food, retirement savings and health care when faced with severe housing burdens.  

A continued path of housing costs growth far outstripping the growth of incomes isn’t a healthy way for our economy to grow.  Housing cost growth has outpaced the growth in incomes for even DC’s top earning households.  And not only are more DC households facing severe housing burdens, but the incidence of severe burdens is moving up the income ladder. And while the recession and housing market bust may have brought down the prices of homes somewhat, they median home value in 2010 was nearly double the home value at the start of the decade and rents actually increased faster in DC during the recession than in the seven years leading up to it. 

To read the full testimony, click here.