Testimony of Jenny Reed, Policy Director, At the Public Hearing on the Fiscal Year 2012-2013 Budget Oversight Hearing for the District of Columbia Housing Authority

Chairman Bowser and members of the Committee, 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 am here today to discuss the District’s Local Rent Supplement Program; including both my support for the Mayor’s $3 million addition to the project- and sponsor-based side of the program as well as my argument for the need for an additional $7.5 million for the tenant-based side of the program.

The District’s Local Rent Supplement Program (LRSP) was created in 2007 to provide housing that is affordable to District residents with very low incomes. Locally funded, but managed by the DC Housing Authority, LRSP provides monthly rental subsidies that cover the difference between the rents that very low-income families can afford to pay and the actual monthly cost of rent for the unit. The program stems from the District’s 2006 Comprehensive Housing Strategy Task Force goal of creating 14,600 locally funded rental subsidies in DC over 15 years.[1]

Rental subsidies in the LRSP program are provided in three different ways:

  • Tenant-based vouchers are provided directly to families or individuals, who can use the voucher for any rental unit under the Fair Market Rent in the District.  (Fair Market rents are set at different levels for different part of the city, to reflect the variation in housing costs from neighborhood to neighborhood.) The voucher stays with the family, even if they decide to move to another rental unit in the District.
  • Project-based vouchers are provided to for-profit or non-profit developers for specific units that they make available to low-income families.  Unlike tenant-based vouchers, these vouchers are not portable and stay with the unit.  The units must be made affordable over the life of the project.  Although it is not required, many project-based vouchers are awarded to developments that also provide supportive services, such as counseling, to the low-income residents.
  • Sponsor-based vouchers are awarded to a landlord or non-profit group for affordable units they make available to low-income families.  Unlike project-based vouchers, these vouchers are portable and can be moved to another unit run by the non-profit or the landlord.  Sponsor-based vouchers are awarded only to groups that agree to provide supportive services to residents housed in the affordable units.

To date, the District has funded about 1,950 households under the Local Rent Supplement Program. Even with the $5 million increase that is expected in the program in FY 2014, the District still will be approximately 5,550 units behind its goal of 7,900 units that would be needed in FY 2014 to be on track with the 15-year goal set by the Task Force in 2006.

To read the full testimony, click here.

[1] Comprehensive Housing Strategy Task Force, “Homes for an Inclusive city: A Comprehensive Housing Strategy for Washington, DC,” April 5, 2006, available at: http://dc-chstaskforce.org/default.asp