Testimony Of Jenny Reed, Policy Director, At the Public Oversight Hearing on the FY 2015 Budget for the DC Housing Authority

Chairwoman Bowser and members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to testify today.  My name is Jenny Reed and I am the Policy Director at 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 how policies impact low- and moderate-income families. 

I am here today to testify on the proposed FY 2015 local budget for the DC Housing Authority and to ask that the DC Council put a greater priority on funding for the tenant-based portion of the local rent supplement program (LRSP) which can quickly provide rental assistance to very-low income families in DC. I also want to express concerns about proposed language in the Budget Support Act that could limit LRSP’s use as a tool for families whose only barrier to housing is being very low-income. 

DC’s recent harsh winter brought into sharp focus the crisis of family homelessness in DC and highlighted the consequences of a city where housing continues to grow rapidly out of reach. A new report released today by 20 community organizations, including DCFPI, called Helping Families Home: A Roadmap for the District calls for additional tenant based LRSP to help address family homelessness. 

No one wants to repeat the crisis from last winter, when some families were placed in recreation centers ‘ which the courts found could lead to irreparable harm to children ‘ and only on nights when it was below 32 degrees. Yet without sufficient planning and funding, the likelihood is high that the crisis will be repeated next year. 

The community’s Helping Families Home roadmap lays out key goals and the steps needed to achieve them, some of which are already in progress by the District. The roadmap focuses on five key areas: 

  • Safe and adequate emergency shelter for families when they need it.
  • A system that quickly connects families with the right services to limit their stay in shelter.
  • A robust set of tools to meet the unique needs of each homeless family.
  • Affordable housing for families.
  • Improved data on performance, budgeting, and spending.

Additional tenant-based LRSP can help the District with two of these areas; a robust set of tools to meet the unique needs of each homeless family and affordable housing for families.  More specifically, we ask that the Council add $4 million in additional tenant-based local rent supplement to the FY 2015 budget and designate a portion, $1.73 million, of that LRSP for use by DHS for families, such as those who are struggling in Rapid Re-housing or no longer need the intensive services of Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) but still need affordable housing.  The remaining funds should be used to house families from the DCHA waitlist, which is typical practice, and that has a preference for homeless families.[1]  The additional funding would help create roughly 266 additional rental subsidies with up to 115 being directed toward DHS.[2]

[1] The homeless families preference includes those families who may be doubled up with friends or relatives.

[2] This assumes an average cost of $15,000 per rental assistance subsidy.


To read the complete testimony, click here.