Chairman Bowser and members of the Economic Development Committee, thank you for the opportunity to testify today. My name is Jessica Fulton and I am the Outreach 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 performance of the New Communities Initiative, headed by the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED). The program aims to revitalize four public housing sites in DC, Barry Farms, Northwest One, Park Morton, and Lincoln Heights/Richardson Dwellings, while adhering to principles minimizing displacement and increasing neighborhood sustainability. Since February 2013, DMPED has made significant progress in improving transparency. And that improved transparency brings to light concerns about future plans for the New Communities Initiative.
The sites selected for the New Communities Initiative were chosen because they contained some of the most distressed public housing in the District, and because they were in neighborhoods where affordable housing was likely to be lost. Unfortunately, to date, the New Communities Initiative has made little progress in revitalizing these sites and improving the economic circumstances of their residents. While DMPED has made progress by selecting someone to oversee the initiative, the DC Fiscal Policy Institute believes that the current New Communities Initiative is not financially viable as structured. The redevelopment plans should be reconsidered to ensure that needed renovations at these sites takes place.
Little Progress Has Been Made In the Construction of New Units and Affordable Housing Creation Lags
The New Communities Initiative requires that all of the original, deeply subsidized public housing units be replaced. It also requires that new construction include equal parts of market rate, moderately affordable, and deeply subsidized units.
However, production in the New Communities Initiative lags far behind schedule. Just 149 of 1,500 needed replacement units have been completed thus far. Market-rate units have not been developed in three of four sites. Yet across all four areas, the units that have been completed or are being constructed are dominated by market-rate units and thus, are not reflective of the desired final ratio of units.
In Northwest One, a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood, the creation of market-rate housing far exceeds the creation of deeply subsidized and moderately affordable units. In each of the other communities, no market rate housing has been constructed at all, and the creation of affordable housing is moving slowly. One goal of New Communities was to have interest in market-rate units help generate financing to support the affordable housing, but this has not happened at three of the four sites.
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