Photo by CitysideManagement on Flickr.

Mayor Gray is expected to release his proposed Fiscal Year 2013 budget this Friday, a month after the One City Summit. Gray pledged to use the summit’s results to shape both his administration and the budget. On Friday, we’ll find out just how the budget addresses the summit’s top participant-generated concern: the District’s lack of affordable housing.

Mayor Gray has the opportunity in this spring’s budget exercise to recommit the District and his administration to a strong affordable housing policy.

This policy would protect our current affordable housing stock; allow non-profits and mission-driven for-profits to develop safe, quality affordable housing that benefits both the residents and neighbors; encourage homeownership; and stop the expensive and inefficient quick-fix solutions to homelessness the District currently uses.

At the Coalition for Nonprofit Housing and Economic Development, we have recommended the District focus on restoration and expansion of key housing programs in this budget, as a first step toward a full “Continuum of Housing” that fully meets DC’s housing needs.

Restore the Housing Production Trust Fund

This budget must restore $18 million to the Housing Production Trust Fund (HPTF) for its intended purpose of housing production and preservation.

The HPTF is the District’s most important tool for producing and preserving affordable housing in DC. Affordable housing providers around the District count on the HPTF to help build new affordable apartments, rehabilitate existing low-cost housing, and help tenants purchase their buildings under the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA).

When tenants are able to purchase, it increases opportunities for homeownership, preserves low-cost housing, and keeps long-time residents in their neighborhoods. In the 10-year history of the Housing Production Trust Fund, 7,000 housing units in more than 100 locations have been completed or are under construction using dollars from the Trust Fund. It has developed and rehabilitated housing in every ward of the District.

Fully fund the Local Rent Supplement Program

The Local Rent Supplement Program (LRSP) must be fully funded from from the General Fund, including $6 million to address a projected shortfall in the DC Housing Authority’s LRSP budget. Failing to fill this gap would jeopardize housing for 514 households.

Utilize the Housing First Fund and LRSP to serve new people

This budget should invest $5 million from the Nationals Stadium Community Benefit Fund for Housing First and $5 million for the LRSP to serve new people.

Both LRSP and Housing First were developed to house the tens of thousands of people on the DC Housing Authority’s waiting list, to address the ongoing homelessness crisis in the District, and to support the production of permanent supportive housing. Without additional funds, these programs are not able to serve any new residents.

Maintain funding for the Home Purchase Assistance Program

If federal funds for the Home Purchase Assistance Program (HPAP) are cut, DC should keep the program whole with additional local funds.

HPAP has been a key tool for increasing DC’s homeownership rate. Maintaining constant funding is crucial to helping low- and moderate-income residents move into homeownership and remain in the District. The current funding level allows 500 families to receive assistance to buy their first home.

In the District, homeownership would often be a less expensive housing option than renting, but residents need additional support to move into homeownership. Homeownership maintains neighborhood stability and can also help families use equity in their homes to finance college and build their net worth.

In a recent press conference, Mayor Gray focused on his administration’s appointment of a new team to review the 2006 Comprehensive Housing Strategy Task Force Report. The new task force will look at concrete ways to make the previous recommendations a reality.

We applaud this approach, but realize that the updated task force report won’t be completed until well into the year, and if the mayor does not act now, 2013 will foster the same stagnation in affordable housing that we see now in 2012.

DC cannot wait another year or more for good affordable housing policy. Mayor Gray must respond to residents’ concerns, made even more apparent in the One City Summit, with an investment in affordable housing that starts now.