Photo by Mr. T in DC on Flickr.
Over the last two years the issue of affordable housing has been raised in many forums, but with little action. Mayor Gray recently committed $100 million for affordable housing; now, the Comprehensive Housing Strategy Task Force has issued its report on the District’s housing direction.
The first two of the report’s three goals focus on affordable housing. They call on the District to build and preserve 10,000 units of affordable housing and preserve the 8,000 units of housing made affordable by federal government subsidy.
In addition, the report offers many regulatory reforms and process improvements to support the construction and preservation of housing, and includes an emphasis on affordable housing near streetcars and transit hubs.
The core goal of the Task Force is to produce and preserve of 10,000 units by 2020. A target like this needs to have the tools to meet the goal. The report recommends using and significantly increasing existing affordable housing programs, including stabilizing the Housing Production Trust Fund.
The Trust Fund is an important program that builds and preserves affordable housing which residents fought for over a decade to create. Over the last few years, it has suffered from low levels of funding. Stabilization and increased funding will be key for the Trust Fund to be used to meet this production and preservation goal.
In the Task Force research, they learned that the greatest need for affordable housing is for people who make less than 30% of Area Median Income (AMI). Programs that make rents affordable to extremely low income people will be needed in addition to Trust Fund investment.
The Local Rent Supplement Program, when used with the Trust Fund, can produce housing for extremely low income residents. DC should increase it along with the Trust Fund to make sure we are building housing that meets the area of greatest need.
The Task Force identified the need for increasing the Local Rent Supplement Program, but like the Trust Fund recommendation, did not include a number of how many people should be served or a target funding level that should be made available.
At the State of the District Address, Mayor Gray announced $100 million for affordable housing. At the release of the Task Force report he called the $100 million a good start, and it is. The $100 million will allow the District to produce and preserve hundreds of units. But DC still has to make a long-term commitment for additional money to meet the goal of 10,000 units by 2020.