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Task force sets goal of 10,000 affordable units

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.

Photo by Mr. T in DC on Flickr.

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.

Elizabeth Falcon is the campaign organizer for the Coalition for Nonprofit Housing and Economic Development (CNHED), an association of affordable housing developers, community organizations, government agencies and more in DC. She writes about how policies affect affordable housing at the Housing For All blog. 


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It strikes me that would make more sense to tear down and sell off the housing projects in nice parts of the city and use that money to rebuild housing somewhere else.

Also, I'm a bit confused. If it takes 22 years to get a 2 bedroom DCRA how do you get one?

by charlie on Mar 13, 2013 2:43 pm • linkreport

I disagree with the focus on building affordable housing near metro. Sure, it should be in reasonable distance, but often this means very very close. Two problems emerge
1. The most valuable estate is right next to the Metro. Affordable housing should not start by taking the most valuable real estate.
2. The focus on building affordable housing near metro buys into the idea that transit is only for poor people, and that rich people live in the suburbs and drive. This leads to downward cycle. Right now, we are seeing a positive feedback loop between urban living and alternatives to driving. I don't want to destroy that.

by SJE on Mar 13, 2013 2:47 pm • linkreport

In greater DC lots of rich folks live near metro stations. Folks earning a smaller percent of AMI will still likely have a lower SOV mode share for any given location, and its desirable (both for their well being, and for GHGs) that there be affordable housing with transit options.

That the most valuable real estate is near metro suggest that affordable housing near metro should not be buildings predominantly with guaranteed affordable units, paid for with cash subsidies - but that buildings near metro should have high proportions of market rate units, with affordable units included almost entirely by inclusionary zoning or additional density bonuses. Funded affordable housing should focus on less expensive areas, but even so should not involve excessive concentrations of the lowest incomes in any one building (and the potential to directly or indirectly create affordable housing in suburban jurisdictions would make sense, its thats at all feasible). This proposal is focused on the lowest incomes (below 30% of AMI) and on the homeless - its not my impression that the Mayors focus will be the same - but this is a stake in the ground, I imagine, to offset a likely municipal focus on workforce housing instead.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Mar 13, 2013 2:56 pm • linkreport

Honestly I don't really see access to transit as a barrier to development of housing anywhere in the city. It would probably be a good idea to target areas within say 1 mile of a metro station but that shouldnt be a requirement necessarily considering that there are bus lines all over the city outside of parts of far NW.

by Alan B. on Mar 13, 2013 3:02 pm • linkreport

Allocating prime real estate for affordable units will just drive up prices for the market rate units nearby -- less supply means higher prices for everyone else. Affordable units can be near transit (including bus) but should not displace prime real estate. Doing so only makes the market more lopsided, and housing near Metro stations is already expensive.

by Hilaire on Mar 13, 2013 3:23 pm • linkreport

A quick search suggest there are almost no DCRA projects in W2 and w3. few in w1, which would be candidaites for resell and closure.

I'm finding 32 Section 8 places within 1 mile of zip 20001, which is a good approximation for the center of the city.

If anything, this task force is just trying to keep poor people out of Capital Riverfront and NoMA. With the head of ForestCity as the chair, is that any surprise?

by charlie on Mar 13, 2013 3:30 pm • linkreport

Hmm? There are successor affordable units to the old DCRA project in Cap Riverfront, and I assume new buildings are subject to inclusionary zoning. As for NoMa, adjacent Sursum Corda redevelopment will preserve the same number of existing affordable units.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Mar 13, 2013 3:34 pm • linkreport

@Walker, I'm not counting the Iz units. Don't have a list of those.

by charlie on Mar 13, 2013 3:37 pm • linkreport

My understanding is the Capitaol Riverfront/Near SE redevelopment will 1-for-1 replace the public housing units that existed as part of Capper/Carrollsburg (which was the public housing project located where Capitol Quarter now stands). That replacement is not yet complete, and I don't recall the timeline off the top of my head, but they will all be replaced.

And, honestly, even if this is part of some nefarious plot to keep "undesirable" elements of out Capitol Riverfront, that fact is cross S. Capitol Street into SW and there is tons and tons of public housing, and people from SW use amenities in Riverfront all the time.

by Birdie on Mar 13, 2013 4:04 pm • linkreport

Odd to see opposition to high density housing development near transit hubs. That usually seems to be a popular theme.

by Chris S. on Mar 13, 2013 8:07 pm • linkreport

Carlie - there have been housing projects in what are now more desirable areas that have already been torn down and have been or are being redeveloped. Kentucky Courts near Potomac Metro and Ellen Wilson Dwellings on I SE not too far from 8th have long gone. Both have some affordable units and the rest are privately owned at market rate. Arthur Caper Carrollsberg (torn down) is part of that.

by ET on Mar 13, 2013 8:22 pm • linkreport

There's still tons of affordable / Section 8 housing on 14th St though. I'm not sure to what extent that's being preserved.

by Alan B. on Mar 14, 2013 9:35 am • linkreport

The Mitch Snyder homeless shelter sits on a parcel of land worth in excess of $200 million.

And it's a decrepit 3 story building.

If we were serious about affordable housing funding we'd tear that down and redevelop the property as a ten story office building. Use the taxes/rents from that as a dedicated revenue stream to forever fund affordable housing and new homeless services that value actual bang for the buck over the outdated and overly precious (and counterproductive) insistence on 'keeping the homeless visible downtown'.

by Hillman on Mar 14, 2013 4:02 pm • linkreport

Of course affordable housing near transit is a good idea. Low and very-low income people use transit the most and need a low cost option that connects them to jobs, education, services, etc. For those saying that wealthier people use transit too - well, yeah, but not at the same level and research shows that when neighborhoods gentrify near transit hubs, the amount of car use in the neighborhood actually increases. Wealthier people like the OPTION of public transit, but low-income people need and use it.

by Miles on Mar 14, 2013 8:24 pm • linkreport

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