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Still not inclusionary: Council blasts Fenty's inaction

Another Friday, another DC Register with no Inclusionary Zoning regulations despite numerous laws requiring their publication.

Chairman Gray.

In their committee report (large PDF) from this year's budget and oversight hearings, the DC Council's Committee of the Whole lambastes the Mayor for still not publishing the regulations. After pointing out that the Council had given Fenty an extension to February 6, 2009 to publish regulations and April 7 for them to go into effect, it calls Fenty's inaction "an egregious example of the flouting of the law by the Fenty Administration."

Many affordable units never got built in numerous projects as a result of the delay. Since IZ gives developers the right to build extra floors in exchange for providing affordable housing, the city also lost potential housing units overall.

At the April 6, 2009, budget oversight hearing, OP Director Harriet Tregoning, in response to a question that had been asked at the February 26, 2009 performance oversight hearing on this matter, testified that approximately 140 inclusionary zoning affordable units have been lost due to the innumerable delays in the start of this program since October 1, 2007, when IZ implementation funds first became available. Examples of lost potential affordable mixed-income housing opportunities include:
  • 14th & U Street by-right development project: where at least 8 % of the 250 units would have been IZ affordable units, in Ward 2 on border w/Ward 1.
  • Fort Totten Square at Riggs Rd & South Dakota, by-right development: where at least 8% of the 1,000 units would have been IZ affordable units, in Ward 4.
  • Dorchester building on 16th St. NW added in Reed Cooke by-right: where at least 8% of the 99 units would have IZ affordable units, in Ward 1.
Although OP Director Tregoning testified that her latest information was that the IZ Final Rulemaking would be published "momentarily," the Committee at this juncture has no confidence that the executive will do so. This situation is an egregious example of the flouting of the law by the Fenty Administration - in this case a law designed to increase mixed income housing opportunities for low and moderate income residents throughout the District of Columbia.
Even some developers say that the delay is creating substantial uncertainty. They don't know how tall they can build future buildings or whether they will need to include affordable units. Uncertainty costs money. The administration should publish the regulations now. They should agree with them—Councilmember Fenty voted for the proposal in the first place. But even if they don't, they should do it anyway, because it's the law, and they're already 84 days overdue.
David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. 


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Mr. Fenty doesn't seem to really care about attracting more investment to the city. At least that's what his inaction on this issue would say. As David said, uncertainty costs money and discourages investment.

by Cavan on May 1, 2009 9:40 am • linkreport

Please run for mayor...I beg you!! You'd get these passed...

by Jason on May 1, 2009 10:34 am • linkreport

short of us complaining, writing letters, and watching the council ineffectually complain as well, what can really be done? if fenty wants to ignore this until he leaves office, can he do that? is there some point where he can actually get in some kind of legal trouble for ignoring IZ?

if not, then i'd say we're sunk.

by IMGoph on May 1, 2009 10:50 am • linkreport

I would say having the council subjugate the mayor's office and take over in lieu of one would be the best solution, but since the US has no more daring I say go to the mainstream press.

This town so needs a tabloid that is cynical to politicians that dares to call them out.

by Jason on May 1, 2009 11:22 am • linkreport

It's a federal city. The big movers and shakers don't care about local politics. When's the last time you saw the guys who reside on Observatory Hill and Pennsylvania Avenue attend a neighborhood meeting? Criticize my statement all you want, but everyone know's it's true.

by MPC on May 1, 2009 12:30 pm • linkreport

Ok, now that we've got the "heat" covered, how about some "light"?

Why is Fenty doing this? I mean, other than that he's an evil dictator, who commits evil because it's in his nature.


by ibc on May 1, 2009 12:48 pm • linkreport

Am I right that regulations are to allow developers to build higher in exchange for affordable units? But in the previous article on the 14th and U development you linked you wrote:

"Architect Eric Colbert and developer Bob Moore presented new plans ... with the top two floors gone, some extra mass in the back to make up for it..."

So evidently raising the height limit didn't affect the square footage, it just made the developer put it on top, rather than filling out the available space? How is that a good or useful thing? Maybe there is some better incentive to provide -- reduced parking requirements, maybe?

by CG on May 1, 2009 11:23 pm • linkreport

What makes IZ different than regular variances is that as it was approved by the Council, it keeps the affordable units as affordable for the life of the unit, which prevents someone from getting a unit at affordable rates and then flipping it at a much higher price. This was (and still is) key to the IZ approved by the Council.

Some of the Mayor's biggest donors (and folks who host fundraisers for him) are developers and most developers aren't in favor of IZ despite the fact that it's in place in many other vibrant cities and counties. The Mayor is being a bit Jim Graham-like in his refusal to do something for the good of the people because other people with money (developers) don't like it.

by Adams Morgan on May 2, 2009 3:30 pm • linkreport

I think the major problem is that when you say "affordable housing" most people hear "low-income housing". DC already has far, far too much low-income housing. Just drive through SE, or up North Capitol Street sometime.

As far as doing "something for the good of the people": there are lots of people; with many diverging interests, AM pointed out.

by ibc on May 4, 2009 3:20 pm • linkreport

One question I have about 'affordable housing'. As long as someone is buying it, doesn't that make it 'affordable'? I thought that rent control had been thoroughly discredited.

by MPC on May 4, 2009 4:02 pm • linkreport

CG: The developers proposed that extra bulk in the rear to make up for the loss of IZ, but then removed it under political pressure. They ended up not getting the extra volume at all, and therefore reducing the overall number of units in the building.

by David Alpert on May 4, 2009 7:17 pm • linkreport

MPC: When we talk about "affordable housing" we are mostly talking about housing that is affordable for teachers, nurses, and firefighters. In other words working families who are the glue that holds our community together. And yet, because we are such a high education/high income labor market, they are priced out of median homes in D.C.

by bko on May 5, 2009 2:19 pm • linkreport

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