The day after Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) gave his state of the District address this month, Hizzoner was called out for largely omitting a big issue among all his talk of job creation and ethics standards and public safety and sustainability: affordable housing.
“He is surprisingly quiet on an issue that impacts tens of thousands of District families and workers,” wrote the advocates at the Continuum of Housing Campaign.
“Creating more [housing], and preserving the stuff we have, is critical to both keeping people here who might otherwise leave and getting people who’ll take all these new jobs to actually live and pay income taxes in the District,” wrote City Paper’s Lydia DePillis.
Besides being good policy, maintaining affordable housing is no small issue in city politics. Look no further than Gray’s own One City Summit a week-and-a-half ago, where participants ranked a lack of affordable housing as the top issue facing the city.
So no surprise, then, that my inbox today includes a news release announcing Gray is “Focusing Resources on Affordable Housing.”
Gray is doing that focusing in the best he knows how: forming a committee.
He announced today the appointment of co-chairs of the Comprehensive Housing Strategy Task Force, a group that has its origins in a 2003 effort to map out a long-term affordable housing plan for the city. The first set of recommendations were issued in 2006 and have grown somewhat disconnected from reality given the economic retreat of the past four years.
The new appointees — Harry Sewell, executive director of the D.C. Housing Finance Agency, and developer Deborah Ratner Salzburg of Forest City Washington — will lead the effort to update those recommendations.
Per the release, “The Task Force will soon hold its inaugural meeting and then will convene working-group meetings over the course of the next few months. The panel will hold public engagement meetings to solicit feedback from residents and stakeholders on creating a District-wide housing strategy. Building on the feedback they receive, the panel will issue a draft report this summer and a final report in the fall.”
Do note that Gray is doing more than appointing committees. Today he joined builders and housing officials to break ground on a new building in Deanwood, The Nannie Helen at 4800, that is set to have 70 affordable units. The $19 million financing package includes a $6.4 million city subsidy.