At an Oct. 13 press conference, Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) announced that since 2011 his administration has invested $1.3 billion to create 6,500 units of affordable housing. When Ms. Barras challenged us to justify that number, we reiterated what the mayor said at the press conference: $1.3 billion includes local and federal investments made across four different District agencies. Later at the same press conference, Department of Housing and Community Development Director Michael Kelly announced $142 million in funding from his agency alone to add an additional 2,100 units to the District’s affordable housing pipeline. As we clearly explained to Ms. Barras, DHCD’s numbers included only new commitments from a single agency and did not take into account the subsidies that will be provided by other agencies. For example, to be economically viable, most projects that receive funding from DHCD also receive federal low-income housing tax credits and tax-exempt financing from the DC Housing Finance Agency. Adding the two investments together will result in a significantly higher per-unit investment. That is simple arithmetic.
In comparing the per-unit cost of Mr. Gray’s broad $1.3 billion investment with DHCD’s more narrow $142 million, Ms. Barras’s conclusion makes no sense. It is a true apples-to-oranges comparison.
In addition, without a shred of evidence, she asserted that the District government is funneling money to favored developers. Columnists should back up provocative assertions with evidence. Or is innuendo now enough?
No other major U.S. city is devoting more of its own tax dollars or has produced more affordable housing on a per-resident basis than the District. It is irresponsible and cynical to ignore the major steps the District has taken to preserve its rich socio-economic and cultural diversity or to deride them as a “minor” achievements. It is something Mr. Gray and all District residents are right to celebrate.
Jeff Miller, Washington
The writer is the District’s interim deputy mayor for economic development.