Mayor-elect Muriel E. Bowser has chosen the leader of a nonprofit affordable housing developer to run the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Developnent.
Bowser (D) said Saturday that should would nominate Polly Donaldson, executive director of the Transitional Housing Corp. since 2004, filling a key position in her administration as she prepares to tackle rising housing prices and a recent growth in homelessness in the city.
Introducing Donaldson at an event in Anacostia Saturday morning, Bowser said affordable housing is “the number one issue on people’s minds” and that Donaldson is “a person with a proven track record and proven leadership” in addressing the issue.
The Department of Housing and Community Development deals with numerous aspects of housing policy in the District, including overseeing home buyer assistance programs, administering local and federal subsidy programs for affordable housing development, enforcing rent control and other housing regulations, and investigating housing discrimination complaints.
In an interview, Donaldson said she has been tasked with improving the efficiency of the department, focusing on coordinating affordable housing resources across agencies, and implementing the recommendation of a city task force that no less than $100 million in public funds be devoted to affordable housing production yearly.
“It has to be annually built in, baked into the budget,” she said.
Donaldson’s organization has been on the front lines of the city’s housing crunch, working with churches, charities and other nonprofit groups to produce and support affordable units for the formerly homeless — including transitional housing for families coming out of shelter and “housing first” units for chronically homeless individuals who have issues with mental illness or substance abuse. Transitional Housing Corp. has also participated in the city’s controversial “Rapid Rehousing” program that provides families with temporary rent subsidies to keep them out of shelters.
If confirmed by the D.C. Council, Donaldson would replace Michael P. Kelly, who had run the Department of Housing and Community Development since 2012, after stints running public housing authorities in D.C., New Orleans, New York and Philadelphia.
Donaldson, 57, is a well-known name in D.C. affordable housing circles. She is the board president of the Coalition for Nonprofit Housing and Economic Development, an umbrella group of city affordable housing developers. Donaldson also served on the affordable housing task force assembled by Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) in 2012 and has served on the Interagency Council on Homelessness.
Donaldson is a resident of Mount Pleasant, where she served as an advisory neighborhood commissioner from 1995 to 1997. She said her salary has yet to be finalized.