D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser said Friday that she has allocated more than $82 million from the city’s Housing Production Trust Fund for the creation or preservation of more than 800 units of affordable housing.
The promise to expand affordable housing in a city of skyrocketing rents was a cornerstone of the Democrat’s mayoral campaign, and during her first year in office, she has allocated $100 million to the Housing Production Trust Fund.
“We all know that housing affordability is one if not the top issue in the District of Columbia,” Bowser said at a news conference at the city’s Department of Housing and Community Development headquarters in Southeast. “And everything that we do is going to help make more people be able to afford to live in Washington, D.C.”
The allocation will preserve 466 existing units and create an additional 338. Bowser’s office said the units would house more than 1,700 people, and the majority will be allowed to stay put — rather than be priced out — with the help of the city funds.
The new and preserved units are spread across 12 development projects, seven of which are in the city’s poorest neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River and represent the first tranche of those funds.
“These are properties that were submitted in October and we’re announcing in January,” said Polly Donaldson, Bowser’s housing chief. “I think that’s significant.”
More than half of District residents surveyed in a Washington Post poll in November said that housing costs have climbed so high in recent years that they would have to leave the city if they had to move.
A majority also said the Bowser administration wasn’t doing enough to keep the city’s housing stock affordable.
And it’s unclear whether the city’s creation of new affordable homes, including those announced Friday, is outpacing the number of affordable homes being lost to new, pricey developments as the city gentrifies.
Joaquin McPeek, a spokesman for Brian Kenner, the deputy mayor for planning and economic development, said that at least 50,000 of about 300,000 existing units of housing in the nation’s capital currently receive “some type of assistance,” including federal housing vouchers.
But the administration doesn’t know the total of homes in the city that are affordable, by government standards, or whether the number is growing or shrinking.
“We would have to identify where to find that information,” Andrew Trueblood, Kenner’s chief of staff, said of previous years’ tallies.
As housing advocates often note, the District’s definition of “affordable” housing, derived from the federal indicator of the area’s median income, can also mean anything from an almost fully subsidized apartment to an apartment that’s considered affordable only to a family making more than $87,000 a year.
“We live in an incredibly expensive city, and the District needs to use every tool at its disposal to make sure that low- and moderate-income residents can live here,” said D.C. Council member Elissa Silverman (I-At Large), who sits on a Housing Preservation Strike Force that Bowser created last year to help the city identify vulnerable affordable units in need of help.
“What I’m especially excited about in today’s announcement is the focus on preserving the affordable units that we already have and not letting any more of those slip away,” Silverman added.
Of the more than 800 units that will get a boost from the city’s housing trust fund, 216 will go to residents in the lowest income bracket, defined as a family of four living on $32,880 a year.
Eighty-three other units will be used as permanent supportive housing for the homeless, Bowser’s office said.