The District of Columbia is a much more prosperous place today than it was not long ago, but prosperity comes with its own set of challenges. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the struggle of D.C. residents at all age levels, all stations of life, and at most incomes to afford the cost of housing.
I know what it’s like to spend half of your income on housing, and the resulting sense of feeling like you will never get ahead financially. As a community leader, I’ve watched as many of my most passionate and hard-working young peers have been forced to relocate in order buy a home or raise a family. These are the people that should form the future of our civic community, but they lack the opportunity to stay – as do other young D.C. residents who end up confronting a choice between their community and their financial security.
But it’s not just younger residents. Many residents in middle age and seniors – a lot of them longtime D.C. residents – face skyrocketing rents, higher property tax payments, or rising condo/co-op fees that stress their ability to make ends meet, especially those on a fixed income.
We have a moral obligation to those who stuck with the District through tough times and worked to turn it around; they should not be victims of displacement now that times are good. And that aside, we have an interest in maintaining a diverse, integrated community of residents at all ages and income levels; we know that a lack of affordable housing is a major contributing factor behind the large population of residents experiencing homelessness in the District.
That’s why as your councilmember, I pledge to:
· push to amend the District’s Comprehensive Plan in order to make clear that the production and maintenance of affordable housing units is – above all other factors – D.C.’s No. 1 planning priority, with a specific emphasis on greater production of housing units in areas of the District with high median rents;
· scrutinize the cost of projects supported by revenue from the Housing Production Trust Fund (HPTF), explore avenues by which more of the Fund’s revenues can come from dedicated sources, and pressure the Department of Housing and Community Development to obligate funds more quickly in order to limit the degree by which the HPTF’s purchasing power is reduced by general inflation and recent dramatic annual increases in construction costs;
· propose a rigorous incentive program expressly designed to support the conversion of underutilized Class B and C office space into housing with a high percentage of affordable units, including units targeted to those making 50% of Area Median Income;
· work to expand the number of units in the District’s inventory of rent-controlled housing by gradually enrolling buildings constructed after 1975 into the program on a rolling basis, providing a window of market-rate eligibility for housing developers over several decades so as not to depress new production;
· support the creation of a dedicated source of capital funding in order to enable the D.C. Housing Authority to bring their current inventory of units into a state of good repair; and
· put forward legislation to greatly raise the income threshold under which housing-stressed renters and homeowners are eligible to receive the DC Homeowner and Rental Property Tax Credit (Schedule H), and expand the maximum eligible credit itself.