The District should have good housing options for all residents. But as this past winter so clearly showed, we still have a housing crisis that is leaving our most vulnerable residents and families homeless and at risk. Making sure the District has a supply of safe and affordable housing for households at income levels across the economic spectrum is one of the great responsibilities and challenges for our government.
D.C. General should be closed but not before we have created an alternative emergency shelter that is safe and secure. We must address this crisis by speeding up efforts to move families from shelters to permanent supportive housing and making more funds available for emergency housing programs such as rental assistance. For more information, see my blog post on this issue.
Preserving Our Current Affordable Housing
We need to preserve the affordable housing we have. We need a more muscular and effective Office of the Tenant Advocate to help renters understand their rights when it comes to rent control and right of purchase. I serve on the Committee on Housing and Economic Development, where we look into what measures other cities facing similar economic pressures have taken to keep housing affordable.
Producing More Affordable Housing
We need to put more resources into producing affordable rental housing. Right now the Housing Production Trust Fund is tied to the deed and recordation tax, which means it fluctuates with the housing market. I would make it a line item in the budget, because our housing production should not be subject to bubbles and bursts. We need housing that allows our workers in growing industries such as hospitality and healthcare to live near where they work. It makes sense in terms of revenue, because they are paying property taxes and income tax here instead of the suburbs; it makes sense in terms of smart growth, because they will not be traveling in cars; and it makes sense in terms of their quality of life.
We need to put more money into rental housing subsidies. Even with our increased minimum wage, an average one-bedroom apartment is unattainable on that salary. We should strengthen our local rent supplement program and rental assistance.
Keeping Homeownership an Option For All
We need to make sure owning a home is still possible for low- and moderate-income families. It is a crucial way middle class families build wealth. I am interested in improving a program that shares equity—in other words, offers assistance to those who might not otherwise be able to afford a house so that they may purchase and build equity, while reserving some of the appreciation in the value of the home to keep the house affordable to the next buyer. DC has such a program—and I considered it when I bought—but I think it needs to be tweaked so more folks are enticed to participate in it.