• W3HJ

Candidate Questionnaire - Question #1

Question:

Buy land – to create city-owned property for affordable housing. Since there is very little existing public land in Ward 3, will you pledge to take concrete action to help create an acquisition fund like the proposed DC Affordable Housing Property Acquisition Fund for FY 2024 modeled after the existing program in New York City that could also incorporate aspects of the San Francisco Community Opportunity to Purchase Act. This would enable the city and its pre-approved teams of development partners to move nimbly to acquire private property in high-opportunity, high-cost neighborhoods for development of affordable housing. Please list 2-3 concrete actions you would take to promote such a fund if you were elected.


Responses:

Erin Palmer (Council Chair):

Yes. I believe housing is a human right and that all DC residents are entitled to safe, stable, and secure housing. Part of how we meet our housing needs is to ensure we are providing affordable housing in Ward 3. We know that Rock Creek West has produced virtually no affordable housing, and that affordable housing production is concentrated in Far Southeast and Southwest.

The proposals in my DC Council Accountability Plan would help move forward consideration of an acquisition fund to acquire private property for the development of affordable housing. Specifically, the Plan calls for:

  1. Improving the process of forming and assigning membership to Council Committees to assure neutrality, expertise, and consistency and to avoid the appearance of impropriety;

  2. Expanding dedicated, nonpartisan Committee support staff to ensure continuity, retention of institutional knowledge, and additional capacity to legislate and conduct oversight;

  3. Re-instituting a comprehensive, nonpartisan, and objective research service to assist the Council in crafting legislative solutions to DC’s challenges, including robust consideration of best practices across jurisdictions; encourage holistic knowledge building across Council offices; help the Council better target public funds toward evidence-based programs; and supplement the research work of the Council’s Office of the Budget Director; and

  4. Expanding the work of the Council Office of Racial Equity to include review of the DC budget and Council operations, as well as requiring the Council to respond to racial equity impact assessments, including providing its rationale for supporting or opposing legislation that maintains or worsens racial inequity.

Each of these measures would equip the Council to gather the data to determine best practices and move forward a proposal to maximize affordable housing in Ward 3 - a resources and amenities rich Ward that provides little affordable housing compared to the rest of DC.

We also know that our existing mechanism for District purchase (the District Opportunity to Purchase Act) is both underutilized and too limited. I would look to expand DOPA to meet similar goals. I am also interested in expanding our use of models like community land trusts and social housing to ensure that when the District purchases land or properties they remain in service in perpetuity.


Anita Bonds (Council At Large):

Yes. I am intrigued by the concept of the acquisition fund, and I believe the District should proceed with a pilot demonstration proof of concept in the near future – it is an initiative I will support. I believe we have to use all the tools at our disposal to promote affordable housing in our city. There are no silver bullets. But we should continue to produce affordable units though the Housing Production Trust Fund; continue to provide homeownership opportunities, such as the HPAP program which I helped to create; provide incentives for people to stay in their homes, such as increases to the Single Family Rehab Program, which I secured in this year’s budget; tax relief for seniors to stay in their homes; more affordable assisted living opportunities for our seniors; supporting tenants exercising their TOPA rights with government funds. I also authored a new District Opportunity to Purchase Act in 2021 that can operate as a backstop to TOPA, and provide an efficient mechanism for the District to take over a property when it is put up for sale, and work to preserve affordability. I’m interested in a pilot level project to test the concept of a District property acquisition fund, but I think it’s important not to put all our eggs in one basket.


Nate Fleming (Council At Large):

Yes. I would introduce legislation to establish the acquisition fund or sign-on to such legislation if already introduced by a colleague. Affordable housing is one of my top priorities, meaning the affordable housing acquisition fund would be at the top of my legislative agenda receiving the undivided attention of my team. I would also educate my constituents -- all residents of the District in an at-large race -- about the importance of public acquisition of property in high-opportunity, high-cost neighborhoods.


Lisa Gore (Council At Large):

Yes.

  • Action 1: Work with the council to determine public-private partnerships that would be required to leverage implementation of the fund.

  • Action 2: I would work with the Housing Committee to hold hearings on establishing this fund in order to obtain community engagement.

  • Action 3: I would work with Councilmembers and private partners on securing capital investments and financing structures that maximize affordable housing development.


Dexter Williams (Council At Large):

Yes. Though I can’t comment on the specific funds you mention above, what I can say is I’m committed to not only strengthening “tools” in DC’s affordable housing toolbox but expanding the tools available. This is particularly true in instances where there are gaps and no productive existing tools available. You’ve identified an important gap -- that is, the need for an acquisition fund to help enable the purchase of private property for affordable housing. If elected, I will work with Ward 3 Housing Justice and others to explore existing acquisition funds that have been established elsewhere and develop possible model legislation so that they can be successfully applied in Washington, DC.


Ben Bergmann (Ward 3 Council):

Yes. I support creating an acquisition fund modeled after the existing program in New York and other jurisdictions. As an initial matter, one would need to ensure that the program had sufficient funding to actually acquire property at scale, particularly in high cost areas. Once up and running, one would ideally try and carve out a dedicated funding stream on top of any monies the fund could recoup once projects are completed and rented (e.g. a vacancy tax and other fees aimed at discouraging socially destructive speculative behavior or a tax/fee on developers that decline to do more than the bare minimum when it comes to IZ units). We could also raise funding for the fund by leveraging some (not all) of our public buildings in an entrepreneurial fashion (i.e. re-develop a public building in a prime, high value area with the goal of maximizing the profit collected by the city and then redirecting all of those profits towards acquiring property in private hands for the development of affordable housing).


Deirdre Brown (Ward 3 Council):

Yes. As the Ward 3 Councilmember I would support legislation that would create, fund and develop an acquisition fund. This is imperative if we are going to reach our affordable housing goals.


Tricia Duncan (Ward 3 Council):

Yes Enabling the city and its partners to acquire private property in high-opportunity, high-cost neighborhoods for the development of affordable housing is a common-sense policy. It could have a particularly powerful impact in Ward 3, an area filled with neighborhoods ripe for affordable housing development. As Councilmember, I will support or introduce legislation that would create such a program, and then advocate to fund it fully. This requires building a community coalition in support of the legislation and convincing like-minded Councilmembers that we can't wait any longer to take advantage of high-opportunity areas in Ward 3 and across the District. I would also leverage my experience working with real estate developers, both in my career and work as PCA President, to collaborate with development partners and government stakeholders to secure the best possible outcome.


Beau Finley (Ward 3 Council):

Yes. The Affordable Housing Property Acquisition Fund (AHPAF) is a great idea and is similar to my proposals to amend the Housing Production Trust Fund to purchase units and then make them available as deeply affordable housing units, potentially via a system of master leases managed by non-profits or the District. I have proposed that the District build a portfolio of existing housing, reinvesting capital returns in upkeep but using profits to either build more affordable housing or convert existing housing into affordable housing.

I would gladly introduce and lobby for AHPAF legislation. In addition, in order to ensure that the AHPAF provides agility for non-profits to quickly act to procure buildings for housing, I would include program pre-approval so that non-profits do not have to waste valuable time determining project-specific funding mechanisms.


Matt Frumin (Ward 3 Council):

Yes. I would reach out to LISC and Enterprise, both institutions I have worked with in the past, to strategize about how to initiate such a program here. I would gather organizations interested in such an initiative to strategize and coordinate in seeking a launch. I would lobby the Executive to find a way to include funding for such an initiative in the budget. And, if not in the Mayor's budget I would explore whether the Council could find funding.


Monte Monash (Ward 3 Council):

Yes.

  1. Review and support the current Affordable Housing Property Acquisition Fund (AHPAF) - FY24. Work with community leaders, private developers and DC government to establish the lending pool with protected matched funding from the DC budget to build out and acquire land for the development of affordable housing in Ward 3.

  2. Work with several DC agencies to research opportunities for developing new affordable housing in Ward 3 - DC Department of General Services (DGS) to identify the inventory of vacant, unused, and unmaintained DC properties. - DC Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) to identify grants, federal funds and loan programs for development of the new public land. - Office of the Deputy Mayor of Planning and Economic Development to bring in developers that have a track record of developing affordable housing units and other mixed-used, commercial tenants for ground level retail, restaurants and other conveniences. - Office of Planning to engage in a Small Area Plan process with identify Ward 3 neighborhoods along the Wisconsin and Connecticut Avenue main streets to start.

  3. Work with community partners to establish and designate site locations.