• W3HJ

Candidate Questionnaire - Question #3

Question:

The DC Office of Attorney General proposed four Zoning Text Amendments on December 2, 2021. For each one answer whether you support the amendment.

  1. Lower the income thresholds for affordable housing generated through inclusionary zoning. OAG’s proposed text amendment would deepen the affordability levels in the inclusionary zoning program for both home ownership and rental units so that the lowest-income residents can access housing. Do you support this?

  2. Increase the affordable housing requirement for developers who move affordable units off site. OAG’s proposed text amendment requires 20% more affordable housing when a developer chooses to locate affordable housing off-site. Do you support this?

  3. Remove the downtown exemption from inclusionary zoning. OAG’s proposed text amendment would require the developers of downtown residential projects comply with inclusionary zoning affordable housing requirements. Do you support this?

  4. Exempt affordable units from minimum parking requirements. OAG’s proposed text amendment would exempt affordable units from minimum parking requirements, to encourage developers to instead add affordable units. Do you support this?


Responses:

Erin Palmer (Council Chair)

  1. Yes. As noted by the District Office of the Attorney General, these changes would restore the inclusionary zoning program’s initial targeted income levels that have been steadily increasing due to rising DC median income levels and housing costs. Too often, inclusionary zoning is treated like our primary affordable housing tool, when instead it is a supplement. It is good that we are producing some affordable housing in most new developments, but we will never meet our affordability needs or even keep up with the loss of affordable units using just inclusionary zoning. We also need to recognize that our standards for affordability have evolved over time and will continue to evolve. That is part of why the work of the Housing Justice Committee that I founded as an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner led to the Office of the Attorney General’s Land Use Section to propose a text amendment in recognition of the evolving standards of affordability. That text amendment asks that Planned Unit Developments follow newer, higher inclusionary zoning standards if they have changed from when the project was initially proposed. This ensures that large projects in DC continue to meet high standards and maximize the production of affordable housing using inclusionary zoning. I’m very thankful for the work of the attorneys with the Land Use Section to make sure our inclusionary zoning requirements are maximizing affordable housing. The proposals in my DC Council Accountability Plan would assist in the continual assessment of maximizing the utility of our inclusionary zoning requirements.

  2. Yes. As noted by the District Office of the Attorney General, the inclusionary zoning program was designed to create inclusive, mixed-income developments. But, developers are allowed to move units without any penalties or trade-offs. I support such trade-offs. The proposals in my DC Council Accountability Plan would assist in the continual assessment of maximizing the utility of our inclusionary zoning requirements.

  3. Yes. Unlike my opponent, I support applying inclusionary zoning requirements to downtown residential projects - areas that are transit accessible and rich in amenities. There is no meaningful basis for their exclusion, and inclusionary zoning requirements are relatively modest such that they would not alter construction incentives. The proposals in my DC Council Accountability Plan would assist in the continual assessment of maximizing the utility of our inclusionary zoning requirements.

  4. Yes. As an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner, I have regularly emphasized the importance of reducing parking in transit-rich areas in exchange for affordable and deeply affordable housing. I'm also supportive of reconsidering our parking minimum standards in general for new construction. If we can reduce construction costs to improve affordability, increase density near transit hubs, and reduce car dependence it seems like a very easy action to take. The proposals in my DC Council Accountability Plan would assist in the continual assessment of maximizing the utility of our inclusionary zoning requirements.


Anita Bonds (Council At Large)

  1. No. At this time, it is premature to comment on this OAG petition, and I would associate myself with the position that the Office of Planning has taken in its Memorandum to the Zoning Commission dated May 12, 2022. Notably, OP’s initial analysis of the OAG’s petition suggests the new requirements could result in FEWER IZ units because of the proposals’ impacts on the market rate housing to which IZ units are tied. OP’s preliminary review also indicates that there are many Comprehensive Plan policies with which the proposals may actually be inconsistent. Given these preliminary findings by the District’s Office of Planning, it would be irresponsible for me to take a position that puts at stake the affordability of housing in the previously exempted parts of the city. I support OP’s recommendation that the Zoning Commission suspend the setdown of these cases until OP conducts stakeholder engagement with members of the public, government entities, and interested groups to develop and analyze concepts for providing additional affordable housing and deeper levels of affordability, particularly in the downtown area; and The Zoning Commission holds a Public Roundtable to discuss these concepts.

  2. Yes. Again, while I generally support the concept, I believe it would be premature to take a position on this petition. On its face, it appears to be a well-reasoned petition, but as an elected official, I believe it would be inappropriate for me to take a position on this petition having heard only one side.

  3. Yes. Again, I am supportive of the concept and look forward to public hearings to better inform of this bold movement for greater affordability.

  4. Yes. I look forward to receiving more information on this issue. In general, it is very often that case that households that are eligible for affordable housing subsidies are the very families that may rely on a vehicle to get to a job, or meet the needs of their family. It’s the market-rate housing that may more commonly be able to forgo the parking requirement. So, I would like to understand this issue more clearly before taking a position.


Nate Fleming (Council At Large)

  1. Yes. Housing costs present larger burdens to extremely low income households because housing costs can easily make up a majority of their income. For this reason and for the simple belief in housing justice, income thresholds for affordable housing generated through inclusionary zoning should be lowered so that lower-income individuals and families have an opportunity to take advantage of the program. This is especially true for home ownership. Home ownership can be a catalyst to creating inter-generational wealth and eliminating racial disparities in net worth. Lowering the threshold for inclusionary zoning participation is also an important tool in the effort to curb the displacement of longtime DC residents.

  2. Yes. Developers need more accountability in DC, particularly concerning their commitment to developing affordable housing. If a developer chooses to develop affordable housing at a location other than the location of the primary development project, they should be required to earmark more affordable housing units. Requiring them to designate 20% more units as affordable in this instance is a small ask considering the units will be developed off-site.

  3. Yes. We must look at ways to revitalize our downtown coordinate for both business and residential use. I’ve publicly called for more investment in the conversion of office space into residential units. As the city moves to this model, we should absolutely lift the downtown exemption for inclusionary zoning to maximize the number of affordable units created in this corridor. Downtown DC is central to transportation, jobs, and culturally enriching activities. We should make sure we are providing all income levels with an opportunity to live, work, and play in this area. As stated, even though the Attorney General’s new Land-Use Section has introduced amendments to the Zoning regulations that would require Inclusionary Zoning units be created in residential conversions in the Downtown zones, the Zoning Commission has been less than enthusiastic. The District must replenish its property portfolio with new acquisitions, specifically of properties that have outlived their original uses.

  4. Yes. I support exploring common sense efforts to encourage developers to build more affordable units and that includes exempting affordable units from minimum parking requirements.


Lisa Gore (Council At Large)

  1. Yes. I agree with the OAG lowering the income thresholds and I am not certain the production goals for 30 and 50% MFI are sufficient.

  2. Yes: I support the language as proposed by the OAG. This is basic equity and offers a disincentive for developers that seek to place IZ units offsite. The proposed language also requires an investment in “deeper” affordability. This will help address the needs of Black Washingtonians.

  3. Yes. DC is facing a housing crisis identified by a tremendous shortage of affordable housing units. In response to this crisis, adjustments need to be made to zoning regulations. One such adjustment that can help address this crisis is requiring developers of downtown units to comply with inclusionary zoning affordable housing requirements.

  4. Yes. The language proposed by the OAG is another way to eliminate barriers to producing more affordable housing. We should be using this valuable space for housing. Additionally, my platform calls for creating neighborhoods reflective of a 15-minute city. This means, residents should be able to walk, bike, or use public transportation and access needed services within 15 minutes of travel. If we build in transit rich areas, this lessens the burden of car use. We must consider these trade-offs as we meet our housing production goals.


Dexter Williams (Council At Large)

  1. Yes. 100%. DC’s Inclusionary Zoning program is a critically important tool because it requires affordable housing units to be incorporated into most new multi-family housing. It’s critically important, but the IZ program can and should be strengthened. OAG proposes to deepen the levels of affordability under the IZ program. Affordability levels should be set to where the need is highest and that is at the lower incomes. Rising median income levels and housing costs have steadily eroded the actual affordability of inclusionary zoning units. I support changes that would deepen the levels of affordability for units set aside under the IZ program.

  2. Yes. 100%. One of the main objectives of DC’s IZ program is to mix income levels in development projects so that all buildings, blocks, and neighborhoods reflect the economic diversity of the city. In so doing, the IZ program provides an expanded opportunity for lower income residents to live near Metro, job centers, services, schools, and other desirable locations. If a developer seeks to move the required IZ off-site to a different location, an additional affordable housing benefit should be required, including a larger number of off-site IZ units, deeper affordability for the units, or additional or larger family-sized (3+ bedrooms) units.

  3. Yes. Currently, none of the development downtown is providing any housing that isn’t market rate. When IZ was originally adopted in 2006, the Zoning Commission excluded the downtown on the basis that no compensating bonus density was available. I agree with OAG that it’s well past time for the Zoning Commission to revisit that initial decision. I also agree with OAG that the Zoning Commission should have taken up this proposal as an “emergency action”. It’s been over a year since the Planning Office promised to study this issue and, while we wait, project-after- exempt project gets built without IZ affordable units.

  4. Yes. Yes; in concept I support this proposal. Exempting affordable units from minimum parking requirements would remove a cost barrier to affordable housing production. As, I understand it, the proposal is still in flux and still could benefit from additional review. I would be particularly interested in more racial equity review to get a better understanding of likely real-world effects of the absence of parking on lower-income households who often must rely on personal vehicles to meet their various needs.


Ben Bergmann (Ward 3 Council).

  1. Yes. Even if we dramatically increase the supply of housing in DC, as I am pushing for, it is unlikely that the market will ever be able to deliver deeply affordable housing for low-income Washingtonians in high opportunity areas. I support re-orienting IZ and our Housing Production Trust Fund dollars so that we are prioritizing deeply affordable housing.

  2. Yes. I want to see more mixed-income communities in the District and this measure will encourage that by raising the cost of locating affordable housing off site. Additionally, this amendment will benefit the public by ensuring that when affordable units are built off site (something that is not ideal), we are at least getting a greater number of units.

  3. Yes. This reform is long past due. Downtown is empty and in crisis. We must commit to building a dynamic and thriving neighborhood with housing for people of all income levels.

  4. Yes. Yes, this is a prudent measure that is also consistent with our broader environmental and transportation goals. I do think that it increases the need for the Council to separately invest in expanding and improving our transit infrastructure to reduce any negative impacts on neighborhoods from reducing parking minimums.


Deirdre Brown (Ward 3 Council)

  1. Yes. We know that are in desperate need of deeply affordable housing so we must use all the tools available to us to fill this gap.

  2. Yes. We must hold developers accountable and demand that they increase the number of affordable and deeply affordable units. If we do not, we will never reach our affordable units goals.

  3. Yes. We need more affordable housing so we must use all resources available to us.

  4. Yes. However, as we must build units near public transportation and make sure that the transportation is affordable and reliable. Two of the ways that we can accomplish this by providing public transportation subsidies and using dedicated bus lanes.


Tricia Duncan (Ward 3 Council):

  1. Yes. I am strongly supportive of OAG's proposed amendment. The District, especially Ward 3, desperately needs more deeply affordable housing and expanding inclusionary zoning affordability levels is an important step towards achieving that goal.

  2. Yes. I am supportive of this text amendment, which would ensure that either affordable housing remains on-site or that additional affordable housing is built off-site. Either option achieves a unique goal, either keeping affordable units in needed areas or further expanding affordable housing throughout the District.

  3. Yes. The downtown exemption from inclusionary zoning has prevented sufficient affordable housing from being constructed in the area. I strongly support incorporating more residential development downtown and such development must include affordable housing. This will ensure that the newly residential areas of downtown are more diverse and that affordable housing is being distributed throughout the entire city.

  4. Yes. I am supportive of exempting affordable units from minimum parking requirements which would, in many cases, encourage developers to create more affordable units rather than adding additional parking spots. It's important to ensure that developers choosing to take advantage of this exemption do so responsibly as, unfortunately, in some areas of Ward 3 with inadequate transit access parking is often necessary.


Beau Finley (Ward 3 Council):

  1. Yes. The OAG’s first proposal is a great idea for a change, but is not enough. An individual who has a college degree and is working as a GS-5 with the federal government earns a salary in the District of $40,883 per year. This works out to roughly ~45% MFI. It is absurd to me that someone is paid that starvation wage of ~$20 per hour. It is further absurd that such a salary is below 50% MFI. I would support lowering the thresholds beyond what OAG proposed.

  2. Yes. I support it, but I don't like what it means for how we treat low-income people in the District. Already in our city, too many buildings have brought back the “poor door.” We need to create a disincentive for the segregation of those who require affordable housing. I spend a lot of time talking about dignity throughout this campaign. Dignity means treating everyone with respect, regardless of their socioeconomic status. I support the proposed amendment, but wish that we were not attempting to create affordable housing through punitive measures and I wish that developers were not so afraid of mixed income housing as to shelter their prospective market-rate tenants from the realities of our society. Call me an optimist, but I think we will do better if we increase our affordable housing requirements and eliminate this segregation-based incentive.

  3. Yes. See above for my disdain for segregating the working class and amplify commensurate with the size of downtown.

  4. Yes. I support this so long as the exemption applies to the aggregate parking requirement for the building. Residents living in affordable units should be afforded all the same rights and privileges of market-rate tenants. However, as an incentive to build more affordable housing, I support the parking requirements reduction (but not the parking rights of tenants) only applying to total market-rate units.


Matt Frumin (Ward 3 Council).

  1. Yes. The problem I have with the text amendment is that it leaves little or nothing set aside for folks at teacher, firefighter, police salaries. I am committed to increasing access to deeply affordable units but also committed to affordable units at all income levels. If IZ requirements increased as suggested in the next question that would give room for more units at every level. As noted in the Fourth Topic below, while I favor an increase, I would want to look carefully at the level and mix.

  2. Yes. The reason a developer would choose an offsite option is because they view the economics as more attractive. Meanwhile, the offsite approach moves away from the goal of mixed income communities which is a good in and of itself. If a developer chooses an offsite option, it is important that they do more.

  3. Yes. The idea of affordable housing is to let people live closer to where they work and/or share in the amenities of an area. That rationale applies equally or perhaps more downtown. It may be that downtown real estate skews towards luxury and so including affordable units leads to a greater loss to the developer, but the whole idea behind inclusionary zoning is to broaden access and create mixed income communities and there is no reason to exempt downtown from either of those goals.

  4. Yes. This will however depend on the shape of the program. I could see, for example, exempting units over an IZ requirement up to 10% of a building's square footage from the requirement. That would create an incentive to provide more affordable units than required. I would be disinclined to exempt required units and I could see a cap on the exemption.


Monte Monash (Ward 3 Council):

  1. Yes. By lowering the MFI levels in the Inclusionary Zoning program, the opportunity to provide more units to residents that will encourage more deeply affordable units to be available on the market.

  2. Yes. The District needs to attract developers that are experienced in building and managing buildings with affordable housing units in a mixed income building. We do not have to deal with a bait and switch mentality.

  3. Yes. All parts of the District will have to offer affordable housing in order for the city to meet the growing needs of wealth disparities, housing insecure and workforce housing. As we re-image and build out new, more residential dense neighborhoods like downtown, we must use every available tool to build new affordable housing.

  4. Yes. This will do three positive things naturally. 1. Encourage new residents to go carless and use our public transportation system or bike networks. 2. This will be a new incentive to attract developers to build out more affordable housing units for families, teachers and first responders. 3. This will also not offer a big parking impact to the surrounding single family home neighbors.