• W3HJ

Candidate Questionnaire - Question #4

Question:

Ward 3 Housing Justice (W3HJ) proposes an increase in the amount of affordable housing required through basic Inclusionary Zoning (IZ) citywide, beyond the current 8% to a minimum IZ requirement of 20% of a project’s residential square footage. Will you provide intensive oversight of the Zoning Commission to demonstrate your commitment to affordable housing and assert leadership among Council Members to increase the basic IZ requirements city-wide (including for matter-of-right projects and office conversions) from 8% to 20%?


Responses:

Erin Palmer (Council Chair):

Yes. Under my leadership, Advisory Neighborhood Commission 4B’s Housing Justice Committee worked with the new Office of the Attorney General Land Use Section to propose the text amendment to ensure inclusionary zoning goals are met in planned unit developments. And I think there's a significant opportunity to modernize inclusionary zoning standards and continue to revisit them regularly to ensure we are doing enough. Inclusionary zoning plus is a first step in considering how to expand inclusionary zoning, and the proposals in my DC Council Accountability Plan would assist the Council in expanding on this work.


Anita Bonds (Council At Large):

No. As the Chairperson of the Committee on Housing and Executive Administration, I do not currently have direct oversight of the Zoning Commission, other than in my capacity as a member of the Council and the Committee of the Whole. In general, the IZ requirement does not apply to all new developments, and, in fact, we have moved FAR MORE UNITS using affordability covenants tied to financing mechanisms such as the Trust Fund, and other public financing incentives. IZ has not been an especially effective tool for generating new affordable units, and moving the number won’t have much of an impact on that. We need to think innovatively, in terms of new development strategies, the innovative use of vouchers, shallow subsidies, and new homeownership models with modern laws governing condos, coops, homeowner associations, land trusts, and social housing.


Nate Fleming (Council At Large):

Yes. An increase in inclusionary zoning requirements for affordable units from 8% to 20% is a significant but necessary step along the pathway to making DC a more affordable place to live. With 20% of a developers units designated for affordable housing units, 80% of units remain for market rate housing, leaving developers with ample opportunity to break even and earn profits.


Lisa Gore (Council At Large):

Yes. I would like to see the minimum requirements for IZ increased. I believe there are other reforms that we must also make to the city’s IZ program to maximize program efficiency. For example, IZ has still produced modest levels of affordable housing for the lower income levels. As a member of the Council, I would champion program reforms based on strategies aimed at increasing opportunities for residents that are at those lower income levels. This is also important to prevent the future displacement of Black residents. 4 Require the Mayor’s Office of Planning t


Dexter Williams (Council At Large):

Yes. While I’m not wedded to a particular number (e.g., the “Disposition of District Land for Affordable Housing” law requires at least 30% for multifamily buildings at certain locations), if elected I certainly will assert leadership on this and on the gamut of affordable housing issues. One of the reasons I’m running for a seat on the Council is the absence of leadership on the part of the incumbent who chairs the Council’s Housing Committee. The Council and, indeed, the city seems to lurch in a very siloed way from program to program. No single entity has a clear understanding of the whole, much less a comprehensive plan of action for overseeing the executive’s implementation of the city’s housing programs and mandating changes and new programs when needed. I believe, if there is one single entity, it ought to be the Council’s Committee on Housing and Executive Administration. If I’m privileged to be elected to the Council, I will seek a seat on the Housing Committee. My first order of business there will be to convene a series of roundtable discussions with affordable housing stakeholders and advocates. My goal will be to identify and discuss attributes and shortcomings program-by-program (e.g., IZ, TOPA/DOPA, rent control, HPTF, etc.) and begin the process of building support for needed strengthening legislation. I will use this opportunity, in addition, to identify needed additional gap-filling measures such as the Affordable Housing Property Acquisition Fund envisioned by Ward 3 Housing Justice.


Ben Bergmann (Ward 3 Council):

Yes. 8% is way too low and 20% is a reasonable baseline. I am open to the notion that the number should be lower than 20% in certain contexts. however. For example, given the costs involved, the math currently does not square out for many office conversions so it might make sense to peg the IZ number between 8 and 20% to ensure we aren't accidentally discouraging the production of more housing Downtown.


Deirdre Brown (Ward 3 Council):

Yes. The 8% threshold has historically proven to not be nearly enough units to meet the increasing need and demand for affordable units. It is time for the IZ requirements to be increased to meet the growing demand.


Tricia Duncan (Ward 3 Council):

Yes. I am strongly supportive of increasing basic IZ requirements beyond 8% and while I view 20% as an aspirational number, that would be my goal. The current IZ system has been an improvement but it's clear that 8% is insufficient and needs expansion. In order to make a 20% threshold more feasible, it's important to maximize allowable building heights in many areas ripe for development so that as much housing as possible can be constructed at all levels.


Beau Finley (Ward 3 Council):

Yes. I’ve worked as a federal auditor for an Inspector General’s office, where I made sure every penny matched up on a multibillion dollar program. As a federal attorney, I’ve worked to ensure that multibillion dollar multinational telecom firms comply with the law. Oversight isn’t a buzzword for me - it has made up a large portion of my career. While my commitment to affordable housing should be clear from my record and my platform, robust oversight and ensuring accountability are core tenets of my platform. Our IZ requirements need to increase. In the Wardman Hotel case, I argued publicly for ⅙ inclusionary zoning. I’m not sure if 20% will create large enough disincentives as to prevent the production of housing. Therefore, I would like to gradually increase IZ requirements until we find the sweet spot. We cannot reach our affordable housing production goals with IZ alone, even if we increase IZ to 20%, which is why I support investing in social housing, having the District build a housing portfolio by purchasing existing housing stock which can then be converted to more affordable housing or rent-stabilized housing, and expanding rent stabilization to more buildings. None of my fellow candidates support all three of these measures to increase our affordable housing stock to date, unfortunately.


Matt Frumin (Ward 3 Council):

Yes. I definitely will press for an increase in the requirement, but I will want to more closely study the situation before committing to 20%. I know builders often cry wolf and claim if a requirement is to high they will not build and so I would not want to simply take such protestations as definitive, but I also would want to be careful not to create a requirement for more affordable housing that resulted in getting less housing both affordable and market. In addition, there likely is an interplay here between how much the requirement can be increased and the mix of income levels of the units. Again, I would like to look at how high the level can go while insuring a cross section of units at different levels of affordability.


Monte Monash (Ward 3 Council):

No. My answer is more like, "I need to know more about the actual site locations proposed." A jump from 8% to 20% may not be a one size fits all solution for a citywide policy. I do support increasing the percent from 8% to 15% as a start.