Testimony at Affordable Housing in Downtown Roundtable DC Office of Planning
W3HJ Supports More Affordable Housing Downtown
Kevin Bryan, November 1, 2022
My name is Kevin Bryan, and I am pleased to testify on behalf of Ward 3 Housing Justice a grassroots advocacy group organizing for truly affordable housing and economic opportunity, particularly for Black and Brown DC residents who have been or are in danger of being displaced. Today I’m speaking on one of the most critical issues facing our city today – the lack of and need for housing options that can support a population of people from different economic and cultural backgrounds and circumstances.
I’ve been a resident of Washington for most of the past 35 years. I came to attend Howard in 1988, fell in love with the city, and stayed until this day. When I got my first job after college, I, like a lot of other young adults in this city, made a very modest income. In 1994, I was able to find a one-bedroom apartment in Logan Circle for $600 a month. Despite not making much money at the time, I could make ends meet each month – pay rent, manage a modest set of bills and monthly expenses. I was certainly not living a luxurious lifestyle; but I, and most of my peers, felt we could build a life here in the city.
As I continued to work and live here, I began to see the transformation of the city and upward pressures on people trying to make way as I had done years before. I watched my niece, eighteen years younger than me, struggle to find and maintain housing in 2011 as she also finished from Howard, making considerably more money than me when I was in her position. I worked with low-income residents in Northeast DC attempting to hold onto housing along Rhode Island Avenue in 2014 despite efforts by landlords to convert their one option for affordable housing to market rate units that could not support the needs of their families. And in 2020, as the pandemic hit, I realized that I would have never been able to survive in this city if I were that same young man attempting to start his professional life serving his community and the wider public.
Washington is not only the working occupants of the halls of Congress, the Capitol, or even the Wilson Building. This city in by more than the often temporary professionals from major companies that maintain a presence near the nation’s power structure. In fact, Washington is a collection of one of the most diverse collections of everyday people support the vast culture of this town – the teachers, the nonprofit and community service workers, the small business owners, the artists and performers, the hospitality workers, the hospital workers – so many people that make up the fabric of the city. And they are increasingly priced out of our city. I’m grateful that I purchased a modest home in Ward 3 almost fifteen years. Had I not done so then, I probably would be priced out, another casualty of the continued upward pressure on housing costs here.
There is no shortage of solutions to address the problem of affordability in Washington – and let’s be very clear, this is a problem. If we allow Washington to become increasingly unaffordable, especially with regards to housing, we will lose the vibrancy that attracted some many people, including me, over the past thirty years. So let’s commit to this – we can create a city with housing options at price points that meet the needs of working class families and young people starting their adult lives, as well as single, upwardly mobile professionals and families. By doing so, we can also support an increasingly dynamic economic, cultural, and social landscape that makes Washington the envy of cities all over the world. We have an opportunity to reconsider use of parcels in Washington, including major retail centers right in Ward 3 that must transition to remain relevant. We have the knowledge to shape that transition to meet these needs and challenges; we now need the political will and leadership make the transition a reality.