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  • Margaret Dwywer

Testimony at DC Council Housing and Executive Administration Committee Oversight Hearing on DHCD/HPT

Margaret Dwyer

Ward 3 Housing Justice

January 19, 2022

The responsibilities of DHCD and the HPTF are among the most important of any DC government department. Consequently, it is essential that the Committee on Housing and Executive Administration exercise and strengthen its oversight and take corrective action when there are problems.

In Rock Creek West (RCW), we need DHCD and HPTF to partner with housing justice advocates and aggressively target the segregation that continues to exist here long after the covenants and redlining that created it are gone. To do this, we ask this committee to direct DHCD in these directions:

First, we call for two changes to DHCD’s Qualified Allocation Plan for Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTCs).

The first is in the identification of Priority Areas for LIHTC allocation. RCW, due to its dearth of affordable housing is a top priority – but there is no defined requirement for what should actually be a generous minimum amount of deeply affordable housing. This should be low hanging fruit in any effort to correct failures to build low income housing in RCW. At the least, 40% of units in a DHCD-funded project should be reserved for those earning 0-30% of the FMI. .

The second is in the preference accorded to projects with 20-80% market rate units without regard to location. Such a preference makes sense in areas with concentrations of low income housing, but not in RCW. This preference should be eliminated for projects in RCW. Again, this is an easy change that could promote low income housing in the area.

Finally, the reluctance to spend more than $250,000 per unit places serious constraints on projects in RCW given the high cost of land here. This figure needs to be calibrated for different locations if we believe that affordable housing should be created in every neighborhood of the city.

Taken together, these three policies promote the continuation of segregation in the District by not strenuously promoting low income housing in RCW. We believe that they were contributors to the failure of the city to step up and capture the Wardman for affordable housing despite a year-long coordinated effort by advocates from Ward 3 and across the city.

It is not too late to move in the right direction.

In addition to the changes recommended above, we strongly support corrective action to remedy the numerous violations of the HPTF’s provisions, in accordance with the recommendations of the OIG in its recent report.

In particular, we call for restitution of the misdirected $82 million by allocating an additional amount of HPTF funding for Extremely Low Income (ELI) housing over the required 50% fiscal year funding for the next several years, until all the funds have been recovered.

We further recommend that CORE examine the allocation of HPTF resources to ensure that they are best used to promote racial equity and undo segregation where it occurs as required by the Comp Plan passed by the Council.

Finally, we support public hearings on the proposed legislation aimed at improving the accountability and transparency of HPTF, and we would like to hear from you, Chairwoman Bonds, when you plan to bring these bills up for public hearing.

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