Testimony to the Committee on Housing and Executive Administration on the DHCD budget
March 30, 2022
Good afternoon. I am Margaret Dwyer, testifying 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. I’d like to address three main points in today’s budget hearing for DHCD and HPTF.
First, the segregation that exists in Ward 3 is the result of historical, deliberate policies of forced removal, redlining, and racial covenants. We believe that dismantling this entrenched segregation will require policy choices that are just as deliberate and forceful as those that constructed the segregation in the first place. Therefore, we urge the Council to make housing funding contingent on compliance with the racial equity lens specification in the Comprehensive Plan and the CORE report.
Second, we urge the Council to consider an additional method for funding affordable housing. In Ward 3, private development accompanied by inclusionary zoning has produced only a miniscule amount of affordable housing, and will not get us to the Mayor’s housing goals. Right now, for example, there are fewer than 500 affordable IZ units in the Ward 3 pipeline, which typically looks out several years.
Creating any meaningful amount of affordable housing, or any amounts at all of family housing in RCW, let alone meeting the Mayor’s target of 1990 new affordable units by 2025, means that the City must purchase the land or give the funding to a Community Land Trust to do so. We note that the fine Lisner Home project, much touted as the first HPTF project in Ward 3, is on land that the organization has long owned. Simply put, without taking the cost of land in Ward 3 out of the equation, the economics of creating significant amounts of affordable housing (especially family housing and housing for 30% MFI and below) do not work.
A proven solution to this challenge would be for the Council to direct that $100 million be used to create a dedicated site acquisition fund to enable the city to respond nimbly to real estate possibilities in high-opportunity, high-cost, low-public land areas like Rock Creek West.
Therefore, we endorse the recommendation of Northwest Opportunity Partners CDC to create the Affordability Acquisition Fund, modeled after the very successful NYC Acquisition Fund, that creates a pool of funds and an expedited purchase and approval process for identifying, purchasing and developing parcels in high-opportunity, high-cost, low-public land areas like RCW.
Finally, we applaud the infusion of $500 million into the HPTF. Such a large investment raises the stakes to ensure that the money is used as intended. In order to be guaranteed that the funds will actually create the kinds of deeply affordable and family-sized units that are most needed, we urge that steps be taken within the budget process to ensure transparency, accountability and accurate income targeting.
Therefore, the budget should include language requiring:
that HPTF funding be allocated in accordance with the terms of the trust fund and legislative directions, i.e., 50% of HPTF funds must support housing for 0-30% MFI;
that any deviation from those requirements may only occur with prior Council approval, which will not be provided without documentation of compliance efforts and plans for remediating deficiencies;
that an annual report on housing supported by HPTF be submitted to the Council at the end of the fiscal year. The report shall address compliance with each of the trust fund’s terms.
These requirements were included in recent proposed legislation which could be voted on before the second budget vote.
Thank you for considering our thoughts.