Primary winners Robert White, Trayon White, and Vincent Gray (from thekojonnamdishow.org and glaaforum.org)

Council Primary Winners Set Big Goals for Affordable Housing

Left to right: primary winners Robert White, Trayon White, and Vincent Gray (from thekojonnamdishow.org and glaaforum.org)

Washington, D.C. is set to see some new faces in politics come November, as two newcomers and a returnee beat incumbents in the City Council Democratic primaries last Tuesday. Although nothing will officially change until after the November general election, in liberal D.C. a nod in the Democratic primary is tantamount to victory.

So how will the shake-up affect affordable housing in the city?

In the Ward 7 race, the challenger certainly wasn’t an unknown quantity. Former Mayor Vincent Gray marked his return to city politics with a defeat of first-term Councilmember Yvette Alexander. Gray had been campaigning heavily on his record as mayor, citing his work to increase funding for affordable housing programs of all kinds.

“Overall, [under my administration] we invested $287 million in affordable housing and recommended that the city subsequently invest each year at least $100 million in affordable housing.”

The city has since surpassed that number, committing $100 million each year to the Housing Protection Trust Fund (HPTF) alone, plus increasing funding for the Home Purchase Assistance Program (HPAP). Gray has promised to support the HPTF at current funding levels.

Gray also cites more technical concerns, pointing to his effort as mayor to reform D.C. zoning laws and allow for greater residential density. He promises going forward to “support zoning changes to make building more affordable units easier and more straightforward.”

In Ward 8, Trayon White, a neighborhood organizer and alumni of the D.C. Attorney General’s office, defeated incumbent LaRuby May, another first-term councilmember.

Trayon White touched on a number of affordable housing issues throughout his campaign. He has said he supports the $100 million per year to the HPTF and more.

“I support raising additional revenue for housing. D.C. had a $417 million surplus in the last fiscal year. It’s not that we don’t have any money… We have to put more money into housing to ensure decent and affordable living quarters for all.”

Earlier this year, Trayon White called for an increase in HPAP funding that has since been answered by the Mayor and Council’s recent budget. He has also cited a need for tightening rent control laws by closing loopholes and limiting landlords’ guaranteed return on investment.

Like Gray, he supports efforts to allow for greater density and simplified zoning laws to accommodate the development of affordable housing.

In the At-Large race, another White (Robert) managed to unseat long-time incumbent Vincent Orange. Like Trayon, Robert White also hails from the Attorney General’s office.

Zoning law has also been on his mind, especially as it intersects with transportation concerns.

He has called for rezoning struggling commercial corridors to allow for more affordable housing in areas with easy transit access, an important goal in a city that struggles with gentrifying transport hubs.

Robert White has also proposed increased incentives for non-profit developers (like MANNA) that provide affordable housing.

In addition to his big policy proposals, Robert White has been critical of current enforcement of affordable housing laws, writing that “it’s the rule, not the exception, that developers get waivers in order to avoid building affordable housing.”

As Gray, White, and White look to join the Council in November, it will be up to the citizenry to remind them of their ambitious plans for affordable housing in the District.

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A Returning Citizen’s Struggle: Housing and “the Box”

“It’s like trying to get restarted, but everybody’s smacking you in the face.”

Stan has had more than his fair share of struggles in life. A senior citizen and veteran of the armed forces, Stan is now disabled, diabetic, and in search of a new home. Unfortunately, Stan has one more item to add to the list—he is also a returning citizen, having spent three years of his life in prison.

Stan, whose name has been changed to protect his privacy, recounts the process he recently went through in applying to lease a new residence. “I filled out all the forms, went through all the paperwork. I was highly qualified. And then, no explanation, I get a rejection letter.”

When Stan tried to follow up, he was stonewalled. Weeks went by with no response.

Stan remembers “the box” on the application dreaded by many returning citizens, asking if he had been convicted of a felony in the last five years. But he had thought he was in the clear. His last brush with the law was almost 15 years ago, and in any case it had been a minor probationary charge rather than a felony.

“I suspect they did their own background check,” says Stan. “It’s the only thing that makes sense.”

That background check would have turned up the charge from 15 years ago, plus Stan’s jail time. And when was it that Stan was incarcerated?

“That would have been between ’73 and ’75.”

Stan believes he was denied housing based on a charge from more than 40 years ago. And because D.C. offers no protections to returning citizens looking for housing, the lessors are well within their rights.

“A lot of times I wish I was still locked up.”

It’s a problem that faces some 70,000 District residents, the almost 10 percent of the population that has a criminal record. And with 8,000 more Washingtonians returning home from prison each year, the problem is only growing.

Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie spoke with the DCist blog in April about the crisis.

“It is a persistent problem that we have encountered in District,” said McDuffie. “What we want is for men and women returning to the District, after paying their debt to society, to have a fair chance, and finding decent housing is critical to their reintegration.”

According to the Councilmember, 17 percent of people under probation or supervised release struggle with insecure housing.

To help combat this, McDuffie, along with At-Large Councilmember Anita Bonds, has introduced legislation to “ban the box” on housing. Modeled after similar legislation passed last year around employment, this bill would prohibit landlords from asking about past convictions or conducting background checks until after an initial conditional offer has been extended.

While he thinks it’s a step in the right direction, Stan is unsure that this bill would help his particular situation.

He’s wise to be cautious given a recent review of last year’s box-banning employment legislation by the DC Auditor’s office. According to the review, more than half of employers were unfamiliar with the law. And although it’s tricky to draw broad conclusions from a small pool of petitioners, the numbers don’t bode well—so far, only 17 percent of complaints have resulted in monetary settlements.

The news isn’t all bad, though. Since implementation, the DC government has increased the percentage of returning citizens hired for positions requiring a background check.

In other words, “ban the box” legislation might prove to be a helpful first step, although clearly more work is needed.

And Stan? He’s in touch with MANNA’s Housing Advocacy Team, the DC Public Defenders and others, trying to figure what’s next.

“You gotta keep fighting,” says Stan. “Just gotta keep fighting.”

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Participants of all ages attended Saturday's townhall

1st Annual Homeownership Townhall a Success

The buzz started early Saturday afternoon as current and potential homeowners streamed into the exhibit hall at All Souls Church in Northwest DC. After weeks of anticipation, the 1st Annual Homeownership Townhall was finally underway!

Participants spent their first hour perusing the exhibits set up by more than a dozen District-area non-profit developers and counselors, government agencies, developers, lenders, realtors and security system companies. The hall was filled with cheerful voices as over 120 people in attendance moved from table to table learning about DC homeownership programs, property maintenance, how to improve their credit score, and more. Children squeezed in and out of the crowd, giggling, until they were herded downstairs to childcare.

As the crowd moved into the hall for the main portion of the event, they were greeted by the sultry sounds of Robert Ax Adams’ jazz guitar. His mix of oldies and original pieces gave the gathering a positive groove and set the stage for the afternoon’s speakers.

Among the stellar lineup were several speakers with first-hand knowledge of what it takes to navigate the District’s real estate market and assistance loan programs for first-time homebuyers. Stanley Augustin, who has a longtime connection to MANNA’s work, shared how important the Homeowners Purchase Assistance Program (HPAP) was for him as he looked to buy a first home for a growing family, purchasing the home that his household has been renting from the current landlord. Eusabia Diaz spoke powerfully in Spanish (and with translation) about how her move from renting to owning a property developed on land formerly owned by the District had increased her confidence and peace of mind.

“Now I pay a similar amount to what I paid before,” said Diaz, “but I am the owner of my home. My old apartment is now renting for double what I was paying.”

Councilmembers Anita Bonds and Brianne Nadeau also addressed the crowd, speaking about their work for the Committee on Housing and Community Development, which Councilmember Bonds chairs. Through their hard work, and with the support of organization like MANNA and CNHED, the maximum HPAP award is increasing from $50,000 to $80,000, and Mayor Bowser is increasing the HPAP budget by $6 million, the first increase in almost 10 years.

Councilmember Anita Bonds meets with townhall attendees

Councilmember Anita Bonds meets with townhall attendees

Councilmember Nadeau also reflected on her personal experiences with homeownership, acknowledging that she would not be able to buy her own house at its current value without HPAP.

As the central piece of the event wrapped up, participants headed downstairs to join workshops on credit building, home maintenance/energy efficiency, and advocacy.

In the advocacy workshop, a lively group of participants learned from CNHED’s Director of Housing Advocacy Elizabeth Falcon about the members of the DC City Council, their respective roles, and the city budget cycle. Falcon also spoke about the successes that the Housing for All campaign has seen over the past five years and encouraged townhall attendees to become more involved in the campaign.

As participants regrouped in the main hall for a door prize raffle and closing statements, MANNA’s Housing Advocacy Team (HAT) members, the main orchestrators of the event, passed smiles and thumbs-up between each other. One thing was clear: the 1st Annual Homeownership Townhall had been a great success.

If you’d like to connect to affordable homeownership advocacy and next year’s town hall, email us at sscruggs@mannadc.org

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Empowerment – Jobs and Homeownership

EOR Fair 2016MANNA’s 5th Annual Homebuyer Fair and Job Tour took place  on May 14, 2016. The event sought to bring homeownership opportunities and resources to D.C. residents in Wards 7 and 8. This year, MANNA partnered with Training Grounds, an organization that “helps young adults and adults with the training necessary to obtain and maintain living wage careers.” Training Grounds focuses on creating jobs in and for residents from Wards 7 and 8, an area that is severely lacking in job opportunities. MANNA and Training Grounds have partnered on several initiatives in the past, including last year’s Paint the Block event to clean up an area in the Ward 7 neighborhood of Deanwood and equitable banking advocacy. Union Temple Baptist Church, just off of MLK Ave. SE, served as the venue for the event, providing the perfect setting for outreach to the community.

Some of the businesses and organizations who brought their knowledge and resources to share with event participants included Capital One, HPAP, Anacostia River Realty, Housing Counseling Services, Prince George’s Community College Workforce Program and Casey Trees, among many others. Many visitors were able to talk one-on-one with the vendors, enabling them to receive advice that was catered to their own personal needs and questions. MANNA staff were also present at the Homebuyer Fair to discuss opportunities for getting involved with our Homebuyer’s Club (HBC) and Housing Advocacy Team (HAT).

MANNA volunteer and homeownership expert, Frank Demarais, held a “Pathways to Homeownership” workshop at the fair to discuss personal and housing finance. Demarais covered topics like credit management, budgeting, and mortgage readiness. The presentation also discussed the value of good credit when pursuing homeownership and strategies to maximize credit. Highlighting homeownership as the number one wealth builder, the workshop was an in-depth example of the type of programming MANNA offers through the Homebuyer’s Club. MANNA’s newest HBC chapter, the Ward 8 Homebuyer’s Club, has made our homeowner education and financial counseling more accessible to residents of Ward 8.

With a prevalent lack of homeownership and job opportunities available to residents in Wards 7 and 8, MANNA and Training Ground’s collaboration at this year’s event is one example of the type of work we would like to provide and build upon. It’s about respect, connecting folks to education, resources and community, and supporting people and neighborhood power. By providing homeownership education/resources and job training, while also partnering with local residents and initiatives, MANNA and Training Grounds plan to continue supporting Wards 7 and 8 to move forward and empower themselves.

Ruth Bordett is an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer at MANNA.

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Reflections From A Blogger

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For the past nine months, I have had the pleasure of being the Policy and Outreach Intern here at MANNA. In this position, one of my key duties was serving as the primary blogger for MANNA’s Housing Advocacy Team. I came to MANNA in August 2015, a few days before the start of my first semester of graduate school. Now that my first year of grad school is over, my time with MANNA has come to an end as well.

I have been passionate about affordable housing for some time now. In undergrad, I studied affordable housing and conducted research on people’s perceptions of affordable housing. I also had the opportunity to intern for an organization that financially supports the development of affordable housing, and worked for a separate organization that provided games and activities as a part of a night time summer program that took place in public housing communities. Through these experiences, I learned that every form of housing on the continuum is important, but I was especially attracted to the concept of affordable homeownership.

When I interviewed with MANNA, I learned about their history and how they have been around since 1982. I was impressed by the fact that they have their own construction team, which has developed about 1200 units. I was captivated by MANNA’s impact, and their ability to empower families and revitalize entire neighborhoods through homeownership. I was also drawn to MANNA because in addition to developing housing, they give District residents the tools they need to purchase and maintain their homes by providing homebuyers education and counseling.  And MANNA trains residents how to become community leaders and advocates for housing programs.

I was thrilled when MANNA offered me this internship position, and I have looked forward to coming into the office every morning since my first day. Not only is MANNA true to their mission, but their staff is friendly and genuine. Many of MANNA’s past home buyers visit the office, become involved in the Housing Advocacy Team, or find other ways to remain connected to the organization. I view this as evidence that people value the services that they received from MANNA, and they believe in the organization’s work. Also, MANNA has a strong familial dynamic, which I believe is what makes folks want to stick around.

The biggest take-away that I have as I leave MANNA is that anyone who is determined to own a home can do so, when they are given support and access to the right tools. Also, being here at MANNA has strengthened my belief that homeownership can be used as a tool to close the racial wealth gap.

I am truly grateful for this experience and how it helped me grow personally. I am appreciative to MANNA for taking a chance on me and giving me the opportunity to meet great people - two of which passed earlier this year, yet I am still inspired by the interactions that I had with them. Moreover, I am thankful to you, the reader, for checking out our page, and reading what I had to say over these past several months. Thank you.

 

*Victoria Palacio*

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Homeownership Town Hall – Making DC Homes Affordable

2016 Homeownership Town Hall flyer English

On June 4th, MANNA will be hosting our first annual Homeownership Town Hall in collaboration with our partners LEDC and CNHED. The concept of this event was envisioned by our Housing Advocacy Team (HAT), and they have been diligently     working to make this event a success.

What is a Homeownership Town Hall you ask? It is an event in which both current homeowners, and future homeowners are able to gather together, and share and receive resources to improve their homeownership experience. This event also provides attendees with the opportunity to hear their elected officials and government agencies speak about and commit to homeownership initiatives.

In addition, we will have several workshops at this event that attendees will be able to choose from. Guests will have the opportunity to learn how to improve their credit; they will be able to receive home improvement and maintenance tips, as well as learn how to advocate for tools that make homeownership in DC affordable. We will also have a number of vendors at this event who will be able to share resources that can help improve people’s homeownership experience.

One of the most unique features of this event is that it will offer future DC homebuyers an opportunity to meet, build relationships and learn from current MANNA homeowners and others. It takes commitment, resilience and support to purchase a home in DC. This event will provide guests with the opportunity to gain the support and knowledge they need to purchase a home from people who have completed the home buying process.

Here at MANNA, we know the value of affordable homeownership. Homeownership has been linked to a number of positive outcomes for families and communities, which is why we want to ensure that everyone who wants to become a homeowner in the District has the resources they need, in order to do so. Increased homeownership has been found to lead to a decrease in crime within communities, and children of homeowners have a greater likelihood of completing college, than children on non-homeowners. In addition, homeowners benefit from being able to accumulate wealth from the equity in their homes, which they are able to use to invest in themselves and their families. Past MANNA homeowners have used their equity to start their own businesses and to send their children to college. Homeownership is an amazing opportunity, and the goal of this event is to get people excited about homeownership advocacy and connecting folks to resources to make homeownership possible and maintainable in the long-term.

We hope that you come out to this event, and bring a friend! It is on Saturday, June 4, 2016 from 1:00pm to 4:30pm. It will be held at All Souls Unitarian Church – 1500 Harvard Rd NW in Washington, DC. We look forward to seeing you there! CLICK HERE to learn more about the event.

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Choice-Vouchers

A Case for Universal Housing Vouchers in DC

MANNA is a strong supporter of the continuum of housing.  The continuum entails a range of housing services and options, which consists of various forms of supportive housing, assisted rental housing, and assisted homeownership. Every aspect of the continuum is important, and in order for the continuum to be effective there have to be mechanisms in place that allow people to move from supportive housing, to homeownership. It is also important to note that each component of continuum is unique, and that it serves a particular function. When one aspect of the continuum is weak, it places excess pressure on the other parts of the continuum. For example: gaps in supportive housing result in individuals becoming homeless. Lack of affordable rentals forces families to turn to shelters, when what they really need is an apartment that they could afford on their salary. While lack of assistance for or development of affordable homeownership forces people to continue to rent, when many of those people can become mortgage ready and some desire to have a place they can call their own. There needs to be funding support for all of the housing options on the continuum, but an equally important endeavor is ensuring that enough affordable housing exists to house people.

According to the DC Fiscal Policy Institute, 64 percent of DC’s lowest income residents spend half or more of their income on housing. Many moderate-income families in the District have been identified as being cost burdened as well. This is problematic, because being cost burdened prevents a household from being able to afford basic necessities. It also leaves them without a safety net in the event of an emergency, and makes them susceptible to homelessness (Hendey et al 2014). Furthermore, in DC, the cost of rent has been steadily increasing, while incomes have remained stagnant (Rivers 2015). “The number of apartments renting for less than $800 a month fell from almost 60,000 in 2002 to 33,000 in 2013” (Rivers 2015). Moreover, recent findings suggest that there are very few low-cost housing options in the private market, other than subsidized housing.

Subsidized rentals can take different forms. They can be restricted to a certain building such as public housing, or to an apartment complex that designates some of their units as “affordable”. Research is finding that housing vouchers are the most economical way to provide affordable rentals. However, the problem is that there are not enough affordable housing vouchers to go around. According to the DC Housing Authority, 10,500 families in the city participate in the Housing Choice Voucher Program, and thousands more are on the waiting list. DC has seen an increase in the number of available rental units, but the problem is that the number of affordable rentals is decreasing. In order to address the lack of vouchers provided by the federal government, DC created its own Local Rent Subsidy Program in 2007. However, that program is unable to serve everyone who needs rental assistance.

Research has been conducted in other states, exploring the idea of providing housing vouchers to everyone who needs them. In Wisconsin, and Indiana, an experimental housing program was implemented for 10 years. The program provided housing vouchers to all low income residents who qualified. These residents would pay up to 30% of their income towards their rent; if their rent exceeded that 30% mark, the voucher would cover the rest of the cost. The study found that the vouchers encouraged landlords to keep up with building maintenance because all of the low-income residents had vouchers, and in order to use the vouchers, certain building codes had to be met. Furthermore, the vouchers spurred the development of additional market rate units, and the study also found that the vouchers did not have a substantial impact on market rents (Currie 2006). Of course DC’s housing market is different from that of Indiana and Wisconsin in a number of ways however, hypothetically, a universal housing voucher system could be modified to meet the District’s needs.

Currently, the housing voucher system in the U.S. works like a lottery, in which only the “lucky” low income earners are able to receive them. Conversely, if a housing voucher program was expanded so that everyone who qualified received the voucher, it could prevent renters from being cost burdened, incentivize the market to supply additional non-luxury units, and protect families from slipping into homelessness. DC has been making strides towards addressing our affordable housing crisis. I wonder whether the District would be open to taking a step, as big as implementing a universal housing voucher, in order to address this issue.

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In Memory of Our Dear Friend, Marilyn Phillips

Sadly, on Monday, April 11, 2016, MANNA lost Marilyn Phillips, a dear advocate, volunteer, colleague and friend. Marilyn had been a member of both MANNA’s Homebuyer’s Club and Housing Advocacy Team for the past four years. Marilyn and her husband purchased a MANNA home at the Buxton condominiums in Historic Anacostia, just a couple blocks from their apartment. She loved her neighborhood and dedicated herself to promoting positive and inclusive change in Ward 8. She and her husband worked on preparing their finances and improving their credit score for a few years before they purchased their home, putting forth a tremendous amount of commitment and effort. Marilyn believed that “housing is the foundation of our communities”, and she wanted other people to experience the benefits of homeownership as well.

Unfortunately, Marilyn was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006; she was on the road to recovery, when she was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer to the bone in 2009. Due to her health conditions, and many doctor appointments, she was unable to continue her job as a legal assistant. However, her cancer went into remission for several years and during that time she became very active with MANNA. She testified at a number of City Council hearings and spoke at numerous Advocacy Days and Town Halls through CNHED. She also volunteered in MANNA’s office on a weekly basis, helping people secure affordable rentals and a host of other things.

Marilyn refused to let her health challenges tie her down – she was a beautiful fighter, for herself and for others. She made sure that she was available to help out at MANNA, and advocate for housing programs. Marilyn was a loving and caring person, always ready to lend a helping hand. She loved MANNA, and we loved her. We are better because of having known Marilyn.

Below are some videos and photos of Marilyn being the wonderful advocate and DC resident that she was, that she will always be in our hearts:

Feb 2013 – Marilyn cheers on Mayor Gray’s affordable housing announcement of $100 million - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QhN2Aaf3lSU

May 2013 – Marilyn speaks at Tenant Town Hall - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-a-EvV5v4u8

2014 – Marilyn and other Ward 8 residents speak about what homeownership means to them - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MaMORrrp_4c

 

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Marilyn (bottom right) with MANNA’s Housing Advocacy Team.

 

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Marilyn on her back porch with Mayor Marion Barry at the grand opening of the Buxton Condominiums.

 

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Marilyn and her husband Kelvin after they settled on their new home.

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california-eviction

Evictions and the Affordable Rental Crisis

Currently, our nation is in what Brian Sullivan, spokesperson of the Department of Housing and Urban Development identified as “an affordable rental crisis” . In 2015, the number of people who pay more than 30 percent of their income in rent, had increased to 21.3 million households. “Those paying more than half of their income rose to a record 11.4 million.”  “An NPR analysis of data from the Urban Institute found that nearly half of all counties in the U.S. saw a decline in affordable housing availability from 2000 to 2013, while fewer than 7 percent of counties saw an improvement.”

Being cost burdened has caused some families to be faced with the issue of eviction. When a tenant believes that he or she has a reasonable explanation for why they are behind on their rent, they go to tenant court to plead their case. It is common for tenants to fight eviction on the grounds that they were withholding rent from their landlord due to substandard living conditions. Other individuals go to tenant court to petition for more time to pay their rent. NPR did a recent piece on the tenant court system in Baltimore, and what brings people to use the system.

According to the NPR piece, most of the people who end up in tenant court are African-American mothers who have a high school diploma or less. Only 15 percent of them get housing aid such as vouchers to help cover their rent, and most of them lose their cases. In general, most tenants who are taken to court for being behind on their rent have no legal representation while most landlords do. However, studies have shown that tenants with lawyers have greater success at avoiding eviction.

Not only is there a rental crisis, according to Harvard Sociologist, Matthew Desmond, there is a national eviction epidemic. He highlights that, “Most poor, renting families pay more than 50 percent of their income on housing. One in 11 expects to be evicted within the next two months.”  Many people who are evicted end up homeless, or in poorer living conditions from which they left, which makes their poverty more severe. Desmond notes that evictions don’t just happen because someone is in poverty, but they are also a cause of poverty, by making lives more insecure. “People don’t just lose their homes in evictions… you often lose your neighborhood and your school. Children often have to switch schools and miss long stretches”.

Our widespread eviction issue is a problem for all parties involved. According to Mike Clark, a board member of the National Apartment Association Clark, landlords prefer not to evict tenants if they don’t have to, because it is costly, and finding a new tenant takes up time. Furthermore, landlords explain that when they don’t receive timely payments from their tenants, it hinders them from being able to make the necessary repairs to the building.

There are various factors creating this high eviction rate, such as increasing rents, national wage stagnation and the overall lack of affordable housing. Some proposed solutions that I came across to address the eviction crisis include providing free legal help for low-income tenants. Another idea is a universal housing voucher system, for people below a particular income. Mark Clark from the National Apartment Association listed a host of housing incentives that he believes could be used to address the issue, by increasing the affordable housing stock, such as: “Tax credits, property tax breaks, reduced utility rates, reduced hookups, and zoning alternatives”.

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advocacy

HPAP and the Power of Advocacy

Fair-Housing262x153The Home Purchase Assistance Program (HPAP) has seen years of funding cuts, and subsequent years of budget stagnation. However, as of March 24th, HPAP’s future has changed. The Mayor announced in her budget that in addition to another $100 million in the Housing Production Trust Fund, she will be adding $6.3 million to HPAP! The proposed HPAP budget is now $16 million! In addition to this, there is currently HPAP legislation moving forward to increase the maximum HPAP loan amount to $80,000. All of these advances are good news to the affordable housing community. It is an indicator that we have government officials who care about affordable housing, and are listening to their constituents. It is an even greater indicator of the effort of affordable homeownership stakeholders and residents, and the power of advocacy.

As discussed in previous blogs, The Home Purchase Assistance Program (HPAP) is a loan assistance program that has existed in the District for 30 years. The program provides interest-free second mortgages to first-time low-to moderate income homebuyers. This interest free loan, which the homebuyer repays, serves as a down payment on a house and also covers most of the closing costs. HPAP prepares its recipients by providing intensive financial and home buyer education, preparing them for the responsibilities and challenges of homeownership. This program has helped over 13,000 DC residents become homeowners, building assets for their families and anchoring them in their neighborhoods.

Last year, HPAP took a severe budget hit; funding was cut from $12.2 million to $9.7 million. Moreover, prior to the Great Recession, the maximum loan amount a person could receive from HPAP was $70,000, however it was cut to $40,000 during the recession, and has only increased to $50,000 since then. These cuts have undoubtedly impacted the program’s ability to serve the people of DC, with much greater demand than settlements, which is why housing advocates have been passionately fighting for funding increases and program improvements. This victory is key in the fight to improve HPAP.

HPAP is a program with a lot of potential, and it has enabled thousands of DC residents to purchase homes. Through previous advocacy efforts, and our work with DHCD, steps have been taken to make HPAP more efficient. Last year, we were able to improve the HPAP process, by eliminating the second inspection that HPAP required, which was costly and deterred people from selling to HPAP buyers. This increase in the HPAP budget is just another step towards making the program one that effectively serves the needs of DC residents.

 

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