On February 11th at the DC Council Building, Muriel Bowser, Economic Development Committee Chairperson held oversight hearings on the performance of the Department of Housing and Community Development, as well as the office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development. A host of organizations from non-profit developers to counseling groups gave testimony regarding the government agencies. Cutting through the political atmosphere and rhetoric, a number of individuals gave personal testimony on the effects the city’s public policies have had on their lives. Here are excerpts from two testimonies, outlining two very different homeownership experiences.
Karen Reynolds- A new resident of the Ivy City neighborhood
“Good Morning, I am Karen Reynolds, a new home owner in the Ivy City neighborhood in Northeast DC.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify today to explain the importance of the Home Purchase Assistance Program, and other home ownership programs of DHCD.
The DHCD HPAP program lets lower income families borrow the down payment money and purchase a home. Rents always go up, and owning a home allows us to get a housing payment that won’t go up much over the rest of our lives.
Owning a home also lets us make payments on a home that will be all ours in the future, and DC will get its HPAP money back to lend to the next family.
Owning a home also means we don’t have to move, and we can get involved with the neighborhood and the city and know that we will get to enjoy the benefit of the improvements we help make.
The Ivy City neighborhood really needed new people, especially home owners who will take pride and help the long term neighbors, who have been waiting a long time for the District to help the neighborhood, get back to the community it once was.
Home owning makes sense for anyone who is ready to settle down and commit to a place and a neighborhood. The District is full of people who work and pay bills on time, but who see rents keep going up and eventually pushing them out. DC needs to keep supporting home buyers with down payment loans and building affordable property. DC gets its money back and we get to stay and make the city better for us. Thank you.”
An Affordable Condo Owner in Ward 3
“I would like to begin by thanking the Department of Housing and Community Development for beginning a process last year to address issues that I and other ADU owners are facing – condo fees that have made our units unaffordable and 20 year resale and rental restrictions. I purchased my home in January 2008, having worked hard to save money, go through the HPAP process and meet the qualifications of becoming a homeowner. Remembering back to the first time I learned of my new home, I can vividly recall my overwhelming sense of excitement. However, my situation is quite different today, as a direct result of the escalating condo fees that have come to characterize my experience as a homeowner. My condo fee was originally $324 and is now $754, which is higher than my monthly mortgage payment. Numerous special assessments have added even more financial burden. Over the next few months I will have to pay an assessment of $1600. It was never my intent to leave my unit; this was my home and an investment for my family.
In order to sell or rent my home, I submitted an affordability assessment to DHCD in October of 2013. I have called a few times to check up. To date, I have received no response from the Department; I understand that they are short staffed, but I am already in a precarious situation and would like to know what my options are. In addition, I am also concerned that the current process with DHCD will make it difficult to find another buyer, that I will lose even more money (I am on lines of credit as it is), that I will not have access to HPAP again, and that any subsequent affordable buyer would also be priced out. There are other ADU owners like me and we need better administrative support and a process that better recognizes the realities we have and are facing.
If I decided on other options, it could take me a very long time to find a buyer or renter, The rising condo fees that I have been subjected to have not only affected the way I live on a daily basis, but have significantly affected the way I plan for the future. As a single mother, it is extremely important to me that I provide for my daughter. Unfortunately, my emergency fund, which functions as a safety net for my daughter and I, has been the only place to turn for the additional funds needed to pay these ever-rising condo fees. These arbitrary increases have affected my sense of security and if they continue to escalate, I will face a greater risk of losing my home. Transitioning from being a tenant to a homeowner is one of my greatest accomplishments in life. The journey I made in order to do so was extremely challenging, but one I gladly took so that I wouldn’t have to worry about being forced from my home. Without the escalating condo fees, I would be more than capable of meeting my financial obligations. Thank you for trying to find options for responsible ADU owners like myself”
The city has provided an immeasurable service through its homeownership assistant programs, but currently there are many unintended consequences that have be derived from policies that were not completely though out. We know what the problems are, let’s begin addressing them.