There’s a boom coming in the District, and like the majority of the most recent ones this one has to do with housing. Just east of the NOMA metro station tons of development dollars are flooding into the Union Market area of the District. This May, ground is set to be broken on the first mixed-use residential/retail building planned for the neighborhood, and if things go according to plan another eight developments could be on the horizon. The momentum from this development has been in the works for a while. In 2009 the District published a framework for future development for the 45 acres within the cross streets of Florida and New York avenues and Penn and Sixth streets, Northeast, near Gallaudet University. The recent booms in Trinidad and NOMA have spilt over and Union Market looks to be next on the horizon. Hopefully, this increase in supply will bring relief to market forces that have contributed to rising rents across the board and help push back the city’s affordability crisis.
Another contributing factor to this narrative is the strength of the city’s housing programs as more housing comes on line, more specifically the Home Purchase Assistance Program (HPAP). For those of you who don’t know, HPAP is a no-interest loan given to first-time home buying District residents for purchase assistance. As housing costs continue to rise, the level of importance of HPAP and other programs has steadily increased. In order for low-to-moderate income residents of the District to continue to be able to participate in the housing market, this kind of assistance will not only need to be continued, but strengthened.
On April 20th, the DC City Council held a budget hearing for Department of Housing and Community Development and community stakeholders and residents spoke in support and/or disapproval of the housing budget. For FY16, the proposed budget looks to cut $2.5 million from the HPAP budget. Residents asked for that to be restored as well as an additional $1 million dollars. Community stakeholders also asked that the maximum loan amount be increased from $50,000 to $80,000 and changes be made for the program to run faster, both necessary things for households to remain able to participate in the market. Other high priced cities have raised their purchase payment assistance as well. Below are testimonies given at the hearing. Remember, in order for the District to remain a city for all, there must be Housing For All.
Housing Committee Oversight Hearing
Councilmember Anita Bonds
John Wilson Building – April 20, 2014
Testimony of Latanya Boyd, Ward 7 resident and renter
Good Morning. My name is Latanya Boyd, and I live in Ward 7. I am proud to become a District homeowner.
I would like to thank Councilmember Anita Bonds for chairing the housing committee and for her commitment to more equitable housing across the District. I would also like to thank the council for their commitment to homeownership and programs that make it possible for individuals like me as well as families to realize the “American Dream” of homeownership in the District. And hope the council would continue prioritizing programs like HPAP that allow renters like myself to be able to own, stay and grow as homeowners in the District.
I have been living in the District all my life. In 2014 I became what I categorized myself as a “traveling roommate”. I could not afford my apartment and had to leave. Not being able to find an apartment I could afford, that’s when I became the traveling roommate. My girlfriend allowed me to stay with her for a few month – 3 months is what it was, in Silver Spring, MD. Afterwards, my cousin let me stay with her…again about 3 months. This roommate time is in Arlington, Va. Still trying to find something in the city I could afford (and feeling a little on the depress side) after about 2 months it was time to move on, my friend in Gaithersburg, MD said I could stay with him for rest of the year (rent free) providing I could find a place by the end of the year (2014). It did not look good the closer I got to year’s end.
To find an apartment in Washington, DC became frustrating and hopeless. I felt depressed. I felt defeated. If you look long into the abyss…the abyss will begin to look back at you.
In the face of this depression I did begin to see glimmer of hope in such organizations as Manna, especially when I met Willamena Samuels – director of the Homebuyers Club. I joined Manna in 2009 but I still had that “I can never afford to buy in DC” mentality so I didn’t take it seriously. But Ms. Willamena saw something I just did not see…a Home Owner. The sessions have taught me a lot, how to deal with my finances and credit. It absolutely opened my eyes and has made me thriftier. I am doing whatever I can to save for a down payment and I am definitely on a budget.
Organizations like Manna and government home ownership loans such as HPAP and the Housing Production Trust Fund, are the backbone for people like me to actually have that dream of home ownership. We want to better ourselves and it will take hard work to get there. However, with all our best efforts and education, the reality is we need help to make the dream real. The cost of homes within the District makes the “American Dream” feel untouchable…unattainable…out of reach. Therefore, loan programs like HPAP are key to those of us in that moderate to very low income.
We’re do our part, saving, cleaning up our credit, paying back our HPAP loans, paying taxes, and supporting the city we love and want to live in. We ask that the administration be recognized so that more families can benefit from the funds effectively, but also ask that the maximum loan amount be increased to $80,000.We also ask that the council not cut funding to the program by 2.5 million, it is a struggle for middle to lower income individuals to participate in this market. Each day the District is getting more expensive to live.
This is a market, an open market that is increasing in value because of the efforts of all District residents.
Please make homeownership a priority in your next budget. Homeowners help keep the District
together, communities are strengthen by it and building up neighborhoods. Help ensure the District remains a city for all.
Thank you for allowing me to speak. May God bless you all.
Testimony of Sarah Scruggs, Director of Advocacy and Outreach, Manna Inc.
Budget Oversight Hearing
Committee on Housing and Community Development
April 20, 2015
Good morning, Chairwoman Bowser and Committee members. My name is Sarah Scruggs and I am the Director of Advocacy and Outreach for Manna, Inc. Manna supports the housing and economic budget priorities that CNHED has set forth. We believe in a dynamic continuum of affordable housing that empowers people to move through different types of housing over time, reaching whatever is their full potential. We need $100 million in the Housing Production Trust Fund to do this, to meet the need of preserving affordable housing and creating more. We also need programs like HPAP to assist prepared residents in purchasing homes.
Manna has worked with so many homeowners who have moved from homelessness, transitional housing, affordable rentals and other types of housing into homeownership created by the Trust Fund or homeownership on the open-market; we have also seen folks in ridiculously expensive rentals move into homes they can afford, stabilizing their payments to years to come. HPAP needs to be supported and seen as a vital part of the housing continuum, a part of the pathway to the middle class. We need to increase funding, increase loan amounts, and institute needed program changes. All of these things are possible and we ask for the Council’s support.
This Saturday, Manna is holding our 4th Annual East of the River Homebuyer Education Fair event along with DHCD. We are expecting larger turnout than ever before. And this fair is happening as outreach for the East of the River Homeownership Initiative is starting, a groundbreaking effort that the Council full heartedly supported last year. As you’ll see in the attached one-pager, mortgage-ready HPAP applicants remain high and will increase. These people put their time, effort and resources into preparing for homeownership; let’s make sure HPAP is available for them to purchase homes not just in Wards 7 and 8, but other parts of the city as well. Time is of the essence as mortgage rates remain low; just a one percentage increase would increase mortgage payments by almost 15%; now is not the time to cut HPAP’s budget.
Raising the maximum HPAP loan amount to $80,000 is absolutely essential. The attached one-pager shows that home prices have risen past 2008 levels when the HPAP loan amount was $70,000; however, HPAP loan amounts have not kept pace. The increase to $50,000 in last year’s budget was not enough. Manna knows this well as we saw many DC residents only be able to purchase by combining HPAP with the $20,000 CityLIFT downpayment funds that we administered from late 2012 to 2014. And loan repayments can be restructured for those with less income and higher loan amounts, going back to the historic VPAP structure where homeowners didn’t repay until resale. Other cities have structured their purchase assistance loans in this way and DC has done it before. Don’t forget that HPAP money comes back; it’s an investment that can change lives, create a family’s economic future, build DC’s tax base, and keep recycling.
Along with CNHED and other stakeholders, Manna participated in many HPAP meetings at DHCD last year and developed ideas to improve the program. We are confident that the needed changes to streamline HPAP can and will be implemented and look forward to working with DHCD. Attached you’ll see a list of those changes. We’re even starting to see improvements now, including better communication between the Urban League and HPAP buyers.
The full continuum of affordable housing and the programs that make it possible need your support. This is about addressing need and building a vibrant, inclusive city that offers opportunity to all DC residents. Thank you for the opportunity to testify.