Category Archives: Housing news

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What’s needed to afford housing in DC? $33 an hour

At the current minimum wage of $12.50/hr, Washingtonians need to work 107 hours each week to afford a two-bedroom apartment. That’s according to a new report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, entitled Out of Reach: The High Cost of Housing.

The report shines a spotlight on the increasing impossibility of affording rental housing in the US, coming during a period where the portion of the population that is renting continues to rise.

It’s a crisis that is truly national in nature: not a single state has an average one-bedroom rent that is affordable to someone working 40 hours a week at minimum wage. (Affordability is defined as requiring only 30 percent or less of a household’s income.)

In the District’s overheated housing market, the situation is particularly dire. As the numbers for a two-bedroom apartment indicate, families have little hope of finding housing while working for the minimum wage. Single people, however, fair little better. The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $1,513—more than double what someone earning minimum wage can afford.

And it’s not just those earning low wages that are affected. The average full-time wage paid to a renter in DC still leaves that worker $100 short for rent each month.

Talk of more subsidy for affordable housing is often met with immediate resistance. There’s a sense that the people who need affordable housing aren’t our neighbors, friends, and families—and certainly not ourselves. Rather, they’re some vague unknown other who probably isn’t working as hard as they should be.

Add in the fact that activists are currently fighting simply to preserve what funding there is for low- and moderate-income families, and it can be a complete nonstarter. Besides, our country already spends billions on affordable housing, and it doesn’t seem to be working, right?

As Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) notes in his introduction for the report, a full three-quarters of the $200 billion the federal government spends on housing each year goes to wealthy families through the mortgage interest deduction and other tax incentives.

That’s $150 billion in assistance for households who don’t need it. It’s time to take a hard look at our discourse around housing subsidy and redefine the makers, the takers, and the deserving. Otherwise, housing will continue to be out of reach for an ever-growing number of Americans.

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National Day of Action Against HUD Cuts Planned for July 29

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In an effort to stop draconian cuts that the Trump Administration has proposed for the Department of Housing and Urban Development, activists are organizing a National Day of Action. Under the banner “Our Homes, Our Voices,” thousands across the country are expected to come out for a series of rallies, teach-ins, HUD site visits, and Congressional meetings.

The Trump Administration has proposed $6 billion in cuts for HUD, which would have devastating and wide-ranging effects. Hundreds of thousands of low-income families would lose their rent vouchers and potentially their homes. Public housing, already in a desperate state of disrepair, would further deteriorate, putting children and families across the country in danger.

In DC, funding for the Home Purchase Assistance Program, the District’s impactful first-time homebuyer assistance, is under threat. 80 percent of HPAP money comes from Community Development Block Grants—a program with bipartisan support that the Trump Administration has proposed eliminating entirely.

Action to oppose these cuts will be crucial, as Congress has so far shown that public involvement (or lack thereof) is the determining factor in its willingness to stand up to the Trump Administration.

Check back in here closer to July 29th to see what events are happening in DC, and be sure to let your enfranchised friends know that they need to call their representatives.

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HAT, Partners Work Against Racial Wealth Gap with Town Hall; Trump Administration Exacerbates It

One-sixteenth.

That’s the average wealth of a black family compared to a white family in America. It’s the result of centuries of racist policy in education, employment, and especially homeownership.

MANNA’s Housing Advocacy Team has long had an explicit focus on closing the racial wealth gap in our communities, and along with our partners at the Coalition for Nonprofit Housing and Economic Development and the Latino Economic Development Center, this past Saturday we hosted a Homeownership Town Hall aimed at connecting low-income families, especially families of color, to homeownership opportunities.

HAT and our partners are proud of the work we do, and we can see the impact that it has in DC. At the same time, however, we realize that there needs to be national progress in order to achieve justice in our country. The Trump Administration, on the other hand, is looking for a massive transfer of wealth from the bottom to the top; one that’s sure to widen America’s racial wealth divide.

The Town Hall

Close to 200 people came on Saturday for a series of workshops, vendor tables, and presenters covering every step of the affordable homebuying and ownership process. Participants learned about how to improve their credit scores, how to connect with organizations like MANNA that can help them find a home, and the wide variety of city programs that can help make affordable homeownership possible.

Current homeowners were able to learn about city property tax laws and legal estate planning, helping to ensure that their homes will be passed on to their children.

MANNA’s Director of Homebuyer Education, TC Caviness, started off the strong lineup of speakers by articulating the extent to which a gap in homeownership holds back wealth building for black families. Even other areas that are typically thought of as wealth builders, like education level, pale in comparison to the impact that homeownership has.

Despite having worked around housing for years, said TC, “I was shocked when I saw these charts.”

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A college education, while important for many, many reasons beyond money, does almost nothing to close the racial wealth gap, explained TC. Homeownership, on the other hand, shrinks that gap by more than a third.

Polly Donaldson, Director of the DC Department of Housing and Community Development, and Councilmember Anita Bonds, Chair of the Council’s housing committee, both spoke about the importance of affordable homeownership for building a city where all residents can thrive.

Councilmember Bonds, reflecting on the positive impact of recent increases to DC’s Home Purchase Assistance Program for first time low- and moderate-income homebuyers, told the crowd, “Next year, I want to increase it again!”

Trump Administration’s Reverse Robin Hood

That was in stark contrast to the ideas that are coming out of the White House. The Trump Administration has released a series of tax cuts for the wealthy that would collectively cost around $6.2 trillion over the next decade.

To pay for them, the President has introduced a budget plan that would drastically cut many programs targeting poor families, among which families of color are disproportionately represented.

Here are a few of his proposed tax and budget cuts, juxtaposed for context.

  • $192 billion cut to food stamps pays for $174 billion giveaway by abolishing the Estate Tax
  • $143 billion in cuts to student loans helps pay for $158 billion lost by repealing a tax on the unearned income of the wealthy (interest, dividends, capital gains, etc.)
  • $40 billion in cuts to EITC and the child tax credit vs. $400 billion lost by abolishing the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT is often the only tax paid by billionaires)

(from Americans for Tax Fairness)

While HAT and others are prepared to continue our push for fair funding in the District, we need help from our national partners and from people all around the country to stop the Trump Administration’s disastrous and immoral plan to take from the poor and give to the rich. We know that the impact of this theft will disproportionately fall on communities of color, causing the racial wealth gap to grow wider and wider.

Looking at our country’s history, it’s certainly not unprecedented. But as MANNA’s work in DC has proven, it’s not inevitable, either.

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Frontline Goes for Flash Over Substance in LIHTC Report

In a recent year-long investigation, Frontline PBS and NPR delved into the affordable housing industry. The result was Poverty, Politics and Profit, an hour-long documentary on PBS, as well as several pieces on NPR and on both organization’s websites. While drawing attention to the nation’s affordable housing crisis is an important goal, in their work PBS and NPR seriously misrepresent the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC), a crucial tool for building affordable housing.

LIHTC works as a public-private partnership, and it was created under President Reagan as a replacement for the old system of government built public housing. It offers a tax credit to developers in exchange for building affordable housing. The developer then sells that tax credit to an investor to raise money for construction, with the resulting units required to remain affordable for 30 years.

The program has produced millions of units affordable to low-income families (14,000 in DC alone), and it enjoys widespread bipartisan support.

Over the past two decades LIHTC funding has grown considerably, from just over $4 billion in 1997 (inflation adjusted) to almost $7 billion in 2014. But during that time, the number of units produced each year has dropped from 70,000 to under 60,000. It’s a problem that’s worth looking into.

Unfortunately, this investigation was more interested in flashy anecdotes than a data driven analysis. Their work repeatedly refers to two cases of fraud found in south Florida, where developers embezzled a combined $38 million. Certainly, any level of fraud is too much, and it’s very possible that more federal oversight of LIHTC could be helpful.

But this represents a drop in the bucket of the program’s multi-billion-dollar budget. The PBS/NPR investigation found no other instances of fraud, and they uncovered no evidence pointing to wide-spread fraud in the industry.

The report also spends considerable time focusing on the commissions that investors and middle-men, called syndicators, make for their work. These payments are portrayed as a ballooning, shadowy industry, complete with images of men in suits laughing into their cocktails.

In fact, in recent decades increasing market competition has cut the rate of return for LIHTC investors by half. Since the mid-1990s, rates have gone from double digits to a more moderate 4 to 6 percent.

So why hasn’t increased money resulted in more LIHTC units? PBS and NPR actually covered all the major reasons in their reporting—albeit with significantly less gusto than the fraud and abuse angle.

Why more money is producing less units

1)      Rising construction costs: Over the same period the report considered, construction costs increased significantly faster than inflation. According to their own calculations, this alone accounts for 50 percent of the change in price per unit.

2)      Cuts in other federal funding: Affordable housing units often have multiple channels of subsidy, with more than one program helping to keep a unit affordable. Two of the biggest programs that supply this extra coverage, the federal HOME grant and the Community Development Block Grant, have been subject to painful cuts during the period in focus. This means that more LIHTC funding is needed for each unit to hit the same affordability levels.

3)      Deeper affordability: At the same time that other funding has been disappearing, officials have been making a push to make units affordable to lower-income families. That’s a great goal, but it costs more money, meaning that fewer units get built overall.

4)      Neighborhood choice: Similarly, in an effort to avoid creating concentrated pockets of poverty, more LIHTC buildings are being built in wealthier areas. It’s another worthy goal that, again, costs more money.

While Poverty, Politics and Profit seems to love the idea of a shadow network of affordable housing political bosses, what emerges instead is the picture of a program that’s consistently producing in the face of rising costs and changing priorities.

Then again, Bipartisan Program Provides Affordable Homes for Millions just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

The GOP Debate at the Ronald Reagan Library

With Cuts, Trump’s HUD Targets Low-Income Families

A leaked copy of the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) upcoming budget request presents a grim picture for the future of affordable housing in America. The draft shows over $6 billion being cut, representing almost 15 percent of HUD’s annual budget. If enacted, experts estimate over 200,000 low-income households will lose their rental support, and thousands more will be prevented from moving to an affordable situation.

What makes these cuts even more perverse is the “reverse Robin Hood” essence of their design. Despite the ubiquitous nature of Republican calls for a reduction in federal debt, the Trump administration currently has plans for massive tax cuts for the very wealthy. Along with an additional $54 billion in military spending—almost double what commanders have requested—the picture is clear. These cuts do not represent budget balancing, but rather budget priorities.

The depth and breadth of these cuts is overwhelming, both nationally and for the District. Below we break down several of the top targets for the chopping block and the functions they fulfill.

Community Development Block Grants

Community Development Block Grants, or CDBG for short, provides flexible money for localities to use in community development. In the District, CDBG money makes up 80 percent of the budget for the Home Purchase Assistance Program (HPAP), DC’s mortgage assistance program for first time homebuyers. As we have written countless times before, HPAP plays a vital role in building homeownership among DC’s low-income families.

CDBG actually has strong bi-partisan support. Republicans like it because it gives money back to local communities to use as they please, a core conservative tenet.

HUD’s proposed budget, however, would cut the program’s $3 billion budget entirely. That would leave cities and states across the country scrambling to cover myriad services that their residents depend on. In many cases, poor families would simply fall through the cracks.

Housing Choice Vouchers

Housing Choice Vouchers act as a sort of backstop for many low-income families. Under the program, households are able to find a rental property on the open market and be guaranteed to never spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing—whatever costs go above this are covered by the voucher.

The HUD proposal would cut $300 million from this program, leaving about 200,000 families without assistance. Sadistically, here the Trump administration looks to take money from veterans for the military—included in this program are housing vouchers targeting formerly homeless veterans.

Public Housing

In 2010, HUD released a report describing the desperate state of public housing in America. Those conditions remain unchanged today. Buildings are crumbling, and the conditions many families live in are deplorable. In that 2010 report, HUD estimated that it would need tens of billions of dollars in additional funding to catch up on overdue maintenance.

Instead, President Trump’s HUD has proposed cutting public housing’s maintenance budget by $1.3 billion, a third of its total value. The proposal also takes $600 million from the operating budget, ensuring that more problems will arise even faster as time goes on.

HOME Investment Partnership Program

Like CDBG, HOME represents a pot of money that localities can use in a variety of ways. DC typically uses its share to fund affordable housing construction, like MANNA’s Willowbrook Condominiums.

Yet again, faced with a nationwide affordable housing crisis and a program that gives local governments control of federal dollars, the Trump administration looks to pull the plug. HOME, like CDBG, would be entirely eliminated. Another billion dollars for affordable housing would be lost.

What to do

The good news is that none of this is final. This proposal represents a draft of what the Trump administration will present to Congress. Marshaling the opposition of lawmakers will be crucial, especially among Republicans who see the positive impact that these locally controlled dollars have in their own districts.

You can help make sure that these cuts don’t happen. Call your representatives and let them know that funding bombs and billionaires over low-income families is unacceptable.

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DC Bill Would Move Surplus to Housing Trust Fund, Schools

Image: Councilmember David Grosso, center

An exciting new bill from At-Large Councilmember David Grosso looks to get DC’s surplus funds moving for school improvements and affordable housing.

The bill, introduced last week, addresses one of the city’s self-inflicted wounds we wrote about a few weeks ago. As the city faces an affordable housing crisis, federal funding uncertainties, and more, it needs to have all options on the table.

Yet under current city law the District’s yearly budget surplus is required to be put into savings. This, along with DC’s overall fiscal strength, has contributed to a record-breaking general funds balance of $2.4 billion.

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The portion of that designated as “cash on hand,” however, is just over a billion dollars. The city’s goal is to have 60 days’ worth of operating funds in reserves, and by current calculations they are about four “days” short.

Councilmember Grosso’s bill notes that the District is double-counting some of its debt obligations, and it would have the city move to federal bookkeeping standards. If this were done, the DC Fiscal Policy Institute estimates that it would result in $90 million becoming instantly available.

Under the bill, this money—and all future surplus funds—would be split evenly between the Housing Production Trust Fund (HPTF) and school improvements.

The HPTF is DC’s main vehicle for funding affordable housing projects, and a $45 million infusion would be a big help in meeting the city’s ongoing need. It would also provide crucial gap funding for current affordable housing projects impacted by declining low income housing tax credit markets. (Those interested can learn more about this here.)

HPTF money has helped thousands of Washingtonians find affordable housing, and increasing its budget is one of the best ways to keep life-long residents from being priced out of their city.

While Councilmember Grosso is currently the only sponsor, we hope to see other councilmembers joining soon. Rarely does such an easy and impactful fix come along.

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GOP Moves to Block AFFH Desegregation Efforts

Image: Senators Mike Lee (R-UT; background) and Marco Rubio (R-FL; foreground) are co-sponsoring legislation to end AFFH

Using language that hearkens back to desegregation fights of the Civil Rights era, Congressional Republicans last month introduced legislation to combat the “federally mandated demographics” of the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) desegregation efforts.

These legislators take issue with HUD’s work on affirmatively furthering fair housing, a subject that requires a brief history lesson and bit of jargon to understand.

The language of “affirmatively furthering” fair housing refers to government efforts to go beyond simply outlawing racist housing practices, to actively promoting integration in their jurisdictions. Affirmatively furthering fair housing is one of the key requirements of the Fair Housing Act of 1968.

In the 1970s, George Romney (Mitt’s father) tried to do just that as Nixon’s HUD Secretary, using HUD funds to pressure localities into building more affordable housing and integrating neighborhoods. The strength of segregationists’ opposition, however, proved formidable. Nixon ordered the program shuttered, and administrations both Democratic and Republican ignored the Fair Housing Act’s “affirmatively furthering” provision for another thirty years.

GeorgeMittatWorldsFairMay181964George Romney with son Mitt

This brings us to recent history. In 2015, the Obama administration introduced its Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule, something we wrote about last year.

Obama’s AFFH functions similarly to Romney’s vision. Under the rule, localities are required to report on their jurisdiction’s residential segregation and how that relates to pockets of poverty and areas lacking quality services like schools, libraries, and hospitals. They then need to form a plan for how to address any disparities they find and submit that plan in order to receive their HUD funding—often a large chunk of money.

Now Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Mike Lee (R-UT) have joined Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) in introducing legislation to gut AFFH. Reasons for this opposition have been a bit scattered. Some, like Sen. Rubio, say it is an issue of states’ and localities’ rights. His office issued a statement decrying “Top-down, one-size-fits-all regulations by Washington bureaucrats” in explaining his support for the legislation.

In an interview with CityLab, Solomon Greene, a former HUD employee who is now a senior fellow at the Urban Institute, expressed skepticism about this explanation.  Because AFFH allows localities to use whatever tools they wish to address segregation and unfair housing practices, it actually gives considerable power to local jurisdictions. Greene says AFFH reflects the belief that “there’s no clear answer as to what is the best use of a federal dollar. It is the opposite of a one-size-fits-all model, which is how it’s been rebranded.”

Others take a different approach in explaining their opposition. Sen. Lee, who tried to defund AFFH last year, has found his biggest supporter in Rick Manning, president of Americans for Limited Government. In explaining his support for Lee’s defunding maneuver last year, Manning railed against “race hustlers who seek to put low income high rise apartments into middle class neighborhoods.”

Switching seamlessly from a racial argument to one of neighborhood preservation is a common tactic in AFFH arguments. In this way, Manning and other opponents work to tie these issues together in peoples’ minds while avoiding the public backlash of explicitly segregationist appeals.

Similarly, Paul Sperry, a right wing columnist for the New York Post, has criticized AFFH and parallel initiatives for attempting to “forcibly desegregate inner cities and integrate outer suburbs.” His writing none-too-subtly ties together race, crime, and drug usage in an age-old attempt to create a black boogeyman invading white neighborhoods.

Rep. Gosar’s bill goes a step further than the Senate version. If passed, his bill would require that HUD deactivate its newly released tool that allows localities and private citizens to assess the problems their city faces. An example of the kind of information this tool can provide is shown below.

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Job proximity in DC
1 dot = 100 people. Green dots are African-Americans, while orange dots show whites. The darker the grey background, the more easily accessible jobs are in that census tract. This map, created by the author with the new HUD tool, shows that literally no experience is required to find issues for AFFH consideration.

Rep. Gosar does not seem to have offered any public reasoning for his actions. Indeed, it is hard to imagine what reasoning he could offer. This tool is invaluable to local lawmakers, community groups, and private citizens who are trying to assess the challenges that their communities face.

Either of these bills, if passed, represent a serious challenge to HUD’s work and the implementation of the Fair Housing Act. Vague language about states’ rights should be discounted. The dog whistle segregationist language of “race hustlers” and “federally mandated demographics” cannot be.

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As Trump Moves in, 40,000 Locked Out

Hours after President Trump moved into his new home on Friday, he was busy blocking an Obama administration initiative that could have helped 40,000 low- and moderate-income households move into theirs. It was a move that united affordable housing advocates, realtors, and mortgage brokers in opposition.

It’s an issue that can be tricky to understand, but it has broad implications for affordable homeownership across the country. Stick with us as we break it down:

  • The Federal Housing Administration, or FHA, issues loans to homebuyers who probably couldn’t otherwise afford to own their own home. They target first time homebuyers and buyers with lower credit scores. The FHA requires a 3.5% downpayment as opposed to the 20% often required for conventional loans.
  • It has wide reach—One in six single-family homebuyers in the second half of 2016 used FHA loans.
  • These homebuyers are required to purchase mortgage insurance from the FHA to make sure the agency doesn’t go under in case of default.
  • In December the Obama administration announced that premiums for this insurance would be cut by a quarter of a percentage point. That would mean a savings of about $500 per year for the average FHA homebuyer, and several times that amount for FHA buyers in the pricey DC housing market.
  • On Friday the Trump administration announced it was putting an indefinite suspension on that rate cut, leading many to believe that the administration intends to make it quietly disappear.

With us so far?

Republicans argue that the premium cut is irresponsible coming less than a decade after the FHA needed to be bailed out in the wake of the housing crisis.

But the data tell a different story. The FHA’s cash reserve in case of defaults (what’s known as the capital reserve ratio) has been exceeding requirements for two years in a row, and the Obama administration had wanted to pass those savings on to the borrowers.

What’s more, the cut could have a big impact for such a small price tag. The Mortgage Bankers Association reported that mortgage refinancing applications were up 7 percent in December after the news was announced. A half-percent premium cut two years ago caused a big increase in refinancing and new mortgage applications.

And because so many potential homebuyers are right on the bubble, the National Association of Realtors estimated that up to 40,000 more households could have qualified for FHA loans with the rate cut. Some 800,000 would have seen savings. What happens to those households now is in limbo.

As interest rates rise and homeownership languishes at a 50-year low, government at all levels will need to work diligently to make sure the American dream of homeownership remains accessible to everyone. On Friday, however, the Trump administration seemed content with just making sure that the President got the keys to his newest property.

Two more communities preserved – going from market to affordable!

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What does it take to create or preserve affordable housing? What does it take to partner with and improve the quality of life for lower-income families, enhancing the economic diversity of communities all over the city?

These efforts, often spearheaded by the Coalition for Nonprofit Housing and Economic Development (CNHED) and its members, were celebrated during last week’s Community Development Week in D.C. The week of October 11th included events ranging from open houses to ribbon cuttings to groundbreakings, celebrating hundreds of affordable housing units being created or preserved all across the city.

This past Tuesday, to help launch Community Development Week, the Urban Institute published an online database highlighting one type of affordable housing in the District: assisted rentals.

Maintained by NeighborhoodInfo DC and CNHED, the database, called DC Preservation Catalog, contains a map of 39,000 affordable rental units spread out across the city. Along with the map, the catalog also offers property names, locations, and data on the various subsidies that contribute to a property’s affordability. This tool will be infinitely helpful to the DC Preservation Network (DCPN) and others, providing information that housing counseling organizations, legal services providers, affordable housing developers, local and federal agencies can use to assist lower-income renters in preserving their affordable rental housing over the long haul.

Over the past decade, the District has suffered a 50 percent loss in their low-cost housing supply due to a rapid rise in housing costs. The preservation of already existing affordable housing will ensure that lower-income residents will be able to stay in the communities that they have called home to for a long time.

And two more rental communities were added to the Preservation Catalogue last week! On Thursday, October 13th, MANNA hosted a groundbreaking event for the rehab of two rental buildings in Ward 4’s Brightwood neighborhood: 1370 Ft Stevens Dr NW and 734 Longfellow St NW. The event featured guest speakers ranging from tenants, to DC’s Department of Housing and Community Development, city council members, banks, non-profit financiers and more.

Tenants in these buildings worked with the Latino Economic Development Center to exercise their Tenant Opportunity to Purchase rights when their buildings went up for sale. They selected MANNA to rehab their buildings and operate them as an affordable rental into the future. The financing MANNA is using, Low Income Housing Tax Credits, will keep the buildings affordable for residents under 60% of the Area Median Income for 15 years. These time frames are one of the most important things tracked by the Catalogue, allowing entities to keep tabs on when subsidies will expire and start conversations with owners and tenants early to ensure that the buildings will be maintained as affordable into the future.

Maintaining and preserving affordable housing should be one of the city’s top priorities. Councilmembers Todd, Silverman, and White are all committed to affordable housing in the city, but agree that more resources are required, and those resources need to be invested in the right things. As Councilmember Silverman pointed out, she and her peers are committed to affordable housing, “but it’s going to take a lot more time and resources.”

This groundbreaking event proved that it doesn’t take a lone individual to create change in affordable housing, but instead it takes a diverse community. Community organizers, policymakers, banks, District agencies and tenants all play a role. And although all these entities are involved, there is still a great deal left to be done to create more affordable housing.
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Affordable Housing – It Doesn’t Just Happen!

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Over the past couple of weeks alone, the city of Washington has committed $20 million to affordable housing projects across the city.

The Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) says that it has dipped into the city’s Housing Production Trust Fund to fund more than 100 units of affordable housing in Wards 6 and 8.

The 100 plus units will be spread over two apartment buildings. The first apartment is a 93-unit building located a few blocks from the Anacostia Metro Station. The units will be reserved for residents making less than 50 percent of area median income (AMI). The second apartment building is a 12 unit cooperative within walking distance of the Potomac Avenue Metro Station. These units will be reserved for residents making less than 80 percent of AMI.

In Ward 4, the District has committed $13 million to rehabilitate a majority affordable-housing apartment complex in Brightwood Park. The building will be updated top-to-bottom, and 45 units will be reserved for residents earning up to 60 percent of the area median income.

Where did this money for housing come from?

The Housing Production Trust Fund (HPTF) is the District’s largest affordable housing program. The Trust Fund supports the construction, rehabilitation, and acquisition of housing affordable to low- and moderate-income residents.

The HPTF provides grants and loans to affordable housing developers. These funds can be used to acquire, rehabilitate, and build low-cost housing. The Trust Fund assists both homeownership and rental housing. Since 2001, the HPTF has helped build or renovate over 9,000 affordable homes throughout the District.

Since she took office in 2015, Mayor Muriel Bowser has pledged to commit $100 million every year to the Trust Fund. The Housing Production Trust Fund is a great thing, but it is also really important to understand how all this money got there. It was residents, community organizations and others that banned together to create the political will to fund affordable housing at this level. And more is needed.

Let’s take a look at the Housing For All Campaign. The Campaign was launched by the Coalition for Nonprofit Housing and Economic Development (CNHED) and its mission is to call on District officials to invest in housing programs that meet the needs of all District residents. In a matter of four years, the campaign succeeded in bringing the District from massive cuts in affordable housing budgets (a 70% drop to $20 million in HPTF in FY 12) to the level of committed funding we are now seeing.

Rallies are one way to mobilize people into joining your cause. They not only educate people about a certain injustice, but they also encourage people to take action. And you have to be diligent to build support and couple rallies with other kinds of action, both public and behind-the-scenes.

It is amazing to watch the evolution from the Housing For All rally in 2012, when affordable housing budgets were drastically cut, to just this past year. In 2016 the Housing For All Campaign put on its largest rally to date, packing Foundry Methodist Church with over 1000 people and public officials wanting to show support. The message was clear: DC is our home, and everyone in it should have a home.

Several prominent District officials, including Mayor Muriel Bowser, also made an appearance. The city’s mayor continued her commitment to increase investments in a wide variety of affordable housing types. “When we think about the $100 million for affordable housing I know we have to think about it across the entire spectrum. From very very low income housing to middle income housing. We have to think about new housing and we have to think about preserving housing…I consider this among the top things I have to do as Mayor.”

And the rallies for meeting affordable housing need continue. Over this past weekend, a small group of activists planned to gather in front of D.C. General and D.C Jail to press the city for a larger investment of time and resources into affordable housing and anti-poverty strategies. The rally was aimed to get the attention of Mayor Muriel Bowser and other District officials, another seed in the push for making DC a place where all can live, thrive and grow.

 Activism comes in all shapes and sizes; a large organization, or a single person can spearhead it. These actions all build off a one another and we have  to get involved and be strategic to continue building political will to meet the affordable housing needs that still exist. We’ve come a long way, and there is more to go…

What’s your story? Do you believe that everyone should have the right to a roof over his or her head? How are you getting involved? What will you do advance the cause and help create change?