This past weekend Manna’s Housing Advocacy Team hosted the “What Is Affordable Housing?” tour to educate individuals from all walks of life on what affordable housing really is. When I first began working at Manna, Inc. I knew nothing of local District politics or anything surrounding affordable housing. If someone was to ask me what affordable housing was, I’d probably say it was public housing. Over the past two years I’ve been submersed into a world of policy and advocacy focused around providing individuals with low to modest incomes opportunities at equitable housing in a very high priced city. When used, affordable housing is often touted as an umbrella term to represent cheap or low-income housing, but it is so much more than that. Affordable housing represents a very wide spectrum of possibilities. Some of those types of housing include transitional housing, affordable rentals, affordable homeownership, and public housing. Each type of housing comes with its own set of governing policies, varieties of financing and administrations.
For instance, did you know that the District has programs that produce and/or preserve affordable units as well as help people afford to rent or own in DC, targeting those with very little income all the way up to 120% of the Area Median Income and that available units can be found on www.dchousingsearch.org? There is a whole host of information and programs offered by the city that very few know about. As the housing crisis in the District continues to grow, the amount of people needing this information will only grow.
The tour also looked to highlight the stories of individuals who successfully transitioned through the various forms of housing, some even reaching homeownership. Each story not only highlighted the importance of affordable housing, but the impact it has on the lives of real people. Often time issues such as affordable housing or even living wages get so wrapped up in political rhetoric that we forget that those policy decisions have practical implications on the lives of real people. Right now, the District is in the midst of a housing crisis, and the DC government recently passed a historic budget to try to address that crisis. As a city, we must continue to look at the programs and resources that work, those that help move people up the economic ladder. The continuum of housing is key– a system that meets people where they are, supporting them through various forms of affordable housing, with the goal of reaching economic stability and independence. It can be done, DC residents have done it and are doing it now, and we must renew our focus to create that kind of opportunity and goal on a macro scale.