The Washington region is home to some of the wealthiest counties in the country; however, there are many households that are struggling to get by on minimum- or lower-wage jobs. Despite these income disparities, Washington, DC is a city with one of the highest costs of living, which makes finding quality, affordable housing difficult for many residents. Thanks to passionate residents, housing advocates, and elected officials, housing issues are in the spotlight, and some of our housing concerns are currently being addressed.
Homelessness can stem from various causes, such as “insufficient income, the loss of a job or health insurance, rising rents, physical and mental disabilities, and domestic violence.” People become especially vulnerable to these conditions when there is a lack of affordable housing and permanent supportive housing options. For most people, homelessness only lasts for a few months or less, however, there is a small percentage of the homeless population that experience homelessness for years.
It is important that we advocate to ensure affordable housing, to end chronic homelessness, and to build a DC where all residents thrive. However, under current conditions, as long as working people are unable to find affordable places to live, homelessness will continue to be an issue, and this shouldn’t be the case. According to the Urban Institute, “increasing the supply of affordable rental units and permanent supportive housing would reduce homelessness in the region”. Correspondingly, these are the types of housing supports that we have been continuously fighting for in the District. Last year, housing advocates fought for $100 million dollars to be put into the Housing Production Trust Fund, and this was one of the issues that we rallied behind at last year’s Housing for All Rally. The mayor listened, and that amount was allotted into the fund. As a result of those efforts, last month, the mayor announced that she will be using nearly $82.2 million dollars from the Trust Fund to take on 12 affordable housing projects. The plan is to preserve 466 units of affordable housing, while producing 338 new units. This development will take place in most of the wards, and they will house approximately 1,760 DC residents.
Strides are also being made towards ending chronic homelessness. Just a couple of weeks ago, the Mayor announced her plan to close DC General, and replace it with eight new family shelters that are to be developed by 2018. The goal of these shelters is to be clean and safe neighborhood-based facilities that have accommodations for children. Furthermore, these shelters are expected to help improve the lives of those living there by providing residents with resources such as housing assistance, and job placement to help them overcome homelessness.
Neither the aforementioned 12 affordable housing developments nor the eight new homeless shelters will be enough to end homelessness or DC’s affordable housing crisis. However, they are signs that our voices are being heard, and they will make a difference in the lives of thousands of DC’s residents. However, we have to continuously advocate for a full continuum of housing, from supportive housing up to homeownership. It is important that we all come out to this year’s housing rally on March 5 so the Mayor can see that housing is still important to us, and that it is necessary in order to build a DC where all residents thrive.