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?

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