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Town Hall, Advocacy Day, and Housing Budget Needs

Between the 3rd Annual Homeownership Town Hall & Housing Fair on Saturday and CNHED’s Advocacy Day on Monday, the Housing Advocacy Team has been busy! Here’s what you may have missed:

Town Hall

Saturday’s Town Hall and Housing Fair was a great success, with more than 200 residents coming out to Thurgood Marshall Academy in Anacostia to gain information on affordable homeownership opportunities. Robert AX Adams’ smooth electric guitar and vocals entertained the community members as they wandered through 25 tables with information from nonprofits, government agencies, financial institutions, and more.

Workshops on DC property tax relief, estate planning, an introduction to MANNA’s Homebuyers Club, and more offered information for current and prospective homebuyers alike.

The Town Hall portion of the day was led by HAT’s Tanya Morris, also a MANNA board member, who told her story of buying an Affordable Dwelling Unit in Columbia Heights. (You can hear more from Tanya below.)

Rev. Jim Dickerson spoke of MANNA’s founding over 35 years ago and the more than 1500 homes MANNA has built before turning the mic over to Don Folden, the leader of Capitol Buddy’s DC Black History Tours. Don spoke about the history of Anacostia and all of DC, expounding on its racial property covenants and government backed mortgages that kept homeownership an almost exclusively white venture.

That history is a big part of why programs like the Home Purchase Assistance Program are a matter of justice. More than 90% of HPAP borrowers are people of color, and without the program many of those families still would be locked out of homeownership.

Residents signed postcards to DC Council Chairman Phil Mendelson asking him to keep the Mayor’s proposed $8 million increase to HPAP’s budget (a total of $26 million). They also asked that he hold a hearing for Councilmember Anita Bonds’ (At-Large) bill guaranteeing funding for the Housing Production Trust Fund at a minimum of $120 million each year.

Councilmember Robert White (At-Large) spoke to the crowd about the importance of HPAP and homeownership. Himself a generations-deep Washingtonian, he highlighted the history that has kept black Washingtonians from owning homes and the responsibility of the government to correct those wrongs.
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Councilmember Robert White and DHCD Director Polly Donaldson

Polly Donaldson, Director of the Department of Housing and Community Development, also stopped by to highlight the investments that Mayor Bowser and the Housing Department have made in low- and moderate-income homeownership. HPAP helped about 300 Washingtonian families become homeowners last year, and the Mayor’s proposed increases could see even more families served next year.

Advocacy Day

The Coalition for Nonprofit Housing and Economic Development held its annual Advocacy Day on Monday, April 23, and HAT was out in force. Coucilmembers Brianne Nadeau (Ward 1), Vince Gray (Ward 7), David Grosso (At-Large), and Charles Allen (Ward 6) all stopped by to speak to the crowd of yellow shirts packed into the Council hearing room.

CNHED speakers then educated the crowd on important programs that are underfunded in the Mayors budget before residents fanned out to meetings in all 13 Council offices.
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Councilmembers Allen and Nadeau

Among the programs for which the Council to find more funds is the Local Rent Supplement Program, or LRSP. These local rent vouchers help families with very low incomes who otherwise would likely be severely rent burdened. The vouchers are either given to the tenant for them to find housing on the open market (called “tenant-based vouchers”) or given to a landlord and tied to a specific low-cost unit (“project-based vouchers”). They Mayor’s budget zeros out investments in project-based vouchers, a concerning development that could have the unintended consequence of forcing low-income families to become homeless in order to be eligible for rental assistance.

Another top concern is a proposed cut to Housing Counseling Services which could severely curtail the homebuying counseling that MANNA and other counselors are able to provide. It’s a cut that makes little sense alongside an increase to HPAP—families served by HPAP need access to strong counseling services in order to have the best chance to succeed.

Finally, CNHED and HAT continue to push for more funding in the Housing Production Trust Fund. While Mayor Bowser’s commitment to $100 million in the fund each year has been historic, it is no longer keeping pace with either need or capacity. DC can and must build more affordable homes in order to keep our city a place that all residents can afford, and guaranteeing a minimum of $120 million in the trust fund each year is a good place to start.

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