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DC 2018 Voter Guide: Chairman and Democratic At-Large Councilmember

“Didn’t we just do that?” is the normal refrain from an election-weary public as mid-terms roll around. In liberal DC, however, there’s been an uncommon amount of energy and anticipation for change to come in November.

But before the Senate and the House are decided, the DC Council will largely be set by the local Democratic primary on June 19th. Check out our guide below to learn where candidates in the two District-wide races stand on housing issues.

Chairman

Phil Mendelson (Incumbent)
mendelson
As the DC Council Chairman, Phil Mendelson has used his position to act as a self-described check against the Mayor. He commands significant influence over final decisions in the budget as well as legislation before the full Council, and he is an effective whip in lining up votes for his priorities.

That’s often good news for housing advocates. In this budget cycle, he supported the late addition of $15 million for local rent vouchers and housing for people coming out of homelessness. But it’s also proven problematic at times, as he has stalled a bill increasing funding for the Housing Production Trust Fund and was the driving force behind eliminating TOPA protections for renters in single-family homes. As a result, those renters no longer have a guaranteed chance to buy their home when their landlord wants to sell.

Ed Lazere (Challenger, on leave from job as Director of DC Fiscal Policy Institute)
Lazere
As Director of DC Fiscal Policy Institute, Ed Lazere has supported many of the same priorities as HAT. Lazere has pushed for increased funding for the Housing Production Trust Fund and has talked regularly about the harmful effects of DC’s racial wealth gap. On the campaign trail, he has called for DC to significantly expand its investment in affordable housing, arguing that our current funding for housing programs is an insufficient response to the size of the problem. He also spoke out against the elimination of TOPA for single-family homes.

HAT and DCFPI have disagreed in the past, however, on long-term resale restrictions for affordable homebuyers. HAT opposes long-term restrictions because they keep affordable homebuyers, a majority of whom are people of color, from experiencing the same wealth-building that white families experienced from decades of government-backed mortgages. Proponents of the restrictions see them as the only way to keep affordable homeownership available going forward.

At-Large Councilmember

Anita Bonds (Incumbent, serves as Chair of the Council’s Housing Committee)
bonds
In her role as At-Large Councilmember and Chair of the Council’s Housing Committee, Anita Bonds has certainly made housing her top priority. She has introduced countless important pieces of legislation dealing with affordable housing, and she was a major champion in the successful fight several years ago to increase HPAP loan amounts. Our list of 5 bills to watch in 2018, written earlier this year, was comprised entirely of legislation written by Councilmember Bonds. She displayed the backbone of her leadership during this budget process, as she oversaw the late addition of $15 million for local rent vouchers and other essential programs. She was also able to attach several important pieces of legislation to the budget, including one of the aforementioned bills to watch—one that establishes a rehab fund for lower-income condo and coop communities.

However, none of the other bills to watch have been brought up for a vote in committee. Advocates have been particularly eager to get a vote on two bills designed to strengthen rent control, which Councilmember Bonds had initially said would happen in January. Councilmember Bonds was also the author of the bill exempting single-family homes from TOPA protections.

Jeremiah Lowery (Challenger, Environmental Activist)
Jeremiah Lowery DC Council At Large 2018
Jeremiah Lowery has made affordable housing one of the centerpieces of his campaign, and he prides himself on not taking contributions from developers or other corporations. Instead, he has a significant array of endorsements from local progressive organizations. Lowery opposed the elimination of TOPA rights for single-family homes, and is generally supportive of more funding for affordable housing.

Lowery has named community land trusts as his top priority for affordable housing, an interesting model in which a community organization retains permanent control over the land on which affordable housing is built. However, while community land trusts have truly innovative potential for rental housing, HAT has the same concerns listed above about their resale restrictions on ownership housing. In short, homeownership without the potential for wealth creation is not true homeownership.

Marcus Goodwin (Challenger, Commercial Real Estate Development)
goodwin
Coming from the field of commercial real estate, Marcus Goodwin certainly knows housing development. He has expressed support for the Home Purchase Assistance Program and has spoken frequently about helping renters move into homeownership. He has also proposed a deferral of property taxes for lower-income homeowners, to be repaid when the owner sells.

While this certainly represents a significant contribution to the anti-displacement conversation, Greater Greater Washington reported that in a recent interview they found Goodwin to be more focused on the details of specific developments rather than policy solutions to create affordable housing. Goodwin also supported the exemption of single-family homes from TOPA protections.

Be sure to vote on June 19th with affordable housing priorities in mind!

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