Missing Pieces: Fixing Inclusionary Zoning for ownership

Yesterday, an article was posted on Greater Greater Washington addressing Inclusionary Zoning policy, specifically as it pertains to ownership units (which have permanent resale and rental restrictions) and similarities with current Affordable Dwelling Units (ADU) in DC.  Cheryl Cort, Policy Director for the Coalition for Smarter Growth proposed “a few steps can fix IZ” and went on to explain her viewpoint. Cort noted three major areas of flaw with the IZ policy: severe understaffing at the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD); rigid IZ regulations in the administration of the program and rigid FHA lending rules. While these claims are all accurate, there are some major pieces missing.

First and foremost, there is no mention or conversation with any folks who have actually owned an ADU unit in the District. In addition, the predominate issue of escalating condo fees that many of ADU owners have experienced is completely absent from the article as a whole. Conversation ensued following Cheryl’s article and Sarah, Director of Advocacy at Manna, Inc. said this:

“It is really disheartening to see the deafening silence in this article of escalating condo fee issues that current ADU owners in mixed-income buildings in DC are facing and that have plagued IZ ownership programs in similar housing markets to DC (see http://hatdc.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/Learning-From-Experience-Affordable-Homeowners-in-Washington-DC-Oct-2012-.pdf). The IZ ordinance does not address this issue and DHCD officials have confirmed this. We have to be honest about these issues and not put more folks at risk of the same.

Use of FHA and DHCD’s administration of the program are issues, but they are not the sole issues. ADU owners have said this publicly over and over. There is a huge difference between IZ rental and ownership units, and the costs and benefits. One City Council staff recently termed IZ ownership as “half ownership”, which is a very good categorization. “Half ownership” may work for some, especially those without a growing family or those with higher incomes that have a higher education to fall back on as far as economic advancement (though many ADU owners in that category now wish they had never purchased). Why should DC put so many of its eggs as far as affordable homeownership into a program with some very large issues that doesn’t allow families to access equity or achieve any sort of economic advancement? I believe DC can do better and that there are different tools at our disposal than permanently restricted ownership units. For rental, by all means. For ownership, I wouldn’t dare purchase an IZ unit right now in this city.”

We must hear from folks who currently own ADU units and can speak to how this has impacted their lives. Cort’s article can be found by clicking on this link: A few steps can fix Inclusionary Zoning. ADU owners, it’s time for us to hear from you!  Take a moment today to read the article and add your comment to the ongoing conversation in the District surrounding ADU units and Inclusionary Zoning.

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