Yesterday, the DC City Council Committee on Housing & Workforce Development held its annual budget hearing for fiscal year 2013. As affordable housing for District residents remains distant from Mayor Gray’s vision for the city, cuts were made to two essential city housing programs: the Home Purchase Assistance Program (HPAP) totaling $5 million and the Housing Production Trust Fund (HPTF) totaling $20 million (for more information, see http://housingforallblog.org/2012/03/so-what-happened-in-the-mayors-budget/).
Along with numerous housing advocates and non-profits, 19 past and future recipients of HPAP loans, along with Manna, Inc. staff, submitted testimony before the Committee Chairman and At-Large City Councilman Michael Brown to the positive effect that homeownership purchased through HPAP has had on their lives.
Bernice Joseph, a mother of 4 and homeowner in Ward 2 since 2002 said, “Without this program I do not know where I would be. But I do know I would not be in my neighborhood, the one that is so dear to my heart, the one where I put down roots, the one where I have lived for the past 21 years… Without the stable price of my mortgage, I would not be able to afford to go back to school; I definitely could not afford my classes if I had to pay market-rate rent.”
Robert Cooke, a recent homeowner in Ward 5 said, “My story, and the story of some of the members on this very Council, is only possible with the HPAP. HPAP is one of the best investments that the City makes. It just doesn’t make sense that the Mayor is cutting back on this program, while there is an ongoing housing crisis in this city. I will pay back my HPAP assistance so others can become homeowners, too, and I will contribute to the City through property taxes. Where else would this be possible for a person on disability?”
Finally, Willamena Samuels, homeowner in Ward 2 and Director of Manna’s Homebuyers Club said, “HPAP has helped to break the cycle of poverty and allowed families to build wealth and live the American dream of homeownership. Although I own a home in DC and have no thoughts of moving, it pains me to think that the future of the District of Columbia would be one that doesn’t give people opportunities to stay in the city they grew up in and love. If you cut HPAP funds, you limit homeownership to only the very rich.”
After the council hearing many testifiers, concerned residents and housing advocates held a rally in support of full restoration to the housing budget. Ralliers heard from affordable practitioners, advocates and recipients alike, including Jubilee Housing affordable renter Brian Adams, Coalition for Non-Profit Housing and Economic Development organizer Elizabeth Falcon, and Manna affordable homeowner Robert Cooke. Together their words testified to the fact that DC residents need a diverse continuum of affordable housing to move low-income residents up and out of poverty and full funding from the city government to make that possible.
Though the testimony heard before the council and at the rally has been stirringly emotional and persuasive, the fight to restore HPAP and HPTF funding is far from finished. And though those at the rally also heard support for affordable housing needs from Councilmembers Michael Brown, Yvette Alexander, Jim Graham, and Marion Barry, full budget restoration can only happen with majority support from the council.
The hearing and rally are over. It is now up to all housing advocates to continue the fight and steadfastly plead to their Councilmembers for full restoration and funding to these vital housing programs. There is only a short time remaining for action before the Committee of the Whole will cast its final vote on the Mayor’s budget. Go forth and act on this issue today.
For more about the rally and excerpts from speeches given visit the Coalition for Non-Profit Housing and Economic Development website at: