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Impassioned Speakers, Energized Crowd Get Commitment for #MoreHousingNow

On Saturday morning, people began showing up at United Foundry Methodist on 16th St NW well before the appointed time. After months of preparation the big day had arrived, and hundreds of participants wanted to make sure they got a good seat.

CNHED’s yearly Housing for All Rally—this year tagged “More for Housing Now”—was another great success in a campaign of successes. Since its birth in 2010, the Housing for All Campaign has fought for and won millions and millions in increased funding for DC affordable housing. The Home Purchase Assistance Program (HPAP), the Local Rent Supplement Program, Targeted Supportive Housing, and, of course, the Housing Production Trust Fund (HPTF) have all been boosted by the campaign. The yearly rally has become such an event that it now regularly draws Mayor Bowser and councilmembers.

But on Saturday, there was no sense that the campaign was resting on its laurels. A series of speakers from all walks of life wanted to make it clear to the city officials in attendance that there was much more work to be done. Their number one priority was clear: increasing the HPTF from $100 million to a minimum of $125 million.

Without this renewed commitment, many said they feared their neighbors, families, or even they themselves could be forced out of the city they call home.

Perhaps no one made this point more forcefully than David Bowers of Enterprise Community Partners. With a fiery speech that ranged from prop comedy to powerful and emotional demands, Bowers brought the crowd to its feet countless times as he described the struggle of working families in DC.

Bowers riled up the crowd by noting that if the Council’s $8 billion budget is represented by $8, only 20 cents of that (“two dimes!”) goes to affordable housing.

He brought his time to a thundering conclusion by comparing the plight of DC families in search of housing to that of a man caught in the rain. “We’re out here every day getting rained on!” he boomed to the roaring crowd, emphasizing his point by emptying a water bottle over his head. To the Council, he said, “we ask for an umbrella. ‘Please, can I have an umbrella?’” Bowers mimed being turned away and dumped more water on his head. “But we keep getting rained on!”

Another speaker to bring down the house was Jeanette Bright, a member of MANNA’s Homebuyers Club. Although initially nervous, she found her groove and captivated the audience with the story of her mother’s struggle to support five daughters. After years of working multiple jobs, Bright’s mother was finally able to buy a home for her family. And now, Bright is closing in on the same goal—thanks to HPAP, she’ll soon be able to buy a house of her own.

Jeanette Bright

MANNA Homebuyers Club member Jeanette Bright

At times overcome by emotion, she ended her speech with a tribute to her mother. Homeownership, Bright said, has been her dream for years, just like it was her mother’s before her. But she said the city must do more. “Homeownership,” concluded Bright, “must not be a dream, but a reality.”

DC lawmakers also feature prominently in the event, with At-Large Councilmembers Anita Bonds and Elissa Silverman taking turns at the podium before Mayor Bowser.

Councilmember Bonds spoke passionately about the need that exists in DC and said that she, as Chair of the Council’s housing committee, is ready to take bold steps. “You’ve asked for at least $125 million for the trust fund,” called Councilmember Bonds. “Well, I’d like to see $200 million!”

“Although,” she concluded with a chuckle, “I’m not sure all of my colleagues are there yet.”

Councilmember Silverman, also on the housing committee, spoke about the human element that is sometimes lost in budget discussions. “What you’re doing today,” said the councilmember, “is taking letters and acronyms and putting faces to them.”

Mayor Bowser, almost the last speaker of the day, let the crowd know she had heard their request. She recounted the growth that the HPTF has seen under her leadership, then turned to the present. “You want me to expand it again?” she asked to cheers.

Like others, the mayor emphasized the importance of people staying engaged in the fight for affordable housing. “We have the resources we need for affordable housing,” she told the crowd. “Now, we need the will to execute it!”

The GOP Debate at the Ronald Reagan Library

With Cuts, Trump’s HUD Targets Low-Income Families

A leaked copy of the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) upcoming budget request presents a grim picture for the future of affordable housing in America. The draft shows over $6 billion being cut, representing almost 15 percent of HUD’s annual budget. If enacted, experts estimate over 200,000 low-income households will lose their rental support, and thousands more will be prevented from moving to an affordable situation.

What makes these cuts even more perverse is the “reverse Robin Hood” essence of their design. Despite the ubiquitous nature of Republican calls for a reduction in federal debt, the Trump administration currently has plans for massive tax cuts for the very wealthy. Along with an additional $54 billion in military spending—almost double what commanders have requested—the picture is clear. These cuts do not represent budget balancing, but rather budget priorities.

The depth and breadth of these cuts is overwhelming, both nationally and for the District. Below we break down several of the top targets for the chopping block and the functions they fulfill.

Community Development Block Grants

Community Development Block Grants, or CDBG for short, provides flexible money for localities to use in community development. In the District, CDBG money makes up 80 percent of the budget for the Home Purchase Assistance Program (HPAP), DC’s mortgage assistance program for first time homebuyers. As we have written countless times before, HPAP plays a vital role in building homeownership among DC’s low-income families.

CDBG actually has strong bi-partisan support. Republicans like it because it gives money back to local communities to use as they please, a core conservative tenet.

HUD’s proposed budget, however, would cut the program’s $3 billion budget entirely. That would leave cities and states across the country scrambling to cover myriad services that their residents depend on. In many cases, poor families would simply fall through the cracks.

Housing Choice Vouchers

Housing Choice Vouchers act as a sort of backstop for many low-income families. Under the program, households are able to find a rental property on the open market and be guaranteed to never spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing—whatever costs go above this are covered by the voucher.

The HUD proposal would cut $300 million from this program, leaving about 200,000 families without assistance. Sadistically, here the Trump administration looks to take money from veterans for the military—included in this program are housing vouchers targeting formerly homeless veterans.

Public Housing

In 2010, HUD released a report describing the desperate state of public housing in America. Those conditions remain unchanged today. Buildings are crumbling, and the conditions many families live in are deplorable. In that 2010 report, HUD estimated that it would need tens of billions of dollars in additional funding to catch up on overdue maintenance.

Instead, President Trump’s HUD has proposed cutting public housing’s maintenance budget by $1.3 billion, a third of its total value. The proposal also takes $600 million from the operating budget, ensuring that more problems will arise even faster as time goes on.

HOME Investment Partnership Program

Like CDBG, HOME represents a pot of money that localities can use in a variety of ways. DC typically uses its share to fund affordable housing construction, like MANNA’s Willowbrook Condominiums.

Yet again, faced with a nationwide affordable housing crisis and a program that gives local governments control of federal dollars, the Trump administration looks to pull the plug. HOME, like CDBG, would be entirely eliminated. Another billion dollars for affordable housing would be lost.

What to do

The good news is that none of this is final. This proposal represents a draft of what the Trump administration will present to Congress. Marshaling the opposition of lawmakers will be crucial, especially among Republicans who see the positive impact that these locally controlled dollars have in their own districts.

You can help make sure that these cuts don’t happen. Call your representatives and let them know that funding bombs and billionaires over low-income families is unacceptable.

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How to Keep DC From Becoming the Next San Francisco

Washington, DC and San Francisco have some striking similarities. Both are mid-sized cities with institutions (government and the tech industry) that pack a punch above their population size. Both are somewhat restrained in terms of expansion, with DC’s small, set borders, and San Francisco’s watery boundaries. And above all, both have seen extreme gentrification in recent years, with the cities growing rapidly and becoming wealthier and whiter as time goes on.

But San Francisco is undoubtedly further along in this vicious process: while DC’s average monthly rent of $1,400 for a single person is the fourth highest in the US, San Francisco’s is the highest in the world at an impressively awful $2,000+.

That allows DC residents to look to San Francisco for some lessons—or, if we’re not careful, to behold our future.

Based on these insights, we’ve got some recommendations for the city council… and for you, the reader. Read on.

What will the future hold for DC if it follows the Frisco model?

  • All housing development, including affordable housing, will be stymied as fear over housing shortages and NIBMY-ism drives irrational opposition. In the Bay Area, this has resulted in severe housing shortages at every level, not just for low-income families. Unlike San Francisco, DC is currently in no danger of a total housing shutdown. The recent explosion of luxury units and high-end condos contributed to overall supply actually outpacing demand in the District’s housing market last year. Of course, affordable housing is nowhere near keeping up.
  • Homeownership will drop even further and DC, like San Francisco, will become truly a renters’ city. Ownership rates in San Francisco have been on a multi-decade slide, with only a third of residents now owning their own homes. DC isn’t much better at a 40 percent homeownership rate.
  • In part because of rock bottom homeownership rates, displacement will move from a low-income issue to a middle class issue. Only the truly wealthy will be able to afford the city proper. That’s already the case in San Francisco, where things have gotten so bad that even good-paying professional jobs are starting to move out because the companies’ employees can’t afford the city.

“Yikes!” you say. “That’s pretty grim. What can we do to avoid all this?” Well, I’m glad you asked!

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One of San Francisco’s iconic cable cars

DC doesn’t have to go down this path—there’s still time to change. Here are some simple steps we can take to make sure the District remains home for everyone.

  • Affordable Housing: It needs to be funded and constructed like never before. That’s why we’re asking the city council to commit at least $125 million to the Housing Production Trust Fund for the coming year. And honestly, that number might not be big enough. Because of problems in the Low Income Housing Tax Credit market, a primary funding tool for many affordable housing projects across the country, $125 million is probably the new $100 million. If the council really wants to take a step forward rather than just holding even, we’ll need even more commitment.
  • Homeownership: Increasing homeownership needs to be a top priority, both because of the wealth it builds and the protection it offers against sky-rocketing rents. We’re calling on the council to keep funding the Home Purchase Assistance Program (HPAP) at $16 million, the level it was increased to last year. HPAP provides crucial down payment assistance and secondary mortgage loans to first time homebuyers in DC. That builds wealth, moves people into the middle class, and keeps long-time residents in our city.
  • An ever-broader movement: More middle-income Washingtonians need to realize that affordable housing is their issue, too. NIMBY-ism and indifference might work in the short term, but sooner or later it will catch up. We need to build a broad coalition of DC residents, new and old, of all wealth levels and racial backgrounds. (The rich benefit from affordable housing, too, by the way. Unless wealthy urbanites want to start entering the service industry en masse, it’s in their best interest to keep around the people who make cities run.)

If DC is to avoid the fate of its West Coast sister city, we need to move on funding and organizing now. Tell your councilmembers to boost the Trust Fund. Get their commitment that they’ll keep supporting HPAP. And join a local organization that’s fighting for affordable housing. Hey, we’ve got a suggestion right here.

If you would like more information about joining the Housing Advocacy Team, email Jonathan Nisly at jnisly@mannadc.org!

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Brookland Manor Residents Fight to Keep Their Homes–and Families–Intact

In a city starved for housing, 1200 additional units sounds like a blessing. That’s the net gain from Bethesda-based developer Mid-City Financial Corp’s proposal to redevelop Brookland Manor, a 535-unit complex near the Rhode Island Metro. But a closer look reveals that Mid-City’s designs have no room for current neighborhood residents.

The Plan

Mid-City’s grand vision for the site of Brookland Manor is, well, grand. With over 1700 rental units and 180,000 square feet of retail space, the project has the potential to be a boon to the area’s housing and economic markets.

brookland manor redevelopment

Artist’s rendering of the redevelopment plan

The problem comes, however, when these 1700 units are compared to what’s currently there.

A quarter of Brookland Manor’s units have 4 or 5 bedrooms, a rare and important feature for families living in multi-generational situations. OneDC, a local organizing group who has been working with Brookland Manor tenants, says that often the ability to add an aunt, cousin, or grandparent to the household is the only thing that keeps them from ending up in homeless shelters.

The redevelopment, however, would offer no 4 or 5 bedroom units and would reduce the number of 3 bedroom options. Units with more than 3 bedrooms, according to Mid-City, “are not consistent with the creation of a vibrant new community.” That kind of language has led residents to file a lawsuit claiming discrimination based on family size.

Affordability Concerns

At a teach-in on Brookland Manor Monday night in Northwest, OneDC tenant advocates asserted that the plan will also reduce affordability in the neighborhood. Currently 373 of the units have rent ceilings under the federal Section 8 housing program. Mid-City regularly touts the fact that they will keep this contract under the redevelopment.

However, most of these new affordable units will be designated as “senior units” with the aforementioned reductions in bedrooms. Tenant advocates say this will force elderly residents living with children and grandchildren to choose between sending their families away or joining them in their exodus.

Beyond the Section 8 units, most of the rest of Brookland Manor’s residents are renting affordably thanks to DC’s rent voucher program. According to the Washington Post, Mid-City has “pledged to try” to keep these renters on in the redevelopment.

On Monday night, advocates expressed heavy skepticism about this proposal. Because properties must meet the area’s “fair market rate” to be eligible for the voucher program, Mid-City’s new luxurious units would almost certainly be too expensive to qualify.

That would mean at least a hundred households looking for a new place to live.

Moving Residents Out of “Good Standing”

Even the only residents who could theoretically make it through the redevelopment unscathed—small families currently living in Section 8 units—feel that their situation is tenuous.

Mid-City’s promises about avoiding displacement have always included an important caveat: that it applies to residents “in good standing.” And as a recent Washington Post article pointed out, Mid-City has mounted a concerted effort to make sure that definition applies to as few residents as possible.

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From @LeeyahNotLayah on Twitter

The Post article details how many tenants at Brookland Manor have faced eviction notices for late payments as small as $25. While the vast majority of those attempted evictions have been successfully avoided, it seems that Mid-City may be building a case that these residents are not “in good standing.”

OneDC advocates also noted that the management has started issuing notices of infraction to residents for offenses as benign as sitting on their front stoop or allowing their children to play on the lawn. The effect, they say, is that almost every household now has a record of violation—enough to argue that they do not meet the “good standing” requirement.

Thursday Rally

The next step in the redevelopment process is a zoning commission meeting on Thursday, February 23. OneDC is asking District residents to come out for a rally that evening at 5:00 to pressure the commission to keep residents’ interests in mind.

Ultimately they want Mid-City to preserve all 535 existing units as affordable, commit to keeping on all current residents, and maintain the present number of 4 and 5 bedroom units. To help them do so, OneDC has offered to work with them through the process of securing Housing Production Trust Fund money from the city.

So far, however, Mid-City has expressed no interest in such a proposal.

Join us at 5:00 this Thursday, Feb 23, as we rally in support of Brookland Manor tenants at the DC Zoning Commission. 441 4th St NW, Washington, DC

More details here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1389018421132061/

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DC Bill Would Move Surplus to Housing Trust Fund, Schools

Image: Councilmember David Grosso, center

An exciting new bill from At-Large Councilmember David Grosso looks to get DC’s surplus funds moving for school improvements and affordable housing.

The bill, introduced last week, addresses one of the city’s self-inflicted wounds we wrote about a few weeks ago. As the city faces an affordable housing crisis, federal funding uncertainties, and more, it needs to have all options on the table.

Yet under current city law the District’s yearly budget surplus is required to be put into savings. This, along with DC’s overall fiscal strength, has contributed to a record-breaking general funds balance of $2.4 billion.

DCFPI

The portion of that designated as “cash on hand,” however, is just over a billion dollars. The city’s goal is to have 60 days’ worth of operating funds in reserves, and by current calculations they are about four “days” short.

Councilmember Grosso’s bill notes that the District is double-counting some of its debt obligations, and it would have the city move to federal bookkeeping standards. If this were done, the DC Fiscal Policy Institute estimates that it would result in $90 million becoming instantly available.

Under the bill, this money—and all future surplus funds—would be split evenly between the Housing Production Trust Fund (HPTF) and school improvements.

The HPTF is DC’s main vehicle for funding affordable housing projects, and a $45 million infusion would be a big help in meeting the city’s ongoing need. It would also provide crucial gap funding for current affordable housing projects impacted by declining low income housing tax credit markets. (Those interested can learn more about this here.)

HPTF money has helped thousands of Washingtonians find affordable housing, and increasing its budget is one of the best ways to keep life-long residents from being priced out of their city.

While Councilmember Grosso is currently the only sponsor, we hope to see other councilmembers joining soon. Rarely does such an easy and impactful fix come along.

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GOP Moves to Block AFFH Desegregation Efforts

Image: Senators Mike Lee (R-UT; background) and Marco Rubio (R-FL; foreground) are co-sponsoring legislation to end AFFH

Using language that hearkens back to desegregation fights of the Civil Rights era, Congressional Republicans last month introduced legislation to combat the “federally mandated demographics” of the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) desegregation efforts.

These legislators take issue with HUD’s work on affirmatively furthering fair housing, a subject that requires a brief history lesson and bit of jargon to understand.

The language of “affirmatively furthering” fair housing refers to government efforts to go beyond simply outlawing racist housing practices, to actively promoting integration in their jurisdictions. Affirmatively furthering fair housing is one of the key requirements of the Fair Housing Act of 1968.

In the 1970s, George Romney (Mitt’s father) tried to do just that as Nixon’s HUD Secretary, using HUD funds to pressure localities into building more affordable housing and integrating neighborhoods. The strength of segregationists’ opposition, however, proved formidable. Nixon ordered the program shuttered, and administrations both Democratic and Republican ignored the Fair Housing Act’s “affirmatively furthering” provision for another thirty years.

GeorgeMittatWorldsFairMay181964George Romney with son Mitt

This brings us to recent history. In 2015, the Obama administration introduced its Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule, something we wrote about last year.

Obama’s AFFH functions similarly to Romney’s vision. Under the rule, localities are required to report on their jurisdiction’s residential segregation and how that relates to pockets of poverty and areas lacking quality services like schools, libraries, and hospitals. They then need to form a plan for how to address any disparities they find and submit that plan in order to receive their HUD funding—often a large chunk of money.

Now Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Mike Lee (R-UT) have joined Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) in introducing legislation to gut AFFH. Reasons for this opposition have been a bit scattered. Some, like Sen. Rubio, say it is an issue of states’ and localities’ rights. His office issued a statement decrying “Top-down, one-size-fits-all regulations by Washington bureaucrats” in explaining his support for the legislation.

In an interview with CityLab, Solomon Greene, a former HUD employee who is now a senior fellow at the Urban Institute, expressed skepticism about this explanation.  Because AFFH allows localities to use whatever tools they wish to address segregation and unfair housing practices, it actually gives considerable power to local jurisdictions. Greene says AFFH reflects the belief that “there’s no clear answer as to what is the best use of a federal dollar. It is the opposite of a one-size-fits-all model, which is how it’s been rebranded.”

Others take a different approach in explaining their opposition. Sen. Lee, who tried to defund AFFH last year, has found his biggest supporter in Rick Manning, president of Americans for Limited Government. In explaining his support for Lee’s defunding maneuver last year, Manning railed against “race hustlers who seek to put low income high rise apartments into middle class neighborhoods.”

Switching seamlessly from a racial argument to one of neighborhood preservation is a common tactic in AFFH arguments. In this way, Manning and other opponents work to tie these issues together in peoples’ minds while avoiding the public backlash of explicitly segregationist appeals.

Similarly, Paul Sperry, a right wing columnist for the New York Post, has criticized AFFH and parallel initiatives for attempting to “forcibly desegregate inner cities and integrate outer suburbs.” His writing none-too-subtly ties together race, crime, and drug usage in an age-old attempt to create a black boogeyman invading white neighborhoods.

Rep. Gosar’s bill goes a step further than the Senate version. If passed, his bill would require that HUD deactivate its newly released tool that allows localities and private citizens to assess the problems their city faces. An example of the kind of information this tool can provide is shown below.

HUD-AFFHT

Job proximity in DC
1 dot = 100 people. Green dots are African-Americans, while orange dots show whites. The darker the grey background, the more easily accessible jobs are in that census tract. This map, created by the author with the new HUD tool, shows that literally no experience is required to find issues for AFFH consideration.

Rep. Gosar does not seem to have offered any public reasoning for his actions. Indeed, it is hard to imagine what reasoning he could offer. This tool is invaluable to local lawmakers, community groups, and private citizens who are trying to assess the challenges that their communities face.

Either of these bills, if passed, represent a serious challenge to HUD’s work and the implementation of the Fair Housing Act. Vague language about states’ rights should be discounted. The dog whistle segregationist language of “race hustlers” and “federally mandated demographics” cannot be.

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Automatic Tax Cuts: DC’s Leaky Bucket

An ongoing affordable housing crisis. A metro system in grave disrepair. An uncertain future of federal funding for Medicaid and other services. These problems and more face DC as the city looks to craft its budget for the coming year. However, since 2014 the city has given back $100 million dollars in tax cuts, built up $2 billion in savings for its reserve, and has plans to give back almost $130 million more before the decade is over.

In 2014, the City Council changed tax policy to give away increases in revenue as tax cuts. Whenever the District government reached a new level of income, a new round of tax cuts would automatically take place.

Some of those tax cuts made sense. For instance, a new bracket was created at a lower rate for individuals earning $40-60,000, helping middle-income families. The standard deduction that everyone can take has been raised and stands to increase even more.

Some of the cuts, however, clearly benefit only a select few. Those earning between $350,000 and $1 million a year saw their rates cut. And the new tax code goes further in making sure that this inequality persists from generation to generation, raising the threshold for higher estate taxes from $1 million to $2 million to, in the future, over $5 million.

The biggest issue with this model of tax cuts is that they are inflexible to current needs. Revenue goes out the door, right or wrong, before Washingtonians have a chance to weigh in on how they think it should be used. Our elected officials are shooting themselves in the foot by making it unnecessarily harder to deal with the affordable housing crisis, metro’s challenges, and more.

A similar problem is happening with DC’s budget surpluses. Although final numbers aren’t out yet, as of last estimate the District is looking at a $220 million budget surplus from the last fiscal year. However, this money also can’t go to any of the above concerns—it’s legally mandated to go into DC’s savings. That law has led the city to a record-breaking $2 billion bank account.

In many ways, it’s a good problem to have. Disputes over how to spend surpluses are what accountants dream of.

But in a city where families are being priced out of their homes, trains are smoking on the tracks, and a volatile federal government threatens safety net spending, reserve requirements should be revisited. And automatic tax cuts shouldn’t be slipping out the door.

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As Trump Moves in, 40,000 Locked Out

Hours after President Trump moved into his new home on Friday, he was busy blocking an Obama administration initiative that could have helped 40,000 low- and moderate-income households move into theirs. It was a move that united affordable housing advocates, realtors, and mortgage brokers in opposition.

It’s an issue that can be tricky to understand, but it has broad implications for affordable homeownership across the country. Stick with us as we break it down:

  • The Federal Housing Administration, or FHA, issues loans to homebuyers who probably couldn’t otherwise afford to own their own home. They target first time homebuyers and buyers with lower credit scores. The FHA requires a 3.5% downpayment as opposed to the 20% often required for conventional loans.
  • It has wide reach—One in six single-family homebuyers in the second half of 2016 used FHA loans.
  • These homebuyers are required to purchase mortgage insurance from the FHA to make sure the agency doesn’t go under in case of default.
  • In December the Obama administration announced that premiums for this insurance would be cut by a quarter of a percentage point. That would mean a savings of about $500 per year for the average FHA homebuyer, and several times that amount for FHA buyers in the pricey DC housing market.
  • On Friday the Trump administration announced it was putting an indefinite suspension on that rate cut, leading many to believe that the administration intends to make it quietly disappear.

With us so far?

Republicans argue that the premium cut is irresponsible coming less than a decade after the FHA needed to be bailed out in the wake of the housing crisis.

But the data tell a different story. The FHA’s cash reserve in case of defaults (what’s known as the capital reserve ratio) has been exceeding requirements for two years in a row, and the Obama administration had wanted to pass those savings on to the borrowers.

What’s more, the cut could have a big impact for such a small price tag. The Mortgage Bankers Association reported that mortgage refinancing applications were up 7 percent in December after the news was announced. A half-percent premium cut two years ago caused a big increase in refinancing and new mortgage applications.

And because so many potential homebuyers are right on the bubble, the National Association of Realtors estimated that up to 40,000 more households could have qualified for FHA loans with the rate cut. Some 800,000 would have seen savings. What happens to those households now is in limbo.

As interest rates rise and homeownership languishes at a 50-year low, government at all levels will need to work diligently to make sure the American dream of homeownership remains accessible to everyone. On Friday, however, the Trump administration seemed content with just making sure that the President got the keys to his newest property.

Investment Without Displacement: The Challenge East of the Anacostia

In the raging tempest that is DC’s housing market, the areas east of the Anacostia River offer a final bastion of affordability. But with prices starting to rise in this area too, more needs to be done to make sure longtime residents can stay.

anacostia

Wards 7 and 8 have increasingly become a world apart from the rest of the city. While DC as a whole has seen a huge influx of wealth and young, largely white, professionals, east of the river poverty and unemployment rates remain stubbornly high. Education levels languish, and segregation is more pronounced here than anywhere else in the District.

The silver lining for residents is that average home prices in these wards are hundreds of thousands less than on the river’s western bank, leaving a swath of affordability that is about 95% black households. Data suggest that the area has become a last source of refuge for many black families priced out of their longtime homes in other parts of the city.

But with a housing market so far out of control, nowhere in DC is safe for long. Neighborhoods in Wards 7 and 8 saw some of the city’s biggest yearly price increases in 2016, and many are already speculating that there’s more to come in 2017.

This is driven in large part by a huge slate of new developments planned for the area*. While this kind of investment is clearly needed, many residents have legitimate fears about what it will mean for their ability to stay.

One of these developments, the 11th St Bridge Park project, has taken significant steps to ensure that it won’t end up forcing out the people it’s trying to serve. The project is working with MANNA on the development of affordable townhouses near the park, as well as a homebuyer’s club to prepare residents for homeownership.

Also in partnership with the park, the Local Initiatives Support Corp. (LISC) has pledged $50 million for the area to support affordable housing and community development needs. LISC’s website shows the individual projects that money goes to fund: several neighborhood festivals, a local school, and numerous units of affordable housing make up the first tenth of the investment.

The 11th St Bridge Park offers a model that can serve as a launching pad for even more community-oriented projects in the future. Without this kind of commitment, the areas east of the river will soon become just another gentrified section of our overpriced city.

 

*Hyperlink specifically for Anacostia