Affordable Housing for All
Housing is a human right. And DC needs more affordable housing to cope with the current housing crunch and the impending housing crisis. We need to ensure that current residents can afford to stay, workers can live closer to their jobs, and that we provide more for those on the economic margins in our city. To address the affordable housing crisis in the District, we must:
Build housing, including affordable housing, near transit;
Reduce obstacles to creating housing;
Create an Acquisition Fund to be able to move swiftly to procure property for affordable housing;
Establish pilot programs to explore innovative approaches to affordable housing, such as affordable housing for seniors with accompanying senior services and housing stipends for DC teachers, firefighters, and police officers;
Fully fund the Housing Production Trust Fund;
Invest in social housing;
Expand rent stabilization;
Change zoning downtown to allow for mixed use and residential buildings;
Ensure that public housing lives up to its promises so families in need can live in dignity.
In my neighborhood, I led the push to amend the Comprehensive Plan for Cleveland Park to make sure that we can build more housing so that we may build more affordable housing. I drafted the amendment in 2017, lobbied the Office of Planning to accept it, passed a resolution in 2021 on my Advisory Neighborhood Commission in support, and then persuaded Councilmember Cheh to support the amendment. Thanks to these efforts, affordable housing can now become a reality in Cleveland Park.
Establish an Acquisition Fund
We need to create an Acquisition Fund to have the financing and financial structure in place to move nimbly to purchase assets. If we had such a fund in place, the District would have been better set up to purchase the Wardman Marriott building in Woodley Park to turn it into a model mixed-income housing development.
Inclusionary zoning bonuses
Inclusionary zoning does not directly help those at 30% or less of MFI, unfortunately. To remedy this, I propose amending inclusionary zoning to give increased density bonuses to developers building for households at 30% MFI or below. The developer must then set aside a percentage of the increased density bonus for households at 30% MFI or lower. Currently, DC gives a density bonus based on zoning classification to developers building inclusionary zoning units. Developers building at 30% MFI or lower should receive an additional 5-10% density bonus.
Fully fund and creatively use the Housing Production Trust Fund
First, the Housing Production Trust Fund needs to be fully funded and have its funding sources stabilized. We need to set dollar amounts rather than percentages of fees for its funding level. Second, we should consider using the HPTF to buy inclusionary zoning units to make those units available to DC’s lowest-income residents. Montgomery County currently has a similar arrangement that allows government and nonprofits to purchase up to 33% of affordable housing units produced through inclusionary zoning.
Expand rent stabilization
The District has lost half of its rent-stabilized housing since the advent of rent control in DC. We need to expand rent stabilization across the District and update it to adjust for our growing needs and dwindling rent-stabilized housing stock. This means setting a dynamic date for buildings to become rent-stabilized. I have endorsed the Reclaim Rent Control platform and will fight for that platform on Council.
Invest in social housing
Social housing, where mixed-income housing is owned and maintained by government or nonprofits, is a way forward. If we’re going to meet our affordable housing goals, we have to implement social housing, which has been shown to be quite successful across Europe. As we seek to redevelop large tracts of land across the District, from Friendship Heights to an eerily vacant Downtown, we should look to implement social housing models that address our goals for increased housing, including affordable and deeply affordable housing.
Incentivize more inclusionary zoning units in Ward 3
Fewer than 1% of DC’s new affordable housing units built since 2015 have been built in Ward 3. We should offer tax credits to developers who set aside a higher percentage of inclusionary zoning units in Ward 3. This would work similarly to the federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credits and should help increase racial and economic integration in Ward 3.
Prioritize review of developments that exceed inclusionary zoning targets
Developments that exceed required inclusionary zoning affordable units should be put on a fast track when appearing before the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, the Historic Preservation Review Board, and the Board of Zoning Appeals.
Build a housing portfolio
After speaking with dozens of housing experts across the District over the past several years, it has become clear that if the District is to seriously address its affordable housing crisis, it needs to begin purchasing existing housing stock to make units available at all affordability levels. I propose using the Acquisition Fund, mentioned above, as a way of doing so. There are numerous residential buildings for sale that the District could purchase. Licensed and reputable property management companies would continue to operate these buildings and there would be strict rules in place to ensure that the buildings do not fall into disrepair. Revenues, beyond what is needed for capital reinvestment and upkeep, would go back into the Acquisition Fund for the purposes of building or acquiring more housing.
Prevent the weaponization of historic preservation
As an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner in a community with a historic district, I’ve seen firsthand how historic preservation rules can be used to prevent adding needed housing. We need to prioritize people over architecture. While preserving a community’s historic heritage is important, we cannot let historic preservation be used essentially as exclusionary zoning. We need to reevaluate our historic preservation process to build into it our need for more housing.
Rethinking zoning downtown
We need to change our zoning downtown from commercial only to mixed use. Given the pandemic and the growth of remote work, the downtown core has emptied out. We need downtown to become a series of residential neighborhoods, and we can start by rezoning. We'll also need to rezone for schools, libraries and grocery stores. I also would like to explore switching to a land value tax to incentivize the best use of downtown. For more information on how to redevelop downtown, please visit here.
End Chronic Homelessness
We have the ability to make homelessness continuously rare and brief. Doing so requires a comprehensive effort, replete with oversight, but it is within our grasp. Here are policies I will propose to end chronic homelessness:
Collect data on the total number of unhoused on a weekly basis;
Use the federal Lifeline program to make sure our unhoused have phones to communicate with family, caseworkers, and to access telehealth;
Expand our transitional and permanent supportive housing;
Increase our housing vouchers;
Build better medical/pharmaceutical support networks for our homeless neighbors;
Provide far more wraparound services for those in need (see below).
Strengthen wraparound services through a lead-agency model
People earning 30% or less of Area Median Income are at real risk of homelessness, which is not just. Merely finding someone housing who is housing insecure or unhoused is not enough. We cannot set people up to fail. We need to make sure that there are sufficient wraparound services near where people live. We should invest in a lead-agency model where social services are provided at neighborhood or Ward hubs, creating a one-stop shop for social services. Doing so will result in more positive outcomes, less housing insecurity, and a healthier, more just DC.