DC Residents Want Housing, Services, and Income Tax

May 9, 2011

Yesterday, Hart Research Associates released a poll finding what many of us expected to be true: DC residents around the city are concerned about the cuts in the FY12 budget, and want to restore funding to programs facing cuts. According to their memo: “Clear majorities of voters say that cuts to police and public safety, education, and specific social service programs are unacceptable, including cuts to affordable housing, homeless services, and income assistance.”

The poll also found that DC residents are much less concerned with increasing income taxes compared to the cuts our city faces. Again, from Hart: “Among voters who oppose the overall budget proposal, 52% say the plan is too focused on reducing services and 26% say it is too focused on raising taxes. This means that only 12% of all D.C. voters oppose the mayor’s budget proposal because it goes too far in raising taxes.”

That DC residents see a need for affordable housing isn’t surprising, 38,116 families are waiting for affordable housing right now – that’s about 100,000 people, or one in six DC residents. And as Eric Sheptock said at the Housing for All rally last week, “We have families with small children, 5 and under, that are sleeping in the Greyhound station, and they’re sleeping in their cars. I think that’s a terrible indictment on our city.”

And it is not only those who are dreaming of living in a affordable home that believe it should be a current funding priority. DC Fiscal Policy Institute reports, “The poll divided the District into four ward groupings — combining wards 1 and 6; wards 2 and 3; wards 4 and 5; and wards 7 and 8— and voters in all four areas of the city said they found cuts in these services to be unacceptable.” There is a city-wide call for investing in the services we need, including shelter and affordable housing.

The data from higher-income residents also demonstrates that they would be willing to help pay to keep these programs through the small income tax increase proposed by the Mayor. Hart reports, “And an overwhelming majority of those who are most likely to be impacted by the tax increases also voice support. Among voters with incomes of more than $100,000, 90% of District residents say that they find the tax increase on voters earning more than $200,000 to be acceptable.”

Rather than being motivated by strict self-interest, they also see the value in investing in a DC everyone can share in, with services and housing for all. David Krakow, a DC resident and teacher, reflected this sentiment last Thanksgiving in a post titled, “Giving Thanks for  Affordable Housing and Good Neighbors

I’m thankful for housing and for my neighbors…the brightest news on Ontario Road was the renovation of Jubilee Housing’s apartment building at the corner with Euclid Street. This building is what makes my old street a neighborhood. It provides a home for old folks, and apartments for immigrants, places to live for people who don’t earn professional salaries, and quarters for people who don’t earn much more than $8 for an hour’s work. This building takes care of people, and it gave me great hope to see it fixed up without pushing out all my neighbors.

Our Councilmembers should take this message to heart. Investing in affordable housing and other services helps us create the city we all want. On May 24, Councilmembers should do what is right and what is popular: Commit to fully funding affordable housing programs including the Housing Production Trust Fund, the Local Rent Supplement Program and the Housing First Program.

In addition, the Council should not chip away at Mayor Gray’s proposed revenue increases, especially the income tax increase on residents making over $200,000. Any savings that can be found should be used to restore crucial programs that keep our city whole, not replacing popular revenue increases.

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