Last week, Brookings Institution released a report titled, “Affordable Housing in the District—Where Are We Now?” This report looks at how well the city is meeting the recommendations made by the Comprehensive Housing Strategy Task Force 2006. You can find an overview by Brookings’ Benjamin Orr on the District Dime or read more at the Examiner.
There are a few key findings that we are concerned about. In general, the this new report shows that DC has taken some action to meet the affordable housing needs, but still hasn’t addressed the problem. One major concern is that amount of funding DC invests in affordable housing. DC increased the amount of money it put towards housing by $46 million in the first two years after the initial Comprehensive Housing Strategy Task Force report, but since then, funding has fallen as the economy has slowed down. As a result, the investment in affordable housing by the city is barely higher now than it was in 2006.
We are also concerned about another trend Brookings identified: the city has lost low and moderate income renters, while the high income rental population increased. Between 2000 and 2009, the number of renters making below $50,000 a year fell from 108,511 households to 82,621. That’s a loss of almost a quarter of that population. On the other hand, the number of renters who make more than $75,000 grew by 81%. We know that DC has grown in population since 2000. What this shows us is that as the city has grown, the number of lower income residents who live here has fallen, and the number of higher income residents has grown. This reflects a displacement of low income residents by higher income residents.
This might not be surprising when combined with another finding reported by Brookings. They found that 83% of low income households spend more than 30% of their income on housing. Housing is generally considered affordable if a household spends no more than 30% of their income in housing costs. This means 83% of low income households live in housing that is unaffordable to them.