Since December, we have been actively advocating for Mayor Gray to increase funding for affordable housing as a step towards a full Continuum of Housing. On Friday, March 23, Mayor Gray released his budget. What we got was a loss of funding in nearly every area of the Continuum of Housing.
What does that look like?
This year, the Mayor proposes taking $20 million from the Housing Production Trust Fund to pay for the ongoing cost of the Local Rent Supplement Program. You probably remember that last year the city took $18 million from the Trust Fund to pay for Local Rent Supplement Program. This year they have increased that amount. The Trust Fund is the key program for building and protecting affordable housing. It can be used to:
- Renovate low-cost housing, ensuring safety and quality for those living there
- Keep residents in their homes and in their neighborhoods using the tenant purchase process
- Build new low cost rental and ownership housing
The Mayor has proposed that if there is additional revenue he would like to prioritize restoring the $20 million to the Trust Fund. These funds are not a guarantee, and would only come if the city government takes in more money next year than they currently expect.
The budget for the Home Purchase Assistance Program lost $5 million, a third of its total funding. This loss is a result of a reduction in federal funds from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The impact of this cut is fewer low and moderate income families will be able to purchase a home. Homeownership in the District can be more affordable than renting in the open market, and helps improve neighborhood stability. The foreclosure rate among HPAP home owners is lower than the rate of foreclosure in the region.
There is a $7 million cut to Homeless Services in the Department of Human Services. This area of the budget includes crisis housing, like shelters, as well as transitional housing, rapid rehousing, and permanent supportive housing. It is currently unclear what the cuts in this department will mean for residents.
The Local Rent Supplement Program is funded at a level sufficient to cover only the cost of residents and housing providers already in the program. The majority of the program is currently funded by $20 million from the Housing Production Trust Fund and the remaining costs from the general fund. Mayor Gray allocated $6.2 million from the general fund to pay for the ongoing cost of the Local Rent Supplement Program. Since there is no additional funding for this program, no new residents will be able to be served by this program.
This is a disappointing budget. Over the winter we had a public outcry for more affordable housing at the One City Summit. We saw a huge increase in the need for family shelter and the expansion of DC General. We had over 500 people attend rallies and town hall meetings. Mayor Gray did not respond to our concerns. Now we turn to the members of the DC Council. We call on them to address the pressing need and expand the Continuum of Housing, not squeeze already tight housing programs that are leaving many DC residents out in the cold.