What’s At Stake for Tenants in this Year’s DC Budget?

May 16, 2013


Today’s blog is the second in a series of stories previewing this Saturday’s 6th Annual Citywide Tenant Town Hall with our partners at LEDC. The town hall will be held from 1-4 pm at the All Souls Unitarian Church. RSVP on our Facebook event page. 


At the annual Tenant Town Hall on Saturday, hundreds of DC renters will highlight issues that are important to them.

So how will the Council budget vote next Wednesday affect the fight for affordable housing? There are three key programs which can make housing affordable for District residents.

The Housing Production Trust Fund is a crucial program to build and preserve affordable housing. Dozens of tenant associations have used the Trust Fund to purchase their buildings or partner with a developer that will keep their homes affordable. Since 2000, more than 1500 units of affordable housing have been preserved using the Trust Fund.

Unfortunately, the Trust Fund has seen cuts over the last few years, and money has not been available to build new apartments or help tenants purchase. Now, the DC Council can follow Mayor Gray’s recommendation in his $100 million proposal for affordable housing and restore $20 million to the Trust Fund where it belongs.

“The tenants at the Concord Apartments, as is with other residents in the District, are in need and would appreciate Tax Credit Funding and potentially funds from the Housing Production Trust Fund to ensure our homes stay as affordable housing,” says Leon Wells, president of the Concord Apartments Tenant Association, which is interested in buying their building.

Another program that makes housing affordable for very low income people is the Local Rent Supplement Program. Currently, there are 70,000 households waiting for housing with the DC Housing Authority. The Local Rent Supplement Program can provide rental vouchers that the DC Housing Authority gives to qualified families, making their rent affordable. The DC Council should invest at least $2 million to provide housing now for DC tenants who cannot afford the cost of rent.

“I had to sacrifice full-time employment to take care of my daughter with special needs, and would not be able to afford these market-rate rents of upwards of $1200 a month,” said DC resident Denise Speed. “There are so many women in my community who are in the same position I am—working, and contributing to society, but not making enough money to pay market rent.”

And finally, many District renters want to become homeowners one day. The Home Purchase Assistance Program (HPAP) is a great way to help tenants become homeowners. Organizations that work with the HPAP program support renters in learning how to prepare for homeownership, while the program offers a zero-interest loan to help with downpayment and closing costs. Through education and counseling, HPAP is helping clients and their families become smart, stable homeowners.The DC Council should maintain funding for the HPAP program.

“The stability that homeownership brings you is unparalleled. By being a homeowner you not only begin to invest in your own future, but you also have a larger incentive to be involved in the community and care even more about your neighborhood and the city you live in,” said Juliana Pena, a first-time homebuyer who used the HPAP program to buy her new home.

On Saturday, tenants have a chance to come together and say in a unified voice – we need funding for the programs that make rent affordable, that make tenant purchase a reality, and make homeownership possible!

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