Housing Committee Markup: Not Much to Celebrate
The Housing and Workforce Development Committee came out with its budget recommendation this afternoon, and it left affordable housing advocates almost completely disappointed.
The Committee recommended a $2.1 million increase in funding for the Home Purchase Assistance Program, which provides loans for low-income families to buy houses. And they kicked in $500,000 for foreclosure prevention housing counseling services.
But on some of the key things housing advocates had been pressing for, the committee recommended no change: The Housing Production Trust Fund will remain at $26.8 million—a 47.8 percent decrease from last year—and there are no additional funds for the Local Rent Supplement Program, which helps extremely low-income tenants and the homeless find housing. While recommending no increases in these programs, Councilmember Michael Brown had some strong words for Mayor Fenty’s proposal.
“The Committee notes that simply keeping the local DCHA subsidy amount flat is not compatible with either of the Mayor’s stated goals of eliminating the waiting list and of producing more subsidized affordable housing units. Cutting the funding goes directly against any and all promises the Mayor made to preserve and produce affordable housing. The Committee recommends increasing the subsidy to a level that will truly have a dramatic impact on the housing crisis in the District.”
As far as policy recommendations, the Committee thought that the Housing Provider Ombudsman—there is one!—should be revamped as a three-person Office of the Housing Provider Advocate, and tasked with providing more active assistance to small landlords (much like the 15-person Office of the Tenant Advocate does for tenants). They couldn’t find any money for it this year, but “strongly encourages and expects” the Mayor to do so next time around.
And there’s a little bit of extra revenue in there too: The Committee recommended that fees be imposed on applications for condo conversions. A nuisance for landlords, but on the scale of what’s happening to the 28,000 people still waiting for housing, certainly minor.