Housing Complex

Gray Pledges One-Time $100 Million Investment in Affordable Housing

With the District being flush with cash, city officials have been talking up the need to make a new investment in affordable housing. At his State of the District address tonight, Mayor Vince Gray is promising just that, committing to a $100 million investment to create and preserve 10,000 affordable housing units.

"Since coming into office, my administration has completed the construction of nearly 1,500 units of affordable housing and has broken ground on an additional 1,700 units," Gray will say in his speech just getting underway at the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue, according to an advance copy of the speech provided to reporters. "Last September, I announced $35 million in financing to create and preserve additional affordable housing. But we have to do more. And that's why tonight I'm proposing a major affordable housing initiative that will invest $100 million in building and preserving 10,000 units of affordable housing."

Gray spokesman Pedro Ribeiro clarifies that the proposal is for $100 million in new affordable housing funding and that the figure does not include existing money in the housing production trust fund. He also says that it's a one-year, one-time commitment, but that with more surpluses expected, it could be a model for future investments. "Let’s see how the system works with this investment," he says.

Affordable housing advocates in the city have at times expressed skepticism of Gray's commitment to affordable housing; they lament, for example, that he continues to take money out of the trust fund to pay for the Local Rent Supplement Program rather than funding it separately.

One leading housing advocate, Coalition for Nonprofit Housing & Economic Development Executive Director Bob Pohlman, is pleased with the mayor's commitment to more affordable housing funds but hopes the administration will make a longer-term investment in housing.

"Ten thousand units is a great goal, but the $100 million is the first-year installment in paying for that," Pohlman says. "We’re looking for a multiyear commitment at that level to get to 10,000 units."

Some quick arithmetic, Pohlman says, shows that the one-time commitment is inadequate to produce 10,000 units, since it'd mean spending just $10,000 per unit, and "you cannot produce housing for $10,000 a unit."

Pohlman is part of the 36-member housing task force convened by the mayor last year to propose paths to more affordable housing. The task force will deliver its recommendations later this month. Among them is a proposal to boost the trust fund to $100 million per year, from its current level of $45 million. It's unclear if Gray's $100 million plan will involve the trust fund or a new, separate fund. Some housing advocates would prefer to see a trust fund expansion because of the programs's strong income targeting to ensure that those in the greatest need get housing.

Pohlman says the task force has been looking at steps to take between now and 2020, and within that time frame, the $100 million investment would need to be made each year to get to 10,000 units. But, he says, "this is a good first installment."

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

  • Nothankyou

    Wow - how about instead you create a job mentoring program so that lower income people can seek education/MOTIVATION FOR BETTER jobs, prosperity and better themselves rather than depend on government?!! Honestly, Life long democrat here, and the 'government owes me' attitude here is especially bad. Work for a freeking living - please!

  • Nothankyou

    While your at it - can you PLEASE FIX the freeking Roads with all the 'SURPLUS' / RECOCKULOUS $$$ Speed Cameras/Ticketing your more-efficent-than-is-remotely-close-to-civil DPE generates. Saw an old couple today with the most puzzled look; probably wondering why the city possibly deserved $50 of their retirement money. The deliberately obfuscated, more signs per square mile/capita than is imaginable are beyond creating order - they are obtuse to the point of THEFT. I think I counted 25 various DDOT signs visible from the McDonalds at North Capitol and I SW.. TOO MUCH GOVERNMENT GET OUT OF OUR LIVES!!!!!

  • Jim

    Something else related to mismanagement in the D.C. Government you should know:

    There are (multiple) D.C. Government practices that are not good or fair
    that the public needs to be aware of. So, spread the word if you are

    You may already be aware that the D.C. Gov't lacks diversity and is
    racially segregated in many departments--few whites will work for long
    for such substandard compensation with little upward mobility if the
    employee is not a crony, sex-partner.

    The D.C. Dept. of Human Services hosted a hoax of an in-house job fair
    on 01-25-13 that gave employees less than 24 hours notice of the
    positions to be recruited for, NO POSTING OF DUTIES, QUALIFICATIONS,
    RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE JOB so that the only way to learn about the job
    was to attend the fair, with requests for applications from employees
    who had no way to preview the job or find out what the qualifications
    were beforehand, and with same-day interviews and hiring allegedly
    having been conducted.

    Most personnel professional know that this is not standard procedure
    for job recruitment, is not fair to employees, with many employees
    feeling that the successful candidates were already pre-selected with a
    stupid attempt made by the local gov't. to make it look as though the process
    was honest as jobs were open to all employees.

    Spread the word about the scum that runs the local government and the
    dirt that goes on. This type of information does not always come out in
    the established media.

    Voice your concern, and ask Obama and Congress to abolish the dysfunctional, inequitable, racially segregated D.C. Government.

  • Phil

    How about making it easier for developers to work in DC so as to create more overall housing and not "affordable housing," which distorts the market and drives rent up. No one has a right or reason to need to live in a specific area; if you can't afford it, you leave. That's the system and it's wrong, economically and morally, to give certain people better access than others.

  • Robert

    I hate the whole concept of "affordable housing" for people who messed up so now they can't get a decent job and have 5-10 kids they can't afford to raise. This really is a slam to middle class people because if you make over a certain amount and you are between being very poor and rich, then the opportunity is not offered to you. And even if you do get to buy an "affordable house", it will be in a neighborhood where you will have seedy characters for neighbors. Along with the Earned Income Credit on tax forms, the concept of "affordable housing" should be abolished.

  • AP

    I agree with some of the commenters above. I know there is a need for certain social programs, but why should our tax dollars go to subsidizing people to live in "premium" locations, when everyone else has to pay a premium to live in these locations?! If I can't afford to live in the close-in neighborhoods of DC (Shaw, U Street, Columbia Heights, 14th Street) then I am forced to move further out to some place I can afford. That's Economics 101. I don't expect anyone to subsidize my rent so I can live within walking distance of the best restaurants or the best amenities.

  • Watcher

    Housing costs in this city are outrageously high. More units need to be built (the market solution), but that alone is not enough when almost all new construction is self-proclaimed luxury style. Something needs to be done since the market alone is not capable of addressing this issue.

  • littletavern202

    People tend to forget, or don't realize, that part of the need for having "affordable" housing in convenient locations is because areas like downtown dc (or other "revitalized" areas) are filled with low-income jobs - from cafes to retail to security, etc.

    It's not just well to do professionals who work in downtown dc. everyone needs to be close to work. I guess we should just expect a lady who works at mcdonald's or cosi to live out in the far reaching suburbs and afford to shell out $$ for metro. In any case I'm not sure the metro could handle that if we sent all low-wage earners to the suburbs/outskirts.

    Having said that, those who choose not to work and are not disabled should be kicked off of these programs.

  • AP

    @littletavern202 - I understand your point and have not forgotten that people with lower-income jobs work in downtown DC. But I disagree with your statement that "everyone needs to be close to work." If that were true, then 75% of people in the Metro area would be living in downtown DC, and that's just not feasible. I'm sure many people would LOVE to be able to live in the middle of Dupont and walk to work downtown, but they can't afford to, so they live further out instead. The point is that affordable housing should be accessible by mass transit. It's a privilege to be able to live close to your job, and people pay a premium to have that privilege.

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  • anons

    The District has built 29,000 new housing units in the past 12 years, more than enough to accommodate every last of the 58,000 people who have moved to the District during that period, with a few thousand in spare (persons per household in the District is 2.13).

    6,000 of those housing units were built in the last two, with another 8,000 under construction right now with another 28,000 in the pipeline yet to break ground. DCRA has permitted nearly 60 billion dollars of privately funded residential and commercial construction in the past 12 years. To accuse DC of doing anything but focus on real estate development the past decade means you are simply uninformed.

    "Affordable Housing" is a joke and skews the market considerably. The folks that need help should be getting vouchers that they can use to rent housing anywhere in teh DC metro area, where the location more fits their budget. It is highly moronic to pay an enormous fortune to give people free or subsidized housing in neighborhoods where people are paying 2500 a month to rent a 1 bedroom apt.

  • Typical DC BS

    The usual Democratic fiscal nonsense on display with "affordable housing". Rent control in DC (one of the few cities that have another Democratic construct of idiocy) is another example of how brain-dead this city's housing system is already.

  • Hillman

    Paying to artificially keep poor people in a high dollar neighborhood is becoming more and more unpopular. Particularly when we spend so much on public housing residents that will not work or contribute to society.

    We have plenty of resources to help cops and teachers and others find workforce housing. Though likely not in Georgetown.

    But instead we allow public housing residents that wont work to use those resources instead.

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