How Big Is a $100 Million Affordable Housing Boost? It’s All Relative.
As regular readers of this blog well know, Mayor Vince Gray has pledged a one-time, $100 million investment in affordable housing. If that sounds like a lot of money, well, it is. While it's nowhere near enough to meet Gray's goal of constructing and preserving 10,000 new affordable housing units, Gray also scoffed, with reason, when I suggested at a press conference that it was just "a small down payment." It could be a big boost to affordable housing, yes—but only if Gray makes a similar commitment in future years, which he's not sure he'll do.
But just how big of a boost is it? The D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute has tabulated the city's current spending on housing, and DCFPI's Jenny Reed has generously shared the results with me. They're not intended to be 100 percent comprehensive, and while not every penny is for affordable housing per se, the "vast majority" is, says Reed (the exception is some of the tax expenditures).
Here's the breakdown. Unfortunately, the document was very wide, so it's embedded here in a slightly awkward way. (Update: For an alternate view, here's a Google Doc version.):
It's important to note that not all of this spending comes from the D.C. government. In fact, the majority doesn't. Around 70 percent of the resources belong to DCHA and HFA, whose finances are largely out of the District's control. (DCHA funding is mostly federal, while HFA operates through bond issuances.) Reed says D.C. actually controls about 30 percent of the total, or $283 million, though even some of that is federal money.
In the context of $283 million controlled by the District for affordable housing, $100 million is quite an addition. The question is just whether it will be renewed.
How the funds should be spent is another matter—and one on which everyone has an opinion. Here are those of DCFPI, the Comprehensive Housing Strategy Task Force, the D.C. Fair Budget Coalition, and the Coalition for Nonprofit Housing and Community Development.