On Affordable Housing, the Feds Pull Back Their Helping Hand
When it comes to housing, D.C. can't expect to be bankrolled by the federal government like it once was.
Last month, I reported that the funding from the federal government for the D.C. Housing Authority had declined sharply. The annual Capital Fund grant to the District is $13.7 million this year, down from $20 million each year from 2006 to 2010.
Now, we learn that the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development has taken a similar hit. The city, DHCD announced on Friday, will receive $32.4 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development this coming fiscal year. That's a slight reduction from last year's $33.3 million, and a steep decline from the previous year's $39.2 million.
Breaking the funding down by program area, we see an even sharper drop in certain programs. For the HOME Investment Partnership Program—the largest federal block grant to state and local governments for the purpose of building, buying, and rehabilitating affordable housing or providing rent assistance to low-income residents—funding to the District has been cut by about half since fiscal year 2012, from $8.3 million to $4.1 million. Funds for the broader Community Development Block Grant Program, which encompasses both housing and business development, fell from $16.3 million in fiscal year 2012 to $13.3 million in fiscal year 2014, or 19 percent.
With federal support for affordable housing waning as D.C. faces a considerable affordable housing crunch, the city is left with essentially two options: fund more housing itself, or turn to programs that don't require direct outlays. It's doing both. In February, Mayor Vince Gray announced a one-time, $100 million investment in affordable housing. And the inclusionary zoning program, which went into effect in 2009 and requires developers of large new residential buildings to set aside a percentage of the units for low-income residents, got off to a very slow start but is slowly picking up, with the first IZ unit sold in July. The question is how these programs will work out in the long term. DHCD expects more than 1,000 IZ units to be built in the coming years, but for now, that's still just an aspiration. Likewise, there's no indication that Gray will renew his investment—or, for that matter, that he'll even be in office past next year.
So other sources aside, the cutback in federal funding is still a setback for D.C. affordable housing.
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