Housing Complex

On Affordable Housing, the Feds Pull Back Their Helping Hand

DHCD headquarters in Anacostia.

DHCD headquarters in Anacostia.

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.

Image via Google Maps

  • name

    This will have very little impact on affordable housing in DC.

    Why? Because DC was funneling most of this money illegally into other uses and got caught when the documentation requirements caught up with them.

    All that's changing is that the spigot to CM's friends and buddy's has been cut off. The trajectory of affordable housing will remain as it always has.

  • Chuck

    Too bad DC politicians and residents don't realize they live in a capitalist society. Affordable housing? Just another wealth transfer by liberal morons who don't realize the market should dictate housing prices. Maybe DC will one day wake up and cancel the idiotic rent control diktat as well.

  • chris lee

    "affordable housing " euphemism for housing projects..non starter. this is a city of free autonomous adults, not a habitat. you can't subsidize someone's desire to live in a convenient, thriving city if they can't afford or contribute to it's vitality, the aged, and infirmed notwithstanding

  • Hillman

    There's plenty of affordable housing in the DC area.

    It's just that it's in upper NE and Far SE and other areas where people feel unsafe.

    And it's in untrendy suburban locations.

    And we have ENORMOUS resources in our housing programs already.

    There are countless public housing complexes and feeding shelters that 20 years ago were in dicey areas.

    Now those areas are astonishingly expensive, having quadrupled or more in value.

    If we were willing to sell those very expensive parcels and put our resources into actually providing affordable housing in affordable areas we would have more than enough.

    In fact, you could stipulate that all future revenue from those sites (all real estate taxes, all taxes on sales, etc.) be put right back into a housing program trust fund.

    The Mitch Snyder Center alone is worth in excess of a quarter billion dollars. Not because of the awesome services it provides. Because it's two blocks from the Capitol complex.

    Billion with a b.

    And it's a decrepit grossly underutilized space.

    We have plenty of housing resources.

    We just use them very poorly.

  • SEis4ME

    Providing affordable housing in "affordable" areas leads you to the same problem presented in the article about the new development proposed in Historic Anacostia.

    Concentrating affordable housing only in affordable areas is a solution in search of a problem.

  • chris lee

    we should return to plain speaking.."affordable" means AFFORDABLE to anyone who can pay for it