D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser addresses an Urban Land Institute audience on Sept. 11. (Courtesy of Urban Land Institute)

The D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development has been selected by the Urban Land Institute as the 2017 winner of the prestigious Robert C. Larson Housing Policy Leadership Award.

The award — which cites exemplary state and local programs that are using innovative strategies to produce, rehabilitate, or preserve workforce and affordable housing — was announced on Monday.

“We don’t have to choose between preserving our existing affordable housing, creating new affordable units, and making it easier for residents of all backgrounds and income levels to buy a home — through the Housing Production Trust Fund, Housing Preservation Fund, and programs like the Home Purchase Assistance Program, we are focusing on all these issues,” said Mayor Muriel Bowser. “We are proud to serve as a national leader on issues related to affordable housing, and going forward, we will continue to make the investments and policies necessary to ensure Washington, D.C., remains affordable for seniors, singles, and families alike.”

The Urban Land Institute said the city’s efforts “are bringing significant local resources to bear and raising the bar for other cities to meet,” adding that while no one policy or program will solve a city’s housing challenges, D.C.’s efforts have achieved “substantive results.”

DHCD Director Polly Donaldson traveled to New Orleans to accept the award during the Terwilliger Center’s Housing Opportunity Conference in New Orleans.

“In a hot housing market, Mayor [Muriel] Bowser and Deputy Mayor of Planning and Economic Development Brian Kenner gave us a mandate — provide more affordable housing and homeownership opportunities to city residents,” said Donaldson. “We developed strategies that weren’t just policy statements, but fast-track action plans. We made our administrative processes more efficient and effective in order to more quickly finance production and preservation projects. We are making the necessary investments to help more residents get keys to their own home, and we are humbled that the Larson Award recognizes the Bower Administration’s hard work.”

D.C. was selected over three other finalists — New York City, Boston and Denver — by a jury of national housing industry leaders. The jurors praised D.C. for its multi-pronged approach to tackling housing issues, which includes:

• establishing a “significant” funding source — the Housing Production Trust Fund (HPTF) — to support affordable housing construction and preservation;

• creating a Housing Preservation Strike Force to focus on maintaining existing affordable units;

• improving programs to encourage homeownership; and

• developing a streamlined, more efficient process to dispose of vacant properties.

Since assuming office, Bowser has made affordable housing a major focus of her administration. Achievements cited by the Urban Land Institute include:

• the production and preservation of more than 4,000 affordable rental and homeownership units across all eight wards since January 2015;

• more than 5,300 affordable housing units — capable of housing over 13,200 residents — are in the pipeline;

• DHCD will have its entire inventory of vacant property in a disposition process by the end of the year;

• the loan amount for the Home Purchase Assistance Program (HPAP) was increased by almost 50 percent and the loan deferral payment was extended for most borrowers; and

• 13 projects with at least 1,200 affordable housing units were selected for production/preservation during DHCD’s spring 2016 request for proposals (DHCD will announce a new round of awardees this fall)

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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