Courtesy of D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development
Courtesy of D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development

Washington, D.C., is a prosperous and growing city; I know this not just by looking out at the construction cranes from my office window in Anacostia, but by reading the data showing that our population will grow to 800,000 within the next decade.

The city’s vibrancy and popularity is exciting; but we know residents are concerned that higher housing prices may make establishing, or maintaining a home in the District, difficult, if not impossible.

The administration of Mayor Muriel Bowser doesn’t want that to happen. That’s why from day one, her priority has been to use more District resources to build pathways to homeownership for residents.

That’s where the DC Department of Housing and Community Development comes into play. Part of our mission is to produce and preserve affordable housing for low- and moderate-income residents. But our mandate under the Mayor is to take that a step further—by providing more homeownership opportunities.

As the Mayor says, whether someone has been here for five minutes or five generations, they should be able to call the District home.

That’s why each year, she’s made an unprecedented commitment of $100 million annually to the DHCD-administered Housing Production Trust Fund (HPTF). As a result, since 2015, the HPTF has delivered affordable rental and homeownership units for over 12,700 residents. This investment is improving the lives of District residents today—and will for decades to come—despite the rising real estate market.

We’ve given first-time homebuyers more purchasing power by enhancing these DHCD programs:

• Our Home Purchase Assistance Program (HPAP), which provides up to $84,000 in down payment and closing cost assistance and allows low-income households to defer HPAP repayment until they sell/no longer occupy or refinance a property. We are proud to say that since 2015, HPAP has helped nearly 900 households get the keys to their first home.

• The Employer Assisted Housing Program (EAHP), which gives District government employees up to $20,000 in assistance—as well as matching grant funds—and has an extra incentive for first-responders. Keep in mind that District government employees can use both HPAP and EAHP — potentially providing them with over $100,000 in assistance!

We’ve also made improvements to our Inclusionary Zoning (IZ) program, which ensures that a certain percentage of affordable units are included in most new or substantially rehabilitated developments. Last year, IZ delivered nearly 200 units of new affordable housing in 23 mixed income developments, and more is coming.

D.C. Public Schools teacher Jackie Clauss used HPAP to purchase her first home in Ward 5 through IZ. “My three kids and I are forever grateful,” said Clauss, “My family was blessed with a home. It was a long way, but we got there.”

DHCD programs are not just about filling out financial paperwork. We help residents prepare for all aspects of homeownership by offering housing counseling services. DHCD-funded community-based organizations hold group workshops and one-on-one counseling for tenants, potential homeowners, and current homeowners on issues such as foreclosure prevention or mitigation, credit counseling, home/budget management, homebuyers’ clubs and relocation, applying for program assistance, managing the home purchase process, homeowner training, and apartment locating.

Jessica Franklin joined a homebuyers’ club that set her on a path to become a first-time homeowner of a three-bedroom townhome in Ward 8. HPAP gave her more than $81,000 in assistance.

In addition, DHCD holds events for residents, from the Annual DC Housing Expo and Home Show—which recently celebrated its 10th anniversary— to smaller workshops on IZ, rent control and other housing issues. Residents also can access tools in our Housing Resource Center at DHCD headquarters, or visit DCHousingSearch. org, to help search for housing.

DHCD wants you to know that because of these and other District government programs, more individuals and families from every ward are calling the District their home. It is not impossible! Learn more about all the housing programs available to DC residents through Mayor Bowser’s Roots to Roofs DC initiative, at

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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