Flag of the District of Columbia
Flag of the District of Columbia (Courtesy of dpw.dc.gov)

I’m proud to say the DC Department of Housing and Community Development has created housing opportunities over the past four years in levels never seen before in the District of Columbia — thanks to the commitment and unprecedented investments made by Mayor Muriel Bowser.

As our Mayor says, every Washingtonian should have a fair shot to live and thrive in the city, by having access to safe, stable, and affordable housing. DHCD’s mission is producing and preserving affordable housing for low- and moderate-income residents, providing more homeownership opportunities and revitalizing neighborhoods. Thus, our agency plays a key role in fulfilling her vision.

Polly Donaldson

We’re charged with administering her commitment of $100 million annually to the Housing Production Trust Fund (HPTF) and have exceeded that mark three years in a row. Thanks to this fund and other housing resources, the District has produced and preserved over 7,200 units of affordable housing since 2015. This represents housing for over 16,000 Washingtonians.

We’ve also accelerated the use of new resources like the Affordable Housing Preservation Fund, which is on track to—within just one year—preserve nearly 1,000 housing units for residents with deep roots in the city. We are in the early stages of identifying properties that the District can keep affordable under the District Opportunity to Purchase Act (DOPA).

We continue to help more homebuyers get the keys to their first home. Our Home Purchase Assistance Program (HPAP) provides low- to moderate-income households with up to $84,000 in down payment and closing cost assistance, In Fiscal Year 2018, HPAP gave 362 households $20 million to buy homes—with an average purchase price of $337,500. Over its 40-year lifetime, HPAP has provided over $214 million in assistance to over 7,700 households.

HPAP helped the homeownership dreams of Dorothy Nkem come true. Nkem is a single mother who spent three years renting a cramped one-bedroom apartment with her three girls. Thanks to HPAP, they now have their own space in a three-bedroom home.

Our Inclusionary Zoning (IZ) program, which ensures that a certain percentage of affordable units are included in most new or substantially rehabilitated developments, has delivered more units over the last year than ever before: units like Jonathon Martin’s Southwest Washington apartment. Martin, a native Washingtonian and District Government employee, once was concerned that he could not afford to live in the city because of rising rent costs. Thanks to IZ, he has an apartment across the street from his office—and says his next goal is to buy a home.

When he decides to do so, he can take advantage of both HPAP and the Employer Assisted Housing Program (EAHP) for District government employees, who can receive up to $20,000 in assistance—as well as matching grant funds. There is also an extra incentive for first-responders.
Even with our historic accomplishments, housing affordability is still the number one concern of District residents. Therefore, the Mayor has set an ambitious goal for us to do even more in her second term. She laid the foundation in her January 2 inaugural address; by 2025, we will need to produce 36,000 additional units of housing in DC alone—with at least 12,000 being affordable. This will enable more individuals and families to share in the District’s prosperity.

To accomplish this ambitious goal in all eight wards, the Mayor has signed a Mayor’s Order on Housing calling for District agencies to think bigger and bolder and identify new policies, tools, and initiatives. The Mayor’s housing team—including the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED), DHCD and the Office of Planning (OP)—is working on an implementation plan and is collaborating closely with regional partners from the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG).

The Mayor’s vision isn’t targeted just to policy and budget, however. District residents are a large part of the solution. We also are asking YOU—residents and stakeholders—to think hard about how you will can participate, so that more individuals and families have a Fair Shot in the District of Columbia. You can learn more at dc2me.com.

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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