By George Kevin Jordan, Special to the AFRO
District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser pushed forward with plans to solidify housing in the nation’s capital by signing a mayor’s order that guides District agencies to pinpoint policies to begin her goal of building 36,000 new housing units, (12,000 of them affordable) by 2025.
“In order to meet our growing housing needs and take on the forces of displacement, we need to be bold and implement an all eight wards strategy,” said Mayor Bowser in a statement. “When people have access to safe and stable housing, that is the first step toward having access to a safe and stable life. This order lays out how we will take a citywide approach to a citywide challenge— building on the historic investments we’ve already made and calling on everyone in our community to be part of the solution.”
The order keys in on areas such as:
- Increasing production and accelerating delivery of housing by analyzing trends, needs, capacity and impediments to housing in order to identify housing targets and policies
- Promoting fair housing by identifying ways to create an equitable distribution of affordable housing across Washington, D.C.
- Creating homeownership opportunities
- Directing all District agencies to support the goals of Homeward DC
- Improving resident housing experience by directing Lab @ DC to create a “front door” for residents to access affordable housing opportunities and programs
The Mayor pushed back at the Council, saying her expansive plan includes the need to complete the amendment process for the District’s Comprehensive Plan, adding that she introduced legislation over a year ago to move the plan forward, but it is still with the Council.
“The Comprehensive Plan is an important tool in our effort to create much needed housing in D.C., and we need the Council to get the process back on track,” said Mayor Bowser.
The mayor’s plan for housing has been a focal point for her FY-2020 budget as well as her overall vision for the city.
In her 2019 “State of the District” address, she zeroed in on housing saying:
“We know the number one issue on the minds of Washingtonians is affordable housing,” Bowser said in her speech.
“Rising housing costs have created new challenges for homeowners and renters alike, particularly for those on a fixed income and those who are struggling to make ends meet.”
The FY- 2020 budget proposal, which the mayor submitted in March, includes several investments under the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development:
- a 30-percent increase in the Housing Production Trust Fund, bringing the annual investment to $130 million
- an increase in the Housing Preservation Fund from $10 million to $15 million, which will yield an additional $45 million in private investment
- and a new $20 million Workforce Housing Fund that will leverage private sector investment by 9 to 1, bringing the fund up to $200 million.
There have been several engagement forums over the past years involving the community.
“As we’ve heard feedback from residents on the Comprehensive Plan, we’ve distilled input into a set of eight values – accessibility, diversity, equity, livability, opportunity, prosperity, resilience and safety,” said Office and Planning (OP) Director Andrew Trueblood. “These values, which express the essence of what makes D.C. home for everyone, will help guide OP through the remainder of the amendment process.”
More engagement forums are scheduled by OP in May and June to share more of these key values and to seek feedback in creative ways. Residents can learn more at: https://www.dc2me.com.