Testimony given by Roosevelt @ GW Member Sean Ruddy before the Budget Oversight Committee, DC City Council: Hello, my name is Sean Ruddy and I am speaking on behalf of the Roosevelt Institute at The George Washington University regarding affordable housing in the upcoming DC Budget. Housing affordability is important to our community because we understand the tremendous value of our city’s diversity, and we believe that anybody who wants to live in our vibrant city should have the ability to do so. Without sufficient affordable housing spending, we expose our fellow Washingtonians to heightened risk of displacement. Housing is a fundamental right, and by failing to secure that right in an equitable way, we lose a myriad of voices in our community, along with their charm, their stories, and their ideas and wisdom. I fear that this budget marginalizes low-income DC residents who have never called any other place home
As you are aware Mayor Bowser recently released her budget for fiscal year 2019. We demand that her budget reflect a commitment to fight the increasingly dire need for affordable housing in the District in a way that significantly addresses the crisis at-hand. Instead the proposal only provides $217.4 million of a $14.5 billion budget to affordable housing; thus, the entirety of the District’s spending on housing programs constitutes a measly 3% of the budget, nowhere near enough to address the persistent issues related to housing and displacement. As D.C. residents, we want our city to offer equitable economic opportunities to all its citizens and we express disappointment in the Mayor’s failure to adequately address these concerns.
The Fair Budget Coalition recommends $423.97 million in annual funding to address these problems, almost double the amount of the Mayor's proposal. In addition, only a small amount of the $217.4 million directs funds to increase housing opportunities for the city’s residents at 0-30% area median income (AMI), the sector of the population most likely to face the threats of displacement and homelessness. Three-fourths of DC families who face severe housing challenges fit within this income range, but only 29.4% of the funds under the Bowser plan target programs for this group. Having affordable and consistent housing is a vital component to living a healthy and productive life, and the District has a powerful opportunity to provide their citizens with this necessity. Without provisioning adequate funds for access to the right to housing, it will be virtually impossible for low-income residents to escape poverty and improve their economic outcomes.
The Fair Budget coalition said that the District needs to build a minimum of 26,000 units over 10 years (beginning in fiscal year 2019) to accommodate the housing demands of the most low-income residents amidst the District’s ongoing economic growth. Half of these units must come from units available through local rent supplement vouchers and the other half from new housing production, locally owned public housing, and enforcement of existing inclusive zoning provisions. Much of this second half is funded through the Housing Production Trust Fund but the Mayor’s plan only offers an additional $100 million in spending for the Trust Fund, thereby fails to provide enough funds to meet the Fair Budget Coalitions recommendation. The DC Fiscal Policy Institute also found that the District often fails to enforce the 40% statutory requirement for extremely low-income households in Trust Fund spending. In the coming year, we appropriately address this crisis by allocating at least $300 million to the Trust Fund as well as enforce elements of its statute that secure housing for 0-30% AMI Washingtonians.
The Mayor's plan also provides no new funds for tenant-based vouchers despite the large number of residents on waitlists, some of which have been on the list for 10 or more years. Adjusting for inflation the voucher program will actually experience a 2.2% cut in funding. This is unacceptable, as cuts to this vital and necessary program means more families will not be able to access affordable.
The Council has the opportunity to revise this plan, promoting adequate funding to address this crisis of housing and equitable economic development. As a group of actively involved DC student, we want our local government to pursue policies that represent our values and work to sustain a dignified quality of life for all Washingtonians, including the essential right to housing. However, if you accept Mayor Bowser’s proposal the District will fail to provide for its citizens most susceptible to the negative effects of rapid economic growth. We urge the Council to match the The Fair Budget Coalition recommendation of $423.97 million in annual funding for housing affordability and that the council heeds our call to do better for the whole of Washington, DC.
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