By: Sean Ruddy
This past month, the D.C. city council took landmark action when it unanimously passed an updated Framework of the city’s comprehensive plan. The comprehensive plan is a far-reaching document that guides the decision-making of the city's zoning commission for the next 20 years, having great influence on the landscape of the city. One of the main improvements to the comprehensive plan included encouraging the Zoning Commission to approve the development of planned unit developments (PUDs), which are a type of multi-purpose development that are exempted from some zoning restrictions if they provide a public good. One of the main changes to PUD developments is that they are no longer forbidden if the development would have “incompatibility” with a neighborhood but only when there are “unacceptable project impacts in the surrounding area.” This change will ensure that new crucially needed affordable housing developments are not blocked because of frivolous subjective reasons, such as distributing the “character” of a neighborhood, while still ensuring that current residents are not harmed.
The new comprehensive plan also requires that some PUDs and developments using city funds must help provide more equitable housing within DC. These changes to PUDs are expected to improve the amount of affordable housing units throughout the District. These necessary changes come at a crucial time, with a new report finding that DC is displacing lower-income residents at the highest rate in the country. These new housing developments will help stop this displacement and move the city towards the estimated 320,000 new units that have to be built by 2030 to keep up the job growth within the city. The plan gives priority to PUDs with a “build first” approach, which prevents residents from being displaced by allowing them to stay in their homes until new facilities are built. The amendments also establish a “right to return” clause that will make sure residents are able to return to their homes following housing redevelopment projects.
Other new improvements to the comprehensive plan coming from the amendments include a focus on development density instead of height, emphasizes on renewable energy sources in construction, and encouraging the development of multimodal public transportation to connect all residents to the bustling sectors of the city.
The Roosevelt Network praises the new amendments and appreciates the D.C. council’s commitment to preventing the displacement of its citizens. We hope to work with the council and other important stakeholders to monitor implementation and make certain that these changes help the city’s most vulnerable residents.
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