On May 14, the DC Council took its first vote on the Fiscal Year 2020 budget. We were pleased to see some increases in affordable housing investments, and are happy to share that the Council fully funded the public restroom bill and the homeless street outreach asks. We are particularly grateful for the substantial investments in public housing repairs and ending chronic homelessness. Unfortunately, there are still substantial gaps in funding for affordable housing, particularly for homeless families, including some historically low investments.
Before we get into the details of what gaps remain before the final vote on May 28, we want to take a moment to talk about where some of the money came from for these investments. The Fair Budget Coalition spent a significant amount of time and effort this year exploring ways to fund our priorities that would represent more racially equitable and progressive funding. In particular, we targeted programs where there was waste or underspending as well as new initiatives that would disproportionately serve higher income DC residents. Quite a few Committees swept these programs at mark-up and diverted the funds to lower income residents or more racially equitable programming. At the Committee of the Whole, Chairman Mendelson, supported by several Council members including Charles Allen, Elissa Silverman and Robert White, took $60 million of the $206 million surplus of Events DC and devoted half of it to public housing repairs. (Now the Chief Financial Officer, who also happens to be on the board of Events DC, is saying he will not certify the budget if it pulls money out of the surplus in Events DC, but the Chairman has pledged to fight for this money.) Then, Brianne Nadeau led an effort to reform the Qualified High Technology Company incentive, which secured $1.4 million for homeless street outreach and $5.39 million for permanent supportive housing for individuals, among other important programs. The following Councilmembers joined Councilmember Nadeau on her amendment: David Grosso, Elissa Silverman, Robert White, Jack Evans, Mary Cheh, Charles Allen, Vincent Gray and Trayon White. The Councilmembers who voted no were: Chairman Mendelson, Kenyon McDuffie, Brandon Todd, and Anita Bonds.
Repair and Preserve Public Housing
We asked for between $10-30 million per year to do critical repairs. The Council devoted $30 million in one-time funds. This is great, but because it is one-time money, we still need a long-term plan for funding.
The Council found enough additional housing for 271 individuals experiencing chronic homelessness and 123 homeless families. We are grateful for the additional funds but the gaps are still quite large. (For families, we are far below what DC funded in FY19.)
End the Wait for Tenant Vouchers
The Council has only devoted $1 million into vouchers that pull people (primarily families) off the 40,000 household DC Housing Authority waiting list, leaving a gap of $9 million for 452 households. This is the smallest amount that has ever been added to this program, since it began in FY07.
Prevent More Evictions
The Council restored the money that the Mayor cut from eviction prevention funds and added an additional $491,000, but that still leaves $11.5 million unfunded.
Build Deeply Affordable Housing
The Mayor increased the amount of the Housing Production Trust Fund (from $100 million to $130 million). The Council then increased the portion of the funds that goes to the lowest income residents (from 40% to 50%) but reduced the amount of the Trust Fund to $120 million, leaving about $60 million in the Trust Fund devoted to the lowest income housing. $80 million of our ask is unfunded. The Council found an additional $5.77 million for an operating match, leaving $15.52 million unfunded.
Take a moment to thank your Councilmembers if they made an effort to fund affordable housing so far this budget, and ask them if they can find a way to do more to #FindTheMoney to #PutPeopleFirst before the second vote. In particular, you should thank Chairman Mendelson for the money for public housing (as well as the supporters above) and you can use this Twitter link to thank Brianne Nadeau and her colleagues for the high tech tax change amendment. (Feel free to “no thank you” those who voted against the amendment while you’re at it!)
Stay tuned for more next steps!