On July 20, the DC Council took its first vote on DC’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 budget, and the final vote will be on August 3. With the end of the FY22 budget season on the horizon, we want to check in with our community of readers and update you on how our housing and homelessness priorities have fared in the budget process thus far. But of course, it’s not over until it’s over – it is possible that the numbers we are reporting may change a bit here and there, and it is possible that the Council could make more changes at the August 3 vote.
As we reported here, the Mayor’s budget invested substantially in some areas, like the Housing Production Trust Fund, but fell far short of the need in many others. The Council had a lot of work to do to move DC closer to housing justice in this budget. As Legal Clinic attorney Amber Harding wrote in a commentary for the DC Line two days before the budget vote:
“DC is on the precipice of a homelessness emergency beyond anything we have ever seen, but that doesn’t mean it’s too late to turn around. The budget decisions that the DC Council makes in the next few weeks about how much money to invest in homelessness prevention, public housing repairs, and ending homelessness will determine whether we experience a humanitarian nightmare or a just and equitable recovery.”
Over the past few weeks, over 500 people participated in our email action asking the Council to make substantial investments to end homelessness and repair public housing, not to mention the many separate individual emails and phone calls. The DC Council made some small but important increases in housing investments prior to the first vote.
- Councilmember Brianne Nadeau found $1 million for eviction prevention (which the Mayor had cut by $5.5 million).
- Councilmember Robert White dedicated $100,000 for a re-entry housing pilot and $650,000 for public housing repairs.
- Chairman Mendelson found an additional $4.5 million for eviction prevention (bringing the program back up to FY21 levels), $20 million for permanent supportive housing for 775 individuals, and an additional $27.35 million for public housing repairs, bringing the total to $50 million.
But even with those investments, the budget the Council had before it at the first vote on July 20 included no vouchers to take people off the waiting list, no vouchers for homeless families about to fall off the rapid re-housing cliff, and nowhere near enough housing vouchers to house residents currently staying in encampments humanely or ensure that people in hotels are not forced to return to the street or overcrowded shelters when federal funding lapses. In the 12 hours leading up to the Council’s first budget vote, 300 people participated in an email action asking DC councilmembers to vote for a tax increase on high-income earners to dramatically increase funding to end homelessness. The tax increase was the only option left to get the funding to increase housing resources and protect thousands of DC residents experiencing homelessness.
We are inspired by and grateful for the outpouring of community support for this measure – thanks to many of you, DC’s elected leaders heard that support loud and clear. The measure to increase taxes on high-income earners (led by Councilmembers Nadeau, Allen and Lewis George) passed by an 8-5 vote, funding enough vouchers to end homelessness for 2400 individuals and families, as well as ensuring higher wages for childcare workers and expanding DC’s Earned Income Tax Credit, a program that helps out low-wage workers. You can thank the eight Councilmembers who voted “yes” here, or you can use the chart below to reach out to specific members.
It was reported this week that Mayor Bowser wants the Council to “reconsider” the tax increase. But that would mean cutting $100 million in investments—critical investments that further racial and economic justice. We encourage the Council to instead maintain these investments and take heed of Mayor Bowser’s words from just a few weeks before the vote:
“We know that stable housing is a necessary foundation for all things in life – health, education, steady employment, and connection to one’s family and community…We are proud of the progress we’ve made since launching Homeward DC, but there is more work to do. As we recover from the pandemic, we must keep pushing to not only protect our progress, but realize the goal we know is possible: ending long-term homelessness for all people in Washington, DC.”
Below are the investments in affordable housing and homelessness so far in the budget. In these final days of the FY22 budget season we are hoping to see increased investments to meet our full asks in the chart below. We are also asking the Council to find a little money to fund the Cashless Retailers Prohibition Act and Office of Human Rights enforcement of protections like those found in the Eviction Record Sealing Authority Act and the Fair Tenant Screening Act to ensure that housing applicants can enforce tenant screening and anti-discrimination laws.
*With an investment of $42M through 2025, there should be sufficient funds to support later projects that come online. Therefore, we consider this “ask” fully funded at this time.
Editor’s note: The original publication of this post included a version of the above table that contained a typo. It has been updated to reflect the correct amount of funding put forward for public housing repairs by DC Council.