Mayor Bowser’s proposed FY24 budget isn’t just tight, it is deeply and fundamentally out of balance– particularly when it comes to the needs of District residents experiencing housing instability and homelessness. Where the government has failed to follow the law or implement its programs, there is no consequence levied on the government-only on District residents. When cuts are made to critical programs, they are accompanied by deliberate policy choices that deepen the cuts. Make no mistake—the investments in ending and preventing homelessness are not anywhere near what they need to be. This has serious consequences for District residents. Below, we lay out our priorities and grade the Mayor on her investments and policy choices. In all but one housing priority—public housing repairs—the Mayor receives a failing grade.
- End Homelessness Quickly by Investing in Voucher Programs: F
The D.C. government is not leasing up vouchers quickly. The government’s response to their own dysfunction is to cut or flat-fund voucher programs, give performance bonuses to DCHA employees, clear encampments—even advocating for a more aggressive clearing schedule for federal land—and cut hundreds of families from rapid re-housing for reaching an arbitrary time limit. The Council should increase funding for vouchers and, until those vouchers are adequately funded and in people’s hands, prohibit any government action that harms D.C. residents because of their homelessness or poverty.
The Mayor’s budget does not increase investments in any of the voucher programs that end homelessness. In fact, there may be cuts to funding for vouchers. We ask that those cuts be restored and funding increased. In addition, the Mayor published regulations for TAH that contradict the FY23 Budget Support Act (BSA) requirements for eligibility. We recommend amending the BSA to override those regulations and incorporate TAH eligibility standards, much like the Council had to do with LRSP eligibility rules.
|Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH)-Families||480||$18.87 million|
|Targeted Affordable Housing (TAH)||1,920||$58.4 million|
|LRSP Tenant Vouchers||800||$17.33 million|
|LRSP Vouchers for Returning Citizens||60||$1.3 million|
- Ensure Stable Housing for Families by Reforming Rapid Re-Housing: F
Not only did the Mayor fail to include any new permanent housing vouchers for families in the budget, her Administration also cut the budget for rapid re-housing. Yet, knowing that families will have even fewer options to exit rapid re-housing into permanent affordable housing, the Department of Human Services has proposed instituting an even stricter time limit for rapid re-housing and plans to send terminations notices to 500 families in the next six months. There will be no extensions after eighteen months, no matter the family’s circumstances—not if you just had a baby, not if you are about to start a new job, not if you are working full-time but still cannot afford rent, not for any reason.
The Council must pass and fund the Rapid Re-Housing Reform Amendment Act of 2023. Much, if not all, of this bill can be funded by meeting the need for PSH and TAH listed above. The bill must go into effect as quickly as possible to prevent hundreds of time-limit terminations this fiscal year and next.
- Prevent Evictions and Homelessness: F
The Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) has been cut from $43 million to $8 million after the program ran out of funds halfway through FY23. The Mayor also refused to even fund a part-time temporary worker to slow the pace of rent increases. Consequently, rents will go up as rental support drastically decreases. The Council should increase funding for ERAP and if the money runs out, reinstate an eviction moratorium until funds are available.
We are asking for a minimum of $50 million in the FY23 supplemental budget and a minimum of $117 million in the FY24 budget. We support BSA amendments to require reporting on ERAP administration and distribution, including timelines, staffing, and delays of administering organizations.
- Ensure Adequate Shelter Capacity to Meet the Need: Mixed
DHS intends to close down all PEP-V hotels this fiscal year. They anticipate at least fifty people will not have housing and will return to the street or shelter. At the same time, seasonal hypothermia shelters are closing and, due to shelter renovations, there will be 100 fewer year-round shelter beds this spring. Two buildings will be developed into non-congregate shelter and although that is great, these shelters will not be available for months, at a minimum. We propose keeping PEP-V open until the renovated shelters and new, non-congregate shelters are open. We also support adding $1.5 million to provide additional storage in shelters—often cited as a barrier for people who would like to enter shelter.
- Restore and Increase Funds for Domestic Violence Shelter and Housing: F
The Mayor cut $6.85 million from domestic violence housing and victim services in the current budget and proposed cutting an additional $8.4 million in FY24. Prior to learning about the cuts, domestic violence providers identified a need for an additional $9.6 million this year to meet the current needs of survivors and $18.6 million in FY24 to add more housing for survivors. We support the domestic violence community’s efforts to restore all cuts and increase funding for domestic violence shelter and housing.
- Restore Public Restroom Funding: F
The Mayor cut the funding to build downtown public bathrooms and has removed portable toilets from encampments, yet continues to criminalize public urination and defecation—even if the person has no other choice. The Council should restore the funds and decriminalize public urination and defecation.
It is particularly cruel to continue to criminalize these acts when the D.C. government has failed to provide public restrooms and has stalled its efforts to end homelessness.
- Repair Public Housing: A
We asked for a recurring $60 million to address the substantial preservation, rehabilitation, and redevelopment needs of D.C.’s public housing properties. The Mayor has proposed $54 million in FY24: 90% of our ask. We are asking the Council to reintroduce the Public Housing Preservation and Tenant Protection Amendment Act of 2020 and include its language in the BSA to memorialize DC Housing Authority’s stated commitment to its residents, ensuring that public housing residents can rightfully access the housing that is intended for them upon any property redevelopment or transformation.
- Build and Preserve Deeply Affordable Housing: ?
It is unclear whether the Mayor has included sufficient operating funding so that the full amount of 0-30% AMI affordable housing can be built. We urge the Council to make sure those funds are included and to ensure that DHCD is compliant with all reporting requirements under the newly passed Housing Production Trust Fund Transparency Amendment Act, an important piece of legislation that increases transparency and reporting requirements. DHCD continues to fail to meet its targets for producing 0-30% AMI housing with this fund. The Council should explore disaggregating the funds so that 50% of the funding is actually dedicated to producing deeply affordable housing.
Overall grade: F
We have a few ideas for where to find the money (pickleball courts, Farragut Square renovations, and MPD signing bonuses are but a few examples). We also urge the Council to reject the Mayor’s proposed expansion to the Tax Abatements for Housing in Downtown Act of 2022, which gives developers tax breaks while weakening affordable housing requirements, waiving tenants’ rights, and not requiring developers to prioritize D.C. residents for jobs.
The Council has a hard road ahead over the next few weeks to turn this into a more humane and just budget. Stay tuned for more information on how to advocate for the budget to prioritize the pressing needs of unhoused District residents.
Take action here to tell the Council to fund vouchers to end homelessness!