Check out this excerpt from testimony presented by Amber Harding before the DC Council Committee of the Whole. The DC Council is considering making adjustments to Mayor Bowser’s proposed FY19 budget as we speak.
The Council will take the first of two votes on the budget on May 15, 2018, so this is the perfect time to tell them to show the people of the District of Columbia that our local government values affordable housing!
Send them an email here!
My oldest daughter came to a Way Home advocacy day when she was five, and she could not stop talking about the man in our group whose friend had died on the street. She could not, and still cannot, comprehend why leaders would let that happen. She knows, like I do, that local government should have done better by that man’s friend. We are failing to build and sustain a District of Columbia in which I would be proud to raise my children.
My daughter both wants to make sure everyone is safe and understands how unfair it is that some of us have homes and others do not. She has wondered out loud if it would be better if none of us had homes, because at least then it would be fair, and has advocated that we give up our home until everyone has one. She feels a personal responsibility to do what she can, and to sacrifice if others do not have what she has. My daughter is special in many ways, but this actually isn’t one of them. My experience is that children innately get what many adults seem to have forgotten—that it is incumbent on all of us to care for each other and to be fair.
We’re also teaching our kids that you have to pay for basic needs first before you pay for other things. Every single piece of advice on creating a household budget says that you must pay for housing first. Then utilities, groceries, health care. If you have any money left, then you talk about planning a vacation, or going out to dinner, or buying a nice piece of art for your living room. Again, my kids get this, as do all children I have ever talked to about budgeting. Why should the budget for a city be any different?
By this measure, DC’s budget is objectively irresponsible. In a city where one-third of children live in extreme poverty and 26,000 residents are in desperate need of housing assistance, the Council has before it a budget that does not meet the basic needs of all DC residents. Instead of starting with basic needs and adding other programs if there is extra, we start with a hodgepodge of programs, some critical and some not, and then maybe, if advocates and residents are very loud and insistent, the Council will move a few extra dollars from here to there to meet some residents’ critical needs. That movement of funds is well meaning and appreciated, but not adequate and certainly not transformative. The basic inequality and suffering that many DC residents endure remains mostly unchanged from year to year.
We need to flip it. DC’s budget must first provide for shelter, food and health care before it turns to other priorities. We need a drastic up-ending of our budgeting process if we are ever to ensure that all DC residents have a fair shot of survival, much less the middle class, much less equity, much less justice.
The Fair Budget Coalition and the Way Home Campaign have done excellent work in detailing specific programs and amounts our District budget must fund in order to serve our neighbors experiencing housing instability and move closer to economic and racial equity. The Legal Clinic strongly supports all of those budget asks. You can find the Legal Clinic’s specific Budget Support Act recommendations and asks that are directly related to ending homelessness and solving the affordable housing crisis here.
Taking part in this action is quick and easy:
Tell the DC Council to SHOW You That They Value Affordable Housing!