With the last budget hearing over and the Council about to really dig in on their version of DC’s budget, we wanted to share an assessment of how far Mayor Bowser’s proposed budget goes towards meeting the needs that we at the Legal Clinic, along with the Fair Budget Coalition and the Way Home campaign, have identified for affordable housing and ending homelessness. We hope the Council sees this as their critical “to do” list over the next few weeks!
We are thrilled to see our full asks for Permanent Supportive Housing funded by Mayor Bowser. The rest of our asks to end family and returning citizen homelessness were not funded at all by the mayor.
We ask the Council to fund the following vouchers to end homelessness:
- 1040 Targeted Affordable Housing voucher for homeless families
- 800 Local Rent Supplement tenant vouchers for homeless families on the DC Housing Authority waiting list
- 60 Local Rent Supplement tenant vouchers for returning citizens
Rapid Re-housing Reform
913 families are slated for termination this year from DC’s rapid re-housing program for reaching a time limit, even though the mayor admits that 90% of the families will not be able to afford rent on their own without further assistance. (The program for single adults faces similar challenges but is much smaller in scope.) It is past time to reform rapid re-housing. The mayor has added an extra $45.6M to the program this year, as well as an extra $44.4M for next year, but has made no promises to sustain any of the families in the program. With very few permanent housing subsidies in next year’s budget so far, more families will fall off the benefits cliff next year.
We, along with over 68 organizations and experts, are asking the DC Council to:
- Demand that the mayor immediately withdraw all time-limit termination notices that have been issued by the Department of Human Services (DHS),
- Devote surplus funds to maintain rapid re-housing rental support until every participant has the resources they need to afford housing,
- Increase permanent affordable housing vouchers in next year’s budget so that rapid re-housing participants can transition into a program that better maintains housing stability, including Targeted Affordable Housing for families and Local Rent Supplement Program tenant vouchers, and
- Reform rapid re-housing legislatively so that DC residents cannot be terminated for a time limit until they can afford rent without further assistance.
Civil Rights Legislation
As we laid out in this blog, the DC Council recently unanimously passed the Eviction Record Sealing Authority and Fairness in Renting Amendment Act of 2022, which will update our eviction laws and reduce barriers to rental housing. Not all of the law will go into effect, however, until it receives funding in the budget. The mayor did not devote the $450,000 needed in FY23 to have the entire law be enforceable and in effect. We are also asking the Council to pass and fund the Human Rights Enhancement Amendment Act of 2021.
Utility and Rent Relief
With the moratoria on evictions and utility shut offs lifted, it is critical that DC maintains sufficient funding for rent and utility relief. DC must ensure residents can access sufficient funds to pay back rent and utility arrears (including phone and internet) to prevent massive displacement, trauma, and homelessness. We are still looking into the utility investments. For rent relief, we recommended an additional $187 million in FY22 and $200 million in FY23—all in the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP). It looks like the Mayor has proposed increasing ERAP by $73.9M in FY22 and $27.7M in FY23 above the approved FY22 budget. That’s a great start, particularly when in years past the mayor has regularly cut ERAP funds in her proposal, but we still have far to go to meet the need.
Repairing Public Housing
Mayor Bowser invested $50M into repairing public housing, more than she has ever invested before, and the same as the total amount of funding for repairs the last two fiscal years. It is an excellent start, and we look forward to the Council finding the remaining $10M and, just as importantly, building in some requirements to ensure that the money is spent well to meet the urgent needs of public housing residents.
Building Deeply Affordable Housing
While the mayor put in $500M for the Housing Production Trust Fund and appears to have matched enough operating dollars to build deeply affordable housing with that money, we are still asking the Council to restore the $82M that should have been spent on building housing for the lowest income DC residents to that purpose. We are also asking the Council to develop greater enforcement and oversight mechanisms to ensure that the money dedicated for building housing for residents making 0-30% of Area Median Income is actually spent in accordance with statutory requirements.
For more details on our policy and legislative asks around these recommendations, please check out our testimony submitted to the Committee of the Whole on Friday, April 8.