In his State of the City speech in early 2013, Washington, DC Mayor Vincent Gray pledged $100 million towards affordable housing for the District of Columbia. On May 28, the District of Columbia City Council voted to approve Gray’s 2014 budget and included the critical affordable housing development provisions proposed earlier in the year. Mayor Gray proposed about $100 million, but the Council added more to provide:
- $1.75 million to the Local Rent Supplement Program;
- $2.2 million to Housing First;
- $63 million to the Housing Production Trust Fund;
- $500,000 to the Emergency Rental Assistance Program;
- $3.6 million to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.
The Mayors proposed plan, “Bridges to Opportunity: A New Housing Strategy for DC” was produced by a task force appointed by the Mayor in 2012 and recommends three broad strategic goals:
- Preserving approximately 8,000 existing affordable housing units with subsidies that will expire by the year 2020;
- Producing and preserving 10,000 net new affordable housing units by the year 2020; and
- Supporting the development of 3,000 market rate units annually through 2020.
The plan also proposed 24 Action Items in three categories: Policy, Administration, or Financial in order to meet the city’s stated strategic affordable housing goals. A summary of the city’s stated Strategies and Action Items is also provided. A few key Action Items of particular interest to developer stakeholders include:
- Fully utilize and significantly increase resources devoted to existing housing programs including the stabilization of the funding for the Housing Production Trust Fund (HPTF);
- Create a new, locally funded Housing Innovation Fund (HIF) that will finance shovel ready affordable housing projects. This HIF may finance capital costs, operating expenses, gap financing, bridge acquisition financing or support the development of permanent supportive financing. Of note is the ability to use the funds to purchase existing rent control units or inclusionary zoning units that require affordable rents/sales prices from private owners by the city and providing operating funds to owners of affordable housing units serving families at 30% AMI and below;
- Streamline the permitting process for affordable and market rate housing projects including amending building regulations to expedite the building permit process for affordable and market rate housing developments and waiving fees for affordable housing developments. The report also suggests creating a “One Pitch Meeting” to streamline initial support for new production and preservation projects and the creation of a website to serve as a one-stop-shop for affordable housing finance information;
- Delegate underwriting duties for Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) gap funds to the D.C. Housing Finance Agency (DHFA);
- Modify the DHCD QAP to give bonus points to projects that include wrap around services in the development plan and to allow services to be an eligible expense in operating budget;
- Study the feasibility of creating a District Low Income Housing Tax Credit (DC-LIHTC) program;
- Fully utilize DCHFA tax exempt bonds up to the bond cap and 4% federal tax credits; and
- Encourage green building techniques in new and existing housing developments.
In order to implement the above HPTF-related items, additional local resources must be requested in the FY 2014 budget and beyond. Mayor Gray plans to unveil his 2014 budget proposal later in late-March, early-April.