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2566Doubling of D.C. Funds For Housing Proposed

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  • William Jordan
    Feb 1, 2006
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      Doubling of D.C. Funds For Housing Proposed
      Task Force Backs Adding Affordable Units

      By Lori Montgomery
      Washington Post Staff Writer
      Wednesday, February 1, 2006; B04


      The District's Comprehensive Housing Strategy Task Force called on city
      officials yesterday to pour nearly $6 billion into housing over the next
      15 years, doubling the current budget.

      With that sum, the city could encourage the creation of an additional
      55,000 housing units, a third of them priced for low-income families,
      according to a task force report. The city also could preserve the
      affordability of 30,000 existing units that might otherwise be lost in a
      real estate frenzy that is driving mortgage and rent payments skyward.

      "Despite the fact that the city has ramped up its spending considerably
      in the past few years, we are losing affordable housing faster than it's
      getting created," said task force Chairman Alice M. Rivlin, director of
      the Brookings Institution's Greater Washington Research Program. "There
      needs to be a doubling of expenditures. We're proposing a considerable
      stepping up of the pace of activity."

      The task force was created by the D.C. Council in 2003 to study the
      city's long-term housing needs as the number of affordable units
      plummeted. A recent report by the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute found
      that the city lost 12,000 affordable houses and apartments in 2004 as
      the median rent jumped 9 percent -- from $734 to $799 -- and the median
      home value soared 32 percent -- from $252,930 to $334,702.

      Appointed by the mayor and approved by the council, the task force
      includes a broad mix of developers, academics, government officials and
      housing advocates who spent months holding public hearings and poring
      over housing data. In September, the task force released a first draft
      of its recommendations but did not include a price tag.

      To raise the needed funds -- an additional $200 million a year for the
      next 15 years -- the task force recommends dedicating a greater portion
      of the tax revenue generated by the real estate boom to housing
      programs. For example, city officials could reverse the council's recent
      decision to cut the deed recordation tax from 1.5 to 1.1 percent. That
      move alone would generate an extra $130 million a year for housing
      production, the report says.

      Other recommendations include dedicating a greater portion of the deed
      recordation tax to housing programs as well as reserving 5 percent of
      real estate taxes from new residents for that purpose.

      Rivlin said she briefed Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) yesterday on the
      task force findings and plans to do the same for council members and
      candidates in this year's race for mayor. Rivlin said she hopes the
      mayor will include many of the recommendations when he presents his 2007
      budget to the council later this year.

      Ellen McCarthy, director of the mayor's Office of Planning and a task
      force member, said Williams plans to include elements of the report in
      his budget. Asked whether he is willing to find the additional cash,
      McCarthy said, "I don't think it's outside the realm of possibility."

      © 2006 The Washington Post Company