Advocacy Testimony: DC Department of Housing and Community Development FY2020 Performance Oversight Hearing

The following blog text is from testimony provided by SOME to the DC Department of Housing for the FY2020 Performance Oversight Hearing.

Good morning, Chairperson ­­Bonds and members of the Committee.

My name is Nechama Masliansky. I am a Senior Advocacy Advisor at SOME (also known as So Others Might Eat). Thank you for the opportunity to testify on the Fiscal Year 2020-2021 Performance of the Department of Housing & Community Development (DHCD) and Housing Production Trust Fund (HPTF).

SOME is a 50-year-old interfaith, non-profit organization that provides direct services to District residents who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. By treating each person with respect and dignity and by offering a comprehensive continuum of care—from emergency services through to permanent housing—we help more than 11,000 persons a year to move toward stability and self-sufficiency.

SOME recognized 16 years ago that the city’s lack of affordable housing drives people into homelessness, so we started our Housing Development Initiative. The goal of this Initiative is to develop 1,000 net new units for 2,000 homeless and low-income District residents.  Now, largely because of our successful partnership with DHCD, we are almost 100% of the way toward our goal.

We are proud to partner with the District to produce hundreds of units for residents at 0-30% FMI and thereby contribute to the Mayor’s goals for affordable housing. We currently house 931 adults and 456 children, each of whom receives individualized supportive services, and we have 227 more units in development.

Moreover, we are currently engaged in a Strategic Planning process, and we are considering increasing our portfolio to 2,000 units for the 0-30% FMI population.

Reliability of funding from the District is essential to make that pipeline possible. We would need to know that the funding has been budgeted and that an application process is viable.

We recommend:

  • reinstituting two rounds of Consolidated RFPs a year, or
  • issuing awards on a rolling basis.

In addition, some of our housing is reaching the 15-year mark. Although this is a milestone worth celebrating, those sites (and those of other providers) will need to be redeveloped. Doing so would contribute to the preservation of affordable housing. Fortunately, the Housing Production Trust Fund can be used to keep up with those needs.

During the Budget process, we will be advocating for a significant increase in the baseline for the Housing Production Trust Fund. We thank you for supporting that aspiration in previous years. We believe that given very significant new federal dollars for housing, and with half of a local $552 million surplus available, that aspiration can be fulfilled in FY2022.

Thank you for receiving my testimony. Thank you to the Committee for your ongoing support of affordable housing and homelessness prevention.