Advocacy Testimony: Proposed FY2020 and FY2021 Department of Housing and Community Development Budget

The following blog text is from testimony submitted by SOME for the Fiscal Year 2020 (FY2020) Supplemental Budget and Fiscal Year 2021 (FY2021) Budget for the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD)


Good morning, Chairperson Bonds, members of the Committee, and staff:

My name is Nechama Masliansky. I am the Senior Advocacy Advisor with SOME, Inc. (also known as So Others Might Eat). Thank you for the opportunity to testify on the Fiscal Year 2020 Supplemental Budget and Fiscal Year 2021 Budget for the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD).

SOME is celebrating its 50th year of providing comprehensive social services to DC residents who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. Our services, even during the Public Health Emergency, include food, clothing, and showers; medical care; career training; and housing with social services for approximately 1,400 persons.

The DHCD has been a key partner in our Housing Development Initiative. SOME realized 15 years ago that the shortage of affordable housing drives people into homelessness; our goal is to develop 1,000 net new units for approximately 2,000 extremely low-income District residents. We are nearly 80% of the way toward achieving our goal. The Housing Production Trust Fund (HPTF) and Project-based and Sponsor-based Local Rent Supplement Program (LSRP) have made it possible for us to develop hundreds of units for persons living at 0-30% of Family Median Income.

Safe, stable, and affordable housing is a social determinant of health. As reported last week in Georgetown University’s Report, “Health Disparities in the Black Community: An Imperative for Racial Equity in the District of Columbia,” numerous inequalities leave African Americans in DC much more vulnerable to death from Covid-19. The report recommends a comprehensive approach to equitable distribution of resources including affordable housing. We cannot continue to force low-income residents to choose every month between paying rent or paying for food, childcare, and medical care.

We urge you to prioritize racial equity in the DC Budget. We respectfully call on you to act, via the FY2020 Supplemental Budget and the FY2021 Budget, to help our District emerge from our current crises with a more equitable city—a city that enables all of its residents to live, and to live in good health and in safe housing they can afford to stay in. Now is not the time to scale back. It is the time to invest and to heal.

  1. Increase the Housing Production Trust Fund (HPTF) to develop and preserve more housing sites.
    It took many years to establish a reasonable baseline for this Fund and by now a $100M baseline is out of date and inadequate. Costs have increased, the city has pent-up demand, and, it is important to recognize, the city has pent-up development capacity.

    • For FY2020, maintain $116M as the HPTF baseline.
    • For FY2021, increase the baseline to a minimum of $120M.
  2. Project/Sponsor-based LRSP.
    This program makes it possible to develop and maintain housing for persons living at 0-30% FMI. To date, throughout the District, there are 1,553 P/S-based LRSP units. An additional 798 are reserved, committed, or under construction. Make it possible to use the statutory amount (50%) of the Trust Fund for extremely low-income (0-30% FMI) residents and to develop Permanent Supportive Housing in DHCD-funded rental properties by:

    • Adding $7.25M to the Project/Sponsor-based LRSP in FY2020
    • Adding at least $7.55M in FY2021 to support $120M of HPTF.
    • Clarifying the change in LRSP funding policy proposed by the Office of the Chief Financial Officer whereby instead of appropriating P/S-based LRSP in the year that Consolidated RFP awards are made, that funding would be appropriated in the year that the awarded projects come on line. We urge the Committee to obtain clarification of what assurances will be available and acceptable to private lending institutions that invest in affordable housing.
  3. Housing Preservation Fund.
    This is the fund that leverages government dollars to obtain 3:1 funding from private sources. We recommend funding the Preservation Fund at $10M in FY21. Doing so will reduce pressure on the HPTF and will enable tenants to purchase their buildings, thus keeping those buildings affordable and keeping them from being transformed into market-rate apartments (or luxury apartments) the tenants will not afford.
  4. Neighborhood-based Activities Program.
    This DHCD program helps residents with issues including Tenant Opportunity to Purchase, housing conditions, tenancy problems, Home Purchase Assistance, and foreclosure prevention assistance, among others.

    • Fund this DHCD program at $10M in FY2020
    • Fund it at $10M in FY2021.