Advocacy Performance Oversight Hearing: To the Committee on Housing & Executive Administration Fiscal Year 2022 Budget Oversight Hearing DC Housing Authority

Good morning, Chairperson Bonds and members of the Committee. My name is Nechama Masliansky, and my title is Senior SOME Advisor. Thank you for the opportunity to testify at the Fiscal Year 2022 Budget Oversight Hearing for the District of Columbia Housing Authority (DCHA).

SOME (also known as So Others Might Eat) is a 50-year-old non-profit organization that provides comprehensive services—from emergency food to permanent housing-- to thousands of District residents who lack homes or are at risk of homelessness. SOME is an active member of coalitions including CNHED, Fair Budget Coalition, and the Coalition for Nonprofit Equity.

SOME recognized 16 years ago that the city’s lack of affordable housing drives people into homelessness. As a result, we started our Housing Development Initiative, with the goal of developing 1,000 net new units for 2,000 homeless and low-income District residents. To date, we have developed 759 new units that are home to about 1,400 persons, each of whom receives individualized supportive services, and we have 227 units in development. We are considering expanding our effort to 2,000 net new units.

The DCHA has been, and continues to be, an important and valued partner in our Housing Development effort.

Local Rent Supplement Program (LRSP)

We are grateful that the Mayor has proposed increasing the Housing Production Trust Fund by $400M in the FY21 Supplemental and FY22 Budgets, using a welcome infusion of Federal funds. The HPTF provides capital dollars, and they need to be matched carefully with operating subsidies through the LRSP in order to make housing sustainable for persons who cannot afford market rent.

We are fairly confident that the $42M that is proposed to be addedi to Project-based and Sponsor-based LRSP over the FY22-25 Fiscal Plan period will match up sufficiently with the HPTF funding that will be available during that time period to enable 50% of HPTF to support development of units for persons at 0-30% of FMI. 

Budget Support Act (BSA) provisions relating to LRSP

In Subtitle (II)(E), “the Local Rent Supplement Program Enhancement Amendment Act of 2021,” the BSA contains provisions intended to promote timely access to all three forms of LRSP (Project-based, Sponsor-based, and Tenant-based) and to enable the use of unspent funds on capital-gap funding for developments that receive Project-based or Sponsor-based vouchers. The nonprofit development community is in the process of learning how the proposed provisions would work and how DHS, DCHA, and DHCD will implement them.

For us as developers who work closely with private financing organizations (e.g., lending institutions) that need to be certain that LRSP funding will be available at closing and throughout a project’s LRSP period, it is important to see BSA language that is clearer about when in the development process Project-based LRSP will become available to projects.

We are also unclear about why the BSA would treat Sponsor-based funding differently from Project-based.

Another BSA provision is aimed at transparency. We support the goal of enhancing transparency of data, to document which units are being funded and for what income levels. These transparency requirements should perhaps apply to other relevant District agencies in addition to DCHA.

Shallow subsidy for seniors

This program is intended to help approximately 200 single seniors on the DCHA waitlist who have incomes up to $65K. It began as a pilot program in FY20 with funding at $1.4M. It is proposed to be funded in FY22 at only $1.4M. Given the pressures on all renters and especially on seniors, we are interested in learning what the demand has been for this subsidy, to what extent it has been publicized, and whether it should be expanded.

Funding for Public Housing repairs

The Mayor proposes $22M for this purpose in FY22. This is hugely inadequate to renovate and repair thousands of units that are barely habitable: with mold, rodents, deteriorated walls and ceilings, and failing plumbing. We support the Fair Budget Coalition’s recommendation for a minimum, recurring appropriation of $60 million annually for at least ten years, starting with an additional $38M in FY22.

Inclusion of Nonprofit Indirect-Cost Reimbursement in District contracts and grants of $1M or less in FY22 as required by the Nonprofit Fair Compensation Act of 2020

In light of the fact that the Nonprofit Fair Compensation Act ii was passed in 2020 and became law in 2021, Agency directors need to be prepared to implement the law by October 1, 2021, by making sure that relevant staff have been trained in the new requirements to include 

reimbursement of indirect costs in contracts and grants of $1M or less in FY22. They need to have funding in their budgets to implement the law without incurring reduction of services for the public. We ask Council Members, as you do your work reviewing these budgets, to ensure that this Act will be implemented.

Systemic issues: DCHA – Provider Group process

At the March 2021 DCHA Performance Oversight Hearing, we added our voice to providers’ concerns about DCHA’s performance in the areas of moving applications through eligibility to leaseup, moving vouchers and payments in a timely manner, and communicating with applicants and providers.

I am pleased to report that almost immediately after that Hearing, DCHA began working with the providers to address those issues. I am proud to have facilitated that process along with Hammere Gebreyes, Carolyn Punter, and leaders of 15 nonprofit provider organizations.

We have held two formal meetings that have been very constructive and collegial, and we have agreed to meet on a regularly scheduled monthly basis.

We are happy to report DCHA’s addition of staff to the eligibility review process and to report DCHA’s progress toward implementation of a monthly LRSP Dashboard and new eligibility portals.

We have agreed to use future meetings to share progress, trouble-shoot problems, and work jointly on major policy considerations. I look forward to those conversations.