Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) joined mayors and CEOs from across the country Jan. 25 to launch Mayors and CEOs for U.S. Housing Investment, a coalition working to address issues of affordable housing and homelessness.

Eleven mayors, including Bowser, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, are members of the coalition, representing nearly 13 million constituents across the United States. The group aims to build public-private partnerships to work for housing solutions and to oppose any federal funding cuts that affect affordable housing.

Mayors and CEOs for U.S. Housing Investment identified four primary policy actions it will initially be advocating for: maximizing funding for existing federal programs it considers successful, issuing new Department of Housing and Urban Development grants, pairing certain HUD programs with Department of Health and Human Services programs and creating a fund for one-time emergency housing assistance.

FILE PHOTO: SPENCER COOK/THE HOYA
Mayor Muriel Bowser (D-D.C.) joined other mayors and business leaders in launching a coalition to promote affordable housing.

“We recognize that by investing in affordable housing, we are investing in safer, stronger communities and building new pathways to the middle class for our most vulnerable residents,” Bowser said in a Jan. 25 news release.

Airbnb, Sutter Health and GHC Housing Partners are the coalition’s three private-sector partners. As businesses in the housing and healthcare sectors, the coalition is relevant to their work.

“Our experience has shown the best solutions are often the result of the public and private sectors working together,” Airbnb co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer Nathan Blecharczyk said in a Jan. 25 news release. “We are particularly proud to be working with this coalition to identify and fund innovative ideas that work.”

Mayors and CEOs for U.S. Housing Investment was initially conceived a year ago by the late San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee (D). His concept then developed into the coalition, which currently represents mayors from both major and medium-sized cities in Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Pennsylvania and D.C.

California has the most cities represented, with the mayors of Los Angeles, Oakland, San Diego, Sacramento and San Francisco — although a new mayor has yet to be elected since Lee’s death in December — in the coalition.

“An affordable place to live should be within reach for everyone in America who dreams of making a better life for themselves their family,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti (D) said in a news release by the group.

In 2017, HUD estimated that on any given night, 553,742 people are experiencing homelessness in the United States. Nearly one-third of these people were in an unsheltered location while experiencing homelessness — a 9 percent increase from 2016.

Bowser has made affordable housing a key issue in her administration.  Bowser has pushed policies such as the Housing Production Trust Fund, which provides financial assistance to projects that preserve or build affordable housing, and announced an effort to invest $500 million in affordable housing in Dec. 2017.

The District is estimated to have one of the highest rates of homelessness in the country. A 2016 survey by the U.S. Conference of Mayors found there are 124.2 homeless people for every 10,000 residents in D.C. — the highest number in a survey of 32 cities.

However, homelessness in D.C. declined 11 percent from 2016 to 2017, according to a 2017 report by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.

Bowser hopes to continue this momentum with Mayors and CEOs for U.S. Housing Investment. Fittingly, the launch event for the coalition was held at the John and Jill Ker Conway Residence in D.C., a permanent residence for formerly homeless veterans and low and moderate-income individuals — a public-private partnership.

“In Washington, D.C., we are committed to ending homelessness and expanding access to safe and affordable housing,” Bowser said in the group’s news release.

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