FILE PHOTO: SPENCER COOK/THE HOYA
The office of Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) invested $138.5 million in affordable housing programs in the 2017 fiscal year.

Washington, D.C.’s Housing Production Trust Fund invested $138.5 million in affordable housing in the 2017 fiscal year, supporting more than 1,900 housing units across the city.

This year, initiatives funded by the HPTF include acquiring and remodeling affordable housing units in the District, fueled by a $32 million increase in funding from the 2016 fiscal year. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) said housing issues remain a priority for her administration during the 2018 fiscal year.

“As our city continues to grow and prosper, my Administration will remain laser-focused on ensuring residents of all backgrounds and income levels have access to safe and affordable places to live in all eight wards,” Bowser wrote in an Oct. 2 news release.

Since 2015, the District has spent more than $276 million on HPTF financing, preserving more than 3,300 units that house approximately 7,200 residents.

In 2017, some of the largest affordable housing projects included the South Capitol Multifamily Building, which received $25 million for 78 affordable units; Takoma Place in Ward 4, which received $13.71 million to purchase a 105-unit building; and Hilltop Apartments in Ward 7, which received $12.92 million to preserve 18 affordable housing units.

Wards 1, 2 and 6 each received funding for one affordable housing project, while Ward 4 received funding for eight projects, Ward 5 received funding for two, Ward 7 received funding for four and 8 received funding for six.

D.C. Councilmember Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) said the District City Council is committed to funding the HPTF and increasing affordable housing in the District.

“The District is really making enormous efforts to create as much affordable housing as we can, and that’s the highest amount we’ve spent in a long time, so we’re very supportive of that idea,” Evans said.

Evans added that the Council’s plan to address affordable housing moving forward is to continue allotting funds annually to create and explore options for housing all District residents.

“It’s more of the same,” Evans said. “The mayor’s going to put forth $100 million, which she’s committed to doing every year, and to fund and partner with various nonprofits and others to create and rehabilitate affordable housing,” Evans said.

The funding represents a step toward addressing homelessness in the District.

In January, the city’s homelessness rate was the highest in the nation among states, with 124 residents out of every 10,000 experiencing homelessness, according to the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

Claire Zippel, a policy analyst at the District Fiscal Policy Institute, said Bowser’s commitment to dedicating $100 million annually to affordable housing issues also demonstrates a commitment to solving the homelessness crisis in the District.

“The issues of homelessness and lack of affordable housing are integrally linked in the District and in cities across the country. We know that the best solution to homelessness is housing, and also that people who have stable, affordable housing are able to do better, be healthier and experience better well-being throughout all aspects of their lives,” Zippel said in an interview with The Hoya. “Being homeless and lacking affordable housing are linked to a lot of bad outcomes, especially for kids.”

Zippel also said the District has more work to do in terms of addressing housing that is not only more affordable in comparison to other District prices, but also affordable for middle and lower income District residents.

In addition to the Fund, the District must utilize other subsidy sources, such as rental assistance, in order to maximize its impact, Zippel said.

“Our biggest challenge in the deployment of the city’s affordable housing resources is the ability to serve the lowest income residents who are most likely to become homeless. If someone is paying 80 percent of their income for rent, even just a small unexpected expense like losing hours at work can put someone behind on their rent and at risk for eviction and homelessness,” Zippel said.

Evans also said the Council should continue to take a multi-faceted approach to homelessness by focusing on housing as well as funding for mental health and substance abuse issues.

“People are homeless for lots of reasons. They’re homeless because they’re down on their luck. They’re homeless because of substance abuse problems and alcohol problems, mental health problems,” Evans said. “Even if you do have housing for people to live in, sometimes they don’t want to live in housing. There’s a lot of issues that surround homelessness that go way beyond whether or not a unit is affordable.”

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