While those with lower incomes continue to cope with skyrocketing rents and gentrification, Washington, D.C. continues to struggle to ease issues like displacement and a limited number of public housing units. With data from a recent report from the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute, DCist reported that 78 percent of the public housing projects in the District need major renovations, such as new heating and cooling systems, roofs, and more. With over 6,500 public housing units in need of work, that totals to a cost estimated to be $1.3 billion in renovations. To put that in perspective, in 2015, the D.C. Housing Authority was only given $14 million for capital improvements.
To understand who is most in need of public housing, the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute's report states that 55 percent of all heads of households, or 4,000 households, in need of public housing are seniors and those with disabilities. One-fourth of all of the public housing units, or 14 of the 40 public housing properties, are dedicated solely for seniors and those with disabilities. 35 percent of households in D.C.'s public housing, or over 2,500 families, are those with children. Some of the public housing properties in Washington, D.C. that are slated for renovations have either dealt with persistent challenges, have been stalled, or are simply taking longer than expected. More so, some buildings are too deteriorated to fix. With redevelopment, though, there are risks. The report states that residents can be displaced from their community during the process and even possibly risk losing affordable housing and maybe never be able to return.
Not only does the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute's report ask for the necessary renovations, the report asks for the renovations to be done right. To help the over 7,300 families with low incomes in the District, the report offers solutions. First, the right to return should be formalized and ensured. The redeveloped buildings should also be able to meet the needs of the residents, needs like having enough bedrooms or features for those with disabilities. Clear communication is also key. Residents should understand that they have the right to return and when they can return. Finally, there needs to be fewer barriers when it comes to allowing residents to return. These barriers can include screening residents before their move in. The D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute further suggests redeveloping large properties in phases or at least building some units before demolishing a property.
If interested in learning more about what information the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute's report expounds on, you can find the document below.