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$167M: D.C. designates record amount in affordable housing investments

But none of the projects is located in Northwest’s Wards 2 and 3

Tori Stocker/Shutterstock

During the fiscal year that ended on Sept. 30, the District allocated the most money it has ever put toward affordable housing projects, Mayor Muriel Bowser’s administration said on Monday. Officials lined up $167.6 million in public financing across 25 projects in fiscal year 2018. That tally represents over 1,600 affordable housing units to serve about 3,600 people.

The projects include both new construction and preservation of existing units in many areas of the District. But none is located in affluent Wards 2 and 3, in Northwest, which historically have not seen much below-market housing created as compared to neighborhoods east of Rock Creek Park. As experts have noted, zoning restrictions, pushback from residents, and construction costs are among the factors that have likely driven this uneven distribution of affordable housing, with less than one percent of recent affordable units created in Ward 3.

Still, the $167.6 million figure is a 21 percent increase over the amount of affordable housing financing that D.C. designated for projects during the prior fiscal year: $138.6 million. And it is “substantially” more than the $106.9 million and $58.6 million that city officials put toward projects in fiscal years 2016 and 2015, respectively, per the Bowser administration.

The money will come out of the District’s main affordable housing fund, called the Housing Production Trust Fund (HPTF). Bankrolled by dedicated revenue from deed and recordation taxes as well as one-time budget appropriations, the HPTF has received $100 million a year since Bowser became mayor in calendar year 2015. But critics have said the fund is under-financed given the need for more affordable housing as D.C. grows in population. The D.C. Auditor has also found that officials mismanaged the HPTF from calendar year 2001 to 2016.

On Monday, Bowser and other officials commemorated the record $167.6 million allocation by breaking ground on a new project at Delta Towers, a 149-unit community in Trinidad that will be redeveloped into 179 units for seniors, with help from $23.3 million in HPTF dollars. The units will be available for people who earn up to 30 percent of the area median income (AMI), now about $35,000 a year for a family of four. The development team includes the Delta Housing Corporation of D.C., Dantes Partners, and Gilbane Development Company.

Nine of the 25 projects financed last fiscal year will be developed in partnership with tenant associations through the District’s Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA). The 1980 law provides renters the right to acquire their homes when landlords prepare to sell or demolish them, and HPTF dollars are often a critical bridge for fully financing TOPA deals.

Of the 25 projects, one is located in Ward 1, seven are located in Ward 4, two are located in Ward 5 (including Delta Towers), three are located in Ward 6, eight are located in Ward 7, and four are located in Ward 8. Most of the HPTF funding will go toward projects that will accommodate families who earn up to 50 percent of the AMI: $59,000 for a family of four.