DC recognized for combating homelessness

Research group gives District's Department of Housing and Community Development leadership award.

Credit: Creative Commons Elvert Barnes
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When Mayor Muriel Bowser took office in 2015, 7,298 people were reported homeless. Of that, over 500 people lived on the streets or places not meant for habitation. 

For the past two years, Bowser made an annual $100 million budget commitments to the Housing Production Trust Fund and those efforts were recognized on Tuesday.

The District’s Department of Housing and Community Development was awarded the Robert C. Laston Housing Policy Leadership award, an annual recognition of the innovative ways the public sector is addressing the country’s affordable housing crisis, by the Urban Land Institute.

The ULI, a research group, commended Bowser’s administration in a news release for “a multi-pronged approach to tackle issues facing housing the city’s residents.”

The release specifically recognized the administration’s establishment of a housing trust fund, putting in place a more efficient process for dealing with vacant properties and the creation of a task force whose focus is to maintain existing affordable housing units.

A major part of the mayor’s effort was the formation of the D.C Housing Strike Force, which she charged with creating new ways to sustain affordable housing in the district until 2020. As a result:

  • More than 4,000 affordable rental and homeownership units were produced and preserved across all eight city wards since January 2015.
  • More than 5,300 affordable housing units — capable of housing more than 13,200 residents — are in the pipeline.
  • DHCD will have its entire inventory of vacant property in the disposition process by the end of the year.
  • The loan amount for the Home Purchase Assistance Program (HPAP) was increased by almost 50 percent, and the loan deferral payment was extended for most borrowers.
  • In DHCD’s spring 2016 request for proposals, 13 projects with 1,200-plus affordable housing units were selected for production/preservation. DHCD will announce a new round of chosen projects this fall.

No one policy or program will solve a city’s housing challenges.

In a statement, Bowser said, “We are proud to serve as a national leader on issues related to affordable housing, and going forward, we will continue to make the investments and policies necessary to ensure Washington, D.C., remains affordable for seniors, singles, and families alike.”

While the city was nationally recognized, the fight against homelessness continues to be an ongoing daily problem.

The number of people who were experiencing homelessness in January 2016 increased by 14.4 percent from the year before, according to the Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness.

“No one policy or program will solve a city’s housing challenges,” said Stockton Williams, ULI executive vice president for content and executive director of the ULI Terwilliger Center for Housing.

He continued, “Mayor Muriel Bowser recognizes this and has substantially built on existing efforts and created new initiatives in an ambitious, multifaceted strategy.”

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