By James Wright, Special to the AFRO, jwright@afro.com

Because the problem of affordable housing and the District of Columbia’s comprehensive plan around it continue to be major points of contention in most wards, the topic dominated the April 14 D.C. Council at-large forum hosted by the D.C. Federation of Civic Associations at the Masonic Temple on U Street N.W.

The District’s Council at-large seats, one Democratic, the other non-Democratic, are being contested for the June 19 primary and the Nov. 6 general election. D.C. Council members Anita Bonds (D-At Large) and Elissa Silverman (I-At Large) are in the fight for their political lives as more candidates have emerged for the District’s legislative body.

Ambrose Lane Jr., is running for a D.C. Council at-large seat as an independent. (Photo by J.Wright)

Bonds, 71, (D) is facing younger, Black male challengers,  Marcus Goodwin, Aaron Holmes and Jeremiah Lowery in the June 19 Democratic Primary while Silverman (I), is now facing Ward 7 health care activist Ambrose Lane Jr. and University of the District of Columbia professor Rustin Lewis in addition to Dionne Bussey-Reeder.

The Democratic candidates will vie for that party’s nomination June 19, the independent candidates are eligible to be on the ballot for the November 6 general election. Petitions for independent candidates aren’t due to the District’s Board of Elections until Aug. 8.

Candidates and currently serving politicians alike or now tackling all the big issues and no punches were held on the topic of the District’s housing crisis.

The comprehensive plan that deals with future development and land was submitted by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) and is currently being considered by the Council.

Lane said the plan is dubious at best and believes that it should have more resident input and not be dominated by the thoughts and opinions of developers.

“I think that comp plan is unethical,” he said. He said that the language in the comp plan was “ambiguous” and “it moves the needle towards greed.”

Silverman said “affordable housing isn’t addressed in the comp plan” and Bussey-Reeder noted that advisory neighborhood commissioners’ role in zoning is largely ignored in the plan.

Bonds is the chairman of the Committee on Housing and Neighborhood Revitalization. She said the comp plan “needs to go back to the drawing board.”

Concerns were raised that the city is becoming economically segregated with moneyed residents living in the Capitol Hill area and west of Rock Creek Park and those who are poorer residing east of the Anacostia River. Goodwin said that economic mobility is possible when poorer residents have access to good high-paying jobs and Lowery said that developers should be held accountable by District leaders to build housing for the working class.

Holmes said that developers are only interested in building luxury housing and that needs to change.

“The government needs to build affordable housing not public housing,” he said.

Bonds said that more money needs to be put into the Housing Production Trust Fund, a taxpayer-funded instrument that is supposed to create affordable housing in the District. She also said that affordable housing units should be dispersed across the city and not just in its eastern end.