David Bowers (Courtesy Photo)

For Black History Month, the AFRO presents a series of articles highlighting important local heroes from the community. This week we sit with David Bowers, a D.C. resident who has been leading the fight for affordable housing for more than 20 years.

Devoting more than 20 years of work to affordable housing for low income residents in the District of Columbia, David Bowers continues to stand at the forefront of community and equitable housing. Bowers is vice president and Mid-Atlantic market leader for Enterprise Community Partners, and a founding member of the Greater Washington chapter of 100 Black Men.

Since Bowers start with Enterprise in 2004, the organization has invested more than $450 million to support affordable housing efforts and has created and preserved more than 7,000 homes in the region. In 2013, Bowers was appointed by the mayor to serve as the chair of the District of Columbia Housing Production Trust Fund Advisory Board.

“My vision for affordable housing is to create a city and a region where the collective we is able to provide enough funding, capital, and policy to provide safe and decent housing that costs no more than a third of people’s income,” Bowers told the AFRO.

As the co-convener of the Greater Washington Housing Leaders Group, Bowers began implementing a new preservation project for lower income households.

“How is that over 20 percent of people living in what could be considered a Black mecca, spend more than half of their income on housing? We’re forcing them to make toxic choices. Do I pay my rent or do I put food on the table? Do I buy medicine or do I pay my bills?” Bowers said.

In addition to his preservation project, Bowser is celebrating the 10 year anniversary of his Faith-Based Development Initiative, a program asking houses of worship to turn their unused land into housing units to serve moderate to low income households and community units such as health clinics, daycares, and business spaces.

Since its inception, the program has produced more than 468 affordable homes and provided more than $15 million in Enterprise grants, loans, and tax credit equity. “Safe and decent housing is critical in the role for stable communities, whether rented or owned. I am far beyond perfect, but I really do believe that we have to start serving equality.” he said.

With land east of the Anacostia River being the last frontier of affordable housing in D.C., Bowers said urgency is needed to do something for the residents that want to stay, but cannot afford to. “Conflict comes when people tend to think small, particularly when the problem seems too big. People see this situation as a problem for people and people tend to be of low economic background,” Bowers said. “The reality is, a lot of people just don’t want poor people around them. If you see 100 people drowning, you don’t say, well, let’s try and save 10. No, you go and try to save 100. That’s the same with affordable housing, everyone needs it.”

Bowers is also a co-founder of the Greater Washington Chapter of 100 Black Men, founded in 1995, which looks to empower and support young Black men. Some of their most prominent programs include the “Saturday Leadership Academy,” which places strong emphasis on mentorship and college preparedness and the “Dollar and Cents Program,” which teaches financial literacy.

Bowers earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia and his Master of Divinity degree from Howard University. He is an ordained minister and the founder of the all-volunteer NO MURDERS DC movement, started in 2000, to help end homicides in the city. “I didn’t grow up in the more tumultuous parts of D.C.,” he said. Bowers said he grew up in Northwest D.C. in Ward 3.

“I lived in a two parent household and there weren’t that many Blacks in my neighborhood, but I was still connected to the people, I was still concerned about my city,” he said. “I still saw the dysfunction and the destruction of my region and I still make sacrifices and challenge the system for a greater D.C.”