By Micha Green
AFRO D.C. and Digital Editor
District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser began her week with an exciting announcement that is projected to improve the affordable housing crisis in the District. Standing in front of 1125 Spring Road N.W. and beaming with excitement Bowser announced that she will be proposing a hefty affordable housing investment for fiscal year (FY) 2022.
“I want to let you know that in the budget that I send to the Council at the end of the week, it’s not going to be $100 million… it’s not going to be $200 million, it’s not going to be $300 million, we’ll be able to invest $400 million in the housing production trust fund,” the Mayor said as the crowd clapped and cheered,
According to the Mayor, affordable housing has been a top priority. “You know affordable housing is my baby, and as I look around, I’m so grateful for the creativity that everybody has poured into us reaching our goals,” Bowser said.
The Mayor has been busy with housing for about six years.
“We need affordable homes in every part of our city. Are you with me on that? So we’ve been able to invest $600 million dollars in our housing production trust fund- helping us to produce or preserve 10,000 units since 2015. And just since January of 2019, we’ve added 14,600 new homes and we’ll soon add the 185 right here at Spring Flats,” Mayor said while standing in front of the project on Spring Road N.W. “That will bring our total investment since 2015, when you’ve given me the honor of being your mayor, to $1 billion in the housing production trust fund. And this new investment will allow us to produce 3,000 more affordable homes.”
With all this funding, Bowser said that she and her team are working diligently to ensure that the affordable housing is truly reasonably priced and accessible to those far below the average median income (AMI).
“And so on top of this we will, I promise you, be very intentional about the types of housing that will come with these investments. We know especially as the median income has gone up in our city, not all affordable housing is created equally. And so my budget will include enough local rental supplement vouchers to ensure that 50 percent of the homes produced, using the FY-22 Trust Fund dollars, are for residents making between 0 and 30 percent of the median family income- and we know that that’s a big deal,” she said.
Council member Janeese Lewis George (D-Ward 4), echoed the Mayor’s emphasis on truly affordable housing, particularly considering D.C.’s Black community.
“[This project] takes something into account, something that’s very real here- What does affordable mean and what does affordable housing mean for some of us? We know here in the District that the average median income for Black families is very different than that for White families. Black families in the District average median income is $46K, $46,000, a significant difference. So when we talk affordable housing we have to talk that 0-30 percent AMI, and we have to consider Black families and the history of displacement and making sure that people can call this place home,” George said passionately.
In addition to the importance of housing that can actually be constituted as affordable, the Ward 4 Council member explained that she loved several aspects about the new new Spring Gardens project, which sits on the border of Wards 1 and 4.
“And what I love about this project are a few things. One, I love that it has an emphasis on families. Ward 4 is a huge family community and we love our families, and so the fact that you took [them] into account, so many families have the ability to live here, and sustain here and build their families here. And I love that part. The other part I love about this project is that it involves our seniors. Our seniors were a forethought and not an afterthought and that is so important. What did we say? We have 88 units for our seniors. That is amazing and that’s what we want to see continuing to move forward- that our seniors need to be a forethought.”
“Another thought that I really love about this project is that it’s sustainable,” George said. “Let’s talk about sustainability and environmental impact. This project takes that into account. And in addition to being sustainable, it’s near transit. I love the fact that this is affordable housing near transit, and that’s so important and something that we have to emphasize. So I really appreciate how close it is, how sustainable it is to our Petworth neighborhood and many of our amazing bus stops.”
With the excitement behind the achieved housing goals and the Mayor’s proposed large investment to the Council, Bowser also explained that there is still work to be done.
“But there’s more to do, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do with this budget. As much as we’ve done, we still have a long list of projects to get done, and the only thing that’s standing in the way, because our development community- a private community, non profit community, has done what we’ve asked. They’ve been ready with great projects when the dollars are ready. So now, we have to do what we need to do to make sure those ideas and those projects become homes for D.C. residents.”
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