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Mayor Gray Announces $100 Million Investment in Affordable Housing to Build and Preserve 10,000 Affordable Housing Units

by Prince Of Petworth February 7, 2013 at 1:30 pm 117 Comments

Photo by PoPville flickr user Sager!!!

From a press release:

Mayor Gray Announces $100 Million Investment in Affordable Housing to Build and Preserve 10,000 Affordable Housing Units

As part of his 2013 State of the District address at the Sixth and I Historic Synagogue, Mayor Gray announced that he would expand his commitment to affordable housing in D.C. by spending a portion of the District’s “prosperity dividend.”

“Since coming into office, my administration has completed the construction of nearly 1,500 units of affordable housing and broken ground on an additional 1,700 units. Last September, I announced $35 million in financing to create and preserve additional affordable housing. But we have to do more. And that’s why tonight I’m proposing a major affordable-housing initiative that will invest $100 million in building and preserving 10,000 units of affordable housing. This investment, on top of our existing and other planned affordable housing investments, will go a long way towards ensuring we remain the type of compassionate, inclusive city we want to be.”

In his address, Mayor Gray also announced his intent to provide raises to District employees who have gone years without an increase – some as many as seven years – as well as create the One City Fund, a $15 million investment fund that will allow non-profits to compete openly and transparently for one-year grants of up to $100,000 to help advance key city goals. Additionally, the Mayor announced that he will work with his Education Cabinet to articulate a clear education vision for the District while also tackling procurement reform to streamline the way the District buys goods and services.

Read the full text of the Mayor’s speech here.

  • Anon X

    creating affordable housing doesnt actually do anything, they know that right?

    There will always be affordable housing. Why are we working so hard at attracting a bunch of people who pay less taxes and will probably have to drive further to their low paying jobs. The number of low paying jobs in DC is low, why are we constantly trying to create a larger market for people who cant afford to pay market rent?

    Maybe if we let them move somewhere else, brought in people who pay more in taxes, we could… you know spend more on the homeless and pay teachers more… among other things.

    • home owner

      Agreed. The mayor needs to talk to an economist. Throwing good money after bad won’t improve the situation. Affordable housing only leads to concentrated pockets of crime, and it hurts business in the areas around the affordable housing (unless your business happens to be a check-cashing facility or chicken wings and ribs joint behind bullet-proof glass. What is the policy endpoint here? Giving people a free place to live only exacerbates the problem and is a disincentive for them to work and study hard to improve their lots in life.

      • Anon

        Don’t forget the liquor stores, which seem to be in abundance around the pockets of affordable housing.

        • Anonymous

          Affordable housing is not inherently a bad thing. I lived in an $800 a month apartment near the DC metro for six years. Glad I had the opportunity as I worked for a DC non-profit and needed cheap rent. If you think all DC jobs are high-paying you live in some sort of dream world. Tons of 20-30 somethings working at non-profits or on the hill, and students need low cost housing. Just the kind of folks who eventually make more and buy in the District and pay plenty of taxes.

          I don’t know the details of Mayor Gray’s plan, but affordable housing is not the same as public housing and is not the same as free housing. Montgomery County efforts at encouraging affordable housing in Bethesda and Silver Spring have worked well. It makes sense to think about how we can keep middle class families and early-career professionals in the District.

          • I make near $100K a year with 2 kids. With student loan payments between my wife and myself our net take home is less than $800. We can’t afford a $2300 two bedroom. Affordable needs to mean $1400-1800 two bedrooms for working families.

          • Guest

            Sounds like you’ve volunteered to take on a lot of extra expenses in life. Not exactly a good reason to require subsidized living.

        • Anonymous

          The rich down a lot of liquor too. Make no mistake about it.

          • Anon

            The rich can afford it.

      • Anonymous

        Can we please put to rest this tired old canard that “affordable housing” equals “a free place to live”? Affordable housing takes many forms. Public housing and Section 8–which seem to be everyone’s favorite bogeymen–are two of those forms, but by no means all of them. There are a wide variety of tax credits, funding streams, and inclusionary zoning measures that are used to create and preserve housing that is available to a wide variety of low-to-moderate income levels. I’m not arguing that every last public/affordable housing resident is a saint–certainly there are bad apples, as with everything–but there are plenty of hardworking people whose jobs are adding value to the city/community yet are locking them out of that community because of the low pay.

    • Anonymous

      “The number of low-paying jobs in DC is low”? How many restaurants are there in DC (including quick-grab places, like Pret, Chipotle, etc. etc.)? How many retailers? How many government agencies, universities, hospitals, etc. that employ people in positions like data entry, food services, janitorial services, patient care, front-line human services, and so on? These are all examples of low-paying jobs (especially relative to the high cost of living in this region), and they are everywhere in the District. While I’m sure it’s true that DC (thanks to the federal government and the private-sector industries in its orbit) has a robust share of professional and higher-paying jobs compared to some other metropolitan regions, that doesn’t automatically mean that the raw number of low-paying jobs is low. In fact, the people who are traveling further distances are likely the people who work IN the District but can’t afford to live closer to work (and this applies not only to the lower-end of the income spectrum, but also to moderate-income residents–I commuted from Maryland for some time, and I doubt many of my fellow riders were doing so because they just loooove, in the case of some riders, the twice-a-day, 1hr45min train ride between DC and Perryville.)

      • Anon X

        I dont think having a place to live in close proximity to your house is a right, it is a luxury.

        The presence of low paying jobs doesnt make my claim incorrect.

        • Anonymous

          +1 It IS a luxury.

        • Anonymous

          The “them” in “let them move somewhere else” includes a numerous segment of people whose jobs are essential to helping business, leisure, and other services–that we all take advantage of and probably all take for granted every day–run smoothly in the District. Does everyone have a right to live in a fabulous, granite countertop-filled townhouse around the corner from their job? No. But I think when people are providing important services in our community, we as a community have an interest in helping to ensure that workers aren’t banished to crime-ridden housing or extreme commutes just to find a safe, decent place to live. We also have a self-interest–to think about it another way, if you were a business owner, would you rather your low-wage employees live, say, a 20-30 minute bus or Metro ride away from work, such that it’s highly likely they could get to work on time on a regular basis; or is it better if the “market” forces them, for example, an hour or more away such that employees are constantly coming in late due to traffic snarls and commuter train breakdowns?

          • I completely agree with you. Thank you for explaining this better than I could.

          • Real talk

            If the market forces them farther away and they can’t get to work on time, then they’ll get fired and replaced by someone who will get to work on time. And if the restaurant can’t find anyone who will get to work on time for the low wage they’re willing to pay, then they’ll raise their wages to get better employees. And if they raise their wages, they’ll probably raise their prices. And if they can’t retain their customers because they’re charging too much, then they’ll close down and get replaced by someone who can. That’s how this country works and it shouldn’t change.

          • Anon X

            Pg county is affordable. Most of it is quite nice, easy commute, and safe. Why don’t all these employed folks move there? You can get a 3 br renovated house for 1/2 the cost of living in higher crime areas west of the river.

            Better yet, why don’t all these lower income folks move to Langley park, anacostia, and other places that are perfectly fine and within their current budget. Oh, because the affordable housing crowd thinks that people have a right to be close to whatever it is they want to be close to for a low cost.

            Meanwhile, their meddling in the market is disruptive and magnifies the prices for everyone who Doesbt qualify for affordable housing.

            Everyone wants everything to be above average while paying below average for it. Those people need to revisit “average”.

          • Anonymous

            The invisible hand of the market makes mistakes, and I’m all in favor of government intervention for market failures. But high housing prices are not a market failure.

            It’s been argued that low-wage workers are essential to our city, and need to live in reasonable proximity. But precisely because they are essential, prices cannot push them out of range without producing wage inflation, making the city affordable again.

            Housing subsidies for working people are an ill-conceived foray into a working market. They are inefficient at helping the intended beneficiaries, and therefore a waste of public resources. Better to help low-wage earners through more general means, such as tax credits, and leave “affordable housing” schemes to countries with central planning.

          • Well said.

        • anonymous

          No, the fact that your claim that the number of low paying jobs in DC is low is what makes your claim incorrect.

          • Anon X

            Well, tons of data points support me. but yeah, I guess your anecdotal evidence totally proves me wrong.

        • Anonymous

          This is a silly analysis that betrays a complete failure to understand what a right is and is not. A person living in a section 8 unit who continues to meet eligibility standards does indeed have a right to live in it. Whether we should provide this right, or provide affordable housing as it becomes available nothwithstanding whether there is a right to it, is a question of housing policy. I think it is good policy for a jurisdiction to aim to have housing at various price points so that people who live in the jurisdiction can live in it. Otherwise the higher earners are essentially freeloading by not bearing the full cost of their economic activity. You may think otherwise. If so you should say why rather than just asserting there is no “right” to affordable housing.

          • Anon X

            I was going to respond, but then you said anyone paying market rate and making more money is “freeloading” and you completely lost me.

            I’m all for helping the poor, I just dont understand why some of that help is providing prime real estate for cut rate prices.

            Why dont we also have affordable business leases? Why not affordable starbucks? Affordable cars? Affordable gas? Low income people cant buy as much of ANYTHING as people who make more money.

            I think the state has an obligation to provide them a baseline of healthcare, food, education, clean water, clean air, and a roof over their head SOMEWHERE. I just dont think they should get an expensive ppo, filet mignon, harvard, fiji water, designer bottled air, and a place over the new whole foods to be built at ______ new development in ______ trendy neighborhood.

            You know why? Because its terrible policy. Its terrible policy because it actually makes things more expensive. If we built more affordable housing places that it costs LESS, we’d save the government money, the renters money, and then everyone magically has more money.

            But no, we’re spending tens of millions of dollars to interfere with what could actually be a reasonably efficient market, by injecting this moral right of cheap housing wherever the fuck we want to put cheap housing.

            If you want to intervene in the market, there are better ways to do affordable housing than what DC does. They just plop down affordable housing, often 100% affordable at like 30% average wage, wherever some preacher tells them to build it.

            But, if there was no intervention, poor people actually might be able to pay LESS. Oh, and everyone else might be able to pay less too. The less people spend on housing, the more they can buy at the apple store and at Safeway.

          • Anon X

            and then I responded anyway…

        • sbc

          you can’t say that living near where you work is a luxury and then complain about traffic or the need to invest in more regional public transit.

  • puleeze

    “prosperity dividend”???!! Is this for real?!?! How about the fact that this surplus is the result of squeezing money out of speeders and high taxes on hardworking people who are lucky to have a job?? Aren’t we in a recession, or did I miss something??

    • Anonymous

      No, we are not in a recession. The recession ended almost four years ago.

    • anon

      “Aren’t we in a recession, or did I miss something??”

      LOL, yes, it’s safe to say you missed something.

  • It would be cool if they would create affordable, no frills housing. I’m not asking for 400$ 1brs, but maybe a 1100$ studio? Give me a 1800$ 2br in a reasonably up and coming neighborhood or something. Lure young people who make 50k / year (enough to have extra money to blow on the local economy) and live in VA because they don’t want to pay DC rent.

    • YES. I’m with you. An $1100 studio that’s in an OK neighborhood would be amazing.

      • Anonymous

        And would probably be available absent government meddling in the housing market, like this plan.

      • Studio

        I have a studio apartment going on the market in a month for $1100. Full kitchen,washer/dryer its own central air, etc….

        • anon


          • Trinidad

            It’s a basement unit, in the South western side of Trinidad right next to Gallaudet univ. And 4 blocks north of Hst. Had same Tenant for 7 years and they just bought a place.

    • Not a lot of 18k 2 bedroom apts. in close-in Virginia either.

  • “create the One City Fund, a $15 million investment fund that will allow non-profits to compete openly and transparently for one-year grants of up to $100,000 to help advance key city goals.”

    Nothing possibly could go wrong with this.

    • Anonymous

      Because we can trust the Gray Administration on openness and transparency.

  • Anonymous

    Is the U.S. Attorney still investigating Gray? Will he be indicted, or will be need to upgrade ethics at the ballot box?

  • anonymous

    Providing incentives for impoverished people to stay in the district is the only way politicians get re-elected in this town (e.g., Marion Barry). Making housing affordable does not alleviate the other extraordinarily high costs of living in DC (food, taxes, transportation/gas, utilities) or remedy the social ills attendant to poverty, such as higher crime rates and persistent unemployment on account of low skills. Maybe we can find some cash to throw at job training in thriving industries too?

  • I’d support this if he meant affordable for middle class federal employees and their familier. The gap between luxury apartments and crime ridden squalor is too great in this city.

  • RV

    Meanwhile the schools are still complete and utter shit.

    • anonymous

      Not according to many of the people who send their kids to the schools. I have a number of friends with kids and was quite surprised to hear how satisfied they are with much of the school system – and no, they don’t live in Upper NW.

  • The Dude

    This is great. Georgetown, Palisades, West End and most of upper NW could really use some affordable housing buildings. Surely this is what Gray has in mind, vs. dumping more of it in existing problem areas…

    • *clicks stopwatch* It took longer than I expected for that utterly predictable comment to appear. If you think that most (any?) of this affordable housing is going in west of the Park, you’re sadly mistaken.

      • Anonymous

        You’re right – that is why the original point that other areas should shoulder more of the burden is correct

  • houseintherear

    wow sometimes the comments on this blog make me sick.

    • KenyonDweller


    • Anonymous

      What ever do you mean? I think it’s totally cool to stereotype and rag on people who make less money than me! It makes me feel SO good about myself!

      • Anonymous


    • Matt

      I think you mean all the QUALIFIED EXPERTS on this blog, right?

    • I’m just laugh because they are regular posters on here who log out into Anonymous mode because they don’t have the balls to wear their racism & classism on their sleeve.

      • KenyonDweller

        I was raised by a single mother and grew up in low-income subsidized housing. That was a long time ago, before I became a fat-cat lawyer. But, I can remember enough to know that many of the comments here reflect ignorant and grotesque stereotypes about poor people. This seems to happen every time poverty comes up on this blog. It’s so sad.

      • Phil

        I love how being against affordable housing initiatives on the basis that they’re economically irresponsible is somehow now “racist” or “classist.” Any form of intervention in the housing market is going to backfire more than it helps. We’ve seen it happen in the 20th century with housing projects, now this. The District’s land values are now incredibly high; we are doing a disservice not to maximise the return on it. If anything, affordable housing is worst for the ever-shrinking middle class, because they’re not at the AMI or below the level necessary to qualify but cannot afford either acceptable rent or a decent home price.

        • home owner

          +1. That’s right. So we end up widening the income gap in DC. Remember, every policy decision has unintended consequences, and the unintended consequence of this approach would be a widening gap between rich and poor in the district. The middle class make too much to benefit from this policy, so they would leave. The rich would stay, and the population of the poor would grow. So we have an ever-widening base of poor people, a shrinking middle class, and a stable (minority) of upper middle/upper class.

          Maybe this is an INTENDED consequence to get votes?

  • Anonymous

    So how about that Master Plan for Res. 13 in Hill East which includes 30% affordable housing? The plans are already made, why not move forward?

  • Los

    Not against the idea in principle. I just hope that the homes don’t go to cronies or people with outstanding warrants, drug or alcohol problems. If they go to people that are really committed to better themselves and can use a little help, we all benefit. However, I’m very jaded and I think most of the houses will end up housing a criminal elements that have no motivation to better themselves.

  • Anonymous

    People love to argue that gentrification is bad, but after living here for 8 years, I can definitively say that the city is a better place to live today than it was when I first moved here, and at this pace, it will be even better in another 5-10 years.

  • Anonymous

    what income level qualifies someone for one of these affordable housing units?
    also, what does that mean? do they still pay rent or mortgage? i guess it means if they own it the price to own is not market price?

  • If they are going to spend $100M on affordable housing – they can’t build 10K units. What would be best is to build affordable units and but a covenant in the deed that the property can only appreciate at a very small percentage a year. You will then allow folks like lesserlesserwashington to buy a 2-3br for $1400/month.
    The catch is that when LLW goes to sell, he won’t see astronomical appreciation – but only marginal appreciation – thereby ensuring that this investment in affordable housing is sustained into the future.
    Where should it go? All over the city.
    The city should start a trust and use it to buy housing in any new development that will be affordable in perpetuity.

  • “Affordable Housing” is an enormous waste of public tax dollars and skews the financial fundamentals of the housing market, skewering everyone else.

    There are many places I would prefer to live. Many of them closer to my job. I can’t afford it, so what do I do? I act like an adult and deal with it. I live where I can afford to live. Why isn’t the city stepping in and completely covering or subsidizing my rent?

    And enough with this lame canard about “where will all the people working lower wage service jobs work?”. The answer, like every other city in the nation is, where they can. NYC has hundreds of thouasnds of service jobs, do you think they all live on Park Ave, or within a couple miles of their job?

    The District is tiny. You can stand in the middle and go any cardinal direction and be in a completely different state in less than 6 miles. Just because you can’t, or that starbucks coffee slinger cna’t afford to live in U street, doesn’t mean they have to go all the way to West Virginia to find a place to live.

    Which brings me to the bigger point. The district is a tiny 60 sq/mile piece of land among the ~700 sq/mile DC Metro. DC can spend 10 billion a year on affordable housing and unless VA and MD do to, it won’t do one bit of good. Affordable housing is a regional problem that can only be “solved” regionally.

    These programs are ripe with abuse and waste. I see 23 year old Cornell college grads with nearly unlimited earning potential getting city subsidized condominiums downtown, they qualify for because they are under the income line, but common sense would tell you that is ridiculous because they are 23 and like all 23 year olds don’t make a ton of money. I could go on, but I don’t have the time.

    • Anonymous

      My next-door neighbor still owns an “affordable housing” condo that he bought when he was in his 20s, earning a relatively small salary. For years, he’s rented the condo for considerably more than his condo mortgage, fees, and expenses. He puts that windfall toward the mortgage for his 3,000 sq. ft., 4 BR house here in Woodley Park.

      Some will say, “let’s have tighter rules” or “better enforcement,” but these kinds of programs are inherently vulnerable to abuse. And also inherently inefficient at helping low-income people live. Why not use tax credits to address this problem? Must the DC Government intervene in every market that caters to high-income earners?

    • Anonymous

      or in rent controlled apartments.

  • Park View Pirate

    So does that mean they’re actually going to move forward with the Park-Morton redevelopment? Because anytime I try to contact an offiicials about it, there is complete silence…

  • Anonymous

    I’m assuming every commenter who’s a homeowner and complaining about the waste of tax dollars or the “free-ride” nature of affordable housing doesn’t take the home mortgate interest deduction on their taxes…you know, ’cause they’re above taking handouts or any kind of government benefit.

    • good point…or how many people here have cushy govt (or govt contractor) jobs..of course they’re not living off the system! and i’m sure their dollars are all “hard-earned”. oh wait I forgot downtown DC is a ghost town on fridays (except for bars) because many people are teleworking (aka sitting at home in pajamas) for their govt jobs. Most people working in DC are in some way or another benefiting from uncle sam, so why hate on affordable housing?

      • Anonymous

        OK, so working in a job for the federal government, or for a company that provides goods or services to the federal government = taking money from Uncle Sam in the same way as the recipient of a public housing benefit.

        I think I know how seriously to take you now.

        • well i can only speak for the friends I know who tell me they are rarely busy at their govt gig and are pretty much on cruise control 90% of the time. Stretching out assignments that should take 2 days into 2 weeks just to appear busy…great benefits and job security for not doing much at all. Is it really that different?

          • Anonymous

            Payment for doing a public job poorly vs. taking a public benefit for nothing? Utterly different. If you honestly think they’re the same, then I doubt we’d agree on many moral questions.

    • Anonymous

      Yes, I take the mortgage interest deduction. No, I don’t think it should exist. In any case, I believe economists have concluded that it is the sellers, not buyers, who most benefit from this. Being able to deduct mortgage interest=expanded buying power=higher prices.

  • Marcus Aurelius

    Pretty funny to read so many diatribes against an affordable housing plan when the plan as announced contains no definition of “affordable.” In my experience, “affordable” is often more than many low-level white-collar professionals can afford.

  • A good way to rile up the POP constituents (or at least a good chunk based on the comments I’ve read over the years) is to bring up the dreaded affordable housing. It surely seems to be reviled around these parts!

    I think most people agree that those who hustle the system, or are too lazy to try to find work and are not disabled, and are receiving government assistance for housing should be booted off.

    However, as mentioned by someone else, there are a TON of low-income earners who work in downtown DC or in “revitalized” neighborhoods. The city, and metro, could not sustain having all of these people streaming into the city from far away to work here. Not that they could afford $10 roundtrip on metro anyway.

    I understand that affordable housing programs have their issues, but why are some people so opposed to some sensible affordable housing for low wage WORKERS? Maybe it lowers the value on your shiny rehabbed rowhouse.

    • Anonymous

      Present reality refutes that high prices prevent low-wage workers from living in the city. Yes, more have chosen to live in the suburbs so they can afford more space. Similarly, each of us who live in DC chooses a neighborhood by balancing financial means against desire for convenience. Each of us makes a similar choice in every other purchase — clothes, food, car, vacation, etc.

      I cannot understand — and I am a renter with a modest income — how one justifies public intervention in the housing market for working people. We do not do this in the clothing, food or car markets. Each of these markets has tiers, with goods of different quality and convenience. There are always cheaper housing options in less convenient places.

      I do understand — as a husband and a father — the rising pressure on working families caused by rising housing costs. But this can be addressed in other ways that are more fair and more efficient with public resources. Changing tax rates, deductions and credits could help people much more fairly without all the abuse and unfairness of these housing programs.

  • Anonymous

    The us versus them attitude displayed by many of these commenters is downright shameful and frankly, embarrassing. We all like to condemn commenters for their NIMBY attitudes until it comes to affordable housing; then everyone jumps on the “send them to PG County” bandwagon.

    I am a DC resident and homeowner. I became a DC homeowner because of a federally subsidized housing program that sells townhomes to low and moderate-income earners at below market prices.

    Programs like these are necessary so that someone like me, who does not make a six-figure salary, can still realize their dream of purchasing and living in the District. At the end of the day, I am the one that pays my entire mortgage, and property taxes, and DC income taxes. And guess what? When the day comes that I outgrow this residence and need a new one, I’ll be purchasing a larger market-price home right here in DC. How is a scenario like this not a win-win for everyone? Or should I too be banished to the outskirts of Maryland or Virginia simply because my federal pay isn’t keeping up with market rates and the “haves” can’t stand to be around us “have nots”?

    • I think you’re wrong that this is a NIMBY thing. I think most people don’t like this because of (a) It’s potentially expensive with unclear benefits (b) High corruption / abuse potential and (c) Further distorting a distorted market creates groups of people who benefit, sometimes intentionally, sometimes not. But you can always argue over what group should be benefiting.

      On the top of the distortion beneficiaries list is, as some have observed, the people taking mortgage interest deduction. I’m 100% willing to accept the idea that diversity in incomes (and jobs) will yield a richer (not $), stronger community. The question to me is how to get there.

      Andy2’s post is an interesting idea. Ditto for the program you were in. It’s a distortion, but one that puts “skin in the game” of building a community and from your story gives good results. I would support expanding a renter’s tax credit (to counterweight the federal MID distortions). [Last idea obviously doesn’t help everyone]

      Let’s see what Gray proposes. If it gets beyond some of the negative ideas people expect (based on past observation), I think many people on this blog might be more in favor. Maybe.

      • Anonymous

        If renters got a tax deduction, then every rental property with a mortgage would be subsidized twice. Many economists would say that such renters already share the owner’s benefit in the mortgage interest deduction. By enabling similarly-situated owners to rent for less, the tax subsidy lowers rents in a competitive market. The same principle is at work in the tax subsidy’s inflation of house prices, which in theory divides the value of the deduction between the seller and the buyer.

        • johnv

          That’s 95% wrong. IRS Pub 936 states that a qualified home (for the mortgage interest deduction) is your primary or secondary home. A rental home only creeps into the picture if you’re living there part of the year and renting out part. Or renting a basement out or something. QUite different than what you’re describing. Pub 936: “If you do not use the home long enough [each year], it is considered rental property and not a second home.” and therefore doesn’t qualify.

          So I have no idea what you’re talking about with the rest of this “economic theory” argument.

    • anon

      That is great and all and I’m glad it worked out for you, but I fail to see how it is a “win-win” for everyone? A win for you, sure. But how is you living in DC- instead of someone who does earn a 6 figure salary and pays a market rate for housing (and the income and property taxes that come with it) better for DC? Not trying to be snarky, and I do think that there is a place for affordable housing- from a moral perspective- but I still don’t see how it is a win for the city.

      • I thought the OP was clear: The win-win they were referring to is the scenario in which they buy another house at market rates. Somebody working their way up sounds like a win-win to me. If you buy a bigger house you’ll probably pay for the initial subsidy quickly in taxes (inc. transfer taxes).

        As for the attacks on the OP for “paying for their dream” and entitlement … I see what you’re reacting to, but come on! We’re subsidizing homeowners nationally to the tune of $100 B / year. Who’s entitled? Renters are paying for the dreams of all homeowners — whatever program the OP was in doesn’t even register next to this. [Disclosure – I own and use the MID.] Fix the $100 B inequality and we can move on to talking about subsidized cars. (We do, in fact, subsidize car owners to run their vehicles at below-market rates.)

        • Anonymous

          Some tenants are getting their angry on.

          Seriously, though, any tenant renting a mortgaged property is already benefiting from the mortgage interest deduction. The rental market is competitive; landlords compete with landlords, tenants compete with tenants. If tenants were universally allowed a $1,000 tax deduction for rent, they would not end up close to $1,000 ahead. Why? Because landlords, who charge what the market will bear, would ask for more, and because every other tenant can afford $1,000 more for rent. In theory, the tax benefit would be divided, more or less. Because landlords have more clout in the market — many manage multiple properties — one could argue that renters would end up with substantially less than half the tax credit.

          The mortgage impact has the same impact, in reverse. Every property with deductible mortgage interest can be rented for less, maintaining the same return on the investment. That not every property has deductible mortgage interest means only that the effect is spread across the market.

          The real winners in a new housing tax credit for renters would be the real estate dealers and bankers, whose fees would rise with the added boost to home prices. And with increased house prices, the big losers might be the tenants who hope to become owners.

          • truthiness

            Again, a pure rental PROPERTY CANNOT benefit from the mortgage interest deduction. Nothing you say makes much sense; renters simply do not benefit from MID unless they’re renting out a part of the home when the original homeowner still lives there. But even then, I don’t know why said homeowner would pass on that benefit.

            They might benefit from business related deductions, but that’s entirely different.

        • Anonymous

          Tell me about the subsidy (direct or via tax) for the purchase of a car — analogous to a subsidy for affordable housing. It doesn’t exist.

    • Anonymous

      I’m glad that you “realized [your] dream of purchasing and living in the District.” But what if I have a dream of owning a car? Does that make “necessary” a government program to help be do that at “below market rates”? There are cheaper options in the housing market than a house in DC, and there are cheaper options for transportation than a car. Neither your dream nor mine is a compelling reason for such public programs.

    • Anonymous

      Please explain why it’s my responsibility to fund your dream. I am still unclear on that point. Thanks.

    • Anonymous

      The sense of entitlement in this post staggers the mind. To think you would be “banished” from DC because you cannot afford a house here! Says it all, really.

  • Anonymous

    Army = Good
    Infrastructure = Good
    Social Security = Good
    Universal health care = Good
    Intervening in functioning markets = Bad

    • I’m inclined to agree with everything you’ve said, but I get really uncomfortable when people imply, assume, or assert that housing is a “functioning market”. If I recall correctly there was a spot of bother with regard to housing sometime in the last few years.

      • home owner

        And much of that can be linked to the Clinton-era policy of pushing mortgages to folks who really couldn’t afford them. That policy was trying to force low-income folks into the housing market. If we had just left the market alone, that wouldn’t have happend.

  • biggie

    This is sadly stupid. The math just doesn’t work. $100,000,000 investment to build 10,000 units is only $10,000 per unit and that won’t even build a kitchen.

  • Take this money and make it available as financing loans at low interest – maybe 3% – to everyone who wants to put in a basement apartment and promises to keep it at “workforce affordable” rates.

    Also reform DCRA so these apartments can be built quickly without the usual overwhelming hassles and obstructions. This creates lots of jobs – contractors & laborers – increases property values & tax revenue – offers a green advantage of increased density versus empty unused space – and provides housing.

    • Anonymous

      And how would this be implemented and monitored? And at what cost? That is public money that benefits some people in need but not all. And it will be abused, just like the current schemes are abused, as illustrated in this discussion.

      Much more efficient — i.e. much more effective for the public $ — to give tax deductions or tax credits to lower-income people. If they want to live in a Columbia Heights basement apartment, they can do so. If they want to live in a less convenient and cheaper neighborhood, and use the money for another priority, then they would have that option, too.

      Funny how when it comes to housing — for working people, for godsakes — so many people here turn into central planning apparatchiks, rolling out all sorts of top-down schemes.

      • This is the absolute opposite of a top-down scheme. Easily managed because it would be a loan to someone who already owns a home, so there is collateral.

        Plus it would be self-sustaining as people would be paying back the loans. Giving”poor” people subsidies to live where they couldn’t otherwise afford is the same as giving public tax dollars directly to the private employers who don’t pay their employees enough to live within a reasonable commute.

        • Anonymous

          Wrong. The opposite of a top-down scheme is a tax credit, which allows the person who wants housing to make the best decision, given unique circumstances.

          By comparison, you’re proposal is ALL top-down. Our government top-down develops the loan program, including defining whatever it is you mean by a “reasonable” rent. At some level, the government top-down administers it, including enforcing compliance among thousands of homeowners. Inevitably, all of this requires using public funds for more government employees — funds that could be spent directly by people in need.

          High rents are already motivating some homeowners to rent basements. Those homeowners already have access to home equity loans. And some individuals are already choosing to rent basements. Basement-seeking tenants and tenant-seeking homeowners are already creating tenant-occupied basements as the pace they both desire.

          The central-planner impulse is usually be well-intended, but let’s not presume to think we know what everyone wants. First, not everyone likes basement apartments. (This sounds like the ideal housing solution for two single 20-somethings.) Second, enlisting thousands of individual homeowners in an affordable housing scheme would be a disaster. How long would the homeowner be obligated to rent? Would they get to choose the tenant or would the government administer that, too? Massive abuse would be likely. (Just imagine how many homeowners would seek the money for renovations and then try to rent to someone they know rather than someone truly in need.) It’s so much easier to monitor dozens of medium- to large developers, and look at the abuse problems we have already!

          • Wow – you’re getting all worked up and pretty didactic over just one person’s idea that just happens to be a bit different from traditional, and mostly failed housing schemes.

            Of course people mostly don’t want to live in basement apartments. But having a safe & affordable basement apt. gives a person the opportunity to live somewhere while they work harder to earn more to afford to rent a nicer place.

            But your proposal – to give tax credits to people so they can live where ever they want – just allows businesses to continue paying less than living wages. That just seems nutty to me.

          • Anonymous

            quite didactic to roll out “didactic”

          • Anonymous

            seems that making housing affordable is not your fundamental interest. what you’re really interested in is a higher minimum wage.

  • Anonymous

    I really wish that the Mayor would consultant with an economist on this item.

    Oh wait, that’s right, this has absolutely nothing to do with ACTUALLY doing good, but is rather all about SEEMING to actually do good to the naive liberals that represent the mayor’s base.

    $10,000 per apartment, huh? How is that going to work? I mean, specifically, how do funds get disbursed to “preserve” housing? Where? Who is managing this? What does he mean by “affordable”?

    None of these questions are answered, but that’s really not the point – this is all about sound bites and spending the hard earned money of DC residents with jobs to (a) hand out cash to cronies and (b) pretend to do good.

  • H

    The type of commentary illustrated here rallying against affordable housing remind me why America and American cities never feature in the top 10 in international surveys determining the best places to live in terms of happiness and affordability.

    • Anonymous

      Ah, you are reminded. Convincing argument.

    • Anonymous

      Who in this discussion has opposed affordable housing? No one.

      What many people here have generally opposed is using public resources to subsidize housing for working people in neighborhoods that are expensive relative to their income. There is, after all, plenty of affordable housing in the metro area.

      Several people here have specifically opposed housing subsidies as susceptible to abuse, unfair to people in need who cannot or do not use the benefit, and inefficient in making housing affordable (and therefore wasteful), relative to other approaches. Some of these people have explicitly stated their agreement that low-income people should be enabled to meet rising costs but through other means.

  • Anon X

    The city is investing 100 million to build that many units because they’re leveraging public city dollars, with HUD money, tax incentives, and private money.

    I thought that was obvious?

  • $10,000 per unit eh?

    Are we going with recycled shipping containers or army surplus quonset huts?

  • Anonymous

    Why not return that “prosperity dividend” to the taxpayers of DC?

  • DCLW

    From an LA Times Op/Ed (written by an economist and a developer, fyi), I think it’s applicable to DC and I think it goes to the misconception that affordable housing is only for the poor and has a negative impact of economic growth.

    Los Angeles, a city where 63.1% of residents rent their homes, is in the midst of a crisis in rental housing.

    A recent study by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development laid out the stark facts. Los Angeles rents have increased, after adjusting for inflation, by nearly 30% over the last 20 years. During the same period, renter incomes have decreased by 6%.

    One important part of the problem is an inadequate supply of affordable rental units. Only 37 units are available and affordable for every 100 would-be renters living at the average renter income level.

    Moreover, the foreclosure crisis, which many predicted would relieve pressure on the rental market by increasing the volume of rental units, has instead exacerbated the problem. Families who lost their homes through foreclosure have turned to the rental market and are competing for units, which has made for an even tighter rental market and more upward pressure on rents.

    The effects of the affordability problem extend well beyond those struggling to find places to live. Adequate affordable housing is a key factor for continued growth in a region. Without it, employers can’t hire enough skilled workers, and cities have trouble attracting new businesses…

    The link to the full article is here:http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-bostic-rental-housing-crisis-20130204,0,2724762.story

  • Boricua Princess

    I wanted to write a response earlier, but I didn’t have the time. I’m happy to come back and see that not everyone thinks that those in need of affordable housing need to be cast away on some fantasy island somewhere that isn’t DC. First off, I’m sure at Least half of the people who post comments on this blog are eligible for “affordable housing”. Check out this link to see what rents and income limits are before you judge who needs affordable housing. http://dhcd.dc.gov/service/home-and-lihtc-rent-program-limits. I develop affordable housing for a living and know for a fact that the district has a long way to go in addressing this need. It is really sad that access to safe, decent and affordable housing is something we would want to deny others.

    • Anonymous

      It’s really sad that you would misrepresent views expressed here as wanting “to deny others” affordable housing, or to “cast away” people “in need of affordable housing.” Sad, because when you begin by so falsely characterizing the other side, it’s impossible to have a rational discussion.

      Opposing a government subsidy to working people’s housing is not denying affordable housing. If a working person wants more living space than the budget allows in NW DC, that person can join many others who have decided to have more space for the money in NE, SE, or the Maryland or Virginia suburbs. Many people who have made these moves and lived very happily would strongly resent the notion that they have been “cast away.” Likewise, the many thousands of people who just miss the cutoff for a public housing subsidy would be legitimately upset at the prospect of subsidizing, through their tax dollars, the working person next door.

      If people could just get over their obsession with the cost of housing, and recognize that “affordability” is the gap between income and cost (not cost alone), then perhaps we could move on to a discussion of other approaches, like a plain tax credit, that is more fair and efficient.

  • Anonymous

    No thanks, Mayor Vince.

    Rather than squander the surplus on a boondoggle like this, why don’t you lower taxes. And put a few more police on the streets.

    -DC Voter

  • Petworth Queen Forever

    Looking at these comments and people wonder why they have to worry so much about getting mugged . When you have an elitist attitude towards a group of people that has been displaced in what was a poor neighborhood is the quickest way of getting bashed in this city. Once you all realize that, the quicker we can began to heal as the city and grow together in the future.

    • Eric

      Unbelievable. This person is SERIOUSLY blaming victims of violent economic crimes instead of the scumbag perps. You’re being a liberal caricature.

      • Petworth Queen Forever

        UNBELIEVABLE!!!!! If you missed the point, you will never get it until you have a disgruntle displaced resident act out just because they know you do not want them in what they feel is their neighborhood. Doesn’t make it right but it’s the harsh truth. Personally, I prefer the government helping those who are unable to afford to stay in their neighborhoods instead of them reeking havoc on me for being able to. Cookies anyone?

        • Anonymous

          just curious about how much economics you’ve studied.

          • Petworth Queen Forever

            Hmmmmm, let me see. I guess how many it took to attain a Bachelors in Accounting and a MBA in Finance. However you don’t have to know economics to understand simple social responsibility. It’s just common sense. When one group is being displaced by another group and that other group is quite unsympathetic to the displaced group’s plight; it’s not shocking to see members of the displaced group acting out. You see it throughout history and you are now seeing it on the local level.

      • Anonymous

        reality is a tough thing to face.

    • Anonymous

      “The sooner people realize that objecting to housing subsidies merits a violent attack, the sooner we can heal our divisions.”

      –The Healer

  • anonymous

    Unaffordable housing costs? How about unaffordable daycare costs. D.C. is one of the most expensive cities to work and have children. Mortgage? No problem. Add daycare to that, and now you have a problem. Affordable daycare makes it easier for both parents, or a single parent, to stay in the workforce and easier to pay for housing costs. Now, of course, families with children take a disproportionate share of tax dollars, and having children is a choice, but if we’re discussing helping people with jobs and also keeping the city diverse, the cost of daycare is an issue that deserves attention. Further, having quality daycare programs will improve D.C. schools in and of itself as children start learning and engaging at younger ages.

  • I am surprised no one here has talked about improving metro/metrobus/streetcars as a much more effective antidote here.

    The H St Street car line with connect many more thousands of people to jobs and other public amenities, creating more transit oriented places, and helping to relieve pressure on other transit oriented places. Spend 100 million on transit, you have new transit, spend 100 million on affordable housing, you have further distorted the housing market, and likely picked favorites while your at it.

    • Petworth Queen Forever

      The Street Cars are a waste of money. They are not needed and we can not afford it. Many people have been catching the Metrobus along the H. Street corridor for years. It works just fine. If anything, Metro could just add more bus service to that area if the current is not suffice. Then again, some people are just afraid to catch the Metrobus.


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