D.C. Council member Vincent Gray has continued to push for new businesses in Wards 7 and 8, seeking to lure them with incentives that include the District purchasing property and leasing it to companies for $1.
A legislative package pushed by the Ward 7 councilman includes the East End Investment Surplus Allocation Act of 2007; East End Grocery & Retail Incentive Program Tax Abatement Act of 2017; and the East End Medical Center Fund and East End Grocery and Retail Incentive Program Establishment Act of 2017.
The latter, if passed, would use a $1 per year lease on city-owned buildings to lure in businesses to Wards 7 and 8, and would address the difficulties residents in those areas have in obtaining healthy food.
“Food deserts and food insecurity on the East End of the District exacts an incredible toll on families, which is why I have committed to introducing legislation that will eliminate this tremendous inequity,” Gray said. “The three bills that I introduced, in addition to the East End Commercial Real Property Tax Rate Reduction Act of 2017, are aimed at bringing increased investment to the East End of D.C. and that includes funding construction of at least four sites in Wards 7 and 8 for large anchor stores that include affordably priced groceries and retail goods.”
If passed, the East End Commercial Real Property Tax Rate Reduction Amendment bill would lower the real property tax rates and special real property tax rates for certain structures located east of the Anacostia River beginning Oct. 1.
That bill has been referred to the Committee on Finance and Revenue.
Additionally, the East End Health Care Desert, Retail Desert, and Food Desert Elimination Act pushed by Gray would require the Department of Health Care Finance to establish a new capital project, the East End Medical Center to be constructed on the Saint Elizabeth’s East Campus.
The bill also “provides for its funding, operation, and maintenance and also establishes a special fund, the East End Medical Center Fund and program and the East End Grocery and Retail Incentive Program,” Gray said.
The fund would be administered by the Department of Health Care Finance, he said.
The third part of Gray’s extensive legislative plan includes the East End Grocery and Retail Incentive Tax Abatement Act, which waives deed recordation, real property, and personal property taxes for eligible sites in Ward 7 and 8.
To qualify for the exemption, a business owner must biannually certify that 50 percent of full-time employees are District residents and the business must be located at Skyland Town Center, Capitol Gateway, East River Park, St. Elizabeths East Campus, or United Medical Center.
A final part of Gray’s idea, includes the East End Surplus Allocation Equitable Investment Act which, if approved, would change the use of additional uncommitted amounts in the unrestricted fund balance of D.C.’s General Fund.
The money would be diverted from pay-as-you-go capital projects to pay-as-you-go capital projects that are supported by the East End Medical Center Fund and additional unspecified pay-as-you-go projects.
“There are major health care disparities within the city, particularly as it pertains to Wards 7 and 8, which lead the city in health care disparities and are in extreme need of additional highly qualified physicians,” Gray said.
Information provided by Gray’s office revealed that in September 2015, the Department of health published a physician and physician assistant workforce study that showed Wards 2 and 5 having the highest numbers of doctors’ offices, followed by Wards 1 and 3.
However, Wards 7 and 8 are medically underserved, despite the presence of United Medical Center, Gray said.
“The legislation is designed to bring retail and health care to the east end of the city. More than three-quarters of all food deserts in D.C. are located in Wards 7 and 8,” he said. “Without additional government incentives, Wards 7 and 8 will continue without the grocery and retail amenities that the vast majority of neighborhoods in the District currently enjoy.”