DHCD Auctioning Houses to D.C. Residents

Barrington M. Salmon | 4/24/2013, 9 p.m.

Two lucky District residents will become the proud owners of two new homes in a lottery drawing later this spring.

If their names are drawn at the DC Housing Expo on Saturday, June 1, they will be able to buy a completely renovated home for 50 percent off the market value.

"For the past five years we've been hosting the DC Housing Expo at the Washington Convention Center but this is first time we've done this," said Pamela Hillsman Johnson, a senior Community Outreach Specialist with the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD). "Both houses have been fully renovated and there are six community-based organizations which administer our home purchase assistance program. Anyone interested in being a part of the drawing can fill out the application and they'll [the community-based organizations] determine if applicants qualify for a mortgage."

If the applicants are eligible, the Greater Washington Urban League will give them letters of eligibility. The application process closes on Tuesday, April 30.

Johnson said the lottery is a fitting way to celebrate National Homeownership Month throughout the month of June. She added that housing officials will be looking to see how well the lottery is embraced before deciding whether to do it again. The original intent of DHCD was to give away the houses, Johnson said, but once officials realized the onerous tax liabilities the prospective owners would incur, they decided on the lottery option.

DHCD Director Michael Kelly said Washington, D.C. and the region continues to be gripped by a severe affordable housing shortage and said closing that gap is a major part of Mayor Vincent C. Gray's agenda.

"There's a critical need for affordable housing in the city. It was the highest priority at the One City Summit," said Kelly. "The $100 million is seen as a resource to meet this incredible need. One hundred million is a lot of money but the need outstrips that money."

The District and the rest of the Washington metropolitan region, is emblematic of the difficulties moderate and low-income residents face as they try to find affordable housing, said David C. Bowers.

Gentrification and a massive boon to accommodate the influx of tens of thousands of new residents to the District have fueled a housing shortage for middle and lower-income residents. Those with higher incomes have snapped up houses at such a rate that it has exacerbated the shortage which regional officials and public and private partners are struggling to correct.

"Twenty percent of the population in the city and the region are paying 50 percent of their incomes on rent; and the fair market price for rent in this region has increased by 70 percent over the past 10 years," said Bowers, vice president and Washington impact market leader for Enterprise Community Partners, Inc., in Northwest. "It's a severe problem. We've lost affordable housing units in D.C. and Northern Virginia and as we've lost units, rents have increased and incomes have not kept pace."

The situation is further aggravated by the fact that the District of Columbia boasts the highest rents in the country.