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DHCD Auctioning Houses to D.C. Residents

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

The National Low-Income Housing Coalition's 2012 Out of Reach survey mirrors what Bowers is saying. The housing collapse and record foreclosures have pushed former homeowners into rental properties. According to the report, the growth in renters has worsened an already troubling problem – an inadequate supply of affordable housing. The gap between housing costs and typical worker earnings will continue to grow until or unless more affordable housing becomes available.

Bowers and Kelly both agreed that a public-private partnership around the issue is the catalyst for addressing the problem.

"We need to develop public-private partnerships and we need to make the public aware of the various tools we have, such as the Single Family Rehabilitation Program," said Kelly. "There are two tracks that we're pursuing: preservation of existing housing and the creation of new housing. We're going through a process of conducting a very detailed housing needs assessment. But an indicator of the problem that we have is that the D.C. Housing Authority had to close the waiting list with 70,000 people waiting for affordable housing."

"At present, people are on their own. They're doubling up with family and paying 40-50 percent of their income on rent."

The decision by Gray to allocate $100 million to affordable housing indicates the level of importance the mayor has placed on the issue, Kelly said. While the money is a good start, he added, "We're looking to push the envelope."

"With regard to the $100 million, I have a couple of reactions," said Bowers. "It's necessary and it's a down payment on a much greater need. The public sector will have to ensure that the money is used effectively. We have to leverage it and the city council and mayor need to know that."

In addition, Bowers said, those in the private sector need to figure out how to use bank money, and funds from individual investors and foundations "in a catalytic way."

"It's a good step but it's still one step," Bowers said. "When Mayor Gray was on the D.C. Council, it put $75 million a year into the Housing Production Trust Fund. It was supposed to increase every year and was indexed to inflation. He recognized that in order to meet the need we had to have $75-$100 million a year and have it built into the baseline. That is the type of investment we need to make a real dent."

"One hundred million sounds great ... but it's a mixed picture. I applaud the mayor for putting the money there. A one-time infusion can have an impact but we won't fundamentally meet the needs of affordable housing."

The lottery will be held on Saturday, June 1. For additional information call (202) 442-7200 or visit www.dhcd.dc.gov.