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D.C. Council Set to OK Largest-Ever Fiscal Budget

The D.C. Council will vote again on the city’s proposed fiscal 2018 budget on Tuesday, June 13, two weeks after the council gave preliminary approval to Mayor Muriel Bower’s proposal with few changes.

Just shy of $14 billion, the proposed budget is the largest in the city’s history to date. The council preserved $100 million in tax cuts for businesses and wealthy homeowners, a controversial measure that passed in 2014. However, significant investments in housing found a place in the budget.

“The approved local budget reflects a lot of work from the council’s 11 committees and input from the council members,” said Council Chairman Phil Mendelson in a statement. “It also reflects our priorities: public education, affordable housing and a diverse city. Throwing more [money] at problems does not necessarily solve them, and spending carefully and effectively does mean each dollar goes further.”

The tentatively approved funds continue the mayor’s annual $100 million investment into the city’s main funding source for development, the District’s Housing Production Trust Fund. The council also approved a separate $10 million to preserve existing affordable housing units promised by Bowser in her March 2017 State of the District Address.

The budget also includes $500,000 for the Office of Tenant Advocate to develop a searchable online database of rent-controlled units in the District.

Though the District saw a 10.5 percent decrease in overall homelessness, the Council provided an extra $12 million to homeless services to mayor’s proposal.

The city’s Local Rent Supplement Program is set to receive $3.4 million to provide at least 200 extra units of affordable housing thorough the subsidies it administers to families who make less than 30 percent of the area median income. The $3 million Bowser earmarked for the Rapid Rehousing program will be used to increase funding for permanent supportive.

A housing coordinator who specializes in domestic violence-related homelessness will also be added to the city staff.

To fund the city’s recently released plan to end youth homelessness by 2022, the budget included funds to increase the number of emergency shelter beds, transitional housing units and permanent supportive housing units. It also includes $500,000 to house youth transitioning out of foster care.

The budget also includes funding for legal protections of renters.

The city is set to hire four housing code and construction code inspectors and double fines for the highest-level housing code violations to address substandard housing conditions in D.C.

Five new staffers are also to be hired by the city’s Office of Human Rights to combat housing discrimination.

Roughly $4.5 million has been approved for a pilot program to provide low-income renters with legal representation in eviction cases. The council returned nearly $770.000 of funding to D.C.’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program that helps tenants pay overdue rent. The mayor’s initial proposal cut the program’s funding by $2.75 million.

After a second vote, the complete budget will take effect Oct. 1.

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Tatyana Hopkins – Washington Informer Contributing Writer

Tatyana Hopkins has always wanted to make the world a better place. Growing up she knew she wanted to be a journalist. To her there were too many issues in the world to pick a career that would force her to just tackle one. The recent Howard University graduate is thankful to have a job and enjoys the thrill she gets from chasing the story, meeting new people and adding new bits of obscure information to her knowledge base. Dubbed with the nickname “Fun Fact” by her friends, Tatyana seems to be full of seemingly “random and useless” facts. Meanwhile, the rising rents in D.C. have driven her to wonder about the length of the adverse possession statute of limitations (15 years?). Despite disliking public speaking, she remembers being scolded for talking in class or for holding up strangers in drawn-out conversations. Her need to understand the world and its various inhabitants frequently lands her in conversations on topics often deemed taboo: politics, religion and money. Tatyana avoided sports in high school she because the thought of a crowd watching her play freaked her out, but found herself studying Arabic, traveling to Egypt and eating a pigeon. She uses social media to scope out meaningful and interesting stories and has been calling attention to fake news on the Internet for years.

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