Social Housing is a proven model of publicly controlled, permanently affordable, mixed-income housing that pays for itself. This model has been used successfully all over the world. This, plus intentional investment in strong neighborhood public schools and public health infrastructure will lay the foundation for safer and healthier communities.
Washington, DC is facing an acute affordable housing crisis. Today, the average rent for a two bedroom apartment is $3,100 per month or $37,200 per year. This makes Washington, DC one to the top three most expensive places to rent in the United States and has led to the displacement of 20,000 Black residents between 2000-2013. As wages stay stagnant for working class residents, the District’s subsidized housing waitlist has ballooned to tens of thousands of people and has been closed to new applicants since 2013. Meanwhile, between 2002 and 2012 the number of low-cost rental units in D.C. dropped by more than 50% while the number of more expensive units rose by 155%.
The current reality is that private developers control housing policy for the District and its residents. Remarkably, these developers work with local government officials to promote the false narrative that giving away District-owned land and taxpayer money to developers – so that they can build luxury housing that no one can access – is somehow a benefit to the public. The District needs to reverse the severe housing crisis that the developer class has created. Specifically, by spending our public dollars for the public good, not for the benefit of politically connected developers and their investors. We are proposing concrete solutions to deal with the immediate housing crisis.
Invest in Social Housing. The District should invest in the building of a publicly owned and controlled housing option that is deeply affordable to residents at no more than 25% of all income levels. In this model, there is no private developer taking profits from rent payments, which means that all money paid by tenants will be recycled directly back into covering operating costs, maintaining state-of-the-art living standards, and a model that employs the latest green technology that sets a national standard for energy efficiency. Social housing can be both affordable and self-sufficient.
Repair/Rebuild Existing Public Housing Stock. The District should immediately stop the practice of privatizing public housing stock, and instead invest in and repair public housing stock so that all units are safe and habitable. This can be done by combining local money with federal dollars to make all necessary repairs, including retrofitting existing public housing with the latest green technologies. Additionally, the District should pour resources into community institutions including rec centers, after school programming, arts, sports, and job training.
Freeze Public Land Giveaways. Simply put, District officials MUST stop giving away public land to politically connected developers and getting no public benefit in return; All public land giveaways should be immediately frozen and held in a land bank so that the District can leverage it for the creation of Social Housing units.
Fund Permanent Subsidies/End Rapid Re-Housing. The District must immediately end the failed rapid rehousing program, which is currently forcing families into a cycle of eviction and homelessness. Families victimized by this program should immediately be transitioned into long-term subsidies, which can eventually also be utilized to live in social housing units when they are built.
Dedicated Money Through the Housing Production Trust Fund. Trust fund dollars should be prioritized for deeply affordable housing and Co-operative Development projects through the TOPA process.
Stop the Demolition of Affordable Housing through the Zoning Process. The DC Zoning commission must immediately end the practice of approving redevelopment proposals that seek to demolish affordable housing, which has played a major role in exacerbating the affordable housing crisis. Redevelopment Projects that seek to demolish existing affordable housing should not receive zoning approval unless these projects AT A MINIMUM replace the number of affordable units that they propose the demolish. Further, these units must be replaced at their same levels of affordability and their current bedroom configurations.
Expanded Rent Control. Rent Control should be expanded to all new private construction in D.C. Existing loopholes (like voluntary agreements) should be closed.