New Insights Into Housing (In)security for DC’s Lowest-Income Residents

July 24, 2014

Nobody who lives in the District of Columbia — or follows housing issues — needs to be told that rents are too damn high here. Nor that they consume an inordinate portion of low-income residents’ budgets.

A just-released study by the Urban Institute is nonetheless newsworthy because it provides many and diverse figures on our affordable housing situation, along with details on our homeless population and its needs — met and unmet.

The full study covers not only the District, but other jurisdictions in the Washington metro area. So we get comprehensive figures and interesting opportunities for comparisons.

As is always the case, however, the figures for the District understate affordability problems because they’re based on the median income for the entire area.

For the 2009-11 period covered by the housing portion of the study, that was $106,100 for a family of four. By way of rough comparison, the median income for four-person D.C. families was $84,400 last year.

But we’ve got to go with what we’ve got. So here are a few of the many things one can extract about what the study labels housing security in the District. As you’ll see, it might more appropriately be labeled housing insecurity for the lowest-income residents.

Housing Burdens

The Urban Institute, like most analysts, uses the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s affordability measures.

HUD sets 30% of household income as the affordability cut-off. A household that pays more is said to have a housing-cost burden. A household that pays more than half its income has a severe housing-cost burden.

Slightly more than half of all District households were, to some degree, cost-burdened — and 28% severely so. But housing-cost burdens were vastly more common for the District’s 63,700 or so extremely low-income households, i.e., those with incomes at or below 30% of the area median.

All but 16% of them paid more than 30% of their income for housing — generally rent, plus basic utilities, though 18% were classified as homeowners.

And nearly two-thirds (66%) had a severe housing-cost burden. This is nearly three times greater than the percent for very low-income households, i.e., those in the next income tier.

Rental Housing Availability

The rental housing market was — and still is — extremely tight. Of the total rent units the Urban Institute identified, only 8% were vacant during the 2009-11 period.

So the old law of supply and demand helps explain the housing-cost burdens for lower-income residents, as well as the cost burdens for some much better-off households.

Only 26% of the units rented for less than $800 a month — roughly what an extremely low-income family of four could afford.

But the story is more complicated. About a third of these units were occupied by higher-income households. And only 0.9% of them were vacant.

So the rental housing market was shy 22,100 units that extremely low-income families could have lived in without a cost burden.

More units affordable for very low-income households were occupied by those with higher incomes. But because the District has more such units — and because more were vacant — the Urban Institute finds no shortage.

Subsidized Housing

In 2012, HUD subsidized roughly 33,900 housing units in the District. Housing Choice (formerly Section 8) vouchers accounted for 41% — some of them vouchers awarded to developers so they could charge affordable rents and some given directly to eligible households, which could then rent on the open market.

Public housing accounted for an additional 25% of the affordable units. Subsidies for the remaining 11,600 units came from a mix of programs. It’s not clear that all these units were affordable for the District’s lowest-income households.

What is clear is that there were far more extremely-low income households than HUD-subsidized units — and that the District’s own voucher program fell far short of closing the gap.

Looking only at renter households, the Urban Institute reports 43 subsidized units for every 100 extremely low-income households during the 2009-11 period. This, recall, is before HUD’s budget got hit by sequestration.

What’s Missing

As informative — and depressing — as all these numbers are, they tell only part of the story. We need also to consider where the affordable units were.

As the Urban Institute says, “they may not be in neighborhoods of opportunity that were transit accessible, close to jobs, or had amenities like grocery stores.” For the District, this is probably more apt now as gentrification has spread.

We need also to consider whether the affordable units were livable. The recent Washington Post exposé of conditions at Park Southern tells us that some surely weren’t. Leaks, mold, rotting dead birds on the stairwell, etc.

Not a unique case, by any means, as a recent NPR story indicates.

What Now?

It would be nice to end this long post with a policy solution. The best I can do isn’t good enough.

Clearly, as the DC Fiscal Policy Institute says, we need to invest more in affordable housing. Like the Urban Institute, it also says we should increase the total number of housing units, since this could relieve the demand pressures that are driving up costs.

The”we” here ought to be the federal government, as well as our local government and private sources. But it almost surely won’t be any time soon — even if the House doesn’t altogether get its way on what the HUD budget should be.

We need also to help extremely and very low-income households join the higher income tiers. An obviously large and varied agenda here.

 


Benefits Boost for DC TANF Families Would Halt Value Loss, But Not Give Them Enough for Basic Needs

September 3, 2013

Here’s a modest, overdue reform that may finally get some legislative action — an increase in the extraordinarily low cash benefits for families in the District of Columbia’s TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) program.

A bill introduced by DC Councilmembers Jim Graham and Marion Barry would give the benefits an initial boost and then keep them from losing value due to inflation, as they do now.

The initial boost would be small — 15%, plus whatever the CPI-U (the consumer price index most commonly used for inflation adjustments) indicates the cost-of-living increase for the first year should be. The same COLA would then apply in following years.

Benefits haven’t been increased for five years now. And earlier increases weren’t enough to keep them at the same already-low level below the federal poverty line.

So even families whose benefits haven’t been deliberately cut have less, in real dollars, than they would have had in 1990, the year before COLAs were eliminated.

If the COLA had been consistently in force, a family of three would be eligible for a maximum of about $731 a month, instead of $428, assuming no other increases during the last 13 years.

This would put the family at about 45% of the federal poverty line. It’s instead at 26.3%, as the DC Fiscal Policy Institute’s graph of the downward slide shows.

The Graham-Barry bill wouldn’t make up for the full purchasing power lost. DCFPI estimates the maximum for the family of three at $492 a month — presumably if the bill were swiftly passed and signed. Which it probably won’t be.

What will happen almost immediately is a benefits cut for families who’ve participated in TANF for more than five years. Those who were over this lifetime limit the Council agreed to in late 2010 will get a second cut in October.

A family of three will then receive, at most, $257 a month — unless it belongs to one of the groups for whom the time limit will be suspended.

TANF benefits are already absurdly low, even for families still under the time limit. Consider, for example, that the rent on a modest two-bedroom apartment would cost our three-person family more than three times its entire maximum benefit.

Well, that apartment’s obviously not in the family’s budget. And I doubt it will be.

The DC Department of Human Services seems to believe otherwise, since it’s still banking heavily on rapid re-housing to solve the family homelessness crisis — and more specifically, to get families out of (or keep them out of) the DC General shelter.

Most of them are in the TANF program — or assumed eligible. They’re likely to have, at most, a year of subsidized housing before they have to pick up the full costs of rent.

Possible for those who’ve suffered a temporary setback. Unlikely, I think. for the many headed by parents who have significant barriers to employment — let alone employment at a wage that would make an apartment affordable.

For that, the parent of our three-person TANF family would have to land a job paying $56,760 next year — more than three times the local minimum wage.

Meanwhile, all TANF families — and many D.C. residents who aren’t in the program — will lose a portion of their SNAP (food stamp) benefits in November because of decisions Congress has already made.

Roughly 144,000 residents — 22% of the District’s population — will have to stretch their very low benefits even further, according to estimates by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

The loss for our family of three will be $29 a month — or about 45% of the increase it would get under the Graham-Barry bill.

In short, the proposal is certainly better than letting the District’s TANF benefits slide further and further below what families need for basic living costs.

But it won’t give them even the support they had when the program was created. They’ll still, in many cases, be in what DCFPI policy analyst Kate Coventry terms “a state of constant crisis.”

“Very difficult for parents to fully focus on job preparation activities” in such circumstances, she adds.

Even a considerably larger TANF boost would still leave them at high risk of homelessness — if they’re not homeless already — because a big part of that “constant crisis” is the woeful shortage of housing that’s affordable for the lowest-income families here.

Also the woeful shortage of long-term housing vouchers that would make more housing affordable.

The Graham-Barry bill would still, as I said, be a step in the right direction. I’d like to see a bigger step when/if the Council decides to act on it.

But obviously the problems facing poor families in the District (and elsewhere) are bigger than any one policy change can resolve.


Homelessness in America: Progress, Stasis, Backsliding and Forewarnings

May 6, 2013

The National Alliance to End Homelessness recently issued its third report on homelessness, both nationwide and in each state and the District of Columbia.

As I’ve said before, NAEH relies mainly, as it must, on federal government sources. For homelessness itself, this means the limited and not altogether reliable point-in-time counts that recipients of homeless assistance grants report to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

That said, it seems reasonable to assume that the methods recipients use generally don’t change much from one year to the next. So the percent changes NAEH reports are probably fairly accurate.

What we see overall are continuing trends — not only for homelessness itself, but for factors that indicate high risks of homelessness.

Homelessness Nationwide

The total number of literally homeless people dropped by 0.4% last year — such a small decrease as to represent more or less a steady state. All told, 633,782 people were counted as homeless.

Decreases for veterans and individuals classified as chronically homeless were much larger — 7.2% and 6.8% respectively.

The number of homeless families remained virtually the same — 77,157, as compared to 77,186 in 2011. However, the rate of family homelessness rose in 27 states and the District.

And the number of homeless people in families rose by 1.4% to 239,403. NAEH translates this into an estimated 3,251 more homeless children who were with an adult.

Over the longer term, homelessness for all the individual populations counted has trended down. We see a few blips up from one year to the next, but lower figures for all since 2005, when HUD standardized point-in-time data collections.

On a less cheery note, 38.4% of the homeless people counted last year — 243,627 — had no form of shelter or housing at all, except perhaps a car, an abandoned building or some other indoor place “not meant for human habitation.”

This is virtually the same number as were counted in 2011.

The decreases in both chronic and veteran homelessness clearly reflect the priority that communities have placed on them in response to direction from HUD and, more recently, targeted funding from the Veterans Administration.

Most permanent supportive housing is for chronically homeless individuals, including veterans. Last year, there were more PSH beds than beds in emergency shelters or transitional housing — a time-limited type of housing that also includes services.

Homelessness Risk Factors

The risk factors NAEH reports fall into two related categories — income and housing costs.

On the income side, the official unemployment rate was lower in 2011 than in 2010 — down to a still high 8.9%.

This is a limited indicator, however, since it doesn’t include people employed part-time who wanted — and, in some cases, used to have — full-time work. Nor does it include people who didn’t look for work because it seemed futile.

The median household income was a bit lower in 2011 and the official poverty rate 0.6% higher, pushing the number of poor adults and children up to more than 48.4 million.

Some of them were undoubtedly beyond the risk stage.

On the housing cost side, fair market rents increased in 38 states. The nationwide FMR for a modest two-bedroom apartment, plus basic utilities rose 1.5%, making for a five-year increase of 15.1%.

More than 6.5 million households spent more than half their income for rent — 5.5% more than in 2010. And the bottom fifth on the income scale spent, on average, a mind-boggling 87% of their income.

Well over 7.4 million people in poor households were living doubled-up with friends or family members. This represents a 9.4% increase over 2010.

HUD reports tell us that doubling up is a major warning sign for future homelessness. In 2011, nearly 32% of people admitted to a shelter had been staying with friends or family immediately before.

The policy implications here seem blatantly obvious. Putting people back to work — and to work for the first time — would help reduce homelessness if the jobs paid a decent wage.

But we need much greater investments in affordable housing too — more support for construction and preservation, more funds for public housing operations and maintenance and considerably more for housing vouchers.

We see marked downturns in the rates of chronically homeless individuals and veterans. They show what could happen if our government got equally serious about the rest of the homeless population.


Next Round in DC’s Affordable Housing Battle

October 29, 2012

An enlightening — and at times, disturbing — hearing last Friday on the long-term survival of the Local Rent Supplement Program, the District of Columbia’s locally-funded housing voucher program.

LRSP has been a key part of the District’s housing strategy since 2007. Over time, it’s enabled about 1,900 D.C. households to have a roof over their heads and enough money left over after rent to pay for other basic needs.

So why, at this point, a hearing on whether and how it should survive?

Because Mayor Gray apparently thinks the District shouldn’t have its own voucher program, notwithstanding the chronic underfunding of the federal equivalent — now known as the Housing Choice Vouchers program.

At the very least, he objects to the tenant-based vouchers, i.e., those that help households pay market-rate rents.

For two years now, his budgets have proposed letting these vouchers expire when the current beneficiaries no longer need (or qualify) for them, rather than passing them on to households on the inordinately long housing assistance waiting list.

The DC Council has twice rejected this plan, though it’s agreed (reluctantly) to fund currently-issued vouchers with funds taken out of the Housing Production Trust Fund.

A sort of robbing Peter to pay Paul, since the Trust Fund is the main source of local funding to shore up the District’s shrinking stock of affordable housing — especially housing that low-income residents can afford.

Hence concerns about the sustainability of LRSP.

But the immediate occasion for the hearing was an emergency bill sponsored by Councilmember Michael Brown, who chairs the committee that oversees the program.

The “emergency” is that the DC Housing Authority, under instructions from the Mayor’s budget office, is holding onto 17 fully-funded vouchers that have returned to the agency since January 2012.

That may not seem like a large number, though every one of those vouchers would give a homeless D.C. family a safe, stable place to live.

The real issue is that the policy the Mayor has imposed, Council votes notwithstanding, seems to reflect his determination to let the tenant-based part of LRSP die — except perhaps if vouchers went only to very low-income seniors and people with severe disabilities.

This was patently evident in the testimony delivered by Arianna Quinones from the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development Health and Human Services and, even more, in the explanatory remarks of the administration’s lead witness, Chief of Staff and Budget Director Eric Goulet.

LRSP is “well-intended, but outdated,” Quinones said. The Mayor looks to his Comprehensive Housing Strategy Task Force to come up with a “more contemporary version,” said Goulet.

The Mayor’s priorities, per Goulet, are more affordable housing production and “self-sufficiency,” i.e., initiatives that connect people to available jobs in the District and to training and education programs that will qualify them for these jobs.

No one testifying had any problems with these goals. But no one testifying, except the administration’s witnesses, thought they’d substitute for the tenant-based vouchers.

Three big reasons.

First, the District has an affordable housing shortage far greater than new development can meet within the lifetime of the some 67,000 households on the waiting list — let alone those who never bothered to apply.

Second, the notion that most very low-income residents just need some training to get jobs that pay enough to make market-rate rents affordable is pie in the sky — uncomfortably like what we’re hearing from the Romney-Ryan team.

Consider that the standard for affordability is 30% of income. That would make a modest two-bedroom apartment in the District affordable for a household with earnings totaling at least $60,240 a year.

This is only a few thousand less than last year’s median income for all District households and about a third more than the median for those the Census Bureau counted as black.

It’s the main reason that nearly two-thirds of the District’s low-income households pay more than half their income for housing — that and the fact they can’t get housing vouchers.

The majority of these households have at least one working member now. What program, pray tell, will boost their income so much as to make vouchers unnecessary?

Lastly, a point made by several hearing witnesses — and most tellingly by LaJuann Brooks, a formerly homeless mother and now a gainfully-employed LRSP voucher holder.

“It’s nearly impossible to succeed … without safe, stable, affordable housing,” she said, crediting the voucher for her “segue out of poverty” and back into steady, full-time employment.

As her story shows, even a job paying well over the minimum wage doesn’t necessarily mean a parent can provide a reasonably decent standard of living for her family without any housing assistance — not, at least,  in a high-cost city like D.C.

I find it hard to believe Mayor Gray doesn’t understand any of this. More likely, as I’ve remarked before, it’s just not something he cares about enough to rethink priorities.


What Lies Behind the Plan to Close DC’s Housing Assistance Waiting List?

October 9, 2012

A small piece of news buried deep in the avalanche of last week’s debate commentary: The DC Housing Authority says it may close its waiting list.

In other words, it will stop adding names to its registry of low-income people who’ve asked for, but haven’t gotten admission to public housing or a voucher that subsidizes the costs of market-based rents.

DCHA has more than 8,000 public housing units and some 12,000* vouchers — most, though not all of them issued.

More than 67,000 households are on the waiting list. So it’s pretty clear that most of them will stay there until DCHA decides they’re not eligible any more, takes them off the list because they don’t communicate otherwise — or die of old age.

I’m not kidding about this last. A local homeless woman interviewed a few years ago said she knew people who’d signed up for housing assistance when they were young and were grandparents now, still waiting.

DCHA says it’s a waste of resources to maintain a waiting list that’s so unrealistically long. Also that it has to “increase transparency, … manage expectations, … and increase choice.” Choice apparently of something it can’t provide.

The Director of Bread for the City’s legal clinic says it should keep the list open to demonstrate “the crushing need for affordable housing in this city.”

It’s certainly true that the waiting list has often been cited by advocates for more local affordable housing funding. Problem is that demonstrating need doesn’t seem to be getting us anywhere close to where we need to be.

On the contrary. The Gray administration seems to want to get out of the affordable housing business.

I’ve thought this ever since the Mayor’s first budget covered the costs of locally-funded housing vouchers in current use by shifting money out of the Housing Production Trust Fund — the District’s main source of public funding for affordable housing construction, renovation and preservation.

Thought it again this year, when he tried to make a further cut in the Production Trust Fund and to let the Local Rent Supplement Program, i.e., the source of locally-funded vouchers, wither away — just as he had in 2011.

An unnamed affordable housing advocate has arrived at a similar conclusion.

The Gray administration, s/he told Washington City Paper reporter Aaron Wiener, “doesn’t believe it should fund long-term affordable housing.” It’s decided to tackle the affordable housing shortage by increasing income instead.

It’s absurd to think — and I doubt the Mayor does — that his strategies for growing the economy and preparing residents to fill the jobs it creates can boost the incomes of most of those on the waiting list so much that they can afford the very high costs of housing here.

He nevertheless has injected a “demand side” component into the deliberations of his Comprehensive Housing Strategy Task Force and appointed members who will shape its recommendations accordingly.

In other words, he’s looking for solutions that will reduce need at least as much as increase supply — preferably more.

Perhaps also, in some manner, redefine need. The Housing Authority’s executive director, for example, says she’s working on initiatives that will persuade low-income people to give up their subsidies, notwithstanding their fears of illness, job losses, etc.

Surely no one would quarrel with strategies to improve the financial circumstances of the District’s low-income population.

And no one, I hope, would underestimate the affordable housing problems the Gray administration faces — some inherited, some of its own making and most magnified by the cumulative impacts of inadequate federal support.

But it’s hard not to feel that the Mayor’s much more interested in building a high-tech, green economy — and making the city a congenial living place for the high-earning taxpayers it will employ — than in addressing the struggles of the folks on the waiting list.

His policies didn’t create the inordinately long housing assistance waiting list. But they will contribute to its growth — if DCHA doesn’t close it.

* This number represents only vouchers households can take into the rental market. DCHA also issues vouchers to developers, nonprofit housing operators and other landlords, which they then attach to specific housing units.


Thousands More DC Residents Could Become Homeless

February 9, 2012

The state of homelessness in the District, as reported by the National Alliance to End Homelessness, has two parts. I’ve already reviewed the recent trends in homelessness. Here, as promised, are some key trends that indicate near-term risks of future homeless.

NAEH deals with eight risk factors in all — four that it classifies as economic and four as demographic. As with homelessness rates, it reports both nationwide and state-level figures. These indicate increases and decreases in risk between 2009 and 2010.

For the nation as a whole, all but one of the economic indicators spell more trouble ahead, as do two of the demographic indicators.

What’s surprising — at least to me — is that some key District indicators trend down. The magnitude of some of the changes is also surprising.

But, of course, the level of risk matters more than any one-year change. And for some risks, the District’s levels are very high indeed.

Here are examples.

Severe Housing Cost Burdens

As with other analyses, a “severe housing cost burden” means that rent or mortgage payments consume at least 50% of a household’s income.

Such a burden is obviously a high risk for homelessness because any adverse impact on income — job loss, injury, spike in utility costs, etc. — can mean not enough left for rent.

NAEH focuses solely on “poor renter households,” i.e., those with incomes at or below the federal poverty line. In 2010, 14.28% fewer District households in this group reportedly struggled with severe housing cost burdens.

But that left 76.8% of them — somewhat over 17,000 poor households — with half or less of their income for anything but rent.

Unemployment

The unemployment rate in the District rose to an annual average of 9.9% in 2010 — 3.13% higher than in 2009. It’s ticked up now to 10.4%.

But the unemployment rate is just the tip of the risk iceberg because it reflects only jobless people who reported they’d actively looked for work in the last four weeks.

What we know then is that there were 32,963 jobless job seekers in the District in 2010.

No way of knowing how many had given up looking or decided it was futile from the get-go. But we need to bear them in mind when we think about the level of risk.

Average Income of the Working Poor

Here again, NAEH focuses on people in households at or below the federal poverty line. They’re counted as workers if they were employed at least 27 weeks — the usual Bureau of Labor Statistics standard.

Adjusting for inflation, poor working people in the U.S. earned, on average, slightly more in 2010 than in 2009. But those who lived in the District, earned 13.2% less — an average of just $6,937 for the year.

This is less than the average for the working poor in any state — and less than half the 2010 fair market rent for a one-bedroom unit in the D.C. area.

Living Doubled Up

People are at extraordinary risk of homelessness when they’re doubled up, i.e., living with friends or family because they can’t afford a place of their own.

NAEH focuses on those at the bottom of the income scale — in this case at or below 135% of the federal poverty line. It calculates the risk that they’ll become homeless within a year at 1 in 12.

In 2010, it reports, the number of low-income people in the District who were living doubled up dropped by 21.37% — from 19,950 to 15,686.

Percentages went up in all but 10 states, making for a nationwide increase of 12.64%.

Why is the District an outlier here?

One answer, if only partial, could be that the risk became a reality for a fair number of those who’d been doubled up in 2009. Recall that most homelessness rates rose significantly in the District, far more than nationwide.

What the Risk Factors Mean

All the risk factors boil down to one simple thing: Too many people can’t afford a place to live.

They could if the District offered more housing in a price range low-income people can afford — and more vouchers to make higher-cost housing affordable for them.

The Coalition for Nonprofit Housing and Economic Development has an agenda to get the District back on track in this area.

On the other hand, more people could afford to pay more for housing if they had full-time living wage jobs with essential benefits, e.g., health insurance, paid leave.

So there’s a role here for targeted job creation and long-overdue improvements in workforce development. Needless to say, education too.

And what about more funding for child care subsidies so that low-income parents can afford to work?

And what about reforms in our child welfare system, which is still turning out youth with no place to go and no one to turn to? And what about …

Well, you get the point. What the risk factors show is that homelessness is actually a symptom of diverse systemic problems.

This, to me, is the most important message NAEH delivers. For the District it’s an urgent one.

For the federal government too, but our neighbors up on Capitol Hill seem not to be listening.


Long-Term Rental Trends Call For More, Not Less Government Action

May 8, 2011

The Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies reports that, in 2009, more than a fifth of all households in the District paid upwards of 50% of their income for rent and basic utilities. Fewer than 16% were so severely housing-cost burdened at the turn of the century.

The recession, of course, accounts for part of the increase. As the Center observes, though not for the District specifically, rising unemployment rates and falling real incomes caused the largest upswing in severely cost-burdened renters in decades.

But this is only the latest phase in an ongoing trend. Long before the recession set in, renters were crunched by a combination of little or no real income growth and an ongoing loss of affordable housing stock.

Between 1999 and 2009, nearly 12% of the country’s low-cost rental units disappeared. At the same time, most new construction was for the high-end of the market. In 2009, recession notwithstanding, a third of all new apartments rented for $1,250 a month or more.

One factor here has been the federal government’s anemic support for affordable housing.

Funding for new public housing development has given way to other, market-based alternatives — not in itself a bad thing. But the alternatives have not served the interests of low-income renters.

Best known of the alternatives is what’s now called the housing choice voucher program — subsidy guarantees that low-income households can use to help pay market-based rents.

As the Center says, growth in the voucher program stalled in the mid-2000s. For at least two years, it’s gotten just slightly more than the minimum needed to renew all vouchers in current use.

Meanwhile, under the Hope VI program, federal funds have supported the conversion of public to mixed-use housing, with less than one-for-one replacements of low-cost units.

At the same time, long-term contracts that subsidized low-cost privately-owned units have expired. Additional units have been lost because owners didn’t attend to basic maintenance.

Put all this together and it’s hardly surprising that about three-quarters of the nation’s low-income renters “are left to compete for an ever-dwindling supply of low-cost unassisted rentals.”

Nor surprising that a large majority “have little left to pay for other basic necessities such as food, clothing and healthcare.”

As Pete Witte at the National Alliance to End Homelessness adds, these households are at high risk of homelessness. One extraordinary event — the car dies, the kid breaks an arm — and there goes what’s been squirreled away for rent.

Yet, as the Center notes, “the growing need for affordable housing confronts the stark realities of federal budgetary constraints.”

This, I think, would be true even if Congress doesn’t adopt the portion of the House budget plan that would roll back federal spending on assisted housing — or its inflexible cap on all non-security spending not mandated by other laws.

True even if Congress also rejects the more extreme spending cap proposed by Senators Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Bob Corker (R-TN) and the even more radical proposals to add a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.

All levels of government, the Harvard Center says, will have to “foster an environment that supports efforts by the private sector to help meet the nation’s need for affordable, good quality rental housing.”

But here in the District, Mayor Gray wants to raid the Housing Production Trust Fund — a key source of funding that has enabled both nonprofit and for-profit developers to leverage private financing for affordable housing development and preservation.

Seems it’s going to be up to the DC Council to foster that supportive environment. Anyone who looks to the top level of government to do its share is living in a fool’s paradise.


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