The District of Columbia Housing Authority uses creative ways to fund affordable housing in D.C., but the agency isn’t alone. Cities and professional organizations are all working on the issue.
That was the message from the “Addressing Housing Affordability Solutions” panel held March 16 hosted by Make Room, an affordable housing advocacy organization. DCHA Executive Director Adrianne Todman, The National Rental Home Council Executive Director Diane Tomb and Columbus, Ohio City Councilwoman Jaiza Page spoke to participants of Make Room’s Journalism Study Tour.
“It is financially difficult to build affordable housing for very low-income families,” Todman said. “It requires layers of private and public financing.”
Todman said the process is made less difficult in D.C. , because the city has made affordable housing a priority, D.C. has a Housing Production Trust Fund, and the value of the land DCHA owns is high and attractive to developers. Leasing out the land and using multiple layers of funding, including tax credits and loans, allows DCHA s to build housing for all income levels.
In addition to the market not being as lucrative for affordable housing, federal funding to operate and maintain the nation’s affordable housing has been steadily cut over the years, Todman said.
“Our oldest site is 78 years old,” she said. “It is beautiful on the outside, but inside the systems have aged.”
Each property is carefully considered before a renovation or redevelopment begins, she said. No two plans will be the same but all are completed to make the best community for generations to come. For example, the new MetroTowns community in Northeast resulted from tearing down 42 units of public housing to create 125 new units of housing—by replacing the 42 units and adding several other affordable options, including homeownership. Several families who lived in the original property decided to return and some even bought homes, she said.
“We are working to integrate better housing and communities with stronger neighborhood amenities; we are also encouraging families to improve their own economic situation through workforce development and homeownership. ” Todman said.
The other panelists described programs they have been working on to help landlords and renters keep and improve their homes.
In Columbus, Ohio, the city decided to sell a piece public property for $15 million and relocate some senior citizens to be able to serve 300 more families, Page said. The city is working to provide emergency assistance to prevent evictions and change the process landlords use to slow evictions. The Columbus City Council also is trying to find a method similar to D.C.’s inclusionary zoning, to ensure affordable units are included into new developments.
“Our focus is on efficiency,” said Tomb, whose members are landlords and businesses that recognize their work can affect the community.
Tomb’s members are working to create a program that will allow credit to track rental payments. Currently, rental payments are not used to establish credit history. They also are working on bundling resources for members to lower costs, which get passed to their customers.