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D.C.-Area Business Leaders Launch $1B Affordable Housing Challenge

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Enterprise Community Partners Market Leader David Bowsers, also a co-convener of the Housing Leaders Group of Greater Washington
Enterprise Community Partners Market Leader David Bowers, also a co-convener of the Housing Leaders Group of Greater Washington

Housing affordability has become an increasingly urgent concern in D.C., and a group of business leaders is challenging the region to invest $1B over the next two years to help solve the issue. 

The Housing Leaders Group of Greater Washington launched the Capital Region Housing Challenge, an effort to spur the D.C. region's public and private sectors to each add $500M in affordable housing investments above their current baseline by the end of 2020. 

Housing Leaders Group co-convenor David Bowers, also the market leader for Enterprise Community Partners, announced the challenge at Bisnow's Metro D.C. Affordable Housing Summit Wednesday morning in a rousing call to action. 

"The challenge is the call to work collectively, across sectors and geographic boundaries, to fundamentally move the baseline of thinking and investment and connect capital to solutions," Bowers said. "Those of you that are already investing, we're challenging you to do more."

Bowers emphasized that the challenge does not represent a new fund. Rather it is a campaign to spur additional investment in affordable housing from a wide range of sources by setting an ambitious goal and tracking its progress over the next 21 months. 

The $55M in new affordable housing investments Mayor Muriel Bowser announced Monday as part of her proposed budget would count toward the $500M in public sector additions, if the D.C. Council passes them in its final budget. The region's suburban jurisdictions in Maryland and Virginia can also make contributions toward the public sector portion of the $1B goal. 

The Housing Leaders Group, founded in 2014, is a coalition of over a dozen organizations, such as the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, 2030 Group, Urban Land Institute, Urban Institute, Housing Association of Nonprofit Developers, Enterprise Community Partners, Bernstein Management Corp. and others. 

Bowers said the capital resources, policy solutions and technical expertise to solve the housing affordability crisis all exist, but the group is pushing to make sure the region has the will to take the necessary steps. 

"Let's be clear, raising $1B of new money in the next 20 months won't solve everything," Bowers said. "But it will be an important step in the right direction that will have a real impact in the lives of real people with real names and lay the groundwork for deeper impact in the years ahead."