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Bowser Proposes Doubling D.C.'s Housing Fund Allocation To $500M

Mayor Muriel Bowser speaks to the D.C. Council during the presentation of her FY 2023 budget proposal.

Mayor Muriel Bowser is calling for an unprecedented $500M of funding for D.C.'s main affordable housing financing vehicle, part of a broader push to meet her long-term housing production goals. 

The mayor Wednesday announced the new funding level for the Housing Production Trust Fund in her proposed Fiscal Year 2023 budget, doubling the record level of $250M from Fiscal Year 2022.

During a hearing with the D.C. Council on Wednesday to present her budget, Bowser acknowledged the need for housing at all income levels was "mammoth," but said that the Housing Production Trust Fund has proven to be an effective way of addressing the need in particular for affordable housing.

"The thing that will cause D.C. residents to leave D.C. now, the No. 1 issue is housing affordability," Bowser said at the hearing. "The need is there."

Prior to last year, the fund typically had an annual allocation of $100M. In its most recent solicitation, total requests from the fund reached $398M, according to officials, a figure Bowser said indicated a strong appetite for the program.

"We've demonstrated over the course of seven years that we're building a system within D.C. government and also outside of D.C. government that can support that level of funding," Bowser said.

Bowser has used the HPTF in recent years to advance her goal of building 12,000 new affordable housing units by 2025. 

In its first round of investments this year, the fund invested $135.5M across 10 projects. They included a 93-unit affordable senior project in Ward 3 and a 115-unit development in NoMa/Union Market from Marshall Heights Community Development Corp. and NRP.

In other commitments, the proposed budget allocates $110M to "rehabilitate or replace" more than 1,500 units of public housing over the span of three years. Bowser also budgeted $120M for rental assistance over the next two years and $41M for project-sponsor vouchers for deeply affordable units.

The mayor also pledged $219M to bring back public housing at several sites that have been under development around the city, including Barry Farm, Park Morton, Bruce Monroe and Northwest One.

Those projects have been stalled by a variety of forces, including the pandemic and a protracted process to approve the city's new Comprehensive Plan.

Beyond housing, the mayor is also investing in new programs to promote downtown after a pandemic-induced slump. In a press conference earlier Wednesday, Bowser said recuperating downtown areas was essential to maintaining tax revenue.

"That long-term vacancy in the downtown and vacancy on our commercial corridors could lead to lower values on our commercial properties," Bowser said. "Lower values on our commercial properties means less taxes."

The budget allocates $233K toward a new residential conversions incentive program, which the mayor released a request for proposals for earlier in the year. 

Bowser acknowledged that more teleworking meant fewer workers downtown, and advocated for an increase in investment in tourism and other uses for downtown spaces to attract foot traffic, something the city is working with BIDs to accomplish.

Other priorities for the mayor included $22M to continue investing in food access in underserved neighborhoods east of the river and putting an $18M "down payment," as she termed it, on an indoor sports complex at the RFK Stadium site. The latter project is part of a broader effort by the city to renegotiate potential uses for the site with Congress.