Ambitious Goals for the City….
For many months Mayor Bowser has talked about her second term as a place for ambitious goals for the city, particularly in housing: the city needs “to create 36,000 new units of housing by 2025.” The message continues: “…to get there we have to be bold – we must challenge ourselves to think differently and craft programs and policies that address needs of residents in every neighborhood and across the income spectrum.” (Letter from the Mayor, March 28, 2019)
In the just announced FY 2020 proposed operating budget, many would characterize the affordable housing initiatives as incremental, rather than bold. There are no new initiatives to address the need for 36,000 new units on a scale that would produce that number by 2025, nor is there an 8 Ward solution as promised in early budget talks. Significantly, the newest housing investment ($20 million) is in workforce housing for “those who have a good-paying job but also need a good, affordable home in the city (for example, a preschool teacher with one child making between $56,000 and $113,000 annually).”
Without question, housing for DC’s lowest income residents, many living in extreme poverty ($35,000 or less for a family of four), is expensive to build and operate with the long term financial obligation to the city for annual rental vouchers. However, the very poor have many fewer housing options in the city than the fully employed workforce. In the new budget proposal there is no new initiative or grand plan for these families or individuals, just an incremental approach – more rental vouchers, but not nearly meeting the need, no additional vouchers for the 27,000 households on the Housing Authority Wait list and no funds to repair the desperate conditions in more than 2,000 units of public housing.
Incremental is good, but not sufficient, nor is it bold. The question for faith communities: what would bold look like? Can we afford not to try to be bold when so many remain in deep poverty?
READ MORE: Recent articles in local press; Washington Legal Clinic for Homeless, Do the Dollars Soar as High as the Rhetoric?; DC Fiscal Policy Institute, The Top 5 things You Should Know About the Mayor’s FY2020 Budget.
We pray for those in positions of civic authority, servants of all the people. May their compassion, understanding and just actions lead to a city that measures its greatness by the care it provides for its people in need. Rev. John Graham, Grace Episcopal Church, Georgetown
Newsletter – current and previous.
Biblical Roots of Justice – Foundation of the Journey for Justice: an interfaith conversation on homelessness and the Journey for Justice for our neighbors who are without homes (10 minutes).