Good Faith Priorities – FY2020 Budget

Good Faith Communities Coalition is an alliance of faith communities in the District of Columbia. Good Faith advocates for sustainable and affordable housing and services for persons who are homeless and marginalized, based on the belief that all our neighbors are children of God.

Safe, appropriate, affordable, and sustainable housing for those battered by market forces beyond their control is a human right. While as a community we broadly enjoy the benefits of gentrification, we must work aggressively to mitigate the impact of this gentrification on the poor and marginalized, particularly in the area of housing, so that the city and community may be one.

Good Faith Priorities for FY 2020 DC Operating Budget:

Housing Production Trust Fund (HPTF): in the past four years the city has invested more than $400 million in new and renovated housing. However, building housing for those living in extreme poverty (0-40% Adjusted Median Income) continues to be a challenge. The legal mandate to invest of 40% of housing trust funds in this area has been met met only once in the Mayor’s first term.

In order to address the 30K deficit in affordable housing units, substantial additional funds will be required, particularly to meet the biggest challenge, housing the city’s poorest residents. A second trust fund, separately funded, dedicated only to housing the very poorest, may be necessary. To be successful this trust fund must address the major barriers to building low-income housing: too few rental vouchers and insufficient funds to sustain the building’s operating and maintenance costs over the life of the building. Those living in deep poverty have few options. We must aggressively seek solutions and additional funds to address their housing needs – and fund them as a priority.
Investment required to make significant progress:  additional $90M for the Housing Production Trust Fund to be used exclusively to create housing for those in the 0-30% AMI income bracket + $14.6M for Local Rent Supplement Program for operations of the new units. 

Repair and Maintenance of Public Housing: often neglected, public housing is an important component of the District housing stock for those living in extreme poverty, particularly seniors and persons who are disabled.

Given the inhumane impact on the poor and marginalized who have few housing options, the public housing inventory can’t be allowed to deteriorate to the point that the units are uninhabitable. This may be a failure of the federal government, but waiting for them to redress this grievance is not an option. The Housing Authority has requested funds to address the extreme conditions in 2500 units. This immediate need and on-going, timely repairs and maintenance in the remaining public housing units so neighborhoods don’t deteriorate must be budgeted. The city can’t afford to lose any housing units that serve those living in extreme poverty.
Investment required to make significant progress: $25M recurring base funding for repair and maintenance of public housing. 

Chronically Homeless: Though progress has been made with outreach and programs such as Permanent Supportive Housing, we still meet our homeless neighbors sleeping on the street or at a METRO entrance at night or trying to make a home in a tent by the side of the road.

Homeless DC projected a foreseeable end to chronic homeless.  Though programs that work have been identified and implemented and progress has been made, too many people remain unhoused.  A new  plan with specific goals and financial commitments needs to be in the new budget so that chronic homelessness does not continue to be the face of our city.
Investment required to make significant progress:  $27M for Permanent Supportive Housing for more than 900 individuals who are chronically homeless and $3M for Targeted Affordable Housing rental vouchers for another 150 individuals who don’t need intensive services.

Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP): this program provides back rent for people facing eviction and security deposits for people needing to move.  Programs such as ERAP that prevent families and individuals from becoming homeless with a small investment at the right time are very cost effective.
Investment required to make significant progress: restoration of funding to $12M.

Rapid Re-Housing (RRH): RRH is the City’s program of choice to exit families and the chronically homeless from shelter. Locally funded, RHH provides one year of housing with some services to stabilize clients so that they become financially independent as lease holders at the end of the program. RRH was designed as a safety net for those experiencing sudden emergencies, such as job loss or health issues, not for those living in extreme poverty with few marketable skills or work history.

Many of the 1800 families and the 280 individuals currently in RRH depend on local and federal assistance of no more than $1000 monthly as their only income. Given this income, it is unlikely that many will be able to assume market rate rent (more than $1700 per month for a two-bedroom apartment) at the end of the one-year RRH program.  Without longer-term rental vouchers such as Targeted Affordable Housing or when appropriate, Permanent Supportive Housing, they will have to move from the RRH unit at the end of the program or be evicted, starting the cycle of homelessness once again.

More comprehensive data tracking RRH exit outcomes after one and two years is expected in the FY 2019 Department of Human Services Oversight report. Careful analysis of this data is important so that families and individuals are not set up for failure at the outset of their participation in RRH.
Investment required to make significant progress: Thoughtful analysis of the data in FY 2019 oversight report – is this program working for families and individuals in the 0-30% income bracket? If not, what other solutions must be considered?

NOTE: Investment recommendations are from the report of Fair Budget Coalition’s FY 2020 Study Group on Housing Security.