Dear Mayor Bowser:
We are writing on behalf of the Greater Washington Community Foundation and its Partnership to End Homelessness Leadership Council to thank you for your commitment to addressing homelessness in DC. As you work to finalize your budget proposal for fiscal year 2023, we ask you to take bold action to end homelessness and make substantial investments in housing that is affordable to DC households with extremely low incomes.
As you know, the Partnership to End Homelessness is a collective effort of private sector business leaders, philanthropists, and national and local nonprofits working to ensure homelessness is rare, brief, and non-recurring. We are committed to doing our part to end homelessness in DC. However, we know that we cannot do it alone. Public sector investment and commitment, aligned with private sector resources, is the only way to ensure that everyone in our community has the stability that housing provides.
The pandemic has emphasized how critical the role of housing stability is to everyone’s health and security. It has reminded us that far too many DC households are faced daily with housing instability and little or no financial cushion. And it has shown us what we can accomplish as a community when we commit to finding the resources to end homelessness.
As leaders in the business, philanthropic, and nonprofit sectors, we all want to live in a community that has worked to end homelessness, and we know that the District’s future will be stronger if we do. Ending homelessness and ensuring housing security will help children succeed in school, help workers be more present and productive, improve the overall health and well-being of residents, and reduce stresses on DC’s social safety net.
We are deeply appreciative that the budget for the current fiscal year took a major step toward ending homelessness, with funding to help thousands of people to move from homelessness to permanent affordable housing, and that you and the Council devoted a substantial amount of federal pandemic aid to address immediate housing security needs and create more long-term affordable housing opportunities. It is investments like these, sustained year after year, that will bring us to the place we all want: a District of Columbia where everyone has stable, secure, and decent housing that they can afford.
This is why we are asking you to use the revised 2022 budget and the 2023 budget to continue to address pre-pandemic as well as pandemic-driven housing challenges faced by so many, and to make continued progress toward ending homelessness and creating deeply affordable housing. We align with the recommendations of our community advocacy partners in calling on the District to use the Fiscal Year 2023 budget for bold action on our deepest inequities, especially homelessness and affordable housing for extremely-low income and very low income households.
Increased Rental Assistance and Eviction Prevention: The District has done an outstanding job of getting federal emergency rental assistance to those most at risk. Unfortunately, given the major lack of affordable housing, rising rents, inflation and ongoing unemployment, the need is so great that the District is running out of this resource. An estimated 40,000 DC residents remain at risk of eviction. We echo the concerns outlined in the letter submitted by DC Fiscal Policy Institute and 37 other organizations on January 27th, and urge you to invest:
Necessary resources – estimated to be $200 million in rental assistance and $20 million in utility assistance – through ERAP or other programs. We urge you to do this now, through a supplemental budget for FY2022 or other means to tap the $566 million FY2021 surplus and higher-than-expected revenues this year.
Substantial funding for rental assistance and emergency rental assistance in the FY2023 budget.
Expansion of Permanent Supportive Housing to end chronic homelessness: Even with the substantial investments in the FY2022 budget, under your new comprehensive plan, Homeward DC 2.0, we know that nearly 500 individuals and 260 families still face chronic homelessness. We urge you to implement your plan’s recommendation and invest:
Investments to make homelessness truly rare, brief and non-recurring: The challenge of homelessness is not static, meaning that we cannot house those currently facing homelessness and expect the problem to end. Homelessness is affected by the continued and significant loss of affordable housing and the relentless increase in rents throughout DC– including the increase this year for rent-controlled units. In order to prevent homelessness and the long-term impacts of homelessness on our neighbors and our communities, we urge you to invest:
$700,000 to prevent homelessness for 400 additional individuals through Project Reconnect
$6.3 million in well-targeted Rapid ReHousing, including high-quality case management, for single adults
$27.7 million in Targeted Affordable Housing for 1,040 households
$24.2 million toward ending youth homelessness
$1 million in workforce programming for homeless youth
$558,000 to create a mobile behavioral health team than can meet youth where they are
$1.8 million to continue the ReEntry Housing Pilot for Returning Citizens
$1 million to fund B24-0106, the “Fair Tenant Screening Act of 2021,” and B24-0229, the “Human Rights Enhancement Amendment Act of 2021”
$12.5 million to provide 65 units of transitional housing and 15 affordable housing units to survivors of domestic violence
Outreach and Other Services: While we work to ensure everyone has safe and stable housing, we must:
Continue to provide PEP-V, non-congregate shelter options for residents experiencing homelessness who are at high risk of contracting and dying from COVID-19
Fund robust street outreach, focused on housing
Invest $300,000 in additional capital funds to build two 24-hour, 7-day public restrooms
Preserve Public Housing, Expand Affordable Housing: We urge you to use the FY 2023 budget to make a substantial commitment to deeply affordable housing for households earning 0- 30 percent of the Median Family Income (MFI). Housing that is affordable to households with extremely low-income households is the only real long-term solution to ending homelessness. This includes:
At least $12.9 million in Local Rent Supplement Program vouchers to ensure that half of the Housing Production Trust Fund units will be affordable to people below 30 percent MFI, as required by law.
Maintain stable funding for the Housing Production Trust Fund (HPTF) and strengthen transparency and reporting requirements to ensure the fund is meeting statutory affordability requirements.
$17.3 million for 800 Local Rent Supplement Tenant Vouchers, to assist those on the DC Housing Authority waitlist.
$60 million to repair and preserve public housing.
$20 million to preserve affordable housing though the Housing Preservation Fund.
$1.3 million to expand and provide tenant vouchers to 60 returning citizens .
In a community where over 85% of individuals experiencing homelessness are Black, addressing homelessness and investing in deeply affordable housing is a matter of racial equity and social justice. Our city and nation’s history of denying access to economic opportunity to Black people and those in other marginalized communities – relegating Black people largely to lower-paying occupations, denying access to federally guaranteed mortgages, allowing restrictive covenants and more – created the conditions we now see, where median Black household income is less than one-third median white household income and median wealth for Black households is less than one-eightieth the average white household wealth. The large majority of Black households are renters and thus subjected to the relentless increase in rents as the District develops, and most do not have the finances needed to move to homeownership, leading to displacement and/or homelessness. We have an obligation to reverse these conditions– especially as the Nation’s Capital.
Opening up opportunities to affordable housing and wealth building will pay off, in stronger families, stronger communities, and a stronger future. Research confirms that housing instability harms a child’s development and an adult’s ability to get and retain employment, and that providing housing stability creates better health and better futures for children, their families, and single adults.
Thank you again for your leadership and commitment to ending homelessness in our city. We urge you to make 2023 the year that DC makes bold and significant investments to end homelessness and to increase the supply of deeply affordable housing.
President and CEO, Greater Washington Community Foundation
Partnership to End Homelessness, Leadership Council Co-Chair
CEO and President, Homing Brothers
Partnership to End Homelessness, Leadership Council Co-Chair