I was in the audience this week when Mayor Gray pledged $100 million in new city funding for affordable housing during his State of the District address. There was a standing ovation for his announcement.
It was a moment to recognize reality: government funding alone cannot solve our affordable housing crisis. The mayor’s commitment should be a call to action for the private sector. That includes lenders, investors, philanthropists, intermediaries, community based organizations and developers. This is $100 million in seed money. It’s leverage. It’s the first step.
The commitment stems from the voices of our city residents. After the 2012 One City Summit, where over 1,500 city residents listed affordable housing as their number one concern, the Mayor created the Comprehensive Housing Strategy Task Force. I am privileged to be a member of this Task Force. Charged with developing recommendations for how the city should move forward to expand affordable housing the Task Force has been doing its work over the last year. During the year the Chairs of the Task Force have been updating the Mayor about our recommendations. This week the Mayor took action. The Task Force’s report should be available in the next month.
Now it is time for us to be proactive, to respond to this opportunity, to bring our ideas and our capital to the table to help the city reach its goal of 10,000 new affordable homes.
We at DC LISC have been financing affordable housing throughout the neighborhoods of DC since 1982. And what we have found over the years is that developing quality, affordable housing requires all hands on deck. Government funds must be leveraged with private dollars.
It is the only way to make this $100 million reach the people who need it most.
– Oramenta F. Newsome