• Mayor Muriel Bowser is investing in providing affordable housing in D.C.
  • She promised to work on affordable housing and homelessness when she campaigned for mayor.
  • The $82 million allocated to the housing fund will help provide 800 housing units.

An important campaign promise made by DC Mayor Muriel E. Bowser looks to be on its way to coming true.

Last Friday, Mayor Bowser announced that she’s earmarked a remarkable $82 million from the city Housing Production Trust Fund to build or preserve more than 800 affordable housing units in DC.

During her first year in office, she made a $100 million investment in the Fund. Part of her campaign promises included taking action in the face of staggering rent increases in DC.

The money will preserve 466 existing housing units and also will create an additional 338 throughout 12 development projects. In all, 1,700 people are or would be housed in those 800 units.

People living there now would keep their homes, and the city would help pay for increased costs. Seven of the projects are in the city’s poorest neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River. They would receive attention first.

The Democratic mayor has plenty on her plate in regard to housing. She’s also made promises to invest time and energy into delving into the intractable problem of homelessness in the Washington, D.C. area. Affordable housing is one of many tools needed to attack that problem, one that affects people of all ages.

She also made the promise to close DC General. That ramshackle former hospital is now home to dozens of homeless families; resettling them will be no easy task.

While there is widespread community support for getting rid of that eyesore of a building, the mayor’s plan includes resettling the current resident in six neighborhood facilities. Individual neighborhoods where those new homes will be located could prove to be stumbling blocks to her plan.

Eighty-three units of the 800 announced will be used as permanent supportive housing for the homeless.

Of the more than 800 units that will get a boost from the city’s housing trust fund, 216 will go to residents in the lowest income bracket, defined as a family of four living on $32,880 a year.

And, according to the Washington Post, it’s not known if the city’s creation of affordable housing units in DC, including those announced Friday, is outpacing the number of affordable homes that are disappearing as the city gentrifies.

Joaquin McPeek, a spokesman for Brian Kenner, the deputy mayor for planning and economic development, told the Post that at least 50,000 of about 300,000 existing housing units in D.C. receive “some type of assistance,” including federal housing vouchers.

But city leaders don’t know the total of homes in the city that are affordable, by government standards, or whether that number is getting worse or better.

Affordable is also a very broad definition in the parlance of DC city planners. Since it’s a federal definition based on median income of a measured area, it can mean anything from an almost fully subsidized apartment to an apartment that’s within reach of a family earning above $87,000 per year.

Email Kimberley Sirk.

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