By Deborah De Santis
Back in March of this year, I touted an ambitious Strategic Plan to End Homelessness proposed by Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser and the local Interagency Council on Homelessness in our nation’s capital.
Mayor Bowser made the Plan a top priority and attracted nationally-recognized experts to her administration to get the job done. She has set concrete goals and timelines, relying on the kind of systems changing initiatives known to make a real difference in the battle to prevent and end homelessness.
I am happy to note that the significant housing development and rental assistance financing called out in the Plan have now passed the City Council.
The Mayor and City Council recognized the need to make a substantial investment in supportive and other forms of affordable housing. The price tag is in the hundreds-of-millions. But, and the evidence for this is solid, doing nothing – keeping people in temporary shelters and providing crisis services on the streets – will cost District taxpayers far more over the long run than creating quality, affordable rental units with health care access and community-based preventive services.
In a nutshell, the Mayor initiated and Council approved:
- $100 million for the Housing Production Trust Fund for the preservation and production of affordable housing.
- $8.8 million increase for the Permanent Supportive Housing Program. This includes an addition by Council of $1.8 million and, combined with the investment proposed by Mayor Bowser, will serve 110 families and 365 individuals through new supportive housing leasing and services. The investment makes great strides to end homelessness and improve the lives of people who have lived on DC’s streets for too long.
- $9 million increase for Local Rent Supplement Program tenant-based vouchers. Increases from the Council include $5 million for traditional tenant-based vouchers and $2.3 million for Targeted Affordable Housing (TAH). Under the Interagency Council on Homelessness’ Strategic Plan, TAH meets an unmet need by serving families and individuals exiting rapid re-housing or supportive housing in need of ongoing housing assistance with right-sized supportive services.
- $2.4 Million for Local Rent Supplement Program project and sponsor-based vouchers to produce affordable housing.
The bottom line is always the supply of affordable housing or the lack thereof, and access to health care and supportive services. In other words, many people would not face the prospect of homelessness if they had an affordable place to live and quality health care. It is clear Mayor Bowser, her advisors, and the District’s City Council all recognize these facts and are committed to making the necessary investments to tackle the root causes of homelessness.
As I stated before, they know all too well that failure to confront these problems head on today will lead to much bigger headaches tomorrow.