July 17, 2008

DC Sets Up a Housing Program to Fix a Housing Program

Now we can have two underfunded programs.

by Jessica Wright, Community Blogger.

In an effort to deal with DC’s notoriously long waiting list for housing assistance, the Local Rent Supplement Program was enacted in 2006. Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), and Adrian Fenty (former D-Ward 4) introduced the bill, proposing that the fund be started with $19 million, which was intended to help 2,650 families. At the time, the waiting list totaled 52,000 applicants. This bill was enacted when federal funding for the DC Housing Authority was seeing a sharp decrease, a trend that has continued under the Bush administration.

The Local Rent Supplement Program follows many of the rules and regulations set forth by the federal Housing Choice Voucher Program (formerly Section 8). (For more information on the HCVP, see previous blog entries.) Unlike the HCVP, the LRSP is limited to extremely low income households (including one-person households) within the District of Columbia. (The HCVP is not limited to DC residents and can be used anywhere in the United States.) Eligible households are selected from the DC Housing Authority’s existing HCVP waiting list, but qualified applicants can receive Project-based and Sponsor-based assistance without being on the HCVP waiting list. Much of the funding is allocated for Tenant-based vouchers, while the remainder of the money is directed for Project-based and Sponsor-based assistance, which encourages developers to build and maintain affordable units.

Although the Local Rent Supplement Program is an important program, it currently does not have the funding necessary to make much of a dent in the waiting list for housing assistance. Granted, the waiting list has decreased from 52,000 (in 2006) to 23,418, but much of that decline can be attributed to the waiting list purge performed at the beginning of this year. The mayor’s proposed 2009 budget did not provide any additional funding for the Local Rent Supplement Program, which would have meant that no new affordable housing units would be able to be funded through DCHA. Thankfully, at the final Council vote, $2 million was added to the budget to support the LRSP.

According to Michael Kelly, Executive Director of the DCHA, it would take $360 million dollars of additional funding to house the 23,418 households currently on the waiting list. Clearly, DC has a long way to go.

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