Councilmember Silverman Introduces Legislation to Revitalize Vacant Properties and Boost Retirement Savings

At-Large D.C. Councilmember Elissa Silverman today introduced two bills to help our local government function more effectively by getting District government out of the business of owning vacant properties and boosting D.C. government’s competitiveness in the hiring market.

The first bill, the Property Disposition Reform Amendment Act of 2017, aims to get vacant and blighted properties owned by District government into productive use by engaging licensed real estate brokers to sell these properties on the District’s behalf. The bill requires the Department of Housing and Community Development—which currently has up to 180 vacant and blighted properties in its portfolio—to follow a broker disposition process used by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. This would put properties on a faster track to getting back into use for affordable housing or other purposes, but does not change the current mission of selling these Property Acquisition and Disposition Division or “PADD” properties to non-profit organizations at a significantly discounted rate for the purpose of redeveloping them for low and moderate income residents.

“This is a sensible approach that is currently used by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to turn eyesores into neighborhood assets,” said Silverman. “Many of these properties have fallen into such disrepair that they are blights on our neighborhoods, creating dangerous and unsanitary conditions. Instead, turn them into much-needed affordable housing.”

The bill was co-introduced by At-Large Councilmembers David Grosso and Robert White, Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans, and Ward 8 Councilmember Trayon White. At-Large Councilmember Anita Bonds was a co-sponsor. The bill was referred sequentially to the Committee on Housing and Neighborhood Revitalization and Committee on Business and Economic Development.

The second bill, the Retirement Parity Amendment Act of 2017, would create an employer match in the existing retirement plan for District employees. This would make the District more competitive in the hiring market and create an incentive for employees to save for retirement. The District would match 50 percent of employee contributions, up to 1.5 percent of employees’ annual salary (workers must contribute 3 percent of their salaries to get the full match). All District employees would be eligible, with the exception of employees with separate defined benefit retirement plans, including police officers, firefighters, teachers, and Civil Service Retirement System employees.

“Only 4 in 10 eligible employees participate in the District’s tax-free savings plan, far below the private sector average of 69 percent,” said Silverman. “Creating an employer match program incentivizes employees to save more for retirement and helps attract high quality employees to work for District government—both of which help keep our workforce strong.”

The bill was co-introduced by At-Large Councilmembers Anita Bonds and Robert White, Ward 1 Councilmember Brianne Nadeau, Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans, Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh, and Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen. At-Large Councilmember David Grosso and Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie were co-sponsors. The bill was referred to the Committee on Labor and Workforce Development.