Councilmember Silverman Introduces Legislation to Reinvest in Affordable Housing for Low-Income Residents

WASHINGTON, DC – At-Large Councilmember Elissa Silverman today introduced a bill that would help increase the District’s supply of housing for our lowest-income residents by dedicating dollars allocated to the District of Columbia Housing Authority but unspent at the end of the year into a public housing repair fund. The bill, the Public Housing Rehabilitation Amendment Act of 2016, was co-introduced by Councilmembers Brianne Nadeau (Ward 1), Mary Cheh (Ward 3), and Charles Allen (Ward 6) and co-sponsored by David Grosso (At-Large).

The District of Columbia Housing Authority (DCHA) owns or subsidizes over 21,000 units of affordable housing across the city, including 8,300 units of public housing. These units house many of our lowest-income residents, and they have fallen into disrepair as federal dollars dedicated to public housing continue to decline. Some units are now uninhabitable but could be put back into use housing families if funds were dedicated for that purpose.

“This bill is a cost-effective way to preserve affordable housing for our lowest-income residents by keeping public housing units safe and livable,” said Silverman. “Right now, the Housing Authority has 21 apartments that are unlivable and no funding to pay for needed renovations. That’s 21 families that could be housed today if there was just money to do the repairs.”

Currently, local funds allocated to the Local Rent Supplement Program (LRSP) at DCHA are subject to reprogramming if the funds are unspent by the end of the fiscal year. This bill would require unspent LRSP funds be placed in a non-lapsing Public Housing Rehabilitation Fund and then be used to make urgently needed repairs to public housing units.

“Last year, $8.2 million in unspent LRSP funds were reprogrammed to other District uses,” Silverman said. “Funds dedicated by the Council toward housing our most underserved populations should be used for those purposes.”

In addition to unspent LRSP funds, the Public Housing Rehabilitation Fund could receive direct appropriations and any other funds received by the District for repairing, rehabilitating, or renovating public housing. However, none of the money deposited could be used to renovate public housing units scheduled for demolition or transfer outside DCHA’s inventory. The bill additionally requires DCHA to submit an annual report to the Mayor and Council regarding the use of the money.

The legislation was referred to the Committee on Housing and Community Development.