Silverman Good Government Bill Protects the District Against Ethics Concerns on D.C. Housing Finance Agency Board

A bill introduced today by D.C. Councilmember Elissa Silverman (I-At Large) addresses concerns about conflicts of interest and the appearance of conflicts of interest on a critical board that approves government funding tools for affordable housing developments, the D.C. Housing Finance Agency (DCHFA) Board of Directors.

The bill, known as the “Housing Finance Agency Conflict of Interest Prevention Amendment Act of 2020” prohibits DCHFA board members from using agency programs during their terms of service in an effort to prevent actual and perceived business-related conflicts.

“As a legislative body and as a government, we are faced with the difficult task of restoring the public’s trust in the wake of recent ethics scandals,” said Silverman. “We need to guard against even perceived conflicts that might corrode the public’s trust in our decision-making and do everything in our power to reassure residents and taxpayers that decisions made by public servants at DCHFA and other agencies are firmly rooted in the public good, not private benefit.”

Currently, all five DCHFA board members are also housing developers who develop real estate in the District. Many of the board members’ developments are financed using tax-exempt bonds and Low-Income Housing Tax Credits issued by DCHFA. Because board members are required to approve applications for these programs before they can move forward, there is the potential for creating conflicts of interest. While board members are expected to recuse themselves from a vote when a financing application is on the agenda, Silverman’s legislation adds an additional protection for taxpayers by preventing board members’ explicit use of programs over which they have decision-making authority.

The legislation does not prevent DCHFA board members from developing housing in the District or other jurisdictions. As soon as their term ends, the prohibition ends, and they can begin accessing DCHFA programs again.

The bill was supported by Councilmembers David Grosso (I-At Large), Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3), Charles Allen (D-Ward 6), Vincent Gray (D-Ward 7), and Trayon White (D-Ward 8). It was referred to the Committee on Housing and Neighborhood Revitalization.