Silverman Introduces Bills to Lower Student Loan Debt and Increase Oversight of Affordable Housing Development

D.C. Councilmember Elissa Silverman (I-At Large) yesterday introduced legislation that would help District residents afford higher education by making low-interest student loans available through a new D.C.-backed finance authority, as well as a bill to shine more light on how D.C. government decides to spend taxpayer dollars on affordable housing development.

“Lowering student loan debt not only makes higher education more affordable, but it also helps our residents save and work toward other life goals, such as renting or buying a home,” Silverman said. “These bills might not seem related, but they are: We need to make sure when residents work hard in school and get a job they want, there’s housing in this city that they can afford.”

The first bill, the Student Loan Authority Establishment Act of 2019, creates a new, independent agency that would issue new low-interest-rate student loans and refinance existing student loan debt for District residents and students attending District colleges and universities. The legislation allows for student loans, parental loans, and graduate student loans that would be covered by a robust income-based repayment system, a public service loan forgiveness program, and deferred payment after graduation. The Student Loan Authority would operate similar to the D.C. Housing Finance Agency by issuing tax-exempt bonds to fund both origination and refinancing of the loans—a financing structure that will not impact the District’s ability to borrow funds for other issues or create a new liability.

The bill, originally introduced last October, was jointly referred to the Committee on Education and the Committee of the Whole upon reintroduction. Eight councilmembers signed on to the legislation.

The second bill, the Housing Production Trust Fund Transparency Amendment Act of 2019, would provide detailed information about all applications to D.C.’s Housing Production Trust Fund, which is one of the major ways the District supports affordable housing.

D.C. annually commits $100 million to the Housing Production Trust Fund, with housing developers competing for awards twice yearly. Most recently, nearly $170 million was awarded to 24 applicants who will produce or preserve more than 1,600 affordable housing units. The legislation ensures District residents have transparency about how significant tax dollars are being spent, improves accountability for the Department of Housing and Community Development, and helps developers, advocates, and the D.C. Council better understand the funding decisions being made.

The bill was co-introduced by five councilmembers and referred to the Committee on Housing and Neighborhood Revitalization.