Testimony of Nechama Masliansky to the Committee on Housing and Neighborhood Revitalization regarding the Proposed Budget for the Fiscal Years 2020 and 2021 for the D.C. Housing Authority

Good day, Chairperson Bonds, members of the Committee, and staff. My name is Nechama Masliansky. I am the Senior Advocacy Advisor with SOME, Inc. (also known as So Others Might Eat). Thank you for receiving our written testimony on the District Subsidy in Fiscal Years 2020 and 2021 for the DC Housing Authority (DCHA).

SOME is celebrating its 50th year of providing comprehensive social services to DC residents who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. Our services, even during the Public Health Emergency, include food, clothing, and showers; medical care; career training; and housing with social services for approximately 1,400 persons.

The DCHA has been a key partner in our Housing Development Initiative. SOME realized 15 years ago that the shortage of affordable housing drives people into homelessness; our goal is to develop 1,000 net new units for approximately 2,000 extremely low-income District residents. We are more than 70% of the way toward achieving our goal. Project-based and Sponsor-based Local Rent Supplement (LSRP) funding has made it possible for us to develop hundreds of units for persons living at 0-30% of Family Median Income.

Today we focus on:

1. the health and well-being of the residents in DC Public Housing; and

2. whether the FY20 Supplemental Budget and FY21 Proposed Budget hurt or hinder the capacity of the affordable-housing development community to proceed to develop hundreds more units for persons at 0-30% MFI.

Regarding Public Housing:

We agree with DCHA’s priorities for its Transformation Plan:

1. Control the ground lease;

2. Build first;

3. Right of return; and

4. 1:1 replacement.

We share concerns of our local advocate colleagues about the viability and robustness of the plans to implement the above four priorities.

We are particularly concerned about the physical conditions in Public Housing units, including mold, rodents, nonfunctional and destructive plumbing, and decaying ceilings and walls. Repairs have been needed urgently for years. Therefore, we recommend that the proposed $40 million for repairs over two years be increased to at least $60 million a year.

Regarding Affordable-Housing Development capacity:

Project-based and Sponsor-based LRSP makes it possible to develop and maintain housing for persons living at 0-30% FMI. To date, throughout the District, there are 1,553 P/S-based LRSP units. An additional 798 are reserved, committed, or under construction.

We urge the Mayor, Office of the Chief Financial Officer (OCFO), DCHA, and Department of Housing and Community Development to clarify a proposed change in allocation of Project-based and Sponsor-based LRSP dollars. We understand that the OCFO and DCHA have agreed to change from appropriating P/S-based LRSP in the year that Consolidated RFP awards are made, to appropriating that funding in the year that the awarded projects come on line. The District has not confirmed in writing whether it is able to make this process change. This will create a real-life obstacle to the willingness of financial institutions to support the development of these units when they evaluate projects for their funding.

We urge the Committee to obtain clarification of what assurances will be available to the financial institutions, and, if those assurances are given, to determine whether the financial institutions will accept those assurances.

If the OCFO and DCHA are not able to verify the acceptance, acceptability, and functionality of the proposed new process in writing, then the Council should make the following appropriations to P/S-based LRSP to produce the necessary amount of 0-30% MFI housing to fulfill Housing Production Trust Fund (HPTF) requirements:

An additional $7.25M in FY20 to support $116M in HPTF; and

An additional $7.55M in FY21 to support $120M in HPTF.