RELEASE: DC housing advocates call on Mayor Bowser to start tenure with important move to increase affordable housing

EMBARGOED until 9:00AM
January 7, 2015

Contact: Cheryl Cort, Coalition for Smarter Growth
O 202-676-0016 x 122
M 202-251-7516

WASHINGTON, DC — Today, DC housing advocates called on Mayor Muriel Bowser and the DC Zoning Commission to strengthen Inclusionary Zoning, an affordable housing program that requires lower priced units to be produced as a part of most new developments.

The groups released a letter (PDF) calling for lowering income targeting to better serve low and moderate income households who are priced out of DC’s ever more expensive housing market. The groups noted that a strong Inclusionary Zoning (IZ) program is an important part of a robust set of tools to address DC’s growing affordable housing crisis. Among the organizations calling for improving DC’s IZ program are: Coalition for Smarter Growth, Metropolitan Washington Council AFL-CIO, DC Fiscal Policy Institute, Jews United for Justice, City First Homes, PolicyLink and Somerset Development.

“This policy has great potential to help address the needs of working people who are priced out of the District of Columbia. Now is the time to strengthen Inclusionary Zoning to ensure it is a more effective tool to make living in DC within reach for moderate and low income workers,” said Joslyn Williams, president of the Metropolitan Washington Council, AFL-CIO.

After years of delay, the housing program is beginning to produce hundreds of units. Given that DC is even less affordable than it was when the policy was established in 2006, the housing activists urged the Zoning Commission to revise the policy to ensure that it is meeting the city’s growing need for more affordable housing.

For more than a year, the Zoning Commission and the Mayor Gray administration had expressed their intent to revise the policy, but have delayed any action. The groups urged the city to act now, citing the recent report by the Urban Institute reviewing the DC IZ program performance to date, and its recommendations for improvements.

“DC’s Inclusionary Zoning affordable housing program is fundamentally sound but needs to be strengthened. Most importantly, we need to create more homes at lower income levels through this policy to better meet the needs of city residents facing the greatest housing challenges,” said Cheryl Cort, Policy Director for the Coalition for Smarter Growth, and a founding member of the Campaign for Mandatory Inclusionary Zoning, the group that won the original policy in 2006.

In a letter submitted to the Zoning Commission and Mayor Bowser, the advocates asked that the Zoning Commission act to strengthen the Inclusionary Zoning program to ensure it can best achieve its goal to create a mix of low and moderate income affordable housing throughout the District.  Citing a continued strong housing market, rising prices, and stagnant and falling incomes, the group asked for several changes to the current policy. These proposed changes include: lowering the income limits for moderate income IZ units, increasing the share of low income units produced, increasing the total percentage of IZ units required, and ensuring bonus density is available to provide compensation for the cost of the affordable units.

“DC’s Inclusionary Zoning program is on the right track, but needs to be improved to ensure we are reaching those who most need the help,” said Jacob Feinspan, Executive Director, Jews United for Justice.

The letter submitted to the DC Zoning Commission and Mayor Bowser, was signed by:

Cheryl Cort, Coalition for Smarter Growth
Joslyn N. Williams, President, Metropolitan Washington Council, AFL-CIO
Ed Lazere, DC Fiscal Policy Institute
Jacob Feinspan, Jews United for Justice
Angie Rodgers, People’s Consulting
Jim Steck, City First Homes
Jim Campbell, Somerset Development
Tad Baldwin, retired housing developer
Kalima Rose, PolicyLink

About the Coalition for Smarter Growth

The Coalition for Smarter Growth is the leading organization in the Washington DC region dedicated to making the case for smart growth. Its mission is to promote walkable, inclusive, and transit-oriented communities, and the land use and transportation policies and investments needed to make those communities flourish. Learn more at