FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 14, 2015
Cheryl Cort, Coalition for Smarter Growth
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA — Today, housing advocates applauded DC Councilmembers for introducing a resolution encouraging the DC Zoning Commission and Mayor Bowser to strengthen a promising market-based affordable housing program.
At-Large Councilmember Elissa Silverman, along with most of her colleagues, introduced the resolution. The measure encourages the Zoning Commission and Mayor Bowser to act to strengthen the city’s Inclusionary Zoning (IZ) program, which sets aside a certain number of permanently-affordable units in most new residential construction.
The Councilmembers called to increase the number of affordable units produced through IZ; increase the number of IZ units produced that are affordable for lower income households; and set lower maximum prices and eligibility thresholds for IZ to ensure affordability for a broader range of applicants.
“We commend the DC Councilmembers who have put this resolution forward urging action by the Zoning Commission and Mayor Bowser. This is one of the affordable housing policies we need to sharpen so we can better meet the needs of working people who are priced out of the District of Columbia,” said Joslyn Williams, president of the Metropolitan Washington Council, AFL-CIO.
The program is primarily a zoning regulation, under the purview of the Zoning Commission, but the Bowser administration plays a key role in supporting the Zoning Commission’s actions by providing staff support through the DC Office of Planning.
“Inclusionary Zoning is an important part of DC’s affordable housing continuum, producing new affordable housing units often in locations that are high cost and highly competitive. The housing is created without using subsidy from the Housing Production Trust Fund (HTFP) or other scarce public resources. Making the most of this program is an obvious opportunity in a tight budget year,” said Angie Rodgers, affordable housing advocate, analyst, and developer.
“Inclusionary zoning is a promising tool in our toolbox, but we need to ensure we are making the most of it. We appreciate the DC Council going on record through this resolution urging progress for this market-based affordable housing program. We don’t have any time to lose,” said Coalition for Smarter Growth Policy Director Cheryl Cort.
IZ is an affordable housing zoning requirement that sets aside some permanently affordable units to be built in most new residential developments. In return for the affordable units, developers are granted a small density bonus and are permitted to build a handful of additional market rate units beyond what normal zoning might have allowed. After years of delay, the housing program – first established in 2006 – is beginning to produce hundreds of units throughout the city. But given that DC is even less affordable than it was nine years ago, housing activists are urging city officials to revise the policy to ensure that it is helping to meet the city’s growing need for more affordable housing.
“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.
In January, housing advocates submitted a letter to the DC Zoning Commission and Mayor Bowser outlining how IZ could be strengthened. The letter was signed by: Joslyn N. Williams, President, Metropolitan Washington Council, AFL-CIO; Cheryl Cort, Coalition for Smarter Growth; 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.
For more about the Campaign for Inclusionary Zoning, see its fact sheet.
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 smartergrowth.net.