Please accept our testimony on behalf of the Coalition for Smarter Growth. My organization works to ensure that transportation and development decisions in the Washington D.C. region accommodate growth while revitalizing communities, providing more housing and travel choices, and conserving our natural and historic areas. I also note that we have been working to create and implement a successful Inclusionary Zoning program since its inception in 2003.
We are here to express our strong support for these amendments. We concur that the proposed text amendments are needed to ensure that IZ and ADU covenants conform to FHA guidelines. We appreciate that the city can take other steps through regulations to protect the public’s interest in its investment in below market rate homes without conflicting with FHA requirements. We look forward to the District developing these regulations to complement this action.
These amendments are critical to removing a major barrier affecting the IZ program. Administration of IZ has experienced a number of substantial challenges as units have come on line in the last year. While these challenges remain a major disappointment, they can be overcome. The first challenge is the severe understaffing of both the IZ program and the management of ADUs – affordable dwelling units generated through PUDs and public land dispositions. It appears that no more than one or at most two DHCD staff members manage every aspect of the ADU and IZ programs. Elected officials have touted the benefits of these affordable housing units, but they have not provided the modest funding needed to adequately support these assets. A few more staff members and continued support for adequate housing counseling services are needed to ensure that these programs have the resources they need to work with applicants and developers.
While ADUs are largely managed by individual developments with oversight from DHCD, IZ was designed to more closely manage the recruitment of applicants and the placement process. The intention was to provide greater assistance to residents in search of a home they could afford and allow them to come to one place to find assistance, rather than chase project after project. ADUs have not experienced the problems in leasing or sales of units at 80 percent AMI that IZ has. Considering these differences, and other factors, DHCD is in the midst of revising the IZ regulations. We hope this process will take no more than a couple of months. Apparently, the regulations were too rigid to respond to obvious needs in practice, such as ensuring that an applicant who enters a lottery for a for-sale unit is qualified to get a mortgage for that unit. There appear to be a variety of glitches in the IZ regulations that are inhibiting the smooth process of connecting the right applicant with the right unit. We are hopeful that this regulations revision will resolve these problems within the next several months.
You are here today to resolve one of the other barriers that we have recently encountered – the rise of FHA as the leading backer of affordable residential mortgages, and FHA standards that conflict with affordable housing covenants common among local government programs. These amendments will allow prospective buyers to secure FHA financing and purchase affordable units subject to the Inclusionary Zoning program and ADU requirements. We welcome these appropriate and necessary text amendments to the current PUD and Inclusionary Zoning regulations to improve the effectiveness of these programs and increase the availability of affordable housing in the District of Columbia.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify.