Mayor Muriel Bowser recently announced an increase of $400 million dollars in the D.C. Affordable Housing Production Trust Fund. These funds are to be used to build new units of affordable and moderately priced rental housing. This means that some people will get new and healthier housing. This is good and is needed.
Unfortunately to date, no new public money has been allocated to address substandard housing conditions impacting lower-income homeowners needing to make home repairs. These homeowners live in neighborhoods, attend local schools, and have built community. Keeping up with repairs can be difficult without sufficient household resources and securing a bank loan can be even more challenging. There is no relief coming to help these families live in healthier and more functional housing. Lower income homeowners need access to capital to be able to make needed repairs to best maintain their homes.
Preserving and making safe existing housing does not seem to be a priority for the District government. Why? Because building new units can be easier and cost less than fixing substandard housing. New housing creates new data points showing how many new units were created. Developers get financial benefits. This is how it works. And it doesn’t work when addressing existing housing problems. So once again if a family is “lucky enough” to be selected for better housing, they must relocate. To fix the problem families must move and be displaced. “Urban renewal” all over again. Fixing the problem too often means moving people someplace else and building anew. And the pattern repeats itself over and over.
The greatest transfer of inter-generational wealth is through housing. White people have accumulated vastly more wealth due to housing equity than Black and Brown people*. Home ownership is vital to this wealth transfer. In order to change this inequity, we must devote dollars, and prioritize public policies that will preserve and maintain existing housing for existing owners. Targeting public and private dollars to repair substandard single family housing along with building new well-built rental housing will strengthen communities, keep our city thriving and create new wealth for all.
Yachad has been doing this work for years. But, in spite of the many homeowners we have reached, there are so many more who need assistance. I hope that in the months ahead as Yachad’s work resumes with vigor, you will continue and even increase your support for our work. As always, the time to act is now.