Washington, D.C., Mayor Vincent C. Gray promised to spend $100 million for the building and preservation of 10,000 units of affordable housing at the annual State of the District Address Feb. 5.
“Last September, I announced $35 million in financing to create and preserve additional affordable housing,” said Gray, “but we have to do more.”
The mayor acknowledged the rapid gentrification that has led to a dwindling number of affordable apartments and homes in the city.
“We once worried about the district becoming a city of the haves and have-nots,” he said, “but now we are increasingly in danger of becoming a city only of haves.”
Although the affordable housing plan was not a major goal in Gray’s campaign, the announcement of the major housing initiative for the coming year signified a shift. Affordable housing advocates were thrilled.
Campaign coordinators from Coalition for Non-Profit Housing and Economic Development photographed themselves beaming at the conclusion of the event.
Jenny Reed, of the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute (DCFPI), praised the initiative but went on to offer some cautionary words.
“DCFPI applauds Mayor Gray for pledging a big investment in affordable housing. At the same time, getting to 10,000 units may require additional support. In particular, the mayor indicated that the funding would be provided on a one-time basis, rather than serving as an ongoing commitment every year,” Reed wrote in a blog post.
Some homeless advocates remained troubled by the announcement by both the mayor and outgoing District Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi of a budget surplus of $417 million in the last fiscal year. The Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, in a blog on its website, noted that while homeless families were denied shelters last year on fiscal grounds, “the DC government was amassing hundreds of millions of dollars in unspent funds.”