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7 ways the DC Council must use its budget to further housing justice
April 21, 2022 by Jesse Rabinowitz

The Way Home Campaign

Fiscal Year 2023 Budget Recommendations for the Council of DC

Mayor Bowser’s proposed Fiscal Year 2023 Budget is a big step forward for ending chronic homelessness. We are grateful to the mayor for a strong budget proposal that prioritizes investments in Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH), Street Outreach, and more. We look forward to working with the Council to build on the proposed budget to further advance housing justice and to fill critical gaps.

As such, The Way Home Campaign, our 110 origination partners and 7,000 individual supporters call on the DC Council to:

1) Preserve Mayor Bowser’s funding for PSH

2) Preserve and clarify Mayor Bowser’s increase of $2 million for homeless street outreach

3) Ensure Mayor Bowser’s investment of $500 million in the Housing Production Trust Fund (HPTF) is used to fund housing for our neighbors living on lowest incomes

4) Fund housing vouchers for those who do not need PSH

5) Explore and fund making DC’s COVID Era Human Services Protections permanent 

6) Pass and fund Tenants Rights Legislation

7) Preserve full funding for expansion of Project Reconnect, DC’s program to prevent single homelessness

 

1) Preserve Mayor Bowser’s funding for Permanent Supportive Housing

  • We thank Mayor Bowser for adopting the recommendations of The Way Home Campaign and including Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) for 500 single adults, 260 families, and 10 youth in her proposed budget. The DC Council must preserve this funding which, when combined with DC’s FY22 budget, will end chronic homelessness for nearly 3,000 individuals, thereby changing the face of single adult homelessness in DC.
  • Additionally, the DC Council must exercise its oversight prerogative to ensure that DHS and DCHA have the staffing, funding, and procedures needed to utilize this money in a timely manner.
  • To ensure that these resources are used equitably and in line with national and local best practices, DC must recommit to using our robust Coordinated Assessment and Housing Placement (CAHP) System to match people to housing instead of circumventing the system to prioritize certain encampment residents over other unhoused individuals.

2) Preserve and clarify Mayor Bowser’s increase of $2 million for homeless street outreach

Mayor Bowser’s budget includes an additional $2 million for homeless street outreach. Street outreach workers work diligently to connect our unhoused neighbors with resources and housing. While the $2 million in funding may be used to maintain current levels of service provision, how this money will be allocated remains unclear. As such, we encourage the DC Council to ensure this funding is used for street outreach for individuals living outside - both in tent encampments and otherwise. We further urge the DC Council to ensure that this funding is not used for any efforts to evict or permanently close tent encampments.

3) Ensure Mayor Bowser’s investment of $500 million in the Housing Production Trust Fund (HPTF) is used to fund housing for our neighbors living on low incomes

Mayor Bowser’s budget proposes a historic increase to the HPTF, DC’s primary tool for creating and preserving low-income housing. We applaud this boldness and funding. However, we are concerned that throughout its existence, the HPTF has never once met the legal requirements to dedicate 50% of its funding to those with incomes below 30% of the Area Median Income (AMI). The DC Council must ensure that there are the vouchers and funding needed to devote half of this funding to our lowest-income neighbors while also conducting robust oversight and, if needed, passing legislation to ensure that this funding is used as intended.

4) Fund housing vouchers for those who do not need Permanent Supportive Housing

We are deeply concerned that Mayor Bowser’s budget does not include any funding to move people off the Housing Authority waitlist. It also does not include any Targeted Affordable Housing vouchers, which can be used to support families set to be exited from DC’s Rapid Rehousing Program. Before the waitlist was closed in 2013, it was over 40,000 households long. When we fail to allocate resources to address DC’s severe lack of affordable housing, we create a system where the only way to receive a permanent housing resource is to experience chronic homelessness. The DC Council must fund Local Rent Supplement Program (LRSP) vouchers to ensure those who urgently need permanent rental assistance can access housing. Additionally, DC must ensure these resources are available for both single adults and families.

5) Make DC’s COVID Era Human Services Protections permanent 

COVID-19 has affirmed what we’ve long heard from our unhoused neighbors: shelters, in their current state, are neither safe nor hospitable. DC must ensure that we carry forward the many learnings from COVID-19 which include the benefits of 24-hour shelter operations and the importance of shifting away from congregate settings. Additionally, DC must continue to utilize PEP-V and Bridge Housing, both of which have a stabilizing impact while also making the housing process easier to navigate. Barriers to entry to PEP-V and Bridge Housing, such as curfews and sobriety requirements, must be eliminated. Finally, DC must ensure the continued provision of portable restrooms and hygiene stations at encampments, which are currently set to be phased out.

6) Invest $1 million to fund Tenants' Rights Legislation

The Council must fund the recently passed Eviction Record Sealing Authority and Fairness in Renting Amendment Act of 2022. Additionally, the Council must pass and fund the Human Rights Enhancement Amendment Act of 2021. Together, this legislation will reduce many of the barriers faced by our unhoused neighbors and will decrease discrimination faced by people experiencing homelessness.

7) Invest an additional $300,000 to expand Project Reconnect to prevent single homelessness

The Mayor’s budget adds $400,000 to Project Reconnect and the Committee on Human Services added the remaining $300,000 for a total FY 23 increase of $700,000. When combined with needed modifications to DC’s shelter operations and a streamlined intake process for single adults, Project Reconnect can prevent the trauma of having to enter into homelessness, which is currently often required to qualify for rapid exit and prevention services.

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