On Tuesday, Mayor Bowser released her Fiscal Year 2018 budget proposal, outlining her spending priorities for the next fiscal year. Titled “DC Values in Action: A roadmap to inclusive security,” the budget proposal takes important steps to help DC residents increase their incomes and ability to pay for housing. However, it falls far short of addressing the most urgent needs of District residents, including those experiencing prolonged homelessness.
Particularly disappointing is that the Mayor prioritized $100 million worth of tax cuts over much needed investments in important programs such as housing to end chronic homelessness.
D.C. is in the midst of both a homelessness crisis and an affordable housing crisis. Over 8,000 individuals and families are experiencing homelessness and 26,000 residents are on the brink of losing their homes.[i] Both of these crises are disproportionately impacting our communities of color. We simply cannot realize “inclusive prosperity” when so many of our neighbors have been denied the dignity of a home.
NOT ENOUGH TO END CHRONIC HOMELESSNESS
The Mayor’s proposed budget includes significant investments to implement Homeward DC, the city’s strategic plan to make homelessness “rare, brief and nonrecurring.” However, it misses a critical opportunity to scale up housing interventions to ensure that no one lives or dies on the streets of our nation’s capital.
The FY18 budget proposal includes funding to end homelessness for 262 individuals experiencing chronic homelessness through Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH), and Targeted Affordable Housing (TAH). While the ability to move 262 individuals into housing is a good thing, we are concerned that this budget doesn’t make more meaningful investments in this area. For example, the proposed budget does not include additional funding for Rapid Rehousing (RRH) for individuals and the investments in PSH and TAH fall far below what is needed to accelerate progress towards ending chronic homelessness.
At a time when homelessness in DC is increasing, chronic homelessness is actually going down. Between 2009 and 2016, chronic homelessness in the District decreased by nearly 21%. This is because the investments we have made in things like PSH are working. Now is the time to build on this success, not to scale back. Additional investments in housing are needed to end chronic homelessness and without them, we miss a critical moment.
An outline of the Mayor’s proposed investments in three critical housing interventions can be found below. This chart includes comparisons to The Way Home’s recommendations as well our best estimates of the current need for housing to end chronic homelessness. In short, the Mayor’s proposal meets 21% of our asks and just 10% of the investments needed to reach this goal.
budget (in units)
|% of ask||% of need|
|PSH||535||535||162||30%||30% (373 units needed)|
|TAH||849||425||100||24%||12% (749 units needed)|
|RRH||1144||343||0||0%||0% (1144 units needed)|
|TOTAL||2528||1303||262||20%||10% (2266 units needed)|
Please note that the numbers above represent our best understanding of the housing needs of individuals experiencing homelessness in the District. Funding for these units alone will not end chronic homelessness. In addition, these figures may evolve over time. However, we cannot underscore the scale of the need or the urgency with which it must be addressed. On any given night in the District, 1,500 individuals and 40 families are experiencing chronic homelessness. For this population, housing is health care and often saves lives. We must scale up our progress to end chronic homelessness by investing in proven housing interventions.
MORE NEEDED TO END FAMILY HOMELESSNESS
The Mayor’s proposed budget includes $8.5 million to house 332 families, including:
- $3.8 million for 130 additional units of Rapid Re-Housing;
- $3.1 million for 117 additional units of Permanent Supportive Housing; and
- $1.6 million for 85 additional units of Targeted Affordable Housing
The Mayor’s proposed investments are a good start, but with over 1,000 families in shelter and another 1,300 in a time-limited rapid rehousing program, they do not sufficiently address the need for housing for families that have experienced homelessness. Fully investing in the family homeless system is critically important not only because every family deserves a safe, stable place to call home, but also because we cannot end chronic homelessness for families or individuals when this system is underfunded.
Additional Funding for the Continuum of Care
The Continuum of Care (CoC) is a DC body that coordinates housing and services funding for families and individuals experiencing chronic homelessness, and deals largely with the shelter system. The Mayor’s proposed budget contains resources to improve the CoC, which is good news. Specifically, these investments include:
- Funding to address gaps in family homelessness system
For years, the District has not adequately budgeted to fund emergency shelters and overflow hotels during the winter season. As a result, the funding for these urgent needs was filled from a variety of sources, including through federal TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) dollars. The Mayor’s budget proposal includes $46 million for emergency shelters, including $16 million to pay for hotels.
- Investments in family shelter
The Mayor’s budget proposal includes $50 million over 4 years to replace D.C. general with smaller, more dignified shelters in each of the District’s 8 wards. This is good news since every person and family experiencing homelessness should have access to safer, cleaner, and smaller shelters.
PROGRESS TOWARDS PREVENTING AND ENDING YOUTH HOMELESSNESS
The Mayor’s budget proposal increases funding by $2.4 million to assist youth experiencing homelessness through crisis beds, transitional housing beds, PSH, RRH, and aftercare services. The DHS budget also includes a significant increase in funds to ACE and PASS, which provide court diversion and family stabilization for youth and families in need of services. Nonetheless, the $2.4 million allocation is only half of what youth advocates say is needed to adequately implement the recently passed Interagency Council on Homelessness (ICH) Comprehensive Plan to End Youth Homelessness.
NEW AFFORDABLE HOUSING PROGRAM, BUT NOT ENOUGH RENTAL ASSISTANCE
The FY18 budget proposal makes significant investments in expanding affordable housing for DC residents. However, like in other areas, these investments do not address the full scale of what is needed.
- $100 million for Housing Production Trust Fund (HPTF)
The Mayor’s budget includes $100 million in the Housing Production Trust Fund. This amount represents level funding compared to the last three fiscal years. While it is important that the Mayor has maintained this funding, this amount falls short of what is needed to assist the over 40,000 people on the affordable housing waitlist, which will have been closed for 4 years next week. DC’s extreme lack of affordable housing is a root cause of homelessness and while these investments alone will not end chronic homelessness, they are critical to ensuring that all DC residents have the dignity of a home.
- No new investments in Local Rent Supplement Program (LRSP)
The budget proposal does not include additional investments in LRSP (outside of homeless services). This will limit the ability of the HPTF to create truly low income units for those living in poverty.
- $10 million for housing preservation
This budget includes $10 million in new funding for housing preservation, which is a key step towards preventing the disappearance of affordable housing in the District.
In this time of uncertainty, DC’s budget can and should be a beacon of hope for our most vulnerable neighbors. The good news is that we can still transform the budget between now and when the D.C. Council approves it. Over the next few months, the Council will review the proposal and hold a series of hearings to inform their decision making. They have the ability to make changes to the proposed budget, such as by adding additional resources for ending chronic homelessness.
To make this happen, we need your help! Here are two ways you can support The Way Home this week:
- Mark your calendars! We are holding our annual Advocacy Day on Thursday, May 18th. Keep an eye out for more details.
- Let us know where you vote by filling out this form! Our elected leaders listen to their constituents. Let us know where you live and work so that we can better lift up your voices.
[i] Zippel, Claire. “A Broken Foundation: Affordable Housing Crisis Threatens DC’s Lowest Income Residents.” D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute. December 2016. http://www.dcfpi.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/DCFPI-Broken-Foundation-Housing-Report-12-8-16.pdf.