Affordable Housing Creation and Distribution in Washington, D.C. 

As part of its continuing work to provide communities with expertise in the area of affordable housingthe Advisory Services program during fiscal year 2020 convened a panel in Washington, D.C., to help the District address housing disparities. The panel addressed the history of race and class in understanding the District’s housing dynamics, many of which also occur in cities across the country.  

In 2019, Mayor Muriel Bowser set a goal of producing a net increase of 36,000 housing units in Washington by 2025. Of those 36,000 units, 12,000 would be set aside for low-income households. The District’s Office of Planning, the Department of Community Development, and sister agencies were in the process of developing a Framework for Housing Equity and Growth to lay out a road map for how and where new housing can fit into the city’s fabric. 

The number of units set by the mayor is based on an analysis conducted by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) to ensure an equitable distribution of housing. COG’s analysis showed that about 115,000 additional housing units beyond projected growth are needed by 2045 to accommodate the addition of an estimated million jobs, which will lead to the need for about 690,000 new housing units. 

The mayor asked ULI to convene an Advisory Services panel to address the current challenging conditions in the Rock Creek West (RCW) planning areaone of 10 planning areas across the District. RCW encompasses 13 square miles (34 sq km) in the city’s northwest quadrant. It is bounded by Rock Creek on the east, Maryland on the north and west, and the Potomac River and Whitehaven Parkway on the south. Existing conditions, density, attitudes, and demographics in RCW will make incorporating a fair and equitable share of housing units there more challenging than might be the case in other areas of the city.  

The Advisory Services panel analyzed opportunities to create 2,500 new affordable housing units in RCW. At the time of the panel in July 2019, District agencies were conducting community outreach and further analysis to establish housing production targets for each of the District’s planning areas. 

Key recommendations by the panel centered on creating more housing through intensifying commercial corridors, upzoning, allowing gentle density increases, and creating shared-equity homeownership opportunities; streamlining and improving the housing development process; and gaining community support through outreach, marketing, and education.  

The panel’s recommendations directly influenced the mayor’s Housing Equity Report and her proposal for the remainder of the DC Comprehensive Plan. The influence of the panel’s report is also evident in the mayors 2020 budget proposal for a tax abatement for affordable housing in high opportunity areas, such as the RCW planning area.  

The panelchaired by ULI trustee Philip Payne of the Lotus Campaign in Charlotte, North Carolina, included David Greensfelder, Greensfelder Commercial Real Estate, Albany, California;Keith Harris, CKG Advisors, Oak Park, Illinois;Brad Leibin, associate, David Baker Architects, Oakland, California;Brian Rajan Nagendra, Abacus ImpactPhiladelphia;Christopher Ptomey, ULI Terwilliger Center for Housing, Washington, D.C.; Chris Riley, 503 Walnut LLC, Austin; and Heather Worthington, city of Minneapolis (now at Worthington Advisors), Minneapolis.  

Read the panel’s recommendations in the final report.  

To bring an Advisory Services panel to your community, contact Advisory Services. 

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