Housing Breaking Backs of Residents

The DC Fiscal Policy Institute issued a study today called “A Broken Foundation.” The Washington City Paper did a summary of it here. But we can break down even further into the pieces that, in our opinion, need to be considered immediately by policy makers, development and housing offices and affordable housing developers.

Read on after the jump for more. 

The problem:

  • 43,000 households in DC are “extremely low income”
  • For perspective An extremely low income family of four makes no more than $32,000 a year.
  • 62% of those extremely low income households (or 26,000 households) spend more than half of their annual income on rent.
  • That percentage of what are called “severely rent burdened” has increase 50% as compared to 10 years ago.

The current “solution” build affordable housing using median income in DC to determine what “affordable” and “low income” is:

  • Between 2010 and 2016,  4110 new affordable housing units were added to the DC market. In other words: 4110 units received public monies to subsidize the housing.
  • Of those only 880 were actually  accessible to the extremely low income residents in DC or those that make $32,000 and less.

Other notable facts found in this study that can’t be ignored:

  • There are  10,030 affordable housing rental units available for these 43,000 low income families
  • An additional 13,000 affordable units will have their subsidies expire by 2020, putting some at risk of market-rate conversion. Leading to a potentially significant loss of current affordable housing.


I know we say it a lot, but DC needs affordable housing. Real affordable housing. Good, safe, quality housing for struggling DC families.

The study provides some good ideas for DC to mitigate this issue. But here are ways the city and neighborhoods can help maintain affordable housing in DC, ensuring the city is inclusive and mitigating displacement of long time DC residents:

  • Welcome affordable housing into your neighborhood.
  • Use Community Benefit Agreements to require developers to do more. If someone asks for a zoning variance, or a public subsidy, communities should be able to ask that they also create real affordable housing, or provide funding to a group or city office that can do that.


*Updated to include the Washington Post analysis from December 23rd: After a decade of gentrification District sees surge in families crushed by rent.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s