Washington, D.C.’s Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) has been selected by ULI’s Terwilliger Center for Housing as the winner of the 2017 Robert C. Larson Housing Policy Leadership Award, an annual recognition of the innovative ways the public sector is addressing the country’s affordable housing crisis.
DCHD, chosen for the award by a jury of national housing industry leaders, was honored during the Terwilliger Center’s Housing Opportunity Conference in New Orleans. The housing initiative was selected from a group of finalist policies and initiatives, including Boston’s Neighborhood Homes Initiative, Denver’s Regional Transit-Oriented Development Fund, and New York City’s Housing Development Corporation.
Jurors noted that Washington, D.C., under the direction of Mayor Muriel Bowser and Brian Kenner, deputy mayor for planning and economic development, has taken a multipronged approach to tackle issues involved in housing the city’s residents, including establishment of a housing trust fund to support construction and preservation; a streamlined, more efficient process for the disposition of vacant properties; improved programs to encourage homeownership and facilitate homeownership for those who otherwise would remain renters; and creation of the Housing Preservation Strike Force to focus on maintaining existing affordable units. So far, these efforts have achieved the following results:
- More than 4,000 affordable rental and homeownership units have been produced and preserved across all eight city wards since January 2015.
- More than 5,300 affordable housing units—capable of housing more than 13,200 residents—are in the pipeline.
- DHCD will have its entire inventory of vacant property in the disposition process by the end of the year.
- The loan amount for the Home Purchase Assistance Program (HPAP) was increased by almost 50 percent, and the loan deferral payment was extended for most borrowers. HPAP provides interest-free loans and closing-cost assistance to qualified applicants to purchase single-family houses, condominiums, or cooperative units. The loan amount is based on a combination of factors, including income, household size, and the total assets that each applicant must commit toward a property’s purchase.
- In DHCD’s spring 2016 request for proposals, 13 projects with 1,200-plus affordable housing units were selected for production/preservation. DHCD will announce a new round of chosen projects this fall.
“Now more than ever, local governments need to lead on ensuring an adequate supply of affordable housing options for their residents,” said jury chairman J. Ronald Terwilliger, chairman of the ULI Terwilliger Center for Housing and a former ULI chairman. “Washington, D.C.’s wide-ranging efforts are bringing significant local resources to bear and raising the bar for other cities to meet.”
The Larson Award recognizes exemplary state and local programs, policies, and practices that support the production, rehabilitation, or preservation of workforce and affordable housing. The program was created in 2011 to honor the legacy of the late Robert C. Larson, a former ULI Foundation chairman and a longtime ULI trustee. The award is part of the ULI Terwilliger Center’s housing awards program, which honors developments and programs that provide affordable, well-designed, and accessible housing choices for people with a mix of incomes, including families earning up to 120 percent of the area median income.
Through the Larson Award, the Terwilliger Center is demonstrating the critical role that housing plays in achieving economic prosperity and a high quality of life—both for individuals and communities, Terwilliger noted. “If a family is constantly worried about housing, then being healthy, getting educated, and staying employed is never much of an option. A family with a stable housing situation is a family with a chance. Housing is the foundation from which everything else takes root.”
The program recognizes states and localities that undertake a broad range of policy and administrative initiatives to support housing affordability. This can take the form of regulatory or administrative changes such as allowing higher densities and waiving fees, or programs that provide grants or financing assistance. Policy programs are judged on several factors, including impact on the supply of workforce housing, comprehensiveness of the tools and programs employed, involvement of public/private partnerships, and the ability to leverage private and nonprofit funds, among other criteria.
“No one policy or program will solve a city’s housing challenges,” said Stockton Williams, ULI executive vice president for content and executive director of the ULI Terwilliger Center for Housing. “Mayor Muriel Bowser recognizes this and has substantially built on existing efforts and created new initiatives in an ambitious, multifaceted strategy.”
In addition to Terwilliger, members of the 2017 Larson Award jury were Victoria Davis, president, Urban Atlantic; Hal Ferris, principal, Spectrum Development; Gadi Kaufmann, managing director and chief executive officer, RCLCO; Alazne Solis, president and chief executive officer, Make Room USA; and Margaret Wylde, chief executive officer, Pro Matura Group.