The Washington Post: DC region’s leaders face big challenges as they tackle affordable-housing shortage

The Washington Post, September 4, 2019: DC region’s leaders face big challenges as they tackle affordable-housing shortage

Last year, the Washington region came together to fix a 40-year-old problem by providing Metro with dedicated funding. Now elected officials and business and nonprofit leaders are preparing a push to overcome another challenge: the critical shortage of affordable housing.

new report issued Wednesday says the Washington region needs to add a whopping 374,000 housing units by 2030. Officials say that’s about 30% more than expected at present.

The Urban Institute study, commissioned by the Greater Washington Partnership and ­JPMorgan Chase, also says a dramatic shift is needed in the kind of housing produced. More than three-fourths of the new units need to be for low- and middle-
income families. That’s where shortages are greatest; developers prefer to build upscale housing because it’s more profitable.

The 140-page report includes detailed recommendations to increase public subsidies, relax zoning and regulatory restrictions, strengthen tenant protections and take other steps to achieve the goal. It asks each county and municipality in the region to commit to a 10-year target for producing affordable-housing units.

Since 2010, only 10% of the new housing units in the region have cost $1,299 a month or less, and thus were affordable for households with annual incomes of $54,300 or less, according to the Urban Institute.

The study found that 493,000 households in the region are at risk of displacement in coming years as rents and property taxes rise. Of those, 220,000 households have annual incomes below $75,000 and thus are at the most risk of being forced to relocate.

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