Testimony on Committee on Housing and Executive Administration
B24-0430 Limited Equity Cooperative Advisory Council Act of 2021
B24-0431 Limited Equity Cooperative Tax Assistance Abatement Act of 2021
June 24, 2022
Thank you for the opportunity to testify. I am Meg Maguire, Chair of the NW Opportunity Partners CDC. Our mission is to reverse the historic racial inequities of removal and exclusion of Black residents in Ward 3 by expanding affordable housing and economic opportunities; and by transferring any benefits of our work to other community-led organizations citywide.
We are committed to meeting Mayor Bowser’s goal of 1990 new units of affordable housing in Ward 3 by 2025. This is proving to be exceptionally difficult.
- Inclusionary Zoning (IZ) is producing very little affordable housing. To illustrate, three unusually large sites — City Ridge, Mazza Gallerie, Wardman (proposed) — will produce a total of only 163 IZ rental units and no ownership opportunities.
- While new development is creating many new jobs below the Median Family Income (MFI), people who fill these jobs will not be able to live here. For example, Wegmans grocery store at City Ridge, just one of many new businesses in that location, is creating 450 full- and part-time jobs but only 60 units of affordable housing.
- Public land on which to create significant amounts of affordable housing is exceedingly scarce in Ward 3.
Limited equity cooperatives hold promise for Ward 3 and we applaud the Council for strengthening and extending their presence in the city. The 2019 LEC Task Force report and the CNHED study, Creating and Sustaining Limited Equity Cooperatives in the District of Columbia, both detail the need for technical assistance to co-op owners to manage their properties successfully over time, and for property tax relief for low-income tenants in these buildings.
We offer several comments and suggestions for your consideration:
The Advisory Council
- The legislation proposes three residents on the 12-person Council or 25% of the membership. We suggest increasing the Council size to 15, adding three more residents for a total of 6 residents to comprise 40% of the membership. We know from the Housing Authority Board that without robust resident representation, tenants’ voices and experiences may be overshadowed or discounted by “experts.” Furthermore, it is the residents whose futures and fortunes are at stake. They should be the final judges of what is working and what needs to be fixed.
- The Council should be advisory both to the City Council and the Mayor. Technical assistance will be administered by DHCD. In an agency already burdened by many programs, we caution that LECs may not receive the attention required to grow and flourish.
From the outset, the Advisory Council must ensure that DHCD applies a racial equity analysis to the program, develops a detailed work program with a timeline, and regularly reports on progress including objectives achieved and problems unsolved. Who is benefitting from the program? Where are the gaps? What steps are necessary to close those gaps?
We ask that the City Council commit to robust oversight by holding administrators accountable for setting and meeting high performance standards, providing timely information, and delivering measurable results of both resident satisfaction and financial sustainability of each property.
Property Tax Assistance
- We support extension of the 5-year property tax abatement based on the assertion of those with significant LEC experience that it is essential to the long-term financial viability of the coop. However, data is lacking on the mix of incomes within LECs and the effect of the exemption on individual households.
We suggest that the Advisory Council initiate a longitudinal study of LECs to determine the mix of incomes and how the exemption impacts the finances of families of varying sizes. With this information, the public can better understand and support the permanent exemption and additional financial resources necessary for rapid expansion of LECs in DC.
We call on the Mayor and Council to lead the way in meeting the city’s affordable housing needs by setting neighborhood targets for new units, pressuring developers to do more than IZ requires and ensuring the success of all types of affordable housing. The LEC legislation considered today is a step in that direction.
NW Opportunity Partners looks forward to more LECs in Ward 3.