Thanks to Jim Knight, the Kairos Program, and Jubilee Housing, Sam Buggs said his life is back on course. “Without those three entities, I am not sure what I would be doing today,” he said.
Buggs was speaking at a public confirmation hearing before the Council of the District of Columbia’s Committee on Housing and Neighborhood Revitalization. He was there advocating for Knight, the executive director of Jubilee Housing, who has been nominated to serve a second term on the Housing Production Trust Fund (HPTF) Board. Buggs said he had lived in Jubilee Housing for four years and that he was a member of the Kairos Program, a community of men supporting each other in their sobriety.
He provided candid insight into how the Trust Fund helps real people. A lifelong resident of the District of Columbia, his building was recently renovated with support from the Trust Fund. After being incarcerated for 20 years, Buggs has his own efficiency apartment, is enrolled at Catholic University, and participates in two youth mentorship programs—accomplishments that may have been out of reach without the stability of an affordable home.
“I believe that Jim Knight has a special quality of caring for those who are down on their luck. …He seems to understand the challenges that people like me faced,” said Buggs, who serves on the Jubilee Housing Board of Directors. “I also want to say that as the leader of Jubilee Housing, …he has also been able to translate that compassion into strong programs for the families of our residents and for our brothers and sisters who are returning.”
Myra Peabody Gossens has served on the Jubilee Housing board for more than a decade and currently serves as its chair. She also testified on behalf of Knight at the April 7 hearing in the John A. Wilson Building. Chaired by Councilmember Anita Bonds, the hearing considered the reappointments of Stanley Jackson, Susanne Slater, and Robert Pohlman to the Trust Fund board, as well.
Administered by the DC Department of Housing and Community Development, the Trust Fund provides District-generated funds to preserve, improve, and develop affordable housing. Since 2002, the fund has helped non-profit housing providers, mission-driven for-profit developers, and renters utilizing the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act provide affordable housing options in all eight wards.
Gossens gave an unqualified endorsement of Knight. She said it is imperative the city remains inclusive and called Knight a voice for justice. Her statement focused on his dedication to justice housing, and his deep knowledge and experience in the sector.
“I have had the privilege of working closely with Jim—me as volunteer, Jim as executive—for more than a decade. I’ve seen his wisdom and creativity, his dogged commitment to overcome unforeseen obstacles, his faithful determination to live out his and Jubilee Housing’s vision and mission,” Gossens said.
“I am impressed daily with his understanding of finance and real estate and lending and partners and all types of programs and services whether for the youngest of us all or men and women coming out of jail or families in need of a safe place to live.”
Gossens framed the business case for why Knight should continue to serve on the Trust Fund board. Knight, who has dedicated his career to justice housing, has two decades of experience in affordable housing development.
Since 2002, he has served as executive director and president of Jubilee Housing, which provides affordable housing in 10 buildings located in some of the District’s most rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods, including Adams Morgan, Columbia Heights, and Mt. Pleasant.
In his own testimony, Knight reminded the committee of his longstanding support for the Trust Fund and the ways he has put HPTF funds to work for the community.
An ardent and active supporter of initial funding for the Trust Fund, during his tenure as president of the Coalition for Nonprofit Housing & Economic Development (CNHED), he led the effort to establish the Continuum of Housing Framework, which became the foundation for CNHED’s Housing for All Campaign. The highly successful initiative helped to pave the way for the HPTF’s current $100 million annual funding level.
Knight also noted ways in which he has used funds from the Trust Fund to preserve approximately 200 units of affordable housing, helping to create models for innovative housing combined with services.
Efforts have included communities serving residents earning 30 percent area median income (AMI); hosting early childhood education centers for newborns and toddlers and after-school programs for K-12 students; and a first-of-its-kind housing program supporting men and women returning to the community from incarceration.
Buggs is a proud advocate of the returning program. Having benefitted from it, he offered first-hand reasons for why Knight should continue to serve on the Trust Fund board. His testimony piqued the interest of Councilmember Bonds who asked him a couple of follow up questions after he read his statement.
She asked him if he thought there was value in the support the Trust Fund provides. Knowing the answer was “yes,” she suggested he elaborate for her, based on his experience.
“I think it is unfortunate that returning citizens come home, often times, not having the ability to move into decent housing. I think it is a problem that should be addressed and hopefully this Trust Fund will also continue to include those returning citizens,” Buggs said.
“It’s important because a lot of people who are returning from incarceration would like to do the right things. Unfortunately, I think a lot of the times there aren’t certain safety nets that are put in place to assist them in becoming normal citizens. For this reason, I am grateful once again for Jubilee Housing and their efforts to help those returning citizens find affordable housing.”
Knight could not have asked for a better booster. Justice housing, in turn, has a committed advocate, too.
“I want to thank Mayor Muriel Bowser for nominating me for another term on the Housing Production Trust Fund Board and for her leadership in addressing the affordable housing crisis we are experiencing in the District,” Knight said.
“If confirmed I will continue to bring to the board strong advocacy for the creation and preservation of high-quality housing for those who can’t afford it otherwise—housing that is coupled with services that provide opportunity for families and individuals, all while being located in thriving neighborhoods with access to good jobs, education, transportation, and more.”