Jubilee Housing’s experience with the District’s Housing Production Trust Fund refutes the heavy-handed conclusions of a recent audit of the fund. Its suggestion that the fund is mismanaged or limited in its usefulness is entirely incorrect.
We have seen the results first hand. Over the past 15 years, Jubilee has renovated eight buildings that provide approximately 230 affordable homes, in total, using $16 million of trust fund investments. In addition to creating homes affordable to families with very low and extremely low incomes in the rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods of Adams Morgan, Columbia Heights, and Mount Pleasant, trust fund dollars have ensured that level of affordability for a minimum of 40 years.
More broadly, the fund has generated 10,000 plus affordable homes in the past 15 years, according to the audit. All these units will remain highly affordable to the next two generations of District residents, at a minimum.
From Jubilee’s perspective, the trust fund is working.
Jubilee agrees with the audit’s call for greater accountability. Many of the shortcomings cited in the audit stem from the fund’s earliest years, when the volume of loans was much lower and systems had yet to be established. We point to steps taken to add staff to monitor compliance with the fund’s terms and to introduce automated controls as indications of the Mayor’s effort to strengthen the fund. We also note that the fund successfully invested more than $130 million last year alone and appears on course to match that amount for a second straight year.
The most pressing finding in the audit cites the difficulty in meeting statutory income targets. Jubilee strongly supports requirements that 40 percent of trust fund dollars be used to produce homes affordable to D.C. residents with extremely low incomes (30 percent of area median income and below) and another 40 percent go towards homes for those earning very low incomes (50 percent of AMI). Recent funding rounds have produced more homes affordable at those levels. To ensure that the trust fund can sustain this critical trend, the city must also continue to invest in funding for the Local Rent Subsidy Program, which enables developers like Jubilee to reach affordability for residents with extremely low incomes.
Make no mistake. Our city continues to face an unrelenting affordability crisis in which far too many residents are being left behind as the city develops and prospers. Rather than mislead the public about the effectiveness of the District’s most valuable local tool for creating affordable homes, D.C. Councilmembers should increase investment in the trust fund to help reduce the equity gap and bring about some justice—through housing—for longtime D.C. residents.
Jubilee’s final word on the trust fund differs substantially from the audit’s conclusion. We believe the trust fund deserves additional investment in both its administration and level of funding. The rapidly escalating gentrification of the District makes the need for highly affordable homes—and thus the need for the Housing Production Trust Fund—greater now than ever.