City task force to focus on affordable housing

City residents ranked affordable housing as their top concern Feb. 11 at Mayor Vincent Gray's One City Summit. Hatchet File Photo

This post was written by Hatchet reporter Christa Davis.

A task force has been charged with rolling out a game plan to create more reasonably priced living options across the District.

Mayor Vincent Gray announced Feb. 22 the creation of a Comprehensive Housing Strategy Task Force in response to a survey at his One City Summit earlier that month, which found that affordable housing is the top priority for residents when it comes to quality-of-life issues.

“The mayor realizes that residents want this. D.C. is a thriving city in a bad economy,” Doxie McCoy, a spokeswoman for Gray’s office, said. “The task force is supposed to come up with solutions, talk to people, to figure out how it can be addressed.”

Harry Sewell, co-chair of the task force and executive director of the D.C. Housing Finance Agency, said the median income in the D.C. area is $107,500. Individuals who earn up to 80 percent of that number – or up to $86,000 – would be eligible for affordable housing, including students.

The new plan would update the 2006 guidelines for the city’s housing strategy.

Affordable housing options are scattered throughout the city in apartments, townhouses and other homes. Prices for the units are set based on how much an individual’s designated income level can afford to pay.

Individuals looking to rent out affordable housing units must submit documentation to verify income levels. Properties that offer affordable units are required to submit annual reports on the targeted incomes for the housing.

The task force will also look to lower demand for cheap housing by developing more educational and job training programs across the city, Sewell said.

“The housing is out there now,” Sewell said. “The task force will work to move people who currently live in the housing that have received better jobs out to make room for those who need it.”

Public meetings will be held over the next year to collect input from residents toward the creation of a housing strategy that will be released by 2013.

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