ANC approves resolution pushing for housing voucher reform

Media Credit: Ava Pitruzzello | Photographer

ANC commissioner Yannik Omictin urged the D.C. Council to reform its rapid rehousing voucher program, which allowed about 900 Foggy Bottom residents to receive housing vouchers during the pandemic.

A local governing body approved a resolution urging the D.C. Council to do away with time limit terminations on its rapid rehousing voucher program in a meeting Wednesday.

The Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission voted 6-1 to recommend the D.C. Council withdraw time limit terminations, which might force more than 900 Foggy Bottom residents off of their housing subsidies as their limited-time voucher expires and ends their housing benefits, and reform the rapid rehousing voucher program, which was introduced as a housing remedy during the COVID-19 pandemic. Interim University President Mark Wrighton outlined his goals for the University to the ANC and a representative from Mayor Muriel Bowser’s office gave commissioners updates regarding the fiscal budget for 2023.

ANC urges Council to reform rapid rehousing
Commissioner Yannik Omictin introduced a resolution urging the D.C. Council to reform its rapid rehousing voucher program, which allowed about 913 Foggy Bottom residents to receive housing vouchers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Omictin said residents who received housing vouchers could face a “benefits cliff” when their subsidies expired, likely being pushed off their benefits with little wiggle room to pay for their housing.

“They would lose access to this voucher and have no means of getting a job that pays them $10,000 more or $15,000 more,” Omictin said. “They can’t do that in the span of a few months, or even six or so. It’s very difficult.”

The vouchers acted as a housing subsidy for recipients, allowing them to live in housing in D.C. on the stipulation that 30 percent of their income went to paying for the housing. Commissioner Evelyn Hudson was the sole dissenting vote on the resolution, which passed 6-1.

Commissioner Trupti Patel, who voted for the resolution, said the vouchers are vital housing assistance for residents with lower incomes. She said apartment buildings and landlords in the District will sometimes refuse to accept the vouchers or wait until they expire, adding to the difficulty of finding housing for the recipients.

“The reason why Commissioner Omictin is particularly harping on this time limit is it’s no use to give a recipient this voucher, when you know there are buildings in the city that know that if they are on a time crunch, it could run the clock out against the recipient and then the recipient is still unhoused,” Patel said.

Wrighton talks to commissioners on University-ANC cooperation
Interim University President Mark Wrighton spoke to commissioners at the meeting, introducing himself and expressing a hope for further cooperation between the ANC and GW. Wrighton said he wants to be “proactive” in community outreach for University events like basketball games and musicals, and hopes to increase the community’s involvement in said events.

“I look forward to working with all of you to continue to build our community and the University itself can make very important contributions,” Wrighton said.

Wrighton gave updates on GW’s search for permanent office holders on various positions like vice president for communications and marketing and general counsel, and said he expected the positions to be filled “in the next several months.” Wrighton also said he hopes commissioners will be able to tour the newly-renovated Thurston Hall before it reopens in August.

Wrighton also said he had tested positive for COVID-19, adding that he had been in isolation with mild symptoms for about 10 days.

Mayor’s office gives update on 2023 budget
Lindsey Parker, the District’s assistant city administrator and chief technology officer, spoke on behalf of the office of Mayor Muriel Bowser to give updates on the $19.5 billion budget for the 2023 fiscal year, which Bowser recently proposed to the D.C. Council.

Parker said the budget includes $114.6 million for the modernization and renovation of D.C. homelessness shelters, along with a $31 million to Bowser’s Homeward D.C. plan, which aims to increase permanent housing vouchers to the District’s unhoused population. She said the investment will allow the D.C. government to focus on aiding individuals experiencing homelessness, after having “moved the needle” on unhoused families.

“What this investment is going to allow us to do is really think about investing in quality housing for some of our residents that don’t have stable homes today,” Parker said.

Patel said she was “deeply disappointed” in the budget because of its lack of funding toward D.C. workers who are not eligible for unemployment and pandemic-related benefits. She said excluded workers had asked Bowser for $200 million in funding last year, but had only received $41 million, and had been “left out” of the 2023 budget.

“We thought and we’d hoped that the mayor would give us something and she didn’t,” Patel said. “We even requested a meeting with the mayor. So while there are some great things in this budget, a large block of people were left out.”

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