D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s administration is accused of granting millions of dollars to affordable housing projects that are ranked low by evaluators, according to a newly publicized auditor’s report.
The management of D.C.’s Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) awarded $78 million for Housing Production Trust Fund (HPTF) projects in June 2018.
Five among the nine proposals selected by DHCD were previously “ranked in the bottom half of applications by staff evaluators and the final selection meant 353 fewer affordable housing units.”
The audit stated that the method/procedures used by the DHCD management “raises serious questions about the effectiveness and transparency of DHCD’s selection process.”
DHCD picked nine projects for the Fall 2017 Consolidated Request for Proposals (RFP) awards of $103 million. Out of the total amount, $78 million was HPTF funding.
“Between staff recommendations and the final selection by the Director there was a net loss of 353 affordable units, including a reduction by 95 units of those targeting the District’s most vulnerable households earning up to 30 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI),” according to the report.
It was also emphasized in the report that “every project should be led by qualified developers, with specific and targeted plans, and solid financing, to deliver a project that is operational and compliant so that affordable housing is created and preserved as swiftly as possible to meet policymaker goals.”
The Washington Post also reported that among the winners with low scores were Anacostia Gardens Apartments, Petworth Station, Mary’s House and complexes at 1100 Eastern Avenue Northeast and 3500 East Capitol Street NE, adding that all five companies or their executives donated to Bowser’s election campaign.
Mayor Bowser is known for prioritizing affordable housing within her policies since taking office in 2015. As a result, the HPTF, which is considered to be a main tool to financially support affordable housing, has been on the rise over the past few years. As part of the FY 2020 budget, the District proposed an investment of $130 million in the HPTF, up from $100 million in FY 2019, and $99 million in FY 2018.
By the end of Bowser’s first term, 7,200 units of affordable housing were built or preserved, according to the Washington Post, which stated that the mayor declined to answer questions related to the audit, saying she had not seen it.
In response to the audit, some D.C. residents accused Bowser of corruption over Twitter.
It’s not that politicians can be bought. Corruption has existed since before fire and the wheel were invented; it’s that in the age of campaign reform they can be bought so cheaply, and still deliver so much.
— John Anthony (@jburroughsa) May 31, 2019
Were some of the higher scoring ones *not* campaign donors? That would be interesting to know
— Zach W (@zwstein) May 30, 2019
Ward 7 Commissioner Tyrell M. Holcomb, on the other hand, suggested that the City Council amend the HPTF legislation, as this was the second report pointing out how problematic it is.
Our city council must amend the Housing Production Trust Fund legislation, this is the second report from the auditor’s office that has revealed the flaws with the HPTF. It’s unacceptable for 353 units to have been left on the table. #DCHousingCrisis https://t.co/rLdW9ZX8Xg
— Tyrell M. Holcomb (@tmholcomb) May 31, 2019