Sign that says "Fight for our human right to housing"

Just after the annual census of the homeless community, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser joined 13 U.S. mayors and three CEOs to call for national, local and private investments to curb the housing-affordability crises across the nation. The Mayors & CEOs for U.S. Housing Investment campaign was announced Jan. 25 in the lobby of the John and Jill Ker Conway Residence, a state-of-the-art supportive-housing building that was developed through public-private partnership with more than 50 funding sources and sits one mile down North Capitol St. from the U.S. Capitol. 

“We know that ending homelessness, making it rare, brief and non-recurring, is about political will,” Bowser said to her peers and the press. “We need to make sure there is an affordable unit at the end of the line for all our residents. We deserve access to quality housing.”  

The coalition of mayors and business leaders is organized around four policy changes. First is maximizing funding for existing federal programs that work, such as Section 8 housing vouchers and community service block grants. “All of the mayors here have programs, but programs aren’t the answer,” said Steve Hogan, mayor of Aurora, Colorado. “The answer is a place to go, a place to be safe.”  

Next, they recommend new competitive grants to spur housing innovation and investment to create and preserve affordable units. The coalition also thinks that building on the success of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s past partnerships by matching housing-voucher recipients with health and supportive service programs is another step in the right direction. “When government has to step in, there is a failure in the market,” said Mayor Michael Hancock, mayor of Denver. “We have to have the audacity to believe that every person in our city is worthy and they matter no matter what challenge.” 

Lastly, the coalition wants to create a housing-stabilization fund to provide housing assistance to persons that earn 80 percent and below of the Area Median Income. In the District,  such a fund would benefit individuals who earn less than $61,750 per year and four-person households that earn $88,250 or less, according to the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development 

Mayor Darrell Steinberg, from Sacramento, California, said that most policy drafted to address homelessness is reactionary and strives to manage immediate needs rather than take on root causes of poverty. He said this coalition has the opportunity to be proactive. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti added that bipartisan solutions are needed in order to build a system that endures and functions well from one administration to the next. “We are Democrats. We are Republicans. We are from the North, the South, the East and the West,” Garcetti said. “Housing is the pillar of the American dream.” 

The inclusion of the business community is crucial in the eyes of Greg Stanton, mayor of  Phoenix. He said much of the homelessness and affordability crises is a work development issue. 

“Phoenix is proud to be part of this brand-new coalition of mayors of cities and business partners who understand we can do better,” Stanton said. “Now is not the time to cut key programs. We are Americans. We love a good comeback story.”