Photo of four men standing together and talking. Phil Mendelson is in the center of the photo, speaking into his phone.
credit: Olivia Zhang

The D.C. Council unanimously passed the Fiscal Year 2019 Local Budget Act of 2018 with full attendance during Tuesday’s legislative meeting. Compared to the initial vote that took place on May 15, an additional $1 million from local funds was provided to Department of Human Services for the rapid re-housing program.

Advocates questioned this support for the time-limited housing subsidy. Critics claim rapid re-housing sets up many beneficiaries to be evicted when the subsidy runs out and they cannot afford market-rate rents. “We remain concerned with the rapid re-housing program,” said Monica Kamen, co-director of the Fair Budget Coalition. “We think that it needs more substantial reform in order to make it successful.”

At-Large Councilmember Anita Bonds, who chairs the Housing and Neighborhood Revitalization Committee, said resolving homelessness was front and center in this budget.

“We are in a situation as elected officials, as representatives of the people, we have to listen to all of the advocates. We can’t satisfy everyone,” Bonds said. “But we do our best to be as responsive as we can.

New additions to the final budget included $2 million to fund housing for domestic violence survivors and $500,000 for culturally specific victim services.

The council also planned to use 2018 funds to expand violence prevention programs over the summer before the current fiscal year ends on Sept. 30.

“It’s a tough call,” Bonds said, referring to many priorities the mayor and D.C. Council consider when crafting the budget. She acknowledged the council is still facing hurdles to help everyone and thought more money should be invested for human needs whenever an agency’s appropriations for the year are not fully spent.

Jesse Rabinowitz, an advocacy specialist for the nonprofit Miriam’s Kitchen, said some proven housing solutions are funded in the budget, but not at the levels needed to end chronic homelessness.

“We’re adding $1 million to what we’ve previously approved to help meet the needs,” Council Chair Phil Mendelson said, stressing that affordable housing expansion is the major solution to poverty. “We’ve already increased funding related to vouchers and affordable housing, including permanent supportive housing, and helping folks access the shelter system. The total increase in that area will now be above $16 million over what the mayor had proposed.”

Kamen said the Fair Budget Coalition is pleased with the permanent housing allocations that were made, but they were advocating for far more and don’t think this is near enough to solve the affordable housing and homelessness crises.