View of housing near Columbia Heights and Pleasant Plains.
View of housing near Columbia Heights and Pleasant Plains. Photo courtesy of Ted Eytan via Flickr

Mayor Muriel Bowser unveiled her plan for a proposed $17.5 billion budget at a hearing at the newly opened MLK library on May 27. The new budget, buoyed by $2.5 billion of federal aid from the American Rescue Plan, allocates $505.1 million of federal aid over four years to affordable housing, $483.2 million for businesses, and $387.6 million for economic recovery for residents.

The budget also includes plans to allocate $263.9 million of the federal aid for learning acceleration, $193.7 million to gun violence prevention, and $189.1 million to COVID-19 response.  

Despite the investment in pandemic relief and recovery, some say it still falls short of what is needed.

According to the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute, an advocacy organization focused on reducing poverty and inequality within the District, the plan does not do enough to address structural inequities that impact the city’s poorest residents.

“Even with this strong plan, the Mayor misses some important opportunities to dismantle structural barriers to opportunity for Black and brown communities and those living on low incomes,” the organization said in a press release

In the press release, the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute also added that the budget “falls short” on supporting excluded workers such as undocumented immigrants.

Still, according to data from the Housing Association of Nonprofit Developers, D.C. generally leads its neighbors in funding and providing affordable housing. In 2020, the District met 52% of its target for new housing for “low-income” households while Arlington County met 23% of its housing target for the same demographic. The same data also shows that Fairfax County met only 2% of its annual target while Alexandria met 6% of its target.

The budget increases funding for nearly every D.C. agency except for the Metropolitan Police Department. The proposal instead offers spending on alternatives to policing.

Within affordable housing, the proposed budget includes a record $400 million contribution to the city’s Housing Production Trust Fund, adding $150 million in funding for the current fiscal year and $250 million for the next fiscal year. $352 million will also be provided for rent and utility assistance through the STAY D.C. program.

The plan calls for spending $113 million on renovating and replacing public housing. It also allocates $67 million to acquire and convert property into emergency and transitional shelters for victims of domestic violence. In addition, the plan calls for new housing developments, including the production of 758 new permanent supportive housing units for singles and 347 new units for families.

The D.C. Council will review the mayor’s proposed budget over the coming weeks, with the first public hearing set to begin on June 2 at noon, where members of the council and the public will deliberate the plan for next year’s spending.

This article was co-published with The DC Line.

Will Schick covers DC government and public affairs through a partnership between Street Sense Media and The DC Line. Year one of this joint position was made possible by the Poynter-Koch Media and Journalism Fellowship, The Nash Foundation, and individual contributors.