An audit of Washington, D.C.’s biggest public funder of affordable housing has found poor management and uncollected loan repayments — likely reaching the millions. The Office of the D.C. Auditor last week issued the report on the city’s Housing Production Trust Fund, the Washington Post reports. The fund has “disbursed about $700 million over the past 15 years to help developers create affordable housing at a time when gentrification has transformed the city,” according to the paper.
The report claims that the city has done a subpar job of managing the trust fund — failing to collect loan repayments and make sure that developers offer a mix of housing for various incomes. It also found that all of the properties visited “had different methods for certifying household income, which varied greatly in quality.”
As Next City has previously covered, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has made affordable housing a cornerstone of her tenure, committing $100 million annually to the fund. Under her direction, a “Housing Preservation Strike Force” has set the ambitious goal of “maintaining as affordable 100 percent of units currently receiving federal or city subsidy,” Jen Kinney wrote last year.
A spokesperson for the audit, Kevin Harris, was not overly critical of the Bowser administration.
“While there is more work to do, residents should be clear that under this administration, the fund continues to make great progress in creating more affordable housing options across all eight wards,” he said.
The trust fund was authorized in 1988 and received funding in 2001, according to the report. As of September 2016, it had received more than $1 billion and allocated around $692 million in District funds. Auditors did in-depth examinations of 14 residential projects for the report, the Post reports, but 13 of them were financed by the trust fund before Bowser took office.
Despite its issues, supporters say the fund will be especially important in the city’s fight to preserve affordable housing going forward. The other D.C. government — the one that makes federal policy — doesn’t appear to view affordable housing as a priority, at least as far as funding goes. Early drafts of the new president’s federal budget show over $6 billion in cuts to the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s budget. (HUD’s fiscal year 2016 budget was $47 billion.)
Rachel Dovey is an award-winning freelance writer and former USC Annenberg fellow living at the northern tip of California’s Bay Area. She writes about infrastructure, water and climate change and has been published by Bust, Wired, Paste, SF Weekly, the East Bay Express and the North Bay Bohemian.