Housing in Brief: D.C. Could Pay Landlords to Offer Affordable Housing

Plus, Connecticut promotes accessory dwelling units, and East Palo Alto moves to help mobile home residents buy their own lots. 

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D.C. Could Pay Landlords to Offer Affordable Housing

Washington, D.C., could end up creating affordable housing using existing housing stock if a bill introduced in the DC Council is enacted, Greater Greater Washington reports. The bill would pay landlords upfront to set aside a portion of their units for tenants earning up to 50% of Median Family Income, which could provide housing for individuals earning up to $44,100 or $63,000 for a family of four, according to the report.

The bill, called Generating Affordability in Neighborhoods, was introduced by DC Council member Robert White, who told Greater Greater Washington that it is meant “to create affordable housing more quickly and less expensively in more areas of the city,” according to the report.

Under the bill, the city would create housing targets for each neighborhood, and issue a request for proposals from landlords who want to participate by setting aside units at a predetermined rent for a certain length of time, Greater Greater Washington reports. Residents of those units would have to certify their income yearly, with options for tenants who begin earning more money to start paying market rent.

White’s office is working on cost estimates, but projects that based on currently available rents, an upfront payment of around $210,000 could provide housing for a family earning half of the median income for 40 years. The program could help the city create affordable housing more quickly and inexpensively, and keep the city from having to carry out maintenance, White told Greater Greater Washington.

East Palo Alto Will Help Mobile Home Residents Buy Lots

The City of East Palo Alto will spend $2 million to help residents of the Palo Mobile Estates mobile-home park purchase the lots their homes sit on, according to WPIX. The city council voted to approve the expenditure from the city’s affordable housing fund this week, according to the report.

The company that owns the mobile-home park is planning to sell off individual lots, which could cost between $260,000 and $325,000, WPIX reported. A survey of residents suggested that most want to buy their lots but would need around $100,000 in assistance to do so. The city would transfer the money to a nonprofit affordable housing developer and a community land trust to help residents acquire the property.

Officials are hoping that the $2 million commitment from the city will help raise additional money from nonprofit funders, WPIX reported. East Palo Alto Mayor Carlos Romero told the station he is hoping to raise an additional $19 million to help more of the mostly low-income residents of the park.

“The $2 million is good faith money from the city,” Romero told WPIX. “It’s significant. It’s not our largest investment. We’ve made much larger housing investments than this, but it is pretty significant in terms of jumpstarting this engine.”

Mobile home residents across the U.S. have struggled to secure their homes amid rising interest in the properties from private equity firms, as Next City has reported.

Connecticut Moves to Promote Accessory Dwelling Units

The Connecticut State Senate passed a bill last week that would allow accessory dwelling units to be built in every area of the state unless individual municipalities opt out, according to a report in The Connecticut Mirror. The bill, promoted by the group Desegregate Connecticut, which promotes more inclusive zoning and housing policies, would create a uniform zoning policy for homeowners who want to add a unit, known in Connecticut as a “granny pod.” It also limits the amount of parking that cities can require alongside new developments, according to the report. And it removes portions of the state law which attempt to protect the physical attributes of certain areas using what Connecticut Senate President Pro Tem Martin Looney, a Democrat, called the “vague and often abused word ‘character,’” the Mirror said. The bill was passed by a vote of 24-12, with all Republicans and one Democrat voting against it, the report says.

“Towns know what’s right for the individual towns, and I want to make sure that we protect the different areas that the town sees is important, that we protect our open spaces, that we protect just who we are in our towns,” Dan Champagne, a Republican state senator, told the Mirror.

Proponents of the controversial bill agreed to “huge concessions” from the original proposal in order to get it passed, the Mirror wrote, including specific requirements for new units in each town and rules that would require municipalities to permit multifamily housing near transit and commercial centers. The bill is awaiting a signature by Governor Ned Lamont, a Democrat.

This article is part of Backyard, a newsletter exploring scalable solutions to make housing fairer, more affordable and more environmentally sustainable. Subscribe to our weekly Backyard newsletter.

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Jared Brey is Next City's housing correspondent, based in Philadelphia. He is a former staff writer at Philadelphia magazine and PlanPhilly, and his work has appeared in Columbia Journalism Review, Landscape Architecture Magazine, U.S. News & World Report, Philadelphia Weekly, and other publications.

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Tags: affordable housingwashington dcinclusionary zoningbay areaaccessory dwelling unitsmobile homes

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