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McDuffie and Advocates Craft Bill Requiring Affordable Housing Standards for the Sale of District-Owned Land

For Immediate Release: Monday, December 2, 2013

Contact: Stephanie Liotta-Atkinson, 202-724-8028,

Washington, D.C. – D.C. Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5) announced today that he will introduce a bill requiring affordable housing set-asides whenever District-owned land is sold or leased for private multi-family residential development consisting of 10 or more units. The bill was crafted with input from affordable housing and public interest advocates, including the Coalition for Smarter Growth, the DC Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, and the DC Fiscal Policy Institute.


The District is becoming an increasingly unaffordable place to live, with housing costs rising faster than wages over the past decade. One in five D.C. households spends more than half their income on housing, a severe housing burden. Nearly all renters with this severe housing cost burden earn less than half of the area median income (AMI), or less than $48,300 a year for a family of three.


“These families have very little left over each month for basic necessities like food, clothing, savings and transportation after paying the rent,” said Jenny Reed of the DC Fiscal Policy Institute. “Many are just one economic shock or illness away from homelessness.”


Under the bill, when public land is sold or leased for private multi-family development, at least 30% of the new units must be affordable if the property is near a Metro station, major bus route, or streetcar line. All other developments using public land must include a 20% affordable unit set-aside.


“Public land is an important tool for creating mixed income communities,” said Cheryl Cort of the Coalition for Smarter Growth. “Building homes for DC residents who are otherwise priced out should be a top priority whenever the city sells or leases land for private development.”


The guidelines set forth in McDuffie’s bill are designed to create mixed income buildings. For rental properties, the affordable units must accommodate two categories of residents: those earning up to 30% AMI and those earning up to 50% AMI. Ownership units are also divided to produce mixed income residences, with a set-aside for those earning up to 50% AMI and another set-aside for residents earning up to 80% AMI.


McDuffie’s bill permits the Mayor to sell or lease land for less than its appraised value to enable the developer to create affordable units.


“This legislation furthers the District’s commitment to affordable housing and could not come at a more critical time. We can help the private sector meet the affordability requirements of the legislation by discounting the value of public land when it is sold or leased. The savings can be reinvested in the creation of affordable units,” stated McDuffie.


Under McDuffie’s bill, if a development cannot meet the affordable housing requirements, the District’s Chief Financial Officer must certify that the developer’s alternative plan maximizes affordable housing for the site, taking into account all available subsidies. That certification would be sent to the Council, which has the final say in disposing of District-owned land.


“This bill advances the public interest by providing a transparent process for ensuring that District land dispositions maximize affordable housing,” said Walter Smith, Executive Director of DC Appleseed. “The District’s land is a public asset, and it should be leveraged to address the city’s most pressing needs.”


The bill will be introduced at Tuesday’s legislative meeting of the D.C. Council.




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