From the Field: DC Advocates Push for Solutions to Housing Unaffordability and Chronic Homelessness

The Housing For All Campaign, led by the Coalition for Nonprofit Housing and Economic Development (CNHED), an NLIHC state partner, joined with The Way Home Campaign, a coalition dedicated to ending chronic homelessness in Washington, DC, to host a housing rally on March 18. The “More For Housing Now!” rally focused on the importance of DC’s affordable housing programs and the need to increase funding for these programs in FY18. More than 800 advocates from across the District lobbied the mayor and the city council for more funding for housing vulnerable populations.

Over the past seven years, the Housing For All Campaign has been a leader in DC’s fight for increased funding and smart policies for affordable housing. By raising awareness of the critical need for affordable homes in the District and pushing for bold policy changes to address the need, Housing For All has reversed the tide of disinvestment in the District’s affordable housing stock. The Campaign has made funding for the District’s Housing Production Trust Fund (HPTF) a top priority. Through persistent advocacy, Housing For All won an annual baseline commitment of $100 million for the HPTF and increases to other vital programs. While CNHED’s campaign includes the whole housing continuum, The Way Home Campaign, comprised of 90 organizations and over 4000 individuals, is particularly focused on ending chronic homelessness. The Way Home calls for increases to programs like permanent supportive housing. Their message: “Ending chronic homelessness is not a mystery—housing with supportive services ends chronic homelessness.”

Housing for All and The Way Home leaders spoke at the rally about the need for at least $125 million for the HPTF in FY18, $8.5 million for Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH), $8.9 million for Targeted Affordable Housing, $8.5 million for the Local Rent Supplement Program (LRSP), and $16 million for the Home Purchase Assistance Program (HPAP). The rally organizers emphasized the tremendous need for additional housing in the District and the vital role affordable housing plays in the lives of residents, especially those experiencing chronic homelessness.

Members of the Housing For All Resident Leadership Team and The Way Home Campaign Steering Committee shared their experiences living with and without housing assistance. Waldon Adams told the hundreds gathered about his years of chronic homelessness and the importance of permanent supportive housing in his life. He said that chronic homelessness is “persistent, reoccurring, and hard to eradicate” and that, to beat it, advocates too need to be persistent in their advocacy, reoccurring in their presence at City Hall and at rallies, and hard to deter or ignore. Homeowners and renters who benefited from the District’s HPAP, LRSP, and the HPTF programs also spoke about the importance of housing in their lives and encouraged leaders to make affordable housing available for all District residents. The rally organizers called for significant investments in critical programs that ensure affordability across the housing spectrum, from permanent supportive housing to homeownership assistance.

DC Council Members Anita Bonds and Elissa Silverman expressed their commitment to affordable housing and asked advocates to join them in pushing for more funding. Mayor Muriel Bowser praised Housing For All and The Way Home Campaign for their years of successful advocacy and encouraged the crowd to continue to work for a District that is inclusive of low-income residents and provides opportunities for all to thrive. The District officials’ praise underscored CNHED and Housing For All’s successes in making affordable housing a priority for DC residents and leaders.

“What was so heartening about this year's rally,” said CNHED President and CEO Steve Glaude, “was to see that the mayor, District councilmembers, advocates and others no longer debate the urgency of sustaining and expanding investments in affordable housing."

For more information, contact CNHED Director of Advocacy Awesta Sarkash at: [email protected].