TWHC Analysis of Mayor Bowser’s FY 22 Proposed Budget

2021-06-11 | , Miriam's Kitchen

Mayor Bowser released her proposed budget on May 27th. We’re excited to share with you our best understanding of what is and isn’t in the budget. 

As a reminder, we asked the mayor to invest $100 million to end chronic homelessness for 3,100 households. While her budget does represent some progress, it simply does not match the scale of D.C.’s homelessness crisis. With over $2.5 billion in funding available from the federal government and a growing acceptance that housing is vital for our collective well-being, the mayor’s budget does not go far enough to meet her campaign pledge to end homelessness.

Mayor Bowser’s proposed budget relies heavily on federal funding to: 

  • End chronic homelessness for 598-758 individuals and 280-327 families 
  • Fully fund street outreach for the next 3 years
  • Invest $50 million to purchase buildings (like hotels) to convert them into PSH and other low-income housing 
  • Lay the groundwork to make big gains to fund low-income housing by investing in the Housing Production Trust Fund
  • Cut $325,000 from Project Reconnect 

THANK YOU for pushing for a budget that prioritizes ending chronic homelessness. From making phone calls, sending tweets, testifying, emailing and raising your voices, these investments would not have been possible without your support.

TAKE ACTION! 

Now, the budget is in the hands of the D.C. Council. Please click here to email your Councilmembers and demand that they fill the gaps in the Mayor’s Budget by investing $66 million to end chronic homelessness for 2,300 households. 

WHY IS THE BUDGET SO IMPORTANT?

Budgets are where we see which political promises are brought to life and which ones remain empty talking points. In addition to showing us what our elected officials care about, D.C.’s budget determines how many people will continue to live outside, how many households will enter homelessness and how many more tent encampments will pop up across the District. As D.C. begins to recover from COVID-19, this is one of the most consequential budgets in D.C.’s history. Now that Mayor Bowser has released her budget proposal, we need your help to push the Council to fill in the gaps. 

WHERE ARE WE IN THE BUDGET PROCESS?

On May 27th, the Mayor released her proposed budget for fiscal year 2022 (the FY22 fiscal year will start this coming October 2021 and run through September 2022).  While the Mayor’s budget is only a proposal it is a clear reflection of her priorities. Because the final FY22 budget needs to be approved and voted on by the D.C. Council, this marks a turning point in our advocacy where we shift our attention from the Mayor to the Council. With your help, we will push the D.C. Council to make changes to the budget in the coming months. Specifically, we’re calling on the D.C. Council to invest $66 million to end chronic homelessness for 2,300 additional households. Anything less means that far too many of our neighbors will be without housing for at least another year.

WHAT’S IN THE MAYOR’S BUDGET?

Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) 

PSH is a data-driven best practice that is proven to end chronic homelessness by combining an affordable housing subsidy with wrap-around case management. With a proven success record of over 92% in D.C., PSH proves that we can end chronic homelessness when sufficient resources are allocated.  

Mayor Bowser’s budget will end chronic homelessness for between 598-758 individuals and 280-347 families through PSH. Leaning heavily on federal funds, this is the mayor’s largest single-year increase in permanent housing vouchers for single adults. We’re glad that the mayor’s proposed budget has a higher PSH number than ever before (last year, the mayor proposed to expand PSH by only 96 units!). Still, these proposed investments would meet, at most, 28% of the need for PSH for individuals and 80% of the need for PSH for families. If passed as is, 2,300 of our most vulnerable neighbors will continue to experience homelessness for at least another year. As we turn our advocacy to the D.C. Council, we hope you’ll join us in calling on them to meet the remaining needs outlined in the chart below:  

The mayor’s budget assumes that D.C. will receive 702 PSH vouchers from the federal government. However, we anticipate that this is an overcount and anticipate the number to be closer to 500. We indicate this discrepancy by showing the range of funding possibilities. 

The mayor’s proposed budget dedicates about 10% of the PSH vouchers for individuals to survivors of domestic violence. While this is a welcome effort to increase funding in this area, it too falls far short of what is needed. 

Homeless Street Outreach: Fully Funded

While our initial read of the budget gave the impression that part of the Homeless Street Outreach budget had been cut, we’re thrilled to share that the program has been fully funded by the mayor’s proposed budget in the amount of $3.5 million for the next three Fiscal Years.

Project Reconnect- Singles Homeless Prevention and ERAP: Funding cuts

In addition to funding to end chronic homelessness, DC must prevent homelessness whenever possible. Not only is prevention less traumatic than homelessness, it’s also much cheaper. With COVID-19 expected to increase homelessness by upwards of 40%, we are concerned that the mayor’s budget cuts $325,000 to Project Reconnect, D.C.’s program to prevent single adults from entering homelessness. We encourage the D.C. Council to fill these gaps and to double the FY 21 funding for Project Reconnect to $2.6 million. Additionally, we encourage the Council to restore the mayor’s proposed cuts to the Emergency Rental Assistance Program [ERAP], another vital tool in preventing homelessness. 

Purchasing Hotels to convert into PSH and other forms of low-income housing 

The mayor’s budget includes $50 million to purchase buildings, such as hotels, and to convert them into PSH and other low-income housing. This is an important step, and we fully support this endeavor. By leveraging federal funding to purchase these buildings, D.C. can greatly expand the availability of apartments affordable to our neighbors living on no or low incomes. 

Affordable Housing: A mixed bag

Housing Production Trust Fund: More funding, but much more needed 

D.C.’s extreme low-income housing crisis is a major driver of homelessness. As such, DC will not end homelessness without ensuring that all of our neighbors have access to housing that is affordable to them. The mayor’s budget includes historic increases to the Housing Production Trust Fund (HPTF), D.C.’s main vehicle for creating affordable housing. She used federal funding to invest $150 and $250 million into the HPTF in Fiscal Years 21 and 22, respectively. While this is good (especially compared to the traditional $100 million invested annually), due to the complex nature of building low-income housing in D.C., we are concerned that these investments are not matched with the operating subsidies needed to make these units available to those living on no or little income. We will push the Council to fully fund these subsidies to prevent the Trust Fund from becoming yet another tool to leverage government money to build luxury housing. 

Other Tenant Vouchers: No investment 

Concerningly, the Mayor’s budget does not invest in any non-PSH vouchers, meaning that households not qualifying for PSH but who are unstably housed will likely not receive housing assistance. Funding non-PSH rental vouchers are vital so that the tens of thousands of households on D.C.’s housing wait list can move into the housing they deserve. Failure to fund these vouchers forces these households to continually straddle the tenuous line between housing and homelessness. 

Public Housing Repairs: Some progress, much more needed

While the Mayor’s budget does add some money to repair public housing, an additional $38 million are urgently needed. 

Miscellaneous budget items

Policing: Mayor Bower’s budget adds 185 police officers to MPD. We will continue to push the Council to divest from policing and instead fund programs, such as housing, that keep communities safe. In positive news, the mayor’s budget creates a pilot program where trained mental health providers will now respond to some 911 calls instead of police and shifts some parking and traffic enforcement away from police. 

Creation of a sobering center: The Mayor’s Budget will create a sobering center so that our neighbors can return to sobriety in a supervised non-hospital setting

A note about Federal Funds: We are pleased that Mayor Bowser leveraged federal funding from the American Rescue Plan (Federal COVID Relief) to expand PSH and fund outreach. While some of this money legally had to go to housing, much of it could have been used for other less urgent needs. The fact that it went towards PSH shows just how strong our advocacy is. Still, due to the nature of the federal funding, a significant portion of this money (about 200 singles PSH units and most of the outreach funding) will run out in 3 years. We will continue to push the Council to increase local funding not only to preserve these investments in the long term but also to expand PSH even further. 

D.C. MUST INCREASE REVENUE TO ADDRESS URGENT HOUSING NEEDS 

The mayor’s reliance on federal funding, while prudent for the short term, means that local funding must be increased to ensure the continuation of many of these programs, such as PSH vouchers and homeless street outreach. The D.C. Council must ensure that vital programs funded with short-term federal funding are financially viable for the long run. To do this, the D.C. Council must increase revenue by ensuring that all D.C. residents pay their fair share for the collective good. We urge the D.C. Council to slightly increase taxes on our neighbors making more than $250,000 a year. Without tax justice, there can be no housing justice. Surely our most prosperous neighbors will agree that a small tax increase, equivalent to a few lattes a month, is a fair price for housing justice. 

WHAT’S NEXT?

Now, that budget is in the hands of the D.C. Council, they need to hear from you. Please click here to email your Councilmembers and demand that they fill the gaps in the Mayor’s Budget by investing $66 million to end chronic homelessness for 2,300 households. 

The D.C. Council has their first vote on the budget scheduled for July 20th. That means we have a little under two months to ensure that the Council funds our demands. Stay tuned for more action alerts and ways to push the Council to fully fund housing justice.