The League of Women Voters testifies on improving DC's Inclusionary Zoning Program

LWVDC Testimony on DC's Inclusionary Zoning Program

by Elinor Hart

April 14, 2016

Good Evening. My name is Elinor Hart, and I am testifying on behalf of the League of Women Voters of DC. We want to thank the Zoning Commission for creating our inclusionary zoning program and for deciding that the inclusionary units will remain affordable for the life of the developments where they are located. 

I worked on the Campaign for Inclusionary Zoning and observed the Zoning Commission’s process of creating IZ as closely as possible from set down to the formulation of the order you issued in 2006. The program was clearly created to make a small percentage of future new housing units available to those who could not afford market rents or for-sale prices. 
The bad news is, this is not being accomplished with rental housing or approximately 80% of the IZ units that have been created. Under the current IZ Program, These units are made available to households earning 80 % of Median Family Income or $70,000 for a family of 2. However, most households with incomes at 80% of the Median Family Income can afford market rents. Developers have in fact complained about the length of time it takes to lease these units.
The good news is that the disconnect between the purpose and the reality of DC’s IZ Program can easily be fixed. Inclusionary zoning can live up to its potential for helping to address DC’s severe affordable housing crisis. The Office of Planning has recommended that all rental IZ units be made available to people at 60% of Median Family Income or approximately $50,000 for a family of two. It is much more difficult for people at this income level to find housing they can afford. 
We urge the Zoning Commission to change the income targeting for all IZ rental units to 60% of the Median Family Income. And we urge you to do this as quickly as possible. The bonus density the Commission created is a very valuable benefit. Given DC’s severe affordable housing crisis, it is critical that this public benefit be used as effectively as possible.