McDuffie Introduces Bill Requiring Transparency in Affordable Housing

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For Immediate Release:
June 26, 2013

Today, Councilmember Kenyan R. McDuffie (D – Ward 5) introduced legislation designed to improve how the District measures the affordability of housing units.

The “Truth in Affordability Reporting Act of 2013” – co-introduced with Councilmembers Jack Evans (D – Ward 2), Mary Cheh (D – Ward 3), Muriel Bowser (D – Ward 4), Tommy Wells (D – Ward 6), Marion Barry (D – Ward 8), David Grosso (I – At-Large), and Anita Bonds (D – At-Large) – requires the District to measure the affordability of housing projects against the District’s Median Family Income (DCMFI) in addition to the federal Area Median Income (AMI) standard. Currently, the District evaluates whether a housing unit is affordable by determining the cost of the rent or mortgage compared to the AMI.

“Although there is a vast gap between AMI and DCMFI, we still measure the affordability of our D.C. housing units against the AMI,” said McDuffie. “But what is affordable in Northern Virginia is not always affordable for many families here in the District.”

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires the District to use AMI, a statistical measurement that represents the average income of households in the District combined with Maryland and Virginia suburbs. By including these extremely wealthy suburbs, average incomes for the metro area skew upward. For example, the AMI for the D.C. metropolitan area is $107,000 for a family of four, but in the District, the median income for a family of four is approximately $70,000.

McDuffie’s legislation requires the Chief Financial Officer to annually calculate and report the DCMFI. Using the DCMFI, the bill requires the Mayor’s Affordable Housing Database to track housing data by both measures.

“We want a representation of D.C. residents’ income that doesn’t include extraneous data from the suburbs to paint a false picture of prosperity,” stated McDuffie.

To make it easier for residents to interpret affordable housing data, McDuffie’s bill requires that when affordable housing units are advertised to the public, the affordability level must be presented in terms of AMI and accompanied by the corresponding dollar figure. For example, a unit marketed at 50 percent AMI would also specify that 50 percent AMI means $54,000 per year for a family of four.

The legislation also requires that a tax abatement financial analysis for an affordable housing subsidy include the calculation of AMI, the actual income band represented by AMI, and the DCMFI that will be served by the proposed housing development. This information will give the Council a clearer picture of the range of affordability subsidized with taxpayer dollars.

“It is important to note that this measure does not replace the AMI that HUD requires us to use,” said McDuffie, “but instead the bill creates a new tool to help determine whether the affordable housing we are creating is truly affordable.”

The “Truth in Affordability Reporting Act of 2013” was referred to the Committee on Finance and Revenue.


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