Housing

Over the past 40 years, median household incomes in the Greater Washington region have increased by only 46%, while rents rose by 69% and home values increased by 144%. Source: National Low Income Housing Coalition

Affordable Housing Action Team (AHAT)

WRAG supports an Affordable Housing Action Team that is working to:

  • Support the production and preservation of affordable housing units
  • Increase support for improved public policy and advocacy efforts for affordable housing for low-income workers and vulnerable populations
  • Educate the philanthropic community about the region's housing needs and effective solutions

AHAT Steering Committee:

  • David Bowers, Enterprise Community Partners
  • Robert Burns, Citi Community Development
  • Terri Copeland, PNC Bank
  • Karen FitzGerald, Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation
  • Craig Pascal, BB&T
  • Mike Schwartz, The Morris & Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation
  • Silvana Straw, Greater Washington Community Foundation

Funders interested in the issue of affordable housing in the Greater Washington region should contact Gretchen Greiner-Lott.

Housing Leaders Group of Greater Washington (www.housingleadersgroup.org)

The shortage of affordable rental and homeowner opportunities is a serious challenge to the region’s economic vitality and quality of life. The high cost of housing is also a deterrent for businesses to locate or grow within the region.

Since June 2014, the Housing Leaders Group of Greater Washington – a collection of more than a dozen public and private sector leaders concerned about housing affordability – has been meeting to examine the nature of the affordable housing shortage in the Greater Washington region; the relationship of housing affordability to economic growth; and strategies to increase affordable housing for low- and moderate-income households in the region. Click here to learn more about the group and here to read coverage of their work in the Washington Post.

What is Affordable Housing? 

At the micro level, the type and price level of housing needed depends on individual households’ preferences, income, and size. It is impossible, however, to have a public policy discussion based on the needs of individual households in the region. For this reason, we consider housing to be affordable if a household earning up to 80% of Area Median Income (AMI) can afford to live in it without spending more than 30% of their income. Eighty percent of the 2013 area Federal Financial Institution Examination Council median income ($105,900) for the Greater Washington region is $84,720. A household earning $84,720 can typically afford a monthly rent (including utilities) of $2,118. (Please note that HUD uses a different definition of the region and has a slightly higher figure for 80% of area median income, $85,840.) 

Our Region, Your Investment

From 2016 - 2018, WRAG and Enterprise Community Loan Fund led the Our Region, Your Investment initiative, an effort to bring new capital to the region’s growing housing affordability crisis. This was a first of its kind targeted initiative for both WRAG and the Loan Fund. Through this initiative, we have accomplished a great deal:

Although this initiative has ended, WRAG is proud of all its accomplishments and is working on next steps to continue bringing new capital to our region’s housing affordability challenge – or any other new roles we can play. 

Resources

More than a Home: Investing Together to Create Opportunity (November 2017)
In 2016, Enterprise Community Loan Fund and WRAG created a local impact investing initiative, Our Region, Your Investment, to protect and produce affordable homes in the Greater Washington region. This Social Return on Investment report take a look at Clarendon Court, an affordable housing development in Arlington County, VA, which was financed through Our Region, Your Investment. 

A Guidebook for Increasing Housing Affordability in the Greater Washington Region (June 2017)
This Guidebook, produced by the Housing Leaders Group of Greater Washington, is a compilation of planning and policy tools that local governments, nonprofit and for-profit developers, and advocacy groups in the Greater Washington region are using—or could be using—to promote the production and preservation of housing that is affordable for all in the region.  A successful local housing strategy must be wide-ranging, taking advantage of a broad set of tools available to local jurisdictions. This Guidebook is organized around the following areas: Land Use and Zoning Policies, Preservation Programs, Financial Tools, and Special Populations. A summary of tools implemented by each of the local jurisdictions is included at the end of the Guidebook.

Call the Question: Will the Greater Washington Region Collaborate and Invest to Solve its Affordable Housing Shortage? (June 2015)
This paper is presented by the Housing Leaders Group of Greater Washington, a group of public and private sector stakeholders concerned about the housing affordability crisis in our region and its potential impact on our economy and quality of life in the future. The paper, by Rick Cohen and sponsored by Enterprise, Citi Foundation, and WRAG, is intended to stimulate community and regional leaders to think and act more boldly about strategies to address the formidable affordable housing shortage and to collaborate across state and local jurisdictions to address the crisis.

Testimony of Gretchen Greiner-Lott, WRAG, and Diana Meyer, Citi Community Development and WRAG Board Member, before Mayor-Elect Bowser’s Transition Team Regarding Affordable Housing (December 2014)
WRAG was invited to make affordable housing recommendations to the Bowser Transition Team in December 2014. Board member Diana Meyer of Citi Community Development and WRAG’s vice president Gretchen Greiner-Lott appeared at the public hearing on affordable housing and stressed the importance of approaching the issue of housing affordability on a regional level. Specifically, they highlighted the potential of the WRAG impact note, as well as the work of the Strategic Regional Affordable Housing Group, and recommended that the Bowser Administration be supportive of both.

What Funders Need to Know: Better Housing Means Better Health (May 2014)
When considering how to improve health outcomes for low-income individuals, most people think about providing access to good medical care and keeping the cost of that care as low as possible. What people rarely think about is the connection between good health and quality affordable housing. In this publication, we explore these connections. We also highlight some promising practices by both government and business that help low-income individuals get housed, stay healthier, and lower overall costs. 

Using Impact Investing to Support Affordable Housing (Feb. 2014 - video)
In order to meet the need for affordable housing in our region, foundations will need to move beyond grantmaking. In February 2014, WRAG partnered with the Aspen Institute Program on Philanthropy and Social Innovation for a panel of national experts who discussed how impact investing can advance local affordable housing efforts. 

Our Region, Our Giving (Nov. 2013)
The most recent edition of WRAG's giving report put a new spin on the publication. Rather than waiting two years for certified IRS data, we polled our members directly about their giving, motivations, and expectations for the future. The new format is more timely and more insightful. We also added a new special feature: an in-depth exploration of one funding area. In this report, that area is affordable housing. Find out what the philanthropic commuity is currently funding - and where it needs to turn its attention to move the needle.

What Funders Need to Know: The Connection Between Education and Housing (Dec. 2013)
Across the nation, and especially in our region, more and more children are experiencing housing instability and homelessness. What can philanthropy do to prevent a chain reaction that starts with unstable housing, leads to poor educational outcomes, and continues to create life-long barriers to opportunity? We have some suggestions.

What Funders Need to Know: Housing, Transportation, and Affordable Living (Apr. 2013) 
Housing costs decrease as you move further away from the District. But as they go down, transportation costs go up and offset savings. Environmental impact increases. Traffic increases. Family and personal time slip away. It’s a no-win scenario for our region and its residents. How can we change this situation? Check out a few ideas.

Other Resources

The Greater Washington Region's Future Housing Needs: 2023, a report by the Center for Regional Analysis, George Mason University

Bending the Cost Curve: Solutions to Expand the Supply of Affordable Rentals, a report by the Urban Land Institute, Terwilliger Center for Housing, and Enterprise

Housing and Health: New Opportunities for Dialogue and Action, a National Center for Healthy Housing paper documenting the many ways in which housing affects health 

Housing Security in the Washington Region, a report from the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region, with support from The Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation

Multifamily Housing in the Washington, DC Region: Demand and Supply Trends, a report by the Center for Regional Analysis, George Mason University

Place + Opportunity: Strategies for Creating Great Communities and a Stronger Region, a report of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments

Unfulfilled Promises: Affordable Housing in Metropolitan Washington, a report of the The Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs

External Organizations

For more information on affordable housing, visit: