DC Attorney General Takes Advocacy Approach to Affordable Housing

  • December 3rd 2021

by Nena Perry-Brown

As Karl Racine's tenure as DC Attorney General winds down, his office is taking a more proactive approach with affordable housing and zoning.

On Thursday, the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) announced that it is expanding its Land Use Section to take on more advocacy, and it has already submitted four requests to the Zoning Commission to make Zoning Text Amendments (ZTA).

Those amendments would:

  • Mandate deeper affordability levels for new developments with Inclusionary Zoning (IZ) units. For rental developments, at least one of the IZ units would have to be reserved for a household earning up to 30% of median family income (MFI), and the maximum MFI level would be reduced from 60% to 50% of MFI. Additionally, developers would be allowed to swap three IZ units at the new maximum for two IZ units at 30% of MFI. Similarly, the lowered maximum MFI level (from 80% to 70%) and swap-option would apply to for-sale units, with the latter creating units at 50% of MFI.
  • Require greater affordability commitments when developers offer to locate IZ units off-site. As proposed, if IZ requirements are fulfilled off-site, the off-site development must either include "at least 20% more IZ units", or at least 20% of the IZ units must be at deeper levels of affordability.
  • Take emergency action to require IZ units in developments proposed in DC's D- zones. This would also apply to developments that are currently being proposed in these zones. The ZTA submission states that this could create 110 affordable units among those pending projects.
  • Eliminate minimum parking requirements for units reserved for households earning up to 80% of MFI.

The above amendments are meant to expand access to affordable housing, particularly for more vulnerable households as highlighted throughout the recent Comprehensive Plan amendment process. 

“The District has grown dramatically over the last several years with significant benefits, but too often, this growth has hurt and pushed out long-term and low-income residents,” AG Racine said in a statement. “My office has always had tremendous expertise in complex issues of zoning and land use, and I’m proud that we are now using this knowledge to level the playing field between wealthy developers and long-term residents. We will use this authority to advance racial equity, environmental justice, and most importantly, as reflected by today’s actions, housing affordability for long-term District residents.”  

This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/dc-attorney-general-takes-advocacy-approach-to-affordable-housing/19014.

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