Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie Introduces DC’s Three-Bedroom Bill

by Nena Perry-Brown

Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie Introduces DC's Three-Bedroom Bill: Figure 1
A rendering of the proposed development for Parcel 42

On Tuesday, Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie introduced legislation that aims to ensure that more three-, four- and five-bedroom affordable units are built in the District.

The Family Unit Amendment Act of 2017 asks the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED) to create a biennial assessment of the city’s need for family-size apartments, reporting on the quantity of large units in each ward, the number of very- and extremely-low income households in each ward occupying a family-sized unit and what government programs assist in creating large apartments.

The bill would also amend the Housing Production Trust Fund Act of 1988 to assist in construction of these new homes, requiring that 10 percent of the apartments created during each disbursement have at least three bedrooms.

“Despite our focus on affordable housing, people have felt left out, specifically families that already live in the District,” Councilmember McDuffie said in a statement when introducing the bill. “To date, our focus has been on Affordable Dwelling Units. We have judged our success based on the number of units we have created, with little emphasis on the size of the units being built.”

One need look no further than the development pipeline over the past several years to see that the abundance of units created have been two bedrooms or smaller, even where inclusionary zoning is concerned. However, the demand for larger units is clear and developers’ willingness to respond to that need is coming to the forefront, whether in the ANC-supported proposal to redevelop Parcel 42 in Shaw with a plurality of family-sized apartments or in the community’s prioritization of family-sized units when giving input on the redevelopment of Northwest One.

This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/ward_5_councilmember_introduces_dcs_three-bedroom_bill/12306


  1. skidrowedc@gmail.com said at 9:27 pm on Tuesday March 7, 2017:
    A big reason that Inclusionary Zoning (IZ) creates few larger units is that in its rental schedule, the gap between market rate and IZ-mandated rates grows larger as units grow larger. For example, where an IZ 1-bedroom might rent for $1,000 less per month than a market-rate 1-bedroom, in the same building a 2-bedroom IZ unit would rent for, say, $1,500 less and a 3-bedroom for $2,000 less. The IZ rental rates make sense, given that larger households don't necessarily have any greater income than smaller households. But the developers' disinclination to provide larger units also makes sense -- they face substantial financial disincentives. But IZ isn't subsidized housing. In IZ, the government requires the percentage of "affordable" units and sets the rates, but the developer has to make his/her own spreadsheet work: the government doesn't chip in money to cover the gap. (It isn't really accurate to say that the market-rate tenants are subsidizing the IZ tenants by paying more. Most of the time, the development spreadsheet is balanced by paying the site seller less, not by charging market-rate tenants more. The costs of IZ are worked backwards and incorporated into a lower offer for the land. Nothing to cry about, especially given the huge windfalls coming to people who inherited sites which were all but worthless as recently as 20 years ago.) From the report, it looks like McDuffies' bill is aimed at subsidized housing; that is, projects in which the government helps balance the development spreadsheet. This can be indirect, as in the case of Parcel 42 in which D.C. is acting as the site seller, agreeing to a lower price for the land in exchange for public goods. Or it can be direct, in the form of Section 8 rental vouchers, below-market loans, grants, or other vehicles which put government money into the project. The endless red tape associated with direct subsidies is a huge disincentive to most developers. McDuffies' bill seems reasonable, but it's unlikely to have much effect because there isn't a lot of subsidized housing in DC nowadays. Almost all the new "affordable" housing is coming from IZ.
  1. YoDuh said at 10:58 pm on Tuesday March 7, 2017:
    If the market demands it developers would build it! So sure people might want to live in 4+ bedroom apartments but are they willing to shell out $5k-$6k/month to live in an apartment? Apparently not! So you say bring down the price to make it more affordable and, alas, in steps the Council with a new mandate that will SURPRISE increase the cost of land, construction and... your rent! I think it should be mandated that all politicians legislating at this level or above should take basic econ courses so that they can get a clue.
  1. Joseph Seriki said at 2:11 am on Wednesday March 8, 2017:
    What we need to be fighting for isn't affordable housing.....rather an increase in income from District employers(They have it to spend!). The likelihood of DC becoming affordable is extremely unlikely. Almost like wishing on a star. Yes it sounds good in council meetings and in articles. However there will never be "enough" affordable housing inventory in premier locations. Long story short if you want to stay in DC- start raising your industry value and demand to be paid for it. If that doesn't work find an employer with a forward mindset. Housing prices are reflective of area wages-if they aren't syncing up for you go to HR before the housing authority/city council.
  1. TBex said at 4:36 am on Wednesday March 8, 2017:
    Pointless. The Council has the power to bring down the cost and increase the variety of available housing. Drastically upzone large swaths of the city for more and denser development. Anything else is a band-aid on a bullet hole of our housing crunch.

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