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Mayor Muriel Bowser’s office announced late Monday afternoon that it hired Ana Lopez Van Balen as the District’s first Affordable Housing Preservation Officer.
The move comes after the mayor’s Housing Preservation Strike Force, an 18-person team of affordable housing stakeholders, including a handful of councilmembers, city officials, developers and community leaders, recommended in 2016 that the city establish a unit under the purview of D.C.’s Department of Housing and Community Development that would identify and catalogue affordable housing units for the purpose of preserving them.
Lopez Van Balen, who started Monday, will oversee a new preservation unit whose goals are “twofold,” Gwen Cofield, a spokeswoman for DHCD, told City Paper on Monday. The first is “to identify opportunities to preserve affordable housing units,” including those that are already subsidized by the government, and those that are naturally affordable, with the goal of maintaining 100 percent of D.C.’s affordable housing stock.
The second is to compile a database of that information to help Lopez Van Balen work in concert with the public and private sectors, allowing the city to “look at the landscape of affordable housing to see what’s vulnerable and see what stakeholders can do to make sure we preserve it.” According to Cofield, it’s too soon to tell what shape the database would take, and when that data would become publicly available.
Lopez Van Balen previously worked as the National Director of Community Development and Innovation for Urban Strategies, a “social enterprise” that provides grassroots organizations with education, training, and other resources.