Anita Bonds
At-Large Councilmember Anita Bonds caused a stir after claiming to be unaware about a major housing issue. Credit: Darrow Montgomery

At-Large D.C. Councilmember Anita Bonds has proposed a bill that would guarantee $120 million each year for the city’s Housing Production Trust Fund. The fund provides gap financing for projects that include units affordable to people who earn below area median income, which is about $109,000 for a family of four in D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has committed $100 million annually to the fund since taking executive office.

Bonds’ bill would rejigger the way money gets put into the fund. Since 2003, according to her office, 15 percent of D.C.’s property-transfer and deed-recordation taxes have funded the HPTF, with additional money coming from budget appropriations. For example, in 2015, those taxes generated $456 million, so $68 million of that amount went directly into the fund and the rest of the total $100 million agreed upon by lawmakers was set aside in the District’s budget.

Beginning Oct. 1 (which is the start of fiscal year 2018), the legislation would instead siphon $120 million per fiscal year from combined property-transfer and deed-recordation taxes into the fund, or—if the amount is greater—25 percent of the revenue generated by each of those taxes. In a statement, Bonds says the bill would “end the need for yearly allocations from the budgeting process in order to address the affordable housing crisis that the District faces.”

But Bonds’ HPTF legislation comes just weeks after D.C. Auditor Kathy Patterson released a critical report detailing how the District has mismanaged the fund over its 16-year life. The audit found inconsistently enforced income requirements since 2001, as well as a lack of reliable data on fund activity. Patterson issued 39 recommendations to city officials.

Bonds’ proposal does not include specific funds to address the enforcement issues Patterson identified in her audit. It’s unclear how long it will take the Department of Housing and Community Development, which manages the HPTF, to resolve the problems the auditor has found, but the department says it’s already working on them.

The bill also comes as the council takes up Bowser’s proposed budget, which includes $100 million for the Housing Production Trust Fund in addition to $10 million for a new fund to focus on preserving existing affordable housing. Bowser submitted the budget proposal yesterday.

Bonds, who chairs the council’s housing committee, isn’t the only legislator who wants to reform D.C.’s affordable housing allocations. Last month, Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie proposed legislation that would require the HPTF to fund more family-sized units. Advocates have also criticized the fund for not targeting the lowest-income residents enough.

Councilmembers McDuffie, Robert White, Trayon White, Brianne Nadeau, and Vince Gray have initially signed onto Bond’s bill. The council’s committee of the whole has not yet set a hearing on it.