Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Give Us Subsidized Condos. Now.


Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham wants cheaper condos, and he wants them now. In November of 2006, the Council introduced a bill that would effectively require new real estate developments with 10 units or more to include an "affordable housing" element; the Council passed the bill unanimously and Mayor Fenty signed the bill in December, 2006. Much to the consternation of Councilman Graham (pictured, reading the Washington Post to Mayor Fenty....wait, what paper is that?), the legislation has not been implemented in the intervening 13 months, and Graham wants some fruit from his toils. So Graham introduced a second bill on Tuesday, co-introduced by ten Councilmembers, which would require that Mayor Fenty effectuate the law within 30 days by drafting the appropriate regulations. The new bill also allows the Council to review proposed regulations.

The "inclusionary zoning" problem began in the fall of 2006, according to Jason Yuckenberg of Councilman Graham's office. Following two years of deliberations and hearings, the Zoning Commission adopted regulations in 2006 to tackle the issue of affordable housing, requiring developers of 10 or more units to offer a percentage of lower priced homes to residents that meet one of several target income requirements. The Commission was then found not to have the authority to issue such a regulation, and in stepped the Council, passing the legislation now awaiting the Mayor's finesse.

After referring the current legislation, the Inclusionary Zoning Implementation Amendment Act of 2008, to the Committee of the Whole, Chairman Gray has vowed to hold a hearing post-haste to force quick action on the bill. In addition to giving the Mayor 30 days from enactment of the new bill to pass or punt, the new bill then gives the Council 30 days to effect their own changes, absent changes the regulations will be deemed approved. One of the issues to be decided is which developments, based on their approval and construction progress, will be required to adhere to the new standards.

In a letter to his constituents, Councilmember Graham summed up his anticipation: "Although the bill was passed more than a year ago, we are still waiting for the Mayor to implement the law...This is the District's only housing program that has the potential to provide affordable housing in all areas of the city. We cannot wait any longer. The longer we delay in implementing inclusionary zoning, the more opportunities we lose." At the time of posting the bill was not yet available online.

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