D.C. still not enforcing year-old affordable housing zoning law

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Local,Michael Neibauer

The District of Columbia is wasting opportunities to boost its dwindling affordable housing stock because Mayor Adrian Fenty has yet to implement a year-old law requiring affordability in larger projects, D.C. Council members contend.

An inclusionary zoning law adopted by the Council in 2006 mandates that developments of at least 10 units include a certain percentage of affordable housing in return for the right to build at a higher density. But regulations needed to apply the statute, which are the responsibility of the mayor to issue, have yet to be proposed.

"I don't want to wait any longer to see the inclusionary zoning law be implemented," said Ward 1 Councilman Jim Graham.

Ten members of the council co-introduced legislation Tuesday to require submission of the regulations within 30 days. The bill "signals that the council regards implementation of what we enacted as urgent," said Ward 3 Councilwoman Mary Cheh.

Fenty pledged during his 2006 mayoral campaign that he would build and preserve a total of 14,000 affordable housing units over four years. What affordability there was in the District steadily evaporated during the housing boom.

Sean Madigan, spokesman for the deputy mayor for economic development, said the executive is working with developers and affordable housing activists to compose regulations on which all sides can agree.

The housing market and economic climate is "entirely different" than it was when the law was first adopted, Madigan said, so the rules must be "practical and useful" and must not do "anything that would be harmful to the production of housing in general."

Cheryl Cort, spokeswoman for the Campaign for Mandatory Inclusionary Zoning, said the debate has gone on long enough, the plan has been well vetted and now is the time for its implementation. But Charles Barber, past president of the D.C. Building and Industry Association, said rushing the regulations could damage the real estate industry.

The DCBIA remainsconcerned about the viability, wisdom and workability of inclusionary zoning, Barber said.

mneibauer@dcexaminer.com

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Michael Neibauer

D.C. Government Reporter
The Washington Examiner