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Affordable Housing Update: TOPA, and Workforce Housing

Affordable housing remains an important topic for our development community. We need to maintain our city’s vibrance, diversity, and sense of community as our city evolves. To do this, we must focus on creating inventory that allows all of D.C.’s residents to live side-by-side.

At the same time, we need to approach this challenge with sustainable solutions that also maintain fair incentives for the developers who actually build modern housing stock for our residents.

Two recent items get to the heart of this ongoing challenge, and the complex nature of solving it:

  1. Single-Family Homes Move Closer to TOPA Exemption. Recently, we discussed new legislation that would exempt single-family homes from the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA). Earlier this month, the D.C. Council has passed this legislation. This exemption not only removes single-family homes from TOPA, as Curbed reports, it also exempts “condominiums, co-ops, and other dwellings under the purview of a homeowner’s association”. The legislation now waits for Mayor Bowser’s signature.

  2. Core Service Professions Face Decreasing Home Affordability. Recent analysis by Trulia, as reported by Urban Turf, has found that home affordability is decreasing for core service professionals in Washington D.C. The report reviewed changes in median housing price data, and median income by profession, between 2017-2018. The data showed that Doctors, First Responders, Restaurant Workers, and Teachers all experienced a year-over-year decrease in home affordability in 2018 (despite median income increasing over the reviewed period of time for each profession, except Doctors).

These items highlight two of the major challenges emerging in affordable housing as our city evolves.

First, the challenge of finding the right policy-based approach towards alleviating this problem. While TOPA was well-intentioned, its failures have also been well-documented, and, at least in certain circumstances, it appears to be on its way out. (For a deeper discussion of the challenges of public/private partnerships to solve this problem, read our interview with Jeff Gelman here.)

Second, the challenge created by our city’s shift in demographics. As D.C.’s population grows younger, wealthier, and increasingly employed by new private-sector industries (such as Professional Services), it is becoming increasingly difficult for service-oriented professional to live in the city where they work. This naturally escalating problem will only ignite if D.C. does become the site for Amazon’s HQ2, and Amazon does rapidly bring 50,000 new high-wage jobs to our city. In either scenario, this problem will not solve itself. We must take dedicated action to ensure D.C. remains a city available for all of its citizens.

Contact Evergreen Private Finance today to discuss how we might work together to tackle our affordable housing problem in a sustainable manner. Call us at (202) 713-9072, or email us at info@nullevergreenprivatefinance.com.