Topic: Affordable housing.
Proposal A: Tax credits to create affordable housing.
Proposal B: Task force on affordable housing.
Vehicles: 1) Community Impact Investment Tax Credit Act; 2) Affordable Housing Task Force Establishment Act; 3) Lawmakers and Policymakers Keep Throwing Curveballs Act.
So, what is affordable housing? It depends — affordable means one thing to you and another to government folks.
In California, state lawmakers do not yet have a definitive definition of affordable housing, but they suspect they have a crisis on their hands. How else to explain the more than 130 measures on the topic introduced this legislative session?
One of the bills zeroes in on efficiencies, for example, by mandating size (150 square feet) and prohibiting limitations on the “number of efficiency units in an area located within one-half mile of public transit or where there is a car share vehicle located within one block of the efficiency.” The proposal also proffers limitations on the number of efficiency units in an area located within one mile of a University of California or California State University campus.
On the East Coast, the unincorporated city of Pasadena, Maryland, drew headlines when Anne Arundel County leaders bickered over an affordable housing proposal called Earleigh Station, whose plan included one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments with rents as low as $390 and as high as $1,650. Supporters called the project “affordable housing” and “workforce housing,” and pushed the point that it would aid police officers, teachers, waitresses and other people who work in Anne Arundel.
Longtime county residents and homeowners said: Not in our front yard or back yard, thank you very much.
Interestingly, the Earleigh project developer was Enterprise Homes, which also has been cited by D.C. Council member David Grosso to develop affordable housing in the nation’s capital.
Colleague Ryan McDermott reported in The Washington Times on Thursday that Enterprise Community Partners has raised at least $11 million to preserve and produce affordable D.C. housing, and that one vehicle Mr. Grosso proposes to use for that goal is the Community Impact Investment Tax Credit Act.
The legislation, introduced this week, would give eligible individuals, corporations and foundations up to 33 percent tax credits on their D.C. income taxes, unincorporated business franchise taxes or corporation franchise taxes. The exemption caps at $1 million.
Seemingly under this scenario, D.C. and federal taxpayers would be paying three times for housing subsidies — once to D.C., once to the federal government, and a second time to D.C.
If that’s not the case, can we trust Mr. Grosso and his council colleagues to tell us otherwise?
Also interesting is the Affordable Housing Task Force Establishment Act, an 11-member group that would figure out how to create private-public partnerships with the owners of old, underused office buildings to convert them into affordable housing. This little charm is proposed by rookie lawmaker Robert White, who, like Mr. Grosso, is an at-large lawmaker.
Part of the need for this two-pronged effort, city officials said, is because 1) D.C. office tenants are moving into newer D.C. office buildings and 2) poor, low-income and fixed-income residential renters cannot afford to live in the city.
So the option is to keep piling the residents who do?
As the cost of living in the District keeps rising, progressives, liberals, Republicans and Democrats think that government should dictate the costs of living in the nation’s capital — from the hourly wages of baristas and shampoo girls to family leave mandates and raccoon abatement to neighborhood parking and the height of the blades of grass in your front lawn. (Small wonder a sizable measure of the millennials moving into the city don’t want responsibility for anything but themselves and a pet. They can’t “afford” to.)
The “gratuities” the D.C. government receives in return for bilking taxpayers are never enough, and they never will be until voters put city leaders on a diet.
Leave the curveballs — and for that matter the fastballs, too — to the Washington Nationals’ Max Scherzer.
It’s becoming easier and easier to seek the mayor and the council’s trick plays.
• Deborah Simmons can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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