Washington Housing Conservancy featured on WAMU

Prompted by Mayor Bowser’s FY20 budget proposal that included a substantial investment in workforce housing, WAMU ran a story today on the challenge of preserving and creating more workforce housing in the District. It featured the Washington Housing Initiative and its nonprofit wing housed at the Federal City Council, called the Washington Housing Conservancy.

The story explains how it’s a new idea to invest in housing for the middle class—or those earning between 60 and 120 percent of the area median income. Traditionally public dollars went only toward affordable housing for those with the lowest incomes.

But the new idea is trying to solve a new problem. The region’s middle class is shrinking, and it’s shrinking the fastest in the District. That’s why the Mayor has made workforce housing a new top priority.

The story goes on to explain the important role of private money—and the Washington Housing Initiative—working with public investments to serve this segment:

Why would the private sector want to invest in workforce housing? A big reason is that, unlike deeply affordable housing, it can actually generate profits, says AJ Jackson, executive vice president of social impact investing at Bethesda development firm JBG Smith.

The best way to finance low-income housing is with public dollars, Jackson says, because there’s “no way for anyone to make a return” on homes with deeply subsidized rents. But he says workforce housing is different.

“You have people who could pay a rent that would allow operators to make a return,” the executive says.

That’s why JBG Smith has banded together with the business-backed nonprofit Federal City Council to form the Washington Housing Initiative, a new effort that aims to create as many as 3,000 workforce housing units in the D.C. region. The nonprofit wing of the initiative — called the Washington Housing Conservancy — plans to acquire still-affordable homes across the region. JBG Smith, in turn, will raise private capital to keep that housing affordable over time.

“We’re going to be investing in communities that we think are going to be changing or increasing in value and threatening displacement,” says Kevin Clinton, interim executive director of the Washington Housing Conservancy.

You can listen to or read the full story here.