(Washington, DC) Today, Mayor Muriel Bowser and the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED) kicked off the Black Homeownership Strike Force (BHSF) by announcing the members who will serve on the committee and work to identify actionable recommendations to increase and support homeownership for Black residents of the District of Columbia. The announcement took place on land that Mayor Bowser fought to reclaim as ANC Commissioner and Councilmember during the ribbon cutting for Riggs Park Place, a 183-unit housing community of townhomes, apartments, and retail located at the intersection of Riggs Road and South Dakota Ave, NE in Ft. Totten.
“The Black Homeownership Strike Force will address decades of racially discriminatory policies and practices that have hampered access to one of the most significant ways to build wealth for Black residents, which is homeownership,” said Mayor Bowser. “In partnership with the Strike Force, I intend to chart a path to rectify these problems with the recommendations and goals that emerge from its members and the public – and to set a 2030 goal for Black homeownership.”
The Strike Force is made up of government and public experts in housing and financial counseling, lending/underwriting, real estate development and services, as well as representatives from the faith-based, senior, immigrant, and LGBTQ+ communities and advocates and representatives that address social and racial equity.
The charge also includes providing recommendations for uses of a $10 million Black Homeownership Fund proposed in Mayor Bowser’s Fair Shot budget and creating a goal for increasing the number of Black homeowners in DC by 2030. The latter will be informed by the work of the National Black Homeownership Collaborative, which has identified seven steps to increase Black homeownership by 3 million net new homeowners nationally by 2030, an increase of more than 10 percentage points in the Black homeownership rate nationally: 3by30.org. The Strike Force’s recommendations are due in October 2022.
Mayor Bowser announced the Strike Force will be co-chaired by Anita Cozart, Interim Director of the Office of Planning, and Rev. Graylan Scott Hagler, Senior Minister of Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ. In addition, the following members will also serve on the Strike Force:
- Sheila Alexander-Reid, Senior Vice President of Business Development at Bias Sync
- S. Kathryn Allen, President of Answer Title (CBE)
- Sasha Angus, President and CEO of Manna Inc.
- Dedrick Asante-Muhammad, Chief of Membership, Policy and Equity at National Community Reinvestment Coalition
- Harrison Beacher, President of the Greater Capitol Area Association of Realtors (GCAAR)
- Ellis Carr, President and CEO of Capital Impact Partners and CDC Small Business Finance
- Ayana Douglas, Realtor at Compass
- Anne Ford, Community Member and Neighborhood Legal Services
- Rev. Graylan Scott Hagler, Senior Minister of Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ
- Babatunde Oloyede, President and CEO Marshall Heights Community Development Corporation
- Joann Savage, Attorney at the Legal Counsel of the Elderly/AARP
- Susanne Slater, Co-President and CEO of Habitat for Humanity
- Harvey Yancey, Principle at H2 Design Build
District of Columbia Government Representatives
- Anita Bonds, Chairperson Committee on Housing and Executive Administration
- Rev. Thomas Bowen, Director of the Mayor’s Office of African American and Religious Affairs
- Anita Cozart, Interim Director of the Office of Planning
- Brenda Donald, Executive Director of the District of Columbia Housing Authority
- Chris Donald, Executive Director of the District of Columbia Housing Finance Agency
- Amber Hewitt, Director of the Office of Racial Equity
- Drew Hubbard, Interim Director of the Department of Housing and Community Development
- Karima Woods, Commissioner of the Department of Insurances, Securities and Banking
Mayor Bowser has tasked DMPED with coordinating the work of the Strike Force and preparing members with relevant data and research. It will be staffed by DMPED and supported by researchers and analysts at Urban Institute and Howard University, with facilitation and engagement support provided by Justice Sustainability Associates. In addition, plans are underway to engage residents who have used District homeownership programs to purchase their first home but also those who have sought to buy a home and have yet to achieve this goal. Opportunities under consideration include outlets to share their stories, experiences, and ideas and feedback regarding District programs and other related challenges to achieving homeownership in the District. Additional details regarding public engagement will be shared in the coming weeks.
“For too long, the government had intentional policies to prohibit Black homeownership and Mayor Bowser is charging the Strike Force to identify intentional ways to overcome this past,” said Deputy Mayor John Falcicchio. “Expanding sustainable opportunities for Black Washingtonians to become homeowners will require innovative ideas from this dedicated group of experts. Homeownership is an indispensable wealth-building tool and I’m confident that with the expertise and commitment represented among Strike Force we’ll be able to close the persistent racial wealth gap and improve the economic futures of not only Black Washingtonians, but the District as a whole.”
In the District, homeownership is becoming increasingly expensive. Of Black residents in the District, 34 percent own their homes versus nearly 49 percent of white residents. Urban Institute analysis updated in June 2022 for DMPED shows that home ownership is increasingly out of reach for Black first-time homebuyers. A first-time homebuyer with the average white household income could afford 71 percent of the homes sold in DC between 2016 and 2020, including all homes sold in Wards 7 and 8. In comparison, a first-time homebuyer from the average Black household income could afford 8.4 percent of the homes sold. This disparity worsened from several years prior (2010-2014), when a first-time homebuyer with the average white household income could afford 67 percent of homes sold, including all homes sold in Wards 7 and 8, and the average Black buyer could afford 9.3 percent.
After announcing the members of the Strike Force, Mayor Bowser also cut the ribbon at Riggs Park Place, a mixed-use development that will deliver a variety of housing options – rental and home ownership – for a range of income levels and family sizes across the District. Phase I of the development includes 90 townhomes, five of which are designated as affordable, offering 2-, 3-, and 4-bedroom layouts. Phase II of the project will be an all-affordable senior apartment community. The overall site, developed by EYA, is designed to fit seamlessly into the surrounding community and provide residents and visitors with neighborhood scale buildings and welcoming streets designed with walkways and greenspace.
Mayor Bowser began working on this project while serving as an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner and later as the Ward 4 Councilmember. The land was previously a slip lane road toward a highway. However, community members in the area advocated for the land to better benefit the community. After identifying the dangerous nature of the streetscape for pedestrians getting to the Fort Totten Metro Station, Mayor Bowser worked with the local stakeholders to make necessary changes.
Numerous resources are available in the District of Columbia to support homeownership, particularly for low-moderate income residents. Frontdoor.dc.gov, a DC government site launched in 2021, provides a searchable inventory of these programs. In addition, Mayor Bower’s FY 23 Budget makes further investments in many of these programs including:
- Funding the Home Purchase Assistance Program (HPAP) and the Employer-Assisted Homeownership Program (EAHP) at $21 million and $6 million respectively, an increase of $3.1 million across the two programs from FY 2022 levels;
- Increasing the maximum assistance from HPAP for the lowest income prospective homeowners from $80,000 to $202,000;
- Providing Heirs Property Legal Services to assist 1,000 individuals from multi-generational families in maintaining their family property after the original homeowner passes;
- Reducing the annual increase cap to property taxes for seniors from 5 percent to 2 percent;
- Increasing funding for the Single-Family Residential Rehab program, which helps low-income homeowners repair their homes;
- Investing more than $12 million in home weatherization, lead and mold remediation, and FloodSmart homes programs to help residents make their homes safer, healthier, greener and more affordable.