WASHINGTON POST OPINION RESPONSE MARCH 22, 2021
DC Councilmember Mary Cheh recently responded to our Washington Post editorial, “D.C.’s build-build-build mind-set results in more gentrification”. Based on her response, she continues to be on the wrong side of racial and economic justice.
I co-authored the editorial that Councilmember Cheh is referencing. CM Cheh ignores the most salient arguments in our editorial and continues to wave her magician’s wand. We see the trick and we’re not falling for it. Here are the facts – unrestrained accelerated development can’t and won’t result in meaningful affordable housing production. Andrew Trueblood admitted during last week’s OP oversight hearing that we are only at 14% of the mayor’s goal of 12,000 “affordable” housing units by 2025 BUT 40% of the way for market housing. This 14% includes DC’s downright unethical definition of affordable at 80% MFI. A one-person household making $70,000 is not affordable housing – it is market housing. More importantly, that is not where the need is. The current approach has already wrecked havoc in neighborhoods like Southwest.
She and her boosters really only mean subsidized market housing when they say “affordable”. The Comp Plan of which she’s uncritically supportive says that “affordable” can continue to be pegged at this ridiculous level. As we said in our editorial, CM Cheh has a problem with race. To speak plainly, she’s doesn’t see it and pretends that our deep and chronic racial inequity simply doesn’t exist. The median household income for Black households in DC is $45,000. She would like no more than to see more PUDs like New City DC (Douglas Development – 20% of “affordable units at 80% AMI of 859 total units) and Randall School (Lowe also using 80% AMI). As I explained recently during the DC Grassroots Planning Coalition monthly call, the “affordable” level is well beyond the median Black household income.
Sure, our editorial is a “gross misstatement” to Cheh, but that is only because she is willfully blind to racial and economic justice and disparities.