WIN Ward 3 Affordable Housing Work Group Testimony of Barbara Kraft on Bill 23-736

Testimony of Barbara Kraft on Bill 23-736,

On behalf of the WIN Ward 3 Affordable Housing Work Group

Chairman Mendelson and Councilmembers, thank you for this opportunity to testify in support of more affordable housing in Ward 3, as contemplated by the proposed Comprehensive Plan changes before you. We urge Council to act now to approve these changes. Delay will stall new housing development and inhibit investment needed for an equitable economic recovery.

My name is Barbara Kraft and I am co-chair of the WIN Ward 3 Affordable Housing Work Group. I also chair Temple Sinai’s WIN (Washington Interfaith Network) Core Team and have lived in Ward 3 almost 10 years. Jamie Butler, a 36-year Ward 3 resident and social justice leader at Adas Israel Congregation, is also a co-chair of our WIN Ward 3 Affordable Housing Work Group.  

Our work group comprises activists from Adas Israel, Temple Sinai and National United Methodist Church, and includes our clergy and social justice leaders. All three congregations are members of WIN, a group of about 40 congregations across the city who act together to accomplish positive change. Virtually all our Ward 3 work group members live in northwest DC. 

Many of us have been members of our congregations, and residents of Ward 3, for decades. Today we live in neighborhoods whose rents and housing prices are out of reach for almost all but the affluent. Our neighborhoods boast excellent libraries, schools and other infrastructure, all presenting opportunities and conferring advantages to those of us living here 

Affordable housing, meanwhile, is inequitably distributed across DC. The Office of Planning has identified 15,000 dedicated affordable units in the Far Southeast and Southwest planning regions; in Rock Creek West, in contrast, there are only 500 dedicated affordable units. 

Now we are prepared to take, and our city must take, what Ibram X. Kendi calls antiracist action to rectify the long history of segregation in northwest DC.  Our ANCs have researched and reported on how restrictive covenants in Chevy Chase DC, for example, prevented Black families from buying homes and how a citizens association worked to drive Black families out of the neighborhood. Since then, exclusionary zoning laws that were explicitly racist in the early 20th century have continued to keep Black families out of suburbs and high-opportunity neighborhoods like ours. 

Our WIN Ward 3 Affordable Housing Work Group is committed to creating more affordable housing units in Rock Creek West and other high-opportunity areas and to supporting the Mayor and the Council in making this happen. We want to see low and moderate-income residents of color have access to the neighborhood services and social, educational and economic opportunities we enjoy. 

We support the Office of Planning’s recommendations for higher density and increased affordable housing in Ward 3 corridors. In fact, we and WIN are asking for a higher proportion of deeply affordable and affordable new homes – 1/3 for people with incomes 0-30% of AMI, 1/3 for incomes 30-60% of AMI, and 1/3 for incomes higher than 60% of AMI.  We have made this demand to the Deputy Mayor for Planning & Economic Development in connection with Reservation 13/Hill East and any future development of the RFK stadium site. WIN and WIN Ward 3 congregations will continue to press this ratio as the Comp Plan process moves forward. 

The Comp Plan revisions are not perfect, but they are a first step to address long-standing racial inequities in high-opportunity neighborhoods like ours in Ward 3.  We urge the Council to act on the Comp Plan without delay.