Housing affordability is a significant policy challenge facing the greater DC region, where nearly half of renter households struggle with unaffordable rents. However, few federal programs and resources are targeted to reach households with very low incomes of 30 to 50 percent of AMI—the federal affordable housing doughnut hole. Local jurisdictions can help increase production of more affordable units using policy levers to reduce project costs, increase project revenue, and adjust land use.
To understand how jurisdictions in the greater DC region are explicitly supporting affordable rental housing production for households with very low incomes, we conducted a web scan to document the program criteria and regulations for major local production programs in the District of Columbia, Montgomery and Prince George’s counties in Maryland, and, in Virginia, the City of Alexandria, and Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, and Prince William counties. We then interviewed jurisdiction staff and local affordable housing developers to fill in gaps and get their reflections on housing production in this affordability range.
We found that by making more explicit public commitments to deepening affordability, jurisdictions can challenge the market to produce more affordable units. To fill the doughnut hole, local jurisdictions can support these commitments by increasing investment levels, leveraging public assets for affordable housing, updating zoning to reflect current housing needs, and increasing collaboration with state government and external partners.